In August 1942 the U.S. Army purchased the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs and 7,000 acres of surrounding countryside from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway for $3.3 million, and began converting it into a military hospital for sick and wounded soldiers and airmen. Named for Army physician Col. Bailey K. Ashford (1873–1934), the new hospital received its first patients in November. Before Ashford General closed in mid-1946, more than 25,000 seriously ill and wounded patients—including many from West Virginia—had received treatment.
Ashford employed 45 doctors, 100 nurses, and 500 enlisted men. Assisting them were 200 WACs, 35 civilian nurses, some 500 civilian employees, and scores of Red Cross volunteers. Seven hundred German prisoners of war maintained the grounds and buildings. Families, friends, and good-hearted people from throughout West Virginia came to visit and help the men toward a speedy recovery. The recovering servicemen could use all of the famous resort’s special facilities— swimming pool, golf courses, tennis courts, hiking and biking trails, and so on—and monthly dances with live entertainment were held. Today, few of The Greenbrier’s visitors know of the vital role it played during World War II, but those who were there have vivid recollections of Ashford General Hospital as a Shangri-la for wounded servicemen.
This Article was written by Louis E. Keefer
Last Revised on December 10, 2010
Keefer, Louis E. Shangri-La for Wounded Soldiers. Reston, VA: COTU Pub., 1995.
Keefer, Louis E. The West Virginia WWII Home Front: Ashford General Hospital: The Greenbrier Goes to War. Goldenseal, (Fall 1993).