(Look Back is an occasional series with content and images from the Atlantic County Historical Society.)
In article after article, interview after interview with anyone who has a say regarding the coronavirus COVID-19, the meat of the issue is that we are in a "war" against an unseen enemy. City after city has created hospitals to deal with the trauma, developed triage systems to separate the sick from the very sick. It's similar to how Atlantic City responded during World War II
The need for additional medical facilities was met by the U.S. Army Air Force, which in September 1942 took over Haddon Hall Hotel, today known today as Resorts Casino Hotel, and was renamed Thomas England General Hospital. It had a 2,000 patient capacity and served as a rehabilitation and convalescent facility. It also maintained fully equipped operating rooms.
Chalfonte Hotel was also part of the hospital, which included a modern prosthetics facility. 800 beds served returning servicemen with mental health needs in addition to those with new prosthetics. One Army hero, after saving his unit, lost an arm in the battle and was fitted with a new arm. The only time he used it was on his wedding day! He later became an accomplished sportsman, biking, sailing and ultimately opening a chain of sporting goods stores but never using his prosthesis.
In September 1943, the Colton Manor Hotel was taken over for a residence for nurses.
Forty other Boardwalk hotels such as the Dennis and Traymore were taken over for soldiers that were in need of convalescence. .
For daily exercises the main ballroom in Convention Hall, now known as Jim Whalen Boardwalk Hall, saw many military personnel doing push ups, sit ups and jumping jacks to keep in good physical condition. Marches were held on the Boardwalk. Local residents, as is seen today, stepped up to the plate to do their part.
That community spirit is once again manifesting itself in the battle created by the coronavirus. Instead of taking over hotels and standing together to fight a common battle, we are in our homes, separated from each other but are supportive via phone, emergency errands, group togetherness via Zoom or other face time technology.
And a field medical station was scheduled to open Tuesday, April 14, at Atlantic City Convention Center.
Once again, hopefully in the not too distant future, the Boardwalk will be available not for the soldiers but for the citizens.
Founded in 1913, the Atlantic County Historical Society has been preserving historical materials in its library and museum since. Every week, Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it opens its doors to share these collections with anyone who is interested. The society building is at 907 Shore Road in Somers Point. More information is available at www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org and on Facebook, or by calling 609-927-5218.