Kennedy General Hospital

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Kennedy General Hospital
Established 1942
Opened 1943
Closed 1967
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Memphis, TN
Alternate Names
  • Gen. James M. Kennedy Hospital
  • Kennedy Veterans Affairs Hospital


Kennedy General Hospital opened at the intersection of Park and Getwell on January 26, 1943 and was named for the late Brigadier General James M. Kennedy, distinguished Army surgeon and veteran of both the Spanish-American War and World War I. Over the next three years, the hospital grew to be the largest Army general hospital in the nation. Kennedy had an emergency capacity of 5,300 beds and a peak of 6,000 patients in June and July, 1945.

During the three-year period of time, the hospital cared for more than 44,000 patients and received the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque for “superior performance of duty in the performance of exceptionally difficult tasks during the period of January 1, 1943 to January 1, 1946.”

The height of World War II in 1944 was filling Army hospitals around the nation with thousands of seriously wounded soldiers. In the first year of operation over 10,000 soldiers had been treated at Kennedy, all transported by train from the Normal Depot at the Memphis State Collage campus. In January, 1944, Kennedy received the first convoys of soldiers transported by air from coastal hospitals, and in July of that year, it received the casualties from the Battle of France. More than 50 percent of the patients in 1944 were combat-wounded veterans, returned from overseas. Duty personnel at Kennedy in 1944 included 200 officers, 400 nurses and over 1,200 enlisted men and women in service.

One of the greatest services to be initiated at Kennedy this year was the Reconditioning Program through which convalescing patients were retrained and reconditioned for return to duty through planned exercises and athletics and by the constructive use of leisure time in educational pursuits.[1] Kennedy treated all types of casualties but specialized in surgery, with an average of 30 operations a day. It had a large center for the treatment of spinal cord injuries and paraplegia and the second largest neuropsychiatry service in the nation.

The hospital closed in 1967 and was turned over to the University of Memphis. Out of the 116 buildings that once made up Kennedy Hospital, 21 remain, according to Tony Poteet, assistant vice president of campus planning and design. Of those 21, all but one remains in use.