Monday, April 30, 2012

From the Annual Reports of the Navy Surgeon General: A Visit to the Paris Morgue

The Paris morgue was more than its name implies. In her book, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-De-Siècle Paris, Vanessa Schwartz writes, “At the Paris morgue city and state officials, in conjunction with the popular press, turned the allegedly serious business of identifying anonymous corpses into a spectacle—one eagerly attended by a large diverse crowd. The popularity of public visits to the Paris morgue during the nineteenth century was part of a spectacular ‘real life’ that chroniclers, visitors and inhabitants alike had come to associate with Parisian culture.” In 1874, Navy Surgeon Michael Bradley, USS Alaska, European Squadron, visited this peculiar destination when it was approaching the zenith of its popularity. The following is an excerpted account of his visit, orginal published in The Annual Reports of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy (1875). ABS

I never fully comprehended the full weight, terrible truth and awful grandeur of the sentence, “In the midst of life we are in death,” so often uttered over the remains of the departed, until I paid my first and only visit to the gay, cheerful, and frolicsome capital of France. The revelation was made by mingling with the lively Parisians as they thoughtlessly laughed, chatted, sat, and walked on the brilliant streets that spread over
the catacombs, the subterranean vaults and passages, containing the bones of thousands of human beings; entering and leaving omnibuses with them at the Place de la Bastille, where so much blood washed during the civil wars; promenading with them on the Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI and his consort Marie Antoinette, were executed; transacting business with them in the Quarter Latin, where shops and dissecting rooms adjoin each other; and, lastly, attending service with them in the church of St. German l’Auxerrois, whose bell tolled the signal for the commencement of the massacre of the Huguenots on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 1572.

Wherever I turned or went with the active, bustling throng, I was sure to meet monuments commemorative of departed greatness, as the Pantheon, Hôtel des Invalides, and the cemetery of Père la Chaise will attest.

Having finished the preliminary remarks, I will now take up the subject of this paper, the morgue of Paris.

The first morgue erected in Paris was in the year 1542; the second in 1804, on the Ile de la Cité, at the end of the bridge of St. Michel, within a short distance of he portals of the cathedral of Notre Dame. The structure was 60 feet wide, 45 feet deep, and contained but one room. The present morgue was erected about ten years ago, and, like the old one, is located on the Ile de la Cité, behind and within a stone’s throw of Notre Dame. It is substantially built of yellow sandstone, one story high, and presents a front of 150 feet, with a depth of 30 feet. In the middle of the building is the exposition hall, where the bodies of unknown persons are deposited for four days; if the state of the body permits, five days. They are placed behind a glass partition, on inclined black marble slabs, twelve in number, arranged in two rows. The bodies are nude, kept moist and at low temperature by small streams of water playing on them. The clothes are also exposed, and often lead to the identification of the late wearers. Bodies badly decomposed are not placed on exhibition; are kept in an adjoining room (sale des morts) for three days, and if not recognized sent to the public cemetery, the transportation taking place at 6 a.m. from 1st April to 30th September, and at 7 a.m. from 1st October to 31st March.

The morgue is open daily to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, and from 8 a.m. to sundown in winter. Adjoining the exposition hall is the office. The registrar (greffier) and his clerk are on duty from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here everything that is known of the deceased is carefully registered—the name, age, description vocation, when and where found, cause and kind of death, and if delivered to friends or sent to the potter’s field.

The registrar is in constant correspondence with the chief of police, who has control of the morgue. La sale des morts contains fourteen marble slabs, with arched zinc covers. Bodies too much decomposed for the exposition hall are kept here three days, and are subjected to the irrigating process. La sale d’autopsie is used by the medical inspector and his assistant when there is a suspicion the deceased has been murdered or poisoned.

One of the two attendants (garcons de service) is always on duty. They cannot have their wives or children, within the inclosure [sic]; in other words they are not permitted to make a home of the morgue. The annual average for the last ten years of the number of dead bodies exposed at the morgue is 340, including men, women, and children found in all parts of the great city of Paris.

*Not long after Surgeon Bradley’s visit, Parisian authorities decided that the morgue had wrongly become a Parisian tourist attraction. In March 1907, it was officially closed to the public.

Navy Memorial Commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The United States Navy Memorial Foundation, Naval District Washington and the Australian Embassy welcome you to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

WHEN: Tuesday 1 May 12 – Ceremony to begin at 11:00a

WHERE: The United States Navy Memorial Plaza, Washington, DC

WHAT:  Service and Parade to Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea

WHY: The Battle of the Coral Sea took place between 3 and 10 May 1942 and was a major air and naval engagement of World War II and the first Naval Battle where the ships of the opposing sides never encountered each other. The outcome of the battle, a strategic victory for the Allies, shaped the subsequent Battle of Midway and ultimately the larger strategic campaign that would unfold over the next three years, leading to the defeat of Imperial Japan in 1945. Moreover, it created a bond between the Navies of the United States and Australia that has influenced the relationship between the two countries ever since.

The General Public is welcome to attend the outdoor ceremony on the Navy Memorial Plaza.

Author on Deck Series Presents: Marcus Luttrell on 8 May 2012

WHAT:            As part of the United States Navy Memorial’s Authors on Deck book lecture series and in celebration of the memorial’s 25th Anniversary, author Marcus Luttrell will present his latest work, Service: A Navy Seal at War (Little, Brown & Co.; May 1, 2012).  SERVICE is both a war story for the ages and a heartfelt tribute to all who have served.

BACKGROUND: In October 2006, after miraculously returning from a star-crossed mission in Afghanistan, Marcus Luttrell decided to go back to war.  During six months of high-intensity urban fighting in the most dangerous city in the world – Ramadi, Iraq – he was part of one of the greatest victories in the history of the SEAL teams.  When leaving military life to return home, Luttrell began a quest to understand how and why a rare few choose to risk their lives to serve their country.  Drawing on the experiences of warriors of all generations and service branches and exploring their amazing stories, Luttrell has produced a profoundly moving testament to American courage and sacrifice.  Prior to and following his presentation, Luttrell will be available for a book signing.

WHEN:           Tuesday, 8 May 2012 @ 5:30pm

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

COST:            Free and open to the public

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We're Moving!

The History Office is packing up and moving in the next two weeks out
of the Potomac Annex on 23rd St, NW and heading to the Skyline complex
in Northern Virginia. We've got most of our collections packed up for
the move, and you may have noticed a slowing in blog posts. It will take
us a few weeks to get unpacked and back up to speed so please be
patient. If you're writing in with a question, it may be better to wait
until mid-May.

ARCHIVES: Ambler Collection

Ambler Collection
Organizational records

3 items: "Atmospheric Observations U.S. Arctic Steamer Jeannette.
1879-1881"; "The Private Journal of James Markham Ambler, M.D. P.A.
Surgeon, U.S. Navy and Medical Officer of the Jeannette; Together with
Other Papers and a Photograph" typescript compiled by J.D. Gatewood,
Medical Director, U.S. Navy, Naval Medical School, June 1914; and "Dr.
James M.M. Ambler" typescript of address by David Rankin Barbee.

Monday, April 16, 2012

ARCHIVES - 2 slide collections

Karelin Collection - USNS Mercy Slides
Personal papers
3 folders, unrestricted, no finding aid

Photographs of the USNS Mercy compiled by Edward Karelin. The 35mm slide
collection was sorted by the donor into categories: Mercy; Construction;
Schematics; Casualty Reception; Operating Room; Intensive Care Recovery
Room; Ward; Radiology; Sick Call; Misc. Medical Facilities; Dental;
Hospital Admin; Laboratory - Blood Bank; Library - Crew & Medical;
Laundry; Galley - Mess Decks; Supply; Berthing - CPO & Crew; Officers
Bunkroom & Lounge; Non-MTF Facilities; Support Facilities - Non-medical;
Legazpi, Republic of the Philippines; Subic Bay; HTM Departure; Pearl
Harbor, HI; Fiji; Golden Shellback; HTM Return; Portland Shipyard.

Korean War Slides
Personal papers
1 folders, unrestricted, no finding aid

Color 35mm slides by unidentified doctor. Includes Western USA, Japan,
Easy Company in Korea, Seoul, "A" Medical Company. Slides are labeled.
Ted Smith and Bob Umstoddt are two medical corps personnel in one slide.

May 16 lecture at NYAM: Susan Reverby on VD experiments in Tuskegee and Guatemala

This US Navy had some involvement in this...

The New York Academy of Medicine's Section on the History of Medicine
and Public Health is pleased to announce that Professor Susan M. Reverby
will present this year's Lilianna Sauter Lecture. Reverby is the
Wellesley College medical historian who uncovered the history of NIH
sponsored experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s, in which hundreds of
Guatemalans were deliberately infected with venereal diseases in order
to test the effectiveness of penicillin.

The 2012 Lilianna Sauter Lecture: Escaping Melodramas: Historical
Thinking and the Public Health Service Studies in Tuskegee and Guatemala
May 16, 2012 , 6:00 PM, with informal reception and light refreshments
at 5:30.

The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New

The U.S. government has now apologized for Public Health Service studies
in both Tuskegee (1932-72) and Guatemala (1946-48). This talk will argue
that much of the literature on these studies treats them as object
lessons on what not to do, casting the doctors as monsters, and turning
the studies into historical relics attributable to "racists" from a
distant time and place. Professor Reverby will investigate how we can
think of racism, scientific certainty and ethical malfeasance outside a
melodramatic framework, if this is even possible.

Susan M. Reverby is Professor of Women's Studies at Wellesley College
and a historian of American women, medicine and nursing. She is the
editor of numerous volumes on women's history, the history of medicine
and the history of nursing. Her prize-winning book, Ordered to Care: The
Dilemma of American Nursing (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1987), is still considered one of the major overview histories of
American nursing. She is a former health policy analyst and women's
health activist. From 1993-1997 she served as the consumer
representative on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Obstetrics and
Gynecology Devices Advisory Panel.

To register for this event, please visit:

For complete descriptions of each lecture, and to register to attend,
please visit:;
or contact:

Arlene Shaner
Acting Curator and Reference Librarian for Historical Collections New
York Academy of Medicine

Thursday, April 12, 2012

ARCHIVES: USS Iowa (BB-61) Medical Logbooks

We're less than a month out from our move to Bailey's Crossroads, and
are packing material up, and still discovering things such as this:

USS Iowa (BB-61) Medical Logbooks
Organizational records
Arranged, partially restricted

4 logbooks, labeled "Medical Department Daily Journal"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Navy Medical Newsletters of World War II

Throughout World War II many Navy medical facilities used newsletters to disseminate information thoughout their respective commands, as well as to buoy morale of their staff and patients. Below we offer you a comprehensive list of these colorfully and creatively named Navy medical publications.

Naval Hospitals
Aiea Heights, Territory of Hawaii --"Hi-Lites"
Brooklyn, NY -- "All Hands"
Chelsea, MA -- "The Squeegee"
Corpus Christi, TX -- "The Gremlin"
Farragut, ID -- "The Bedside Examiner"
Key West, FL -- "The Scalpel"
Long Beach, CA -- "The Aorta"
Memphis, TN -- "The Clipper"
New Orleans, LA -- "The Nola Lake Front Breeze"
New River, NC -- "The Caduceus"
Newport, RI -- "The Pulse"
Norfolk, VA -- "The Loblolly"
Norman, OK -- "The Gauzette"
Oakland, CA -- "The Oak Leaf"
Philadelphia, PA -- "Skylines"
Portsmouth, VA -- "The Courier"
San Diego, CA -- "The Dry Dock"
Seattle, WA -- "The Stethoscope"
Shoemaker, CA -- "The Panacea"
Treasure Island, CA -- "Isle-O-Gram"

Convalescent Hospitals
Asheville, NC -- "At Ease"
Glenwood Springs, CO -- "Yampah"
Santa Cruz, CA -- "The Santa Cruise"
Sun Valley, ID--"The Sun Valley Sage"

Mobile/Fleet and Base Hospitals
Mobile Hospital 9/Fleet Hospital 109 (Brisbane, Australia) -- "The Mobster"
Base Hospital No. 4 (Wellington, New Zealand) -- "The Ki-Weekly"
Base Hospital No. 6 (Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides) -- "The Lash-Up"

U.S. Navy Memorial Hosts 21st Annual "Blessing of the Fleets"

Passed down through generations of mariners and navies around the world, the annual Blessing of the Fleets tradition will be held for the 21st consecutive year at the United States Navy Memorial on Saturday, 14 April at 1:00pm. Held on the outdoor plaza, the event is free and open to the public and begins immediately following the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. This event is part of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

The centuries-old “Blessing of the Fleets” ceremony is intended to safeguard crews and ships from the danger of the seas through a traditional blessing given by a clergyman at the water’s edge.

The Blessing of the Fleets’ highlight occurs when Sailors from the U.S. Navy’s Ceremonial Guard proceed across the Memorial Plaza’s “Granite Sea” to pour water from the Seven Seas and the Great Lakes into the surrounding fountains, “charging” them to life and ushering in the spring season. Ceremonial music is provided by the U.S. Navy Band.

Following the ceremony, culinary specialists from the White House Mess will prepare and serve Navy bean soup to visitors in the adjacent Naval Heritage Center. Visitors are invited to relax in the Naval Heritage Center’s Burke Theater for a musical performance by the Washington Revels Maritime Voices. Singing “Songs of the Sea and Shore,” the musical group will portray the old life at sea and back home, including the sailors' use of sea chanteys and the joys and hardships of the women ashore.