Kenneth Ura


Kenneth Ura


Ken Ura was an orderly at Detroit General Hospital in July 1967 when the unrest initially began and was called back again the next day to help.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


Detroit General Hospital


In 1967 I was a Detroiter and in between my junior and senior years at the University of Michigan. I was working that summer as an ER/OR orderly at what was known that year as Detroit General Hospital. It had been Receiving Hospital before that and would become that again before becoming part of DMC.

The Saturday night the riots started I was working the night shift in the ER at Detroit General. I noticed a lot more police activity around the ER early that morning but not much in the way of increased patient count as I prepared to go home from my shift Sunday morning. As I was leaving two Detroit police detectives asked me where I was going. I told them I was going home and they asked where I lived and how I was going to get there. I was a northeast Detroit resident and told them about my route home via I-75 (Chrysler). They looked at each other and said “OK, but don’t go anywhere else”. I knew something was up but there was absolutely no public mention of what was going on at 12th and Clairmount.

I got home about 7 AM and told my parents that something was going on nearer to downtown. We turned on the TV, but there was nothing to see or hear. About 10 or 11 AM I got a call from the hospital asking me to return to work because they really needed the help. My mother absolutely would not let me drive there so I told the hospital that I could work but they needed to get me there. That seemed to be a common response from hospital staffers and the hospital offered to pick me up in an ambulance along with some other employees who lived near to me. They came by that afternoon and for the next 3 or 4 days I was at Detroit General.

A lot of things are a little fuzzy but some things are not. I remember working both in ER and OR. I remember wrapping 10-15 bodies by myself and wheeling them down to the morgue. We used to wrap the deceased in the green OR sheets and cover them completely before transport. I remember that the morgue drawers quickly filled up and I left the gurneys with the wrapped bodies in the aisles of the morgue but inside the refrigerated area. And I remember sleeping on an unused operating room table a couple of times.

Probably my most vivid memory is hearing gun shots outside the hospital even though the main riot area was father away. And mostly I remember the arrival of the 101st Airborne about 2 days into the riot. The Michigan National Guard was having a hard time getting a grip in the situation so they called in the 101st. just returning from Vietnam. They ate with us in the cafeteria with their M-16 rifles slung over their shoulders.

When they showed up things calmed down in a hurry. I remember one patient who apparently had been shot by the soldiers. He was bleeding profusely from several gunshot wounds and they couldn’t get blood into him faster than it would bleed out. They stopped trying after a while and I wrapped that body in about 6 sheets to try and contain the blood from dripping over the edge of the gurney. He had wounds from his upper torso down to his legs like he had been strafed and the exit wounds were a lot bigger than the entry wounds.

After I finally got home from the hospital, I and a couple friends took a tour of the Clairmount area after it had been secured – there were still NG troops stationed in the area. It truly looked like a war zone with all the debris and burned out buildings. I took some Polaroid pictures but those have long been misplaced along with my commendation letter from the City of Detroit that they gave to the hospital staff that helped during the riots. It’s OK that I lost them – I remember enough.

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Submitter's Name

Kenneth Ura

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“Kenneth Ura,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed June 23, 2021,

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