YON 2020 Day 317: Josephine Lock Greene, RN

Written by two of her nephews, this tribute to their father’s twin sister, Josephine Lock Greene, RN, recounts not only the experiences of their Aunt Jo, but also tells a story of nursing during World War II and its Cleveland connection.

Black and white photo of Lakeside Unit Nurses in WWII
Lakeside Unit Nurses in WWII

On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and declared war on the United States. In response, the United States declared war on Japan the next day. The first medical unit in the country that was sent to the war zone was from Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. The Lakeside Unit was quickly joined with a few other medical units to become the Fourth General Army Hospital. The order to mobilize came on December 24, 1941. Seventy-two nurses from Lakeside Hospital and other hospitals in Cleveland had their physical exams on January 6-8, 1942, and were inducted into the army on the morning of January 13, 1942. By evening of the same day, they were on their way to New York to depart for the war zone, many of them still in their civilian clothes.

Black and white photo of WWII nurse in white uniform.
Josephine Lock graduation photo

One of them was Josephine Lock, who was born exactly thirty years earlier on January 13, 1912, and who had graduated from the Cleveland City Hospital School of Nursing in the early 1930’s. The nurses, doctors, and the military support staff boarded their ship, and along with all the medical supplies they would need finally stowed on board, left New York harbor on January 23, not knowing where they were headed. In later years, Josephine wrote that on the day they left New York for unknown foreign lands, she knew this would be the beginning of the defining event of her life.

After 35 days at sea, they landed in Melbourne, Australia, on February 27 to find that the military hospital and its nurses’ residence were still under construction. The construction was far enough along so that on April 6 they admitted their first patient. In the next 23 months, 35,000 patients would be treated at the hospital. New admissions on June 23, 1942, the peak admissions day, numbered 700. The patients included wounded or sick servicemen returning from the front, which was not very far away from Australia, as well as merchant seamen, and civilians from many countries. There were as many soldiers admitted with malaria as those who had been wounded in action.

Nurses in WWII doing laundry in New Guinea
Nurses doing laundry in New Guinea
Interior picture of patients in WWII in the Orthopedic Ward in New Guinea.
Orthopedic Ward in New Guinea

By 1944, the front had moved northward so that it was significantly farther to evacuate soldiers to Australia. On March 25, the staff of the Fourth General Hospital left Australia, and arrived in Finschhafen, New Guinea, on April 14. The new 2,000-bed hospital—a number of large one-story wooden barracks-like buildings along with a number of large tents—was again under construction when they arrived. It was being built on a former Japanese airfield. The first patient was admitted on April 23, 1944, and in the next 15 months, 11,200 patients would be treated there. The hospital in New Guinea was closed in July 1945. While the hospital staff was on its way to the hospital’s new location in Manila, Philippines, in September 1945, the war in the Pacific ended.

Colorized photo of a WWII 1st Lieutenant Nurse in the U.S. Navy wearing her dress uniform.
1st Lieutenant Josephine Lock

Josephine Lock, among her other nursing duties, instituted the occupational therapy program for the Fourth General Hospital. With no tools or supplies provided for occupational therapy, the program scrounged scrap lumber and whatever materials of any type they could find in the vicinity of the hospital. After 40 months with the Fourth General Hospital in Australia and New Guinea, Josephine returned to Cleveland in June 1945. She was discharged from the Army as a 1st Lieutenant on December 25, 1945, after which she promptly came down with malaria herself. She moved to San Diego, California, in March 1947, the port city through which she had returned to the U.S. a year earlier. Her occasional relapses of malaria were particularly challenging in that the medical personnel in San Diego had no experience with the disease. She would be half-delirious and yet have to tell the physicians what treatments to administer. When a nurse would put a blanket over her because she was shivering uncontrollably, she would shout, “Get that blanket off of me. I’m burning up with fever."

The relapses finally ended and she married C. Leonard Greene in 1950. She continued her nursing career in San Diego hospitals until she retired. Years afterward, she nursed her husband for the last four years of his life. She died on January 19, 2001, a few days after her 89th birthday. Once a nurse, always a nurse.

Tribute written by James and Donald Lock.

Josephine Green’s family provided the two photographs of her. The photographs of nurses from the Lakeside Unit during World War II are courtesy of the Stanley A. Ferguson Archives of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

Margaret Burzynski-Bays, Archivist at University Hospitals of Cleveland, using the official histories written about the Lakeside Unit in World War I and World War II, the plaques in the main lobby of Lakeside Hospital, and the records in the UH archives related to the units and the reunions they held over the years, compiled lists of the women who served in the Lakeside Unit. These lists can be downloaded viewed at the links below.

Lakeside Unit women who served in World War I

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Lakeside Unit women who served in World War II

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