Rising from Army barracks to an accademic medical center, Harbor-UCLA's history is vast and rich...

he Los Angeles Port of Embarkation (LAPE) Hospital was built by the United States Army in 1943 on the 78-acre site between Carson and 220th and Vermont and Normandie. The 77 pavilion-style Army barracks, known at the time as "Station Hospital," served as a military transfer hospital for casualties from the Pacific Theater of World War II as well as provided health care to servicemen and their families stationed in the area. With the end of the war, came the beginning of the dramatic transformation resulting in Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as we know it today.

   Prior to WWII, the South Bay was sparsely populated and did not warrant the presence of a county hospital. Individuals who needed health care in the 1920s and 1930s traveled either to a clinic in San Pedro, operated by the City of Los Angeles, or to General Hospital (currently LAC+USC) in downtown Los Angeles. The war, however, permanently altered the character of the South Bay -- defense projects brought five major shipyards, two large oil refineries, a synthetic rubber plant, and an aluminum plant to the once vast open space. The population rapidly increased as people moved in to work in the factories.

A sailor and others cut cake celebrating the first anniversary of what was then known as "Station Hospital."
(circa 1942)

When the war ended, the hospital was closed and fenced. Notice the red cross painted on the roof of the barrack-like building. This identification was on hospital roofs to indicate to enemy planes that they should not be bombed.

In the early years, the campus had a lot of vacant land where animals freely roamed the fields.
   Soon after the war ended, the Army began closing the LAPE Hospital -- the last prescription for a patient was filled by the pharmacy in February, 1946. At this time, Torrance was also one of the fastest growing cities in the country. In 1946, members of the Torrance Lions Club, Carson Betterment Association, the Torrance City Council, community physicians and others lobbied the County Board of Supervisors to purchase the LAPE Hospital in order to operate it as a county hospital serving the southern area.

   In June, 1946, the United States Army sold the entire facility as war surplus to the Los Angeles County Department of Charities for $48,271 (about five percent of the appraised value). Harbor General Hospital opened one month later with 60 beds and 70 employees. The purchase of Harbor was an attempt to relieve a 3,000 acute care bed shortage county wide. The hospital's initial responsibility lay with the charity patients who had no means to pay for their own care. However, over the course of the next four decades, the hospital, through its affiliation with UCLA, became an internationally known medical center, emphasizing a balance between its original patient care mission, academic medicine, research and education.