Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Archives: Naval Medical Publications Collection - The Oak Leaf (Oakland, CA)

Naval Medical Publications Collection - The Oak Leaf (Oakland, CA)
Organizational records
1944-1984, 1989
5 boxes and loose oversize volumes, no finding aid, unrestricted

Incomplete bound set of USNH Oakland, California's base newspaper,
transferred when the hospital closed. The paper appears to have ended in
1984, and a version called Norwester replaced it, probably in 1985.

Navy History Diversity Brochures

The Naval History and Heritage Command's Publication Support Branch has recently posted free brochures that showcase the remarkable careers (in photograph and biography) of some of the distinguished officers and sailors who have served in the Navy. PDFs of these booklets can be reached through the link below.


The U.S. Navy Memorial Remembers Pearl Harbor

Navy Surgeons at Naval Hospital Pearl Harbor, TH, December 1941

BUMED Library and Archives

In honor of the 70th Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the United States Navy Memorial will host a series of events, including a special “Authors on Deck” book lecture, official wreath laying ceremony and panel discussion.

Historian and author Stanley Weintraub will present his latest work, Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 – an exploration of the wartime strategies that were developed in Washington while the rest of America attempted to celebrate the holiday season. Each chapter, written in pristine detail, coincides with the last ten days of 1941 and the first day of the New Year. Following the presentation, Weintraub will be available for a Q&A and book signing. Guests are invited for a subsequent wreath laying ceremony with the U.S. Navy Band and Ceremonial Guard on the Memorial’s outdoor plaza.

In addition, the Navy Memorial welcomes local veteran survivors and witnesses of the attack for a panel discussion led by noted historian Paul Stillwell, author of Air Raid: Pearl Harbor! Recollections of a Day of Infamy. Panel members will include former U.S. Navy Memorial President and CEO Rear Admiral Edward K. Walker USN (Ret), who witnessed the battle as the young son of a submarine officer stationed at Pearl Harbor.

WHEN: Wednesday, December 7, 2011

12:00pm – Book Reading

1:00pm – Wreath Laying

2:00pm – Panel Discussion

WHERE: United States Navy Memorial
Naval Heritage Center
701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

COST: Free and open to the public

Navy Medical History Bibliography, Part I

Blochman, L.G. Doctor Squibb: The Life and Times of a Rugged Idealist. New York: Simon & Shuster, 1958

Braisted, William and William H. Bell. The Life Story of Presley Marion Rixey, 1902-1910: Biography and Autobiography. Strasburg, VA: Shenandoah Publishing House, 1930

Deppisch, Ludwig. The White House Physician: A History from Washington to George W. Bush. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2007

Estes, J. Worth. Naval Surgeon: Life and Death at Sea in the Age of Sail. Canton, MA: Science History Publications, 1998

Fishbein, M. (Editor). Doctors at War. New York: Dutton, 1945.

Foltz, Charles S. Surgeon of the Seas. The Life of Surgeon General Jonathan M. Foltz. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1931

Goldowsky, Seebert J. Yankee Surgeon: the Life and Times of Usher Parsons, 1788-1868. Canton, MA: Science History Publications, 1988

Gray, David P. Many Specialties, One Corps: A Pictorial History of the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps. Virginia Peach, VA: The Donning Company, 1997

Herman, Jan K. Battle Station Sick Bay: Navy Medicine in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. 1997

Herman, Jan. K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War. Booklocker.com, Inc, 2006

Herman, Jan K. Navy Medicine in Vietnam. Oral Histories from Dien Bien Phu to the Fall of Saigon. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2008

Hill, Jim Dan. The Civil War Sketchbook of Charles Ellery Stedman, Surgeon, United States Navy. New York: Presidio Press, 1976

Holcomb, Richmond C. A Century with Norfolk Naval Hospital, 1830-1930. Portsmouth, VA: Printcraft, 1930

Langley, Harold. A History of Medicine in the Early U.S. Navy. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1995

Massman, Emory A. Hospital Ships of World War II. An Illustrated Reference to 39 United States Military Vessels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc, 1999

McIntire, Ross T. White House Physician. New York: Putnam, 1946.

Oman, Charles. Doctors Aweigh. New York: Doubleday, Doran. 1943

Parsons, R.P. Mobile Hospital 3: A Naval Hospital in a South Sea Jungle. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1945

Roddis, Louis. A Short History of Nautical Medicine. New York: Hoeber, 1941.

Rogers, F.B. (editor). A Navy Surgeon in California, 1846-47: The Journal of Marius Duvall. San Francisco: John Howell, 1957.

Strott, George. The Medical Department of the U.S. Navy with the Army and Marine Corps in France, World War I. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1947

Vedder, James. Combat Surgeon: On Iwo with the 27th Marines. New York: Presidio Press, 1998

Monday, November 28, 2011

Archives: U.S. Navy Medical Department Historical Data Series World War II volumes

U.S. Navy Medical Department Historical Data Series World War II volumes

Organizational records

26 volumes, finding aid, unrestricted



26 bound printouts of microfilm of reports from the field compiled during World War II by BUMED's Administrative History Section.  Includes 2 series - ships and shore stations. Ships includes hospital ships, while shore stations includes hospitals, base hospitals, fleet hospitals, mobile hospitals, dispensaries, Marine Corps facilities, aviation units, etc. This set was transferred to BUMED's Office of History in 2011 from the former Stitt Library of the National Naval Medical Center, and had been catalogued by them as VG 123.U594 1946. As these books were not formally published and no copies are listed at the National Library of Medicine or in WorldCat, these will be treated as a manuscript collection at the BUMED Office of Medical History.    

Finding Aid for the

U.S. Navy Medical Department

Historical Data Series World War II volumes



US Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED)

Office of Medical History


Date of Records: 1941-1945; compiled 1946

Size: 26 bound volumes; approximately 4 linear feet


Scope & Content:

Bound printouts of microfilm of reports from the field compiled during World War II by BUMED's Administrative History Section. According to editor Bennett F. Avery's preface to Volume I of The History of the Medical Department of the U. S. Navy in World War II :


Early in World War II, President Roosevelt directed the "preserving for those who come after us an accurate and objective account of our present experience," and on 23 March 1942 a "Committee on Records of World War II" was designated to activate such a program. In the Navy, Surgeon General McIntire ordered the medical departments of all ships and stations to include in their Annual Sanitary Report an account of their experiences in administrative matters as well as in clinical and preventive medicine. These reports covered the period from 7 December 1941 to 31 August 1945.


In 1943 an Administrative History Section was designated in the Administrative Division of the Bureau. This group assembled a Historical Data Series from the Annual Sanitary Reports and, under the general rules prescribed by the Director of Naval History, compiled the "U.S. Navy Medical Department Administrative History 1941­1945."


The records reproduced in these volumes are presumably a subset of those referred to above.


This set was transferred to BUMED's Office of History in 2011 from the former Stitt Library of the National Naval Medical Center, and had been catalogued by them as VG 123.U594 1946. As these books were not formally published and no copies are listed at the National Library of Medicine or in WorldCat, these will be treated as a manuscript collection at the BUMED Office of Medical History.


Series I: Ships



1: Battleships

2: Cruisers

3: Aircraft Carriers

4: Destroyers

5: Submarines, Misc.

6: Hospital Ships

7: Auxiliaries (APA)

8: Auxiliaries (ABSD-AOG)

9: Auxiliaries (AP-AW, Excludes APA)

10. Battleships, Cruisers, Aircraft Carriers [formerly classified reports]

11. Destroyers, Submarines, etc. [formerly classified reports]


Series II: Shore Stations



12: Hospitals (Annapolis, MD – Memphis, TN)

13: Hospitals (Newport, RI – Seattle, WA)

14: Hospitals – Special Hospitals

15: Hospitals – Base Hospitals, Fleet Hospitals, Mobile Hospitals, Dispensaries

16-18: Aviation Units

20: School and Training Units

21-22: Shore Units

23-24: Hospitals [formerly classified reports]

25: Aviation Units [formerly classified reports]

26: Shore Units [formerly classified reports]



Compiled by

Michael Rhode, Archivist

November 28, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oral History: Vincent A. Kordack, 6th Naval Beach Battalion, hospital corpsman at Omaha Beach, 1944

Interview with Vincent A. Kordack, 6th Naval Beach Battalion, hospital corpsman present at Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944.  Conducted by Jan K. Herman, Historian, Navy Medical Department, 6/13/00.

When did you enlist in the Navy?
I have some of the facts right here in front of me.  I enlisted in the Navy on December 1, 1942.  I did my boot camp training at Bainbridge, MD, and also went to corps school there.  I was there for 6 months and then was transferred to the 6th Naval Beach Battalion as a pharmacist's mate third class.
According to Mike Hall, our company commander, he had me listed with about 30 men and we were supposed to land in France on H plus 210 minutes.  That would have put us on the beach somewhere around 9:00.  I have no idea what time it was; I didn't have a wrist watch at the time.  I have no idea whether or not we were on schedule.  Our LCT was a couple of miles off the coast.
When I got into the LCT I was all the way aft so I didn't see anything forward.  We maneuvered around in circles for how long I have no idea.  It might have been an hour; it might have been 2 hours, but  I know we were far from the beach.  All of a sudden a boat pulled alongside, asked us whether we were engineers, and then told us to go on in.
We were maybe 50 or 100 yards from the beach when we stopped and unloaded.

How deep was it?
I was the last off the craft and I was up to my waist.  They were already loading casualties on.  The first casualty I saw was a man with one arm shot off and he was holding it in the air.  And then all of a sudden I heard '88s and they were overshooting the LCT.  I got on the beach and took off my medical pack and everything I had.  The first person I saw was a young man I knew from the marshaling area.  He was a pharmacist's mate second class--Rickenbach, from New Jersey.  I noticed that he had a bullet hole through his helmet.  At that time where I was there was no small arms fire so I had no idea whether they had cleaned up the beach and up on the hills or whether something else had happened.  The person I started speaking with was a doctor.  Later on, I found out it was Mike Hall who was standing beside me and I told him there was nothing that could be done for Rickenbach.

He was dead?
Yes.  The shot was right through his helmet.

I'd like you to go back just for a moment.  The man, Rickenbach--was he Dr. Borden's litter mate?
I think he may have been.  That might have been Dr. Borden there talking with me instead of Mike Hall.  I met Rickenbach back in the marshaling area.  He was not B company.  For some reason, we got very close.  We were sitting in a tent talking and so forth and he said, "Vince, I'm not gonna come home.  This is it.  I'm not gonna make it."  I always think of that because he was the first casualty I saw that day.

I then moved along the beach.  As I said, at that time there was no small arms fire but they were dropping mortars or '88s.  The first thing I did was to find things to use to make a fox hole or something.  You could not dig in the ground; it was all gravel.  Then I got up and began walking the beach taking care of casualties.  Every once in a while the Germans began hitting the beach with '88s.  This went on for I don't know how long, maybe an hour and a half or two hours.
Then all of a sudden everything stopped--no firing.  At that particular time there was an LCI loaded with GI's who were yelling.  It had been hit.  A boy took off all his clothes, took a rope, and went out there.  He was from B Company, 6th Beach Battalion.  He went out there with this rope and we pulled all the men from the boat.
From that point on, the Germans would shell us every once in a while but as far as I could tell there was no more small arms fire.  There must have been eight or nine of us standing on the beach helping these guys come in.  In that particular area none of us were hit.
During that day we had two officers from my platoon, LTJG Wade, who was Beachmaster, and the Assistant Beachmaster, ENS Allison.  They were both killed.  When I look back at my notes here I did not land with either one of them.  According to the schedule I have here, I was supposed to have landed with LTJG Ludwig, communication and Dr. Collier, medical.  I have no idea how they divided us up for landing.  In fact, the bosun's mate for B6, Mario Mesa, isn't even listed on my landing roster.
Periodically, we were shelled.  I treated some casualties.  I don't know how many.  But later on that afternoon, things really quieted down on Easy Red.  I guess the Army had cleared the top of the bluff as far as small arms fire was concerned.
About 8 or 9 o'clock Mesa came to us and told us we were supposed to move up to the hill.  There was no more we could do down where we were.  There was one path leading up to the hill and that path is still there right next to that bunker.  And top of that path is the Croix de Guerre, a French monument.  It was an '88 bunker and you could see right where a shell had gone right through and destroyed everything in it.  We ended up using it as a headquarters for the 6th Beach Battalion.
That night we moved up to the hill and dug in.  Messer told us we were on standby because we might have to pull out.  To this day, I don't know what he meant by that.  So we dug in.  Before we went up that path in the dark, there were slit trenches along that path and they were working with flashlights.  I don't know whether they were Army or Navy doctors.  We were not asked to help so we just went up the hill.
About 2 in the morning I finally figured out what happened.  The Army was maybe a half mile inland and they were pinned down.  Somehow they broke through and that was it.  And then a plane of two came over and dropped some bombs.  Some of the guys said they were strafing.  Keep one thing in mind.  On D-Day itself, after we landed, there were no more boats coming in.  In other words, we were isolated on the beach.  That LCT was the last to come in and take casualties off.
The next day boats were coming in and what we were doing most of the time was taking casualties to these landing craft.

With litter teams?

Right.  Actually anybody who was around carried litters when you needed them.  I and Jerome Ginsberg, a hospital apprentice, carried casualties.  Let me give you a list of the corpsmen from my platoon.  Aiesi, PhM1c; Kordack, PhM3c; Lamar, PhM2c (I think Lamar was killed.); Snyder, HA1c; Ginsberg, HA1c; Green, HA1c; Dominico, HA1c.  These are the men I landed with on D-Day.  Mesa is not listed here and I have no idea how he caught up with us.
The next day we came down out of the hills and started cleaning up.  In other words there were some casualties there.  We rebandaged and regrouped.  There was a rhino barge up on the beach waiting for high tide.  I went down to the barge and it was completely covered with litter cases from all the way forward aft on both port and starboard side.  You couldn't walk between them.  I decided to go down and try to help any way I could.  I still see this one guy on the end.  I don't who he is, blood all over the place; the litter was just covered with blood and he was asking for help.  At that time, I have no idea why, how, when, but the Germans started dropping '88s again.  And they were dropping on both sides of us so I got out of there.  That is the last time I recall anything from that second day.  On the third day, we corpsmen were finished.  We had nothing to do.

What did the beach look like at that time?
I've tried to remember this thing.  I've tried to picture it.  I went to see "The Longest Day," and that didn't refresh my mind in any way.  I also saw "Saving Private Ryan."  I do not recall such a disastrous type of battle.

That you saw in "Private Ryan?"
Right.  I don't recall anything like that on D-Day.  Keep in mind that I have no idea.  There was shelling and firing where I landed and I did treat some wounded.  What always amazes me is I don't recall that many wounded on Easy Red.  They were coming down over the hill on litters to be taken out by landing craft and I've tried to visualize this, but I have no idea why my mind is a blank.  Maybe I just don't want to remember it; I don't know.

What happened then?
I was transferred to the Pacific and sailed on the USS Kent (APA-217) and participated in two invasions.  Each ship had a platoon of corpsmen and doctors and we landed with the Army.  I landed on Leyte and Okinawa.  After we landed on Okinawa there was nothing going on so we went back to the ship and came home.

Oral history: Capt. Madeline Sebasky Kirby, Air Force flight nurse

Telephone interview with Capt. Madeline Sebasky Kirby, Air Force flight nurse with the joint Air Force-Navy 1453rd Medical Air Evacuation Squadron during the Korean War.  Conducted by Mr. Jan K. Herman, Historian, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, 27 December 2001.


Where are you from?

I'm originally from Illinois, a little town called Westville, south of Champaign-Urbana.


When did you decide you wanted to be a nurse?

I guess around Pearl Harbor.  I was working in a factory in Chicago and was ready to go to work.  President Roosevelt came on the radio and declared war.  The duck came down from the ceiling and told me that I was going to be a nurse.  I know that sounds strange.


Did you say duck?

I say duck because . . .  Did you ever watch the Groucho Marx show?


Yes.  Oh, the duck that came down from the ceiling with the question?

That's right.  I knew I wanted to get into the war but didn't know just what I wanted to do.  I decided to be a nurse. I went through 3 years of nurse's training at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Danville, IL, about 7 miles from my home town.  In my senior year I became a cadet nurse with the promise to go into the Army after graduation.

I graduated in '44, and got my commission in the Army in '45.  I went to basic training at Camp McCoy, WI.  Right after V-J Day we were on our way overseas on a Merchant Marine ship.  We staged in the Philippines for a couple of months, and then I went on to Tokyo where I was part of the Army of Occupation.  I was there from January of '46 until '47 when I got out.  I knew I had to get out if I wanted to get into the Air Force because the Air Force became a separate service in '47.  They had to process my papers shifting from one service to another.

Then I worked as a nurse in Duval County Hospital in Jacksonville, FL, when my orders came for the Air Force.

I then went to MacDill Field in Tampa for several months.  They were going to open the base at Topeka, KS, so I and two other girls were sent to reopen the hospital there.

I wanted to go to flight school and finally got my orders to Randolph Field in San Antonio.

From flight school, my home base was Kelly Field.  From Kelly, I flew the southern route carrying airevac patients up through Brookley AFB in Alabama, Warner-Robbins, GA, and then up the east coast to Westover AFB in Massachusetts.  We had patients going both ways, getting them close to hospitals near their homes.

So, I had temporary duty there at Kelly, temporary duty at Westover, and then temporary duty at Travis in California.  At that time, Travis was called Fairfield-Suisun AFB.  I then came back to Kelly and flew to Westover where I got orders to return to Kelly because I was being sent PCS to Hickam in Hawaii.  This was during the Korean War in 1950.

During the "Big Push" in July of '50, we also did a lot of flying.  From the minute we got there, we didn't even have time to unpack.  We were flying from Hickam to Japan by way of Midway or Wake.  We used to refuel at either at Midway or Wake Island.


You were flying C-54s?

Yes. '54s.  During the "Big Push" we had chartered aircraft from Pan Am along with the Royal Canadian Air Force.  We would fly with anybody who had an airplane that could carry patients.


How many patients could you get on a '54?

A lot depended on the size of their casts, how much room they took up, and the number of ambulatory patients.  You had patients confined to litters and those in partial body casts.  You could carry about 50 patients if most of them were ambulatory.


You were taking patients from Japan back to the states?

Yes.  We had another squadron that brought them from Korea to Itami outside Osaka.  Our squadron, the 1453rd, picked them up at Itami and flew them up to Haneda in Tokyo.  There the patients were screened again to see who could go on to the states and who would stay behind. We brought back several planeloads of frostbite patients in addition to other patients.


What kind of medical procedures could you perform on these flights?

We gave them their penicillin injections which, in those days, was administered every 4 hours.  There were dressings to change and medications to be given.  We had several feedings on some patients; they would have to be fed every hour.  Some had chest wounds that had to be suctioned.


Was this still 1950?

The latter part of '50 and '51.


So, you would have been seeing some of those patients from the Chosin Reservoir.

Yes.  We would fly them back by the same route via either Wake or Midway.  We would refuel, feed the patients, change their dressings, and then go on to Hickam.  There we'd off-load them overnight.  Then they'd be put on another flight to come into the states at Travis AFB.  From there they were brought on up the coast to hospitals close to their homes.


Your squadron, the 1453rd, was a joint squadron with the Navy.

Yes.  We also had the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) nurses with us.  In fact, we were so short of nurses that the Army sent us a few. Of course, they weren't trained in airevac procedures.  So they worked in the office at our headquarters in Hickam.


Do you recall any specific patients you may have treated?

I kept my log book.  It must have been in '52 when I was in a C-97 crash at Haneda.  We crashed on takeoff when the landing gear collapsed.  We had a full load of fuel aboard because we were going to overfly Midway or Wake and go straight into Hickam.  It was raining and the runway was wet.  We were taking off, the right landing gear collapsed, and the pilot reversed the props.  That aircraft spun around and headed toward the seawall of the Sea of Japan and came to rest.

We had three patients who were injured.  One was hit in the back by a piece of metal that pierced the fuselage and came up through his rubber mattress when the wing dragged on the runway.  A piece of metal from the landing gear hit another patient in the shoulder. Another patient suffered a mild heart attack.  We had a nurse and two techs up front and a nurse and two techs in the back.

I was in the back, briefing one of the RCAF nurses.  I could hear metal giving way, and the aircraft spinning.  I prayed.  Everybody was quiet.  The crash crew came out and sprayed us, and we got the plane off loaded in a matter of minutes.

Two hours later, we were on another airplane heading to Hawaii with our original patients with the exception of the three who were injured.


Were they badly injured?

No.  They remained in Tokyo.


So, that was the closest call you ever had?

Yes.  But, you don't think about yourself at a time like that.  All the years of training and all the procedures you've learned go through your mind.  "What am I going to do when this thing settles down?" All you think about is how you're going to get the patients out of there.


Had you been trained to get patients off loaded quickly in case of an emergency?

Yes.  We had been taught that in flight school.  Off course, in flight school we had been training on C-47s.  We didn't have any '54s or '97s.  The '97s didn't come out until later.


Did you ever fly with Bobbi Hovis on these missions?

Bobbi and I were on what was called the "sucker list."  In the service, they always say, "Don't volunteer for anything."  Well, I never believed in that.  I liked to volunteer so my name was on the volunteer list.  Bobbi's must have been also because one time we both volunteered to fly to Maui.  We participated in an air show.  People came through and asked us questions about the aircraft and the patients we carried.  The chamber of commerce then took us to lunch and filled the plane with exotic flowers.


So, between your airevac flights you were showing off your planes?

Right.  This, of course, wasn't done during the "Big Push."  At that time, we never got any crew rest.  We rested when we were dead-heading.  So, we were used to sleeping on the floor of the plane or the floor of any terminal we landed at.  When we got to Wake or Midway it was usually in the middle of the night.  As I recall, both places depended on desalinization for their water and so water was only available during certain parts of the day.  When we got there there wasn't any so we had to do the best we could, drinking water out of lister bags.

We used to serve box lunches on our flights, and sometimes there wouldn't be enough of them and we had to split everything up.


Normally, the box lunches would suffice for both the patients and the crew?

Right. There were times when there would just barely be enough box lunches for the patients. 


But you must also have had some special feeding requirements for some of the patients.

Yes.  We screened the patients at the hospital, where special lunches were then prepared and packed.


What was your rank at this point in your career?

I as a 1st lieutenant.  I made captain in '52.


When did you leave the Air Force?

I got out in February of  '53.  In those days you had to get out if you got married.  And you had to get out if you were pregnant.  I had gotten married in November of '52 and, by the time they got my papers straightened out, it was February of '53.


How many years were you in altogether?

I had 2 years in the Army and 5 years in the Air Force.


What did you do after that?

My husband, who was in the Marines, was instructing at Pensacola.  We lived there until my daughter was born and then he got orders to Quantico when she was 3 months old.  We then moved to Quantico.  After that he was stationed at the Pentagon and then at the Naval Observatory with intelligence.  He was a pilot and had a clearance for intelligence.  During the Vietnam War he flew helicopters.  He retired after 27 years.


So you became a housewife when you got out and raised a family.

That's right.  I raised five children and now have 13 grandchildren.  We ended up on this farm in Capron, VA.  We raise cotton and peanuts.


It's been close to 50 years since all that happened back in Korea.  Do you ever think about that time.

Yes, I think about it a lot.  I love to write to my old flying buddies.  I took a lot of pictures back then and my grandkids ask me about them and what happened back then.  This year, the local historical society had a get together of Korean veterans and asked me to speak to the group.  That was interesting.  A lot of the fellows served, but, as you know, the women who served are in the minority, especially in this rural area.

The other day I was talking to a young woman who asked me what I did before I got married.  I told her I was a flight nurse during the Korean War.  She looked at me and said, "Korean War?  When was that?"

It was an honor and a priviledge to have served my country and I would do it again if I wasn't so darned old.

Archives: Kirk Diaries

Kirk Diaries
Personal papers
1 box, no finding aid, unrestricted
Three diaries from LT (J.G.) Thomas A. Kirk Jr, USNR of the Surgical Team No. 22, 14th Field Hospital during the Korean War. Two are his record books of operating most often on Koreans, North and South, but also Chinese prisoners of War and some American Marines. The surgical operations are from March - December 1952. The third diary is a personal one, to be read by his wife, and maintained from February - March, 1952. Also included are five Kodachrome prints of PW Enclosure #10 in Pusan. The diaries were dropped off with no paperwork at the Office of the Historian by a relative of Kirk.

A scan of the personal diary can be read or downloaded at https://archive.org/details/KirkDiary

Scans of the five photographs laid in it are at https://www.flickr.com/photos/navymedicine/ as well as in the diary above.

Oral History: World War II Navy nurse Sara Marcum Kelley

Telephone interview with World War II Navy nurse Sara Marcum Kelley, 14 April 1994 conducted by Jan K. Herman, Historian, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.  Mrs. Kelley had duty at Navy Base Hospital #12, Netley, Hants, England.


     Where were you from?

     From Kentucky.  I went for nurse's training in Huntington, WV.  I lived up on a farm in Kentucky in a very rural area.  Would you believe it's called Fluty Lick Branch?  In order to go to high school, I had to live with my sister in Inez, a small town about 10 miles away but they didn't run any buses for kids to go to school.  A friend of my sister's was in nurse's training and that's how I got interested in nursing.  Money was pretty tight then.

     I was in nursing training when the war came along in 1941.  Everyone was really patriotic then.  I called the Red Cross and asked if I could volunteer and they told me to complete my nurse's training first.  In 1942 West Virginia would let you take the state board 3 months in advance because the war was going on.  That's what our class did.  So we were registered nurses before we were graduates.

     I saw something in the paper about the Navy and my sister took me to Charleston, WV, to the recruiting station and I signed up.  As soon as I graduated they told me they would let me know when to report for duty.  I didn't graduate until January 30, 1943 so in February I got a letter telling me to report on or about February 1st to Bethesda.  Not being familiar with military terminology, I thought they would tell me a final date.  Shortly thereafter, I got a telegram wanting to know why I hadn't reported for duty.  I got myself together and arrived at Bethesda on February 13th.

     Bethesda really had beautiful nurses' quarters.  We each had our own room.  Miss Carver was chief nurse then.  She went around with a yardstick and if she though your uniform dress was a little bit too short she'd make you get it fixed.

     I stayed at Bethesda for about a year.  They were going to send me to the corps school there to teach but I told the chief nurse that, being a new graduate, I didn't feel qualified to teach in the corps school and that I would rather take care of patients.  Her name was Miss [Grace] Lally.  She took me off the list and asked me if I wanted to go to foreign or sea duty and said I would.  Then I got orders to report to Lido Beach in Long Island.  Of course we didn't know where we were going.  Jean Reichard, one of my friends from Bethesda, went with me.

     We were at Lido Beach for a week or 10 days.  It was real cold there.  They had converted some of the hotels to shipping out points for people.  It had been a resort but we were there in January when it was very cold.  We went to England on the Aquitania.  When we went aboard ship there was an Army band playing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby."


     At Lido Beach, you had been assigned to a medical unit.

     Yes.  It was called SNAG 56.  CAPT C.J. Brown was the commanding officer.  Aboard ship it was very crowded with six of us in a stateroom, 3 on either side.  Only two of us could get dressed at a time.  Then we had to go topside or the library, or someplace so the others could get dressed.


     What was the crossing to England like?

     We took the northern route unescorted because it was a fast ship.  A few days out of Scotland, they spotted some unidentified planes and we had to stand by with abandon ship gear on for some time.  I heard one of the English sailors say that he hoped it didn't interfere with his tea time.

     We landed at Gourock, Scotland and took a train to London.  We were in London for 2 weeks temporary duty before we went down to Netley, Hants, to the hospital.


     Where did you stay in London?

     The Red Cross had facilities for us, and Mrs. Biddle, who was a member of the Philadelphia Biddles, was in charge of the Red Cross there.  We didn't really do anything but go on tours.


     Did you see a lot of the damage done by the Blitz?

     Oh, yes.  There were a lot of air raids.


     Did you have to go to a shelter?

     We were supposed to but we never did.  I wasn't scared then.  Now, I would probably be under a bed or a shelter.  I never did go into an air raid shelter.  I checked them out and they looked like a tomb or something.  I thought that if I'm going to go, I'm going to go.  It wasn't very good sense.  While we were in London, we got a lot of publicity and they had some pictures in the paper of a couple of nurses that were really striking.  The Army nurses called us Mrs. Biddle's debutantes.

     Then we went down to the hospital at Netley.  Would you believe it dated back to Queen Victoria's day?  The grounds were beautiful outside the buildings, the surroundings and the view of the water.  But the plumbing was atrocious.  From the bathtubs and the sinks, the water drained into a trough that went halfway around the room before it finally went into a pipe and out.


     It was a huge building, very very long.

     The building was three stories and there was a corridor that ran the length of the front.  When we had air raids the noise would vibrate back and forth.  When we got the buzz bombs, it sounded like there was a bee going round and round.


     So the old hospital was not in great condition.

     No.  The beds weren't the best in the world but we had to do the best we could.  Each room had quite a few beds, perhaps 30 or so on either side.  And down the end was a fireplace.


     How many patients could you fit into a room?

     Thirty or 35.  But there were a whole bunch of rooms and they weren't connected, which is not very efficient when it comes to nursing because you would have to out into the main corridor and then around into the room.  Usually you were just assigned to one room and then you would help out someplace else if you weren't busy.


     Did you have to clean the place up when you first got there?

     The Army had been there before us.  We had to do some cleaning but not what you would expect.  We took it over from the Army.  They had a field hospital right in back of us.  Even though our quarters weren't luxurious by any means with four of us in a room, the Army nurses had to live in tents.


     You had bathrooms inside?

     Yes.  The Seabees came and put in showers and did some work on the nurses' quarters before we got there.


     Where did you take your meals?

     In the nurses' quarters.  We had our own mess with our own cooks.  We didn't eat with the patients.  The kitchen for the patients was in the main building.  They brought the food to the patients on carts.


     What kind of food did you eat?

     It seems to me that we had a lot of pork and we had brussels sprouts so often, it was a long time before I could eat them again.


     What was a typical working day like at Netley?

     Well, you worked shifts like you do at any hospital.  It depended whether you were assigned the day duty, PMs, or night duty.  I worked all three shifts.  We usually did night duty for a month.  The night duty began at 11 pm and ended at 7.  You then tried to get some sleep.  Days you worked from 7 to 3. 

PMs were from 3 pm to 11.


     For those first few months, you were preparing the hospital for D-Day?

     Right.  We did have patients before then but the place wasn't full.


     Where were the operating rooms?

     I never worked in the operating room so I can't tell you much about that.  I know that when we got casualties, the surgery crew worked 24 hours a day.  There was a railroad track right behind the hospital.  We kept the patients for 24 to 48 hours and as soon as they could be moved, they were put on this hospital train and sent to the north part of England and we got ready for some more.


     What did you do in your off-duty hours?

     We could go into Southampton for dinner.  There was a seafood restaurant not too far from the hospital.  Miss [Martha M.] Heck, the chief nurse told us we had to double date.


     Did you go out with the doctors?

     No.  We were surrounded by American fighter units and we were invited to their parties.  I met a very nice lieutenant colonel who was all of 28.


     It must have looked like of all southern England had been taken over by the Americans.

     Yes, especially in the section where I was where there were more Americans than anything else.


     Did you find the local English people friendly?

     Yes.  We had tea at the American Embassy in London and they had invited some of our British Navy counterparts--nurses. They were very friendly.


     What was the chief nurse, Martha Heck, like?

     She was nice, but very strict.  I sometimes thought she slept with her uniform on because when I was on night duty and we'd have an air raid, she would be over there fully dressed in 5 minutes.  Of course, the nurses' quarters was right adjacent to the hospital.


     I have a photograph in front of me showing the nurses' air raid shelter.  The caption says, "U.S. Navy nurses' air raid shelter adjoining Base Hospital #12.  Chemical toilet on the left and benches on the right."  Do you remember that?

     I told you I went and looked at those air raid shelters and decided I wasn't going to go down there.  We would turn our lights off in our rooms and watch the fireworks.


     You mean you watched them bombing Southampton?

     We were surrounded by ack ack guns which fired at enemy planes and the place really vibrated when they shot those guns.  Of course, it made the patients real nervous.  Some of them would get under their beds.  But, as I said, I guess I didn't have sense enough to be afraid.


     As June got closer, did you get a sense that the invasion was about to happen?

     We could see all these ships out in the harbor getting ready to go.  In fact, before the invasion, we were invited aboard ships several times for dinner.  We had a pier that went out into the water and they would pick us up in those LCVPs [Landing Craft Vehicles and Personnel].  We were usually invited as a group for dinner.  We really liked that because they had better food than we did.  The day the invasion began, Eisenhower came on the hospital speaker telling us they had landed.


     You saw the ships leaving for France and I guess you saw them coming back with casualties.  What kind of ships brought them back?

     All types of ships.  The ships landed in Southampton because our pier could only handle small boats.  They brought them by ambulance from Southampton which was 5 miles away.


     What do you recall about the first casualties that came in?

     A lot of them were in what they termed "shell shock."  Some of them didn't know who we were.  They thought we were Germans and they wouldn't tell us anything except their names and serial numbers.  They were classified as mentally ill.  Some of them were just farm boys and the shock of war was just too much for them.


     Were they separated from the others and put in a special ward?



     You were treating mostly Army personnel?

     Oh, yes.  We had a few Navy but not many.


     You must have had quite a crush of casualties those few days after D-Day.  How long did this all last?  Did it go on for days or weeks?

     It went on for months until we left.  I really don't know why the Navy sent us over there because we stayed less than a year before we turned the hospital back over to the Army.


     Shortly after D-Day, the buzz bombs started coming over.  What was that like?

     It was weird.  They sounded like big bumble bees going around up there and you never knew where they were going to hit.  We were just lucky, I guess.  Southampton was very badly damaged.


     I have another picture here showing Admiral [Harold R.] Stark visiting the hospital.

     Oh, I remember Admiral Stark's visit.


     Where did you go after you left England?

     I went to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland for just a few months and then my mother became seriously ill and I requested to go back to the East Coast.  They sent me to St. Albans Naval Hospital and I spent a year there and then I saw a notice on the bulletin board requesting nurses to go to physical therapy school because they couldn't hire enough physical therapists to take care of the wounded.  I signed up for it and was one of the first they sent to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.  There were 18 of us in our group and then there were 18 civilians.  The Navy sent two other groups of 18 after that.  After that I did physical therapy and not nursing any more.


     When did you get out of the Navy?

     I resigned from the Navy in May 1950.  In the meantime I had gotten married.  Between '43 and '46 if you got married, they automatically discharged you.  But they were losing so many nurses that way that they changed the regulations.  If you got married you could stay as long as you didn't become pregnant.  If you got pregnant, then you were discharged.  I got married in '48.  I was supposed to stay for several more years to pay them back for sending me to school.  My last duty station was at Mare Island here in Vallejo.  My husband was a Marine officer.  I met him at Mare Island.  We bought a house here while I was still in the Navy so we just never left.