Tuesday, January 31, 2012
WHAT: African American Diversity Concerts – free, live performances by the U.S. Navy Band held at the United States Navy Memorial in honor of Black History Month.
The first performance, on Friday, February 17, will feature the Brass Quartet with guest soloist Musician 1st Class Cory Parker in a concert that tells the story of the integration of African-Americans in the U.S. Navy.
The second performance, on Monday, February 27, will feature the U.S. Navy Band’s premier jazz ensemble, the Commodores, and include a narrative lecture component by MUCS Michael Bayes.
WHEN: Friday, 17 February 2012 @ 12:00pm Monday & 27 February 2012 @ 12:00pm
WHERE: United States Navy Memorial*
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
COST: Free and open to the public. No RSVP required, but remember seating is limited
*Metro: National Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Green and Yellow lines)
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Physicians Decorated in Okinawa Campaign
Fox, Ralph M. LT USNR* - USS Purdy
Williamson, Charles E. LT USNR - USS Emmons
Watts, William E. LT, USNR* - USS Haggard
Smith, James, LT USN - USS Evans
Sevensma, Eugene S., LT, USNR - USS Cassin Young
O'Donnell, Bernard V. LTJG, USNR* - USS Hugh W. Hadley
Mitchell, Dana C. LTJG, USNR* - USS Pringle
Markson, John LTJG, USN - USS Shea
Allgood, Jackson L. LT, USNR* - USS Bryant
Dickinson, Ralph H. LTJG, USNR - USS Van Valkenburgh
Nelson, Glenn E. LTJG USNR - USS Bates
Crocker, Harvey J. LT, USNR* - USS O'Brien
*Wounded in action
Japanese on Okinawa to protect their planes, wait for Naval Air
Transport Service hospital plane to fly them to base hospitals in the
Marianas. WWII Pacific Theater - Miscellaneous. 05/11/1945; U.S. Navy
BUMED Library and Archives 09-7922-10
Friday, January 20, 2012
Remains of War : Walt Whitman, Civil War Soldiers, and the Legacy of Medical Collections
Lenore Barbian, Paul S. Sledzik, Jeffrey S. Reznick
Thursday, January 19, 2012
WHAT: As part of the United States Navy Memorial’s Authors on Deck book lecture series,
historian and award-winning author George C. Daughan will present his latest work,
1812: The Navy’s War (Basic Books; October 4, 2011). Guests are invited to learn
about the often-overlooked history of what has been called our Second War of
Independence. Encompassing political, diplomatic, economic and military history,
Daughan brings the battles to life, putting them into context with the larger war, and
showing how America could not have won without its foundling Navy. Following the
presentation, Daughan will be available for a Q&A session and book signing.
WHEN: Thursday, March 1, 2012 @ 12:00pm
WHERE: United States Navy Memorial
Naval Heritage Center
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
COST: Free and open to the public
Overview of 1812: The Navy's War
Two hundred years ago, the United States and Great Britain fought each other in a conflict that changed the shape of the world. Daughan offers a comprehensive and vivid account of that conflict, arguing that it is impossible to fully understand the war without an appreciation for how a ragtag team of American commanders, seamen and privateers took on and defeated the most powerful navy in the world. According to Daughan, “The U.S. Navy’s role in bringing about Britain’s newfound respect for the United States was critical.”
About the Author:
George Daughan holds a Ph.D. in American History and Government from Harvard University and is a recipient of the 2008 Samuel Eliot Morison Award for his previous book, If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy – From the Revolution to the War of 1812. He spent three years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War and served as an instructor and director of the MA program in International Affairs at the Air Force Academy. Subsequently, he taught at the University of Colorado, University of New Hampshire, Wesleyan University and Connecticut College. He resides in Portland, Maine.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Society for the History of Navy Medicine Graduate and Medical Professional Student Research Grant Announcement
Medical Professional Student Research Grant
The Society for the History of Navy Medicine announces a new
annual grant of up to $1500 for research in the history of naval or
maritime medicine. The grant is intended to support work being done by a
student enrolled in a program leading to a degree above the
baccalaureate level in history, medical history or the medical
The grant may be used for travel to a research site;
photocopying, photography or microfilming; borrowing or access fees; and
similar research-related expenses. Society membership is encouraged but
is not required.
Applications, consisting of a 1250 - 1750 word project
description and a project budget, should be submitted electronically, no
later than 15 April, to the Society Executive Director at
. All submissions, marked with an identifying number only, will be
reviewed by a panel of eminent historians. The winning submission will
be announced by 1 July.
--17 January 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
13 December 1919
From: Commanding Officer, USS Solace
To: Commanding Officer, USS Bell
Subject: Ship’s Cat
Several members of the crew of this ship have informed me the commanding officer that the mascot of the Solace, Thomas Whiskers, has been kidnapped or catnipped [sic] by certain members of your crew and is being impounded on board your ship. This mascot is a large, black Tom and when last seen was in dress uniform consisting of a leather collar with brass tag marked USS Solace.
If this cat is on board your ship, please inform me and I will send a member of the crew for it.
From: Commanding Officer, USS Bell
To: Commanding Officer, USS Solace
Subject: Your letter of Dec. 13, 1919
You ship’s cat “Whiskers” is being returned under guard, but an explanation of his presence aboard the ship is no doubt due you.
Prior to our departure from alongside the Solace, the cat in question developed a warm regard for the USS Bell, consequently spending much of his time aboard. On the morning we shifted berth his presence aboard was unknown to us. Later in the day after your ship had sailed, he was found to have taken possession of an unoccupied stateroom. The master-at-arms immediately made him prisoner on the ground that he was a stowaway and incarcerated him in the paint locker. This will account for the fact that he is no longer the black cat you describe, but battleship gray.
We advise against the removal of this collar since its low visibility aids the performance of his duties.
In regard to the dress uniform worn by the prisoner—in his attempts to remove the paint he pulled off the collar and lost it. This ship feels under no obligation in regard to the latter. In adding one ten cent collar to its stores it lost $2 worth of paint.
*Originally published in The Grog Ration, March-April 2008
Episode: Murder Eyes Only (1975)
While Detective Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is on active duty with the naval reserve, he is ordered to help investigate the murder of a naval intelligence officer by letter bomb. This episode features a Navy nurse played by Carolyn Gayler.
Hellcats of the Navy (1957)
CDR Casey Abbott (Ronald Reagan), World War II commander of a submarine, is in an “off again-on again” relationship with Navy nurse LT Helen Blair (Nancy Davis). While on a mission, CDR Abbott is forced to leave a frogman behind to save the rest of his crew. But Abbott's second-in-command is convinced that this sacrifice was due to the fact that the dead man had been amorously pursuing LT Blair.
CBS television series about LT Charles “Chick” Hennesey (Jackie Cooper), a Navy physician stationed at a naval base in San Diego, CA. Actress Abby Dalton played “Martha Hale,” a Navy nurse.
In Harm’s Way (1965)
Otto Preminger directed this film about two naval officers—CAPT Rockwell Torrey (John Wayne) and CDR Paul Eddington, Jr. (Kirk Douglas)— who try to recuperate from, and retaliate for, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Patricia Neal plays Navy nurse “LT Maggie Haynes.”
Episode: Each of Us Angels (2003)
A wounded Marine lieutenant named Ron Graham (David James Elliott) and his Navy nurse (Catherine Bell) fall in love on board a hospital ship as World War II rages off the coast of Iwo Jima. Their love affair is shattered when a kamikaze hits the hospital ship, killing the nurse.
Mister Roberts (1955)
In the waning days of World War II, LT Doug Roberts (Henry Fonda) worries that the war is passing him by. He yearns for duty more significant than that of supervising the daily operations of a cargo transport ship in the South Pacific. LT Roberts doesn't realize how much he means to his crew. Cast includes Navy nurse LT Girard (Betsey Palmer).
McHale’s Navy (1962-1966)
Television series featured a Navy nurse named “Molly Turner” (Jane Dulo) who was the love interest of LCDR Quinton McHale (Ernest Borgnine).
Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Episode: SWAK (2005)
A letter "sealed with a kiss" contaminates the NCIS office and personnel with a biological weapon. The character of Navy nurse “LT Emma Ingham” is played by Kelsey Oldershaw.
Navy Versus the Night Monsters (1966)
Navy nurse (Mamie Van Doren) fights acid-spewing plant monsters at duty station in the South Pacific.
Nobody’s Perfect (1968)
Film about misadventures of hospital corpsman Doc Willoughby (Doug McClure). Willoughby tries to woo Navy nurse LT Momoyama (Nancy Kwan).
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Michael Bay directed the film about two Navy pilots, and childhood friends, Rafe (Ben Affleck) and Danny (Josh Hartnett) who fall in love with the same woman, a Navy nurse named LT Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale).
Purple Hearts (1984)
Navy surgeon Don Jardian (Ken Wahl) and nurse Deborah Solomon (Cheryl Ladd) fall in love while serving in the Vietnam War. Their affection for one another provides a striking contrast to the violence of warfare.
South Pacific (2001)
Rodgers’ and Hammerstein musical featuring Navy nurse ENS Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor)
Tell it to the Marines (1926)
Classic Lon Chaney movie has his character SGT O’Hara in love with Navy nurse Nora Dale (Eleanor Boardman)
Torpedo Alley (1953)
LT Bingham (Mark Stevens) renews an acquaintance with two former Navy colleagues and falls in love with the Navy nurse, LT Susan Peabody (Dorothy Malone), who is dating one of them.
If you have any other titles that have featured Navy Nurse or other Navy medical personnel characters send us an e-mail at: email@example.com.
The “Navy nurse,” as a character, has appeared in many films going back to the silent era. (1) At times the Navy nurse is a nameless figure who garners a few seconds of screen glory, usually walking down a hospital corridor or, worse, standing behind Sidney Greenstreet while holding a thermometer. For this she will be listed in the credits as “Navy nurse,” “nurse,” or, simply, “eclipsed lady.” In some films, the Navy nurse resembles neither a health care provider nor a military officer. In The Navy versus the Night Monsters, actress Mamie Van Doren is a “Navy nurse” stationed at an unnamed island in the Pacific during an invasion of nocturnal plant monsters. Through liberties taken with an “artistic license,” Van Doren’s nurse is without rank, protocol, and proper military attire (imagine a Navy uniform regulation written by Russ Meyer). But I guess the real question is: Do the acid-spewing “Night Monsters” really care? Do viewers take note? Although few and far between, there are films in which the Navy nurse is a central figure complete with name, motivation, personality, and marquee status. In these films—often “inspired” by true events—the Navy nurse actually resembles a military officer. The nurse has rank, follows a chain-of-command, and can be seen rendering medical care. It is worth looking back at the Navy nurse in two of these films—"South Pacific" (1958), and "In Harm’s Way" (1965).
There’s Nothin’ like a…Navy Nurse
Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein II’s South Pacific was originally a Broadway musical starring Mary Martin as Navy nurse “ENS Nellie Forbush” and Ezio Pinza as the mysterious French planter “Emile de Becque.” Based on James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, it was adapted for the stage in 1949 and made into a film in 1958. Both stage and film versions were directed by Joshua Logan.(2) The film version which starred Mitzi Gaynor (sister of actress Janet Gaynor) and Italian actor Rossano Brazzi as the leads, holds the distinction of being the only theatrical adaptation of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to have all songs intact.
In "South Pacific," ENS Forbush is stationed at an advanced Navy base in Espiritu Santo in 1943. Gaynor’s Forbush is an exuberant figure with heart and great sensitivity. She finds herself in love with Emile de Becque, who may be a Vichy-fascist. The commanding officer of the base, CAPT George Brackett (Russ Brown), knowing of her relationship with de Becque, asks Forbush to spy on him and find out his secret. In reality, de Becque is a man who came to the island to escape his past deeds in France. Brackett then recruits de Becque to join Marine raider LT Cable (John Kerr) on a dangerous reconnaissance mission to an island that could be Bougainville. When reunited, Forbush and de Becque declare their love for each other.
A few aspects of the film should be noted. Forbush interacts with enlisted SEABEES, most notably Luther Billis (Ray Walston). The real Nellie Forbush would be forbidden to “fraternize” with enlisted sailors like Billis, and vice versa. Female nurses were always segregated from the rest of Navy. Even if a sailor wanted to talk to a nurse in her private quarters he would need to be escorted by her chief nurse. The film credits list a total of 38 Navy nurses in the cast, but not one chief nurse. In addition, no commanding officer or executive officer of the base hospital is to be seen. Forbush reports directly to CAPT Brackett. With all the singing, dancing, and “washing men out of hair” to do there is very little time for middlemen! As the old Hollywood adage goes, one way of avoiding the red tape is to hire a good screenwriter.
For the “pride of Little Rock, AR,” the exotic world of Bali Ha’I and betel nuts must have been overwhelming. Like Forbush, many World War II nurses were products of small towns who joined the Navy not only to serve their country in a time of need but also as a means of seeing the world. World War II nurses were more often than not, independent spirits and adventure-seeking women looking to prove themselves and gain experiences from beyond the borders of their small towns. Like Forbush, some of them would have seen the Navy as a vehicle for romance. However, as a Navy nurse, ENS Forbush would have to abide by the official naval regulations of the day. She would not be allowed to marry Emile de Becque or have his child while on active duty.(3)
By regulation, nurses like Forbush were all unmarried women and graduates of accredited nursing schools with two years work experience at civilian hospitals. To be accepted into the Nurse Corps they needed to submit a letter of intent and three recommendations to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
In the second half of South Pacific ENS Forbush makes her first appearance at the hospital. This hospital would have been either Navy Base Hospital 3 or 6; both were commissioned on Espiritu Santo in 1943. In addition to some battle casualties, her patient load would include many sailors and Marines with dengue, dysentery, or malaria. Following the nurse regulations of the day, ENS Forbush would rest the malarial case during their paroxysms of fever and chills.
During the cold stage she would apply blankets, hot water bottles, and offer hot beverages. As the hot stage developed, she would gradually remove the heat, apply tepid sponges, and an ice cap to the patient’s head, at the same time forcing him to drink cold fluids. Aches and pains were alleviated by placing pillows under the small of the back. Such procedures could be deemed anything but entertainment. In the movie, Forbush’s patient load is wholly ambulatory, and it is not clear why they are at the hospital. Aside from the medical care they presumably need, Forbush’s patients seem to want nothing more than to hear the nurse sing.
Light’em if You Got’em
This Otto Preminger-directed film, "In Harm’s Way," gets its title from a quote attributed to John Paul Jones: “I wish no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.” In Harm’s Way is the story of two naval officers—CAPT Rockwell Torrey (John Wayne) and CDR Paul Eddington, Jr. (Kirk Douglas)—who try to recuperate from, and retaliate for, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Patricia Neal plays the Navy nurse, and Torrey’s love interest, “LT Maggie Haynes.”
Navy nurse LT Haynes is on temporary assignment in Pearl Harbor. She is a woman who came to nursing and the Navy after her eight-year marriage ended in divorce. If ENS Forbush is the wide-eyed, inexperienced nurse, LT Haynes is her polar opposite—an experienced, world-smart woman who knows human behavior. When fellow nurse ENS Annalee Dorne asks her where the “nerve” came to call CAPT Torrey, Haynes coolly replies, “Annalee dear, past a certain age, men are apt to avoid making sudden moves where women are concerned. The women have to do the sudden moving, or else everybody stands still until it's too late. It gets late fast in these times. I like this man, and I want him to know it now.” And when she hears that ENS Dorne is going to the beach with CDR Eddington she cautions her and states that he is a man with dark secrets. Ultimately, ENS Dorne’s meeting with Eddington will end tragically.
CAPT Torrey first encounters LT Haynes at Naval Hospital Pearl Harbor; she supervises the x-ray of his fractured arm and then escorts him to a Navy physician’s office. They meet again at a party when she is dressed in civvies. When he states that he did not recognize her, Haynes replies, “I make a special effort not to look like a nurse.” Even so, the viewer can recognize her character as a Navy nurse. We see her wearing ward whites at the naval hospital while checking on patients, giving shots, and applying intravenous drips. She talks about nursing school and her decision to join the Navy. Later in the film, when Torrey is serving as a rear admiral, Haynes asks him, “How do admirals feel about nurses?” Torrey nonchalantly replies, “The same way captains do.”
Throughout the film CAPT Torrey and other officers refer to LT Haynes as “Maggie” and “Miss Haynes,” but never by rank. Although, considered part of the Navy establishment since 1920, and having what was deemed “relative rank,” Navy nurses were not considered official staff corps officers until 1947.(4) It would not have been uncommon for their fellow Navy personnel to refer to them by the title of “Miss” or “Nurse.”
Outside the hospital, LT Haynes is never without a cigarette. At a dinner party held at the house of Admiral Nimitz (Henry Fonda), every other Navy officer sitting at the table is smoking a pipe. Behind all this smoke is the unsettling fact that both John Wayne and Franchot Tone (Admiral Husband Kimmel) were fighting lung cancer during the shoot. After filming concluded, Wayne had his left lung removed; Tone died of the disease three years later. And whether or nor cigarette smoking was an indirect cause, actress Patricia Neal suffered from multiple strokes the year "In Harm’s Way" was released. It is even more unnerving to learn that she was pregnant at the time.(5)
The cigarette is arguably the most versatile prop ever to be used in film. All genres of film, from the days of D.W. Griffith to the present, from slapstick comedies to gritty war pictures, have leading characters who smoke. "In Harm’s Way" is “inspired” by the Navy in World II, and though not politically correct to say, cigarette smoking was once an integral part of Navy culture. Enlisted and officers—nurses included—smoked. In the wartime environment, smoking was believed to calm the nerves and enable the sailor to “focus.”(6) As far back as World War I, cigarettes were a part of ration packs. If one doubts the role of tobacco in the war they should look at the photographs of the day. One photograph at the Naval Historical Center, dated 1944, shows an “endless” human chain of sailors carrying boxes of Lucky Strike cigarettes onto the USS Missouri's forward main deck. The caption reads “An average of five cases of cigarettes is [sic] smoked during a tour at sea.” A BUMED photograph, circa 1944, shows two Navy nurses with cigarettes visiting a village in the Admiralties.
Movies are made to entertain, and make money. Some films transcend this mission and become works of art and timeless classics. In all cases, however, movies cannot be relied upon as the fountain of historical truth. "South Pacific" and "In Harm’s Way" certainly have their share of anachronistic and sensational scenes, but both can be considered successful films. They both entertain while delivering an impression of the historical fact. The characters of ENS Forbush and LT Haynes are substantive film figures; when you finish watching these movies you don’t forget they are “Navy nurses.” Even so, you cannot separate them from other depictions of Navy nurses. In war pictures, the Navy nurse is almost always used as the vehicle to the romantic sub-plot. The list of Navy nurse-protagonist love affairs is vast: Forbush and de Becque ("South Pacific"); Haynes and Torrey ("In Harm’s Way"); Abbott and Blair ("Hellcats of the Navy"); Willoughby and Momoyama ("Nobody’s Perfect"); Rafe/Danny and Johnson ("Pearl Harbor"); Jardian and Solomon ("Purple Hearts"); O’Hara and Dale ("Tell it to the Marines"); and Bingham and Peabody ("Torpedo Alley"). Regardless of this typecast, the Navy nurse has left a legacy; Navy nurses will always be a special part of film history as they are the Navy’s.
1. Produced in 1926, "Tell it to the Marines" is one of the first films to feature a character of a Navy nurse. This wonderful, but overlooked, silent film is the story of the “tougher than nails” Marine drill sergeant O'Hara (Lon Chaney) and his polar opposite, PVT “Skeets” Burns (William Haines). If Burns's lackadaisical approach to the military were not bad enough, he also makes advances on Navy nurse Nora Dale (Eleanor Boardman), whom SGT O'Hara secretly loves. Nurse Dale is oblivious to SGT O'Hara's feelings and is attracted to the handsome “Skeets.” But an indiscretion turns her against him, and it takes an expedition to China and a battle with a warlord's bandit brigade to sort things out among the nurse and her two Marines.
2. The book and musical hold unique distinction of having both been awarded Pulitzers.
3. In January 1945, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal repealed the marriage ban for women in the Navy. In 1970, the Navy finally ended the pregnancy ban.
4. The Naval Appropriations Act of 4 July 1920 recognized the Navy Nurse Corps as part of the “Navy Establishment.” In 1947, with the passage of the Army-Nurse Act (Public Law 36) the Navy Nurse Corps was acknowledged as an official staff. corps.
5. Despite this, Neal gave birth to a healthy daughter.
6. In a report to the Surgeon General of the Navy dated 1879, Medical Director Albert Gihon, USN, wrote that tobacco was a “pernicious, indefensible and wholly unnecessary habit.” He went on to state that it “impairs vision, blunts the memory and interferes with mental effort and application, ought, in my opinion as a sanitary officer, at whatever cost of vigilance, to be rigorously interdicted.”
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
4 scrapbooks, no finding aid, unrestricted.
4 scrapbooks transferred with Stitt Library collection, and covering
1947-48, 1949-50 and 1950-1955. They include newspaper clippings,
letters (including from President Truman), reprints and photographs.
Clifford Anders Swanson (1901-1984) was appointed assistant surgeon in
1925. He served in varied assignments at home, abroad, and aboard ship.
While an instructor at the Naval Medical School, he researched night and
color vision and the effects of pressure and oxygen consumption on the
eye. During World War II, Dr. Swanson was senior medical officer on USS
Iowa. As an operating surgeon at the National Naval Medical Center, Dr.
Swanson performed pioneering eye surgery. He accompanied President
Roosevelt to the Tehran Conference and was with the Congressional
Committee that inspected the Pacific War area. He became Surgeon General
in 1946. During his tenure he sponsored legislation that made the Nurse
Corps a permanent staff Corps, and established the Medical Service
(photo number 09-9014-1)
Monday, January 9, 2012
Part VI: World War II, European Theater
By Jan Herman and Mr. Grog
“To keep as many men at as many guns for as many days as possible.” This was the Navy Medical Department’s fighting motto during World War II. If the ultimate purpose of military medicine during this conflict was the same as in previous wars—to conserve the strength and efficiency of the fighting forces—Navy medical personnel worked diligently to accomplish that goal.
The ability and means to support the war effort was certainly not in evidence the day Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and plunged the United States into World War II. In that year, the Navy had only 18 continental hospitals, 3 overseas hospitals, 2 mobile hospitals, and 2 hospital ships in commission. Approximately 13,500 physicians, dentists, nurses, hospital corps officers, and corpsmen—pharmacist’s mates as they were then called—manned these facilities.
In contrast, by 1945, the ranks had swollen to about 169,000 personnel, a staggering growth of 1,252 percent! They were assigned to 56 hospitals in the continental United States, 12 fleet hospitals, 16 base hospitals, 14 convalescent hospitals, 15 hospital ships, 5 special augmented hospitals, and many dispensaries.
The staggering commitment to winning the war would require all these resources. What transpired between 1941 and 1945 was a cataclysmic event made worse by the nature of the weapons used by the combatants. Although World War I had seen the widespread use of machine guns, submarines, airplanes, and tanks, World War II saw these weapons reach unimagined perfection as killing machines. In every theater of war, small arms, land- and sea-based artillery, torpedoes, and armor-piercing and anti-personnel bombs took a terrible toll in human life. In America’s first major encounter at Pearl Harbor, the victims of the Japanese attack could testify to what modern warfare really meant. Strafing aircraft, exploding ordnance, and burning ships caused penetrating injuries, simple and compound fractures, traumatic amputations, blast injuries, and horrible burns to name just a few.
Even though the story of Navy medicine in World War II is primarily a story of the Pacific war, the Navy not only played a key role in the liberation of North Africa, Italy, and France but also in fighting the U-boat menace in the North Atlantic and escorting convoys to Britain and Russia. Japan may have forced the United States into World War II, but American strategy for winning it focused on defeating Hitler first. Only when Nazism was on the run could the war planners in Washington take full aim at the Japanese.
The Americans who stormed Hitler’s “Fortress Europe” on 6 June 1944 were predominantly troops of the U.S. Army. But D-Day was not solely an Army show. It was Navy ships and personnel that brought the soldiers and their equipment from England, and Navy battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and rocket-firing amphibious assault vessels that pounded German fortifications and cleared the way into the beaches.
Navy personnel were also represented on the Normandy shore. They were not there in large numbers, but their unique skills were essential for the invasion to succeed. These were the men of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Naval Beach Battalions, units whose mission it was to bridge the gap between sea and land and perform many other functions on the invasion beaches.
These highly trained sailors of the beach battalions had many functions to perform, not the least of which was to treat and evacuate casualties. The care givers—the physicians and hospital corpsmen—had to contend with every wound modern warfare could produce with anti-ship and personnel mines, high velocity small arms, and artillery fire inflicting penetrating wounds of the head, face, neck, and extremities, and fractures, burns and blast injuries.
As the first American troops went ashore at Omaha and Utah Beaches, Navy medicine was represented by these sailors who were dressed as soldiers and indistinguishable from their Army counterparts. Nevertheless, they performed bravely and efficiently, rendering first aid to American personnel, whether they were soldiers or sailors. Physicians provided rudimentary care where possible. Armed with litters, hospital corpsmen administered first aid—a battle dressing, a tourniquet, a morphine injection, a casualty tag—and then moved the wounded down to the water’s edge so they could be evacuated aboard the now empty landing craft heading back out to the transports. When that was not feasible, they sought shelter and set up aid stations above the high tide line.
The Navy was also responsible for returning the casualties from Normandy. Once evacuated from the American sectors of Utah and Omaha Beaches aboard smaller returning landing craft, the wounded were transferred to specially equipped LCTs (landing craft, tank) and LSTs (landing ship, tank) staffed by physicians and hospital corpsmen. Each LST had special brackets to accommodate 147 litters arranged in tiers 3 high on their tank decks. Here they would receive emergency treatment once the tanks and troops went ashore. Two Navy physicians, one Army surgeon, two Army operating room technicians, and 40 Navy hospital corpsmen staffed these versatile ships. They were equipped for providing first aid, stabilization, and an occasional surgery.
Once safely back in England, Navy medical personnel, including nurses, triaged patients, conducted emergency surgery, and stabilized the injured until they could be evacuated to other hospitals in Britain or back to the United States for more definitive treatment.
One of the hospitals designated to care for the casualties of the D-Day invasion was Navy Base Hospital Number 12. The facility occupied the thousand-bed Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, adjacent to the major Channel port of Southampton and had a staff of Navy medical personnel. U.S. Navy physicians, nurses, and hospital corpsmen operated on patients night and day for the better part of a week. Their dedication and skill guaranteed that 97 percent of the wounded would live—a remarkable statistic.
Seventeen days after the initial landings at Normandy, the casualty evacuation system was working so smoothly that the naval beach battalions returned to England. Although their mission was completed, the cost had been heavy for these brave physicians and hospital corpsmen. Two physicians and 20 corpsmen of the 6th were killed in action. The 7th lost a physician and 10 corpsmen. At Utah Beach, where the invaders met lighter resistance, the 2nd Beach Battalion lost one physician and seven hospital corpsmen. Every bit as much as the soldiers and sailors who wielded the weapons of war, these Navy medical personnel helped insure the success of what Dwight Eisenhower called the “Great Crusade.” The long awaited turning point in the liberation of Europe had finally come.
Although Navy medical personnel were also present during the capture of Cherbourg and landings on the French Mediterranean coast, for the most part Navy medicine’s contributions to the liberation of Europe were over. The real focus of the Navy’s attention was the war against Japan.
Despite deteriorating relations with the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Cold War, dwindling military budgets translated into drastic reductions in resources and manpower for all the services. The Navy Medical Department shrank accordingly. Hospitals were decommissioned, hospital ships went into mothballs, and reserve physicians, dentists, nurses, and hospital corpsmen returned to civilian life. Who could have anticipated what would occur a mere five years later when the Cold War suddenly turned hot in Korea, a country few people could even find on a map.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Part V: World War II, Pacific Theater
By Jan Herman and Mr. Grog
December 7, 1941 still represents the U.S. Navy’s greatest disaster. In just over two hours much of the Pacific Fleet had been destroyed or seriously damaged. Even before the last Japanese aircraft had disappeared over the horizon, what the raiders had accomplished by their surprise attack was catastrophic. The pride of the fleet—seven battleships that once projected U.S. might and prestige—either lay on the bottom or were too crippled to be of any immediate use. Bombs, torpedoes, and machine guns had taken a terrible toll, with the Navy alone losing 2,008 men.
The wounded and severely burned survivors of the attack required immediate treatment, and Navy medical personnel were on the scene to provide that care. Navy medicine was represented at Pearl Harbor by a naval hospital, a partially assembled base hospital, and USS Solace (AH-5), the Navy’s newest hospital ship. Heroic efforts to save lives by the men and women who manned these facilities began minutes after the first Japanese bomb fell and never waned until the last casualty was tended to.
Physicians, nurses, and hospital corpsmen on duty at Naval Hospital Pearl Harbor performed emergency surgery, treated burns, and comforted the dying. The same scene played out aboard USS Solace, which lay at anchor just beyond “Battleship Row.” Oil-soaked sailors plucked from the harbor were taken to the hospital ship for treatment.
If the ferocity of the Japanese onslaught that followed Pearl Harbor left American forces reeling, isolated, and with scant hope of reinforcement, as an institution Navy medicine was equally stretched. Possessing only limited resources and with a presence only in Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, a few small installations, and aboard the few vessels of the Asiatic Fleet, Navy medical personnel were hard pressed to treat patients as the Japanese rolled through the Pacific conquering everything before them. On 8 December 1941, World War II came to the Philippines when Japanese bombers hit Clark and Nichols Fields.
Two days later enemy bombers returned, this time destroying the Cavite Navy Yard and killing and maiming scores of Americans and Filipinos. Personnel at the nearby Cañacao Naval Hospital worked frantically to treat the wounded.
Japanese soldiers who landed on Philippine beaches in late December 1941 overwhelmed the ill-equipped and outnumbered Americans and Filipinos. By the time Japanese forces entered Manila on 1 January after GEN Douglas MacArthur declared it an open city, its battered defenders had already withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula to make their last stand.
As food and medicine ran out, disease took its toll among Bataan’s defenders. The lack of quinine for the treatment of malaria was critical, and without it many men came down with the disease. Nearly everyone suffered debilitating weakness from dysentery. Overwhelmed, Bataan’s 75,000 defenders finally surrendered in April 1942.
But out in Manila Bay, the island fortress of Corregidor still remained defiant despite a lack of food and ammunition. After a month of heavy bombardment and finally landings by Japanese forces, Corregidor surrendered on May 6th. American power in the Far East had been extinguished. Yet despite the new reality, the hundreds of medical professionals captured in the Pacific were still “Doc” or “Nurse” to their fellow POWs. Without hospitals or supplies, they continued to practice their healing art, often under unimaginable circumstances.
Some 10,000 surrendered at Corregidor after thousands of captured Americans and Filipinos had already died on the infamous Bataan Death March. Those who survived Japanese brutality and neglect now faced Japanese prison camps. For the approximately 17,000 Americans and 12,000 Filipino scouts who surrendered in the Philippines, the real ordeal had barely begun. Torture, forced labor, starvation and death became the norm in Japanese POW camps throughout the Far East.
Even though physicians and corpsmen did the best they could to provide health care in these camps, they had virtually no drugs or instruments. Malaria and dengue fever were endemic. Sanitation was non-existent and almost everybody had dysentery. Many came down with deficiency diseases like scurvy, optic neuritis, and beriberi. By the summer of 1942 the Japanese held over 50,000 prisoners, 20,000 of whom were Americans.
Eleven of these were Navy nurses from the Cañacao Naval Hospital. They spent the war in internment camps at Santo Tomás in Manila and then at Los Baños in the Philippine countryside, where they were finally liberated in February 1945. Many of their male colleagues never made it home, either succumbing to disease, starvation, brutal treatment by their captives, or dying by “friendly fire” when the so-called hell ships in which they were being transported to Japan were sunk by American submarines or aircraft.
Despite the fate of these unfortunate POWs, the war against Japan was in full swing by the summer of 1942. Reconquering territory held by the enemy was the priority and it meant fighting island by island, each one a stepping stone to Tokyo. Organizing the Navy Medical Department to care for the thousands of Navy and Marine Corps casualties generated by opposed amphibious landings, make them well, and then return them to duty was the major priority. It was in the Pacific war that Navy medicine faced its greatest challenge dealing with the aftermath of intense, bloody warfare fought far from fixed hospitals. This put enormous pressure on medical personnel closest to the front and forced new approaches to primary care and evacuation.
The most dramatic and demanding duty a Navy hospital corpsman could have was with Marine Corps units in the field. Because the Marine Corps has always relied upon the Navy for medical support, corpsmen accompanied the leathernecks and suffered the brunt of combat themselves. Many of them went unarmed, reserving their carrying strength for medical supplies.
Navy corpsmen were the first critical link in the evacuation chain. From the time a Marine was hit on an invasion beach at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and a host of other Pacific islands, the corpsman braved enemy fire to render aid. He applied a battle dressing, administered morphine, and tagged the casualty. If he were lucky, the corpsman might commandeer a litter team to move the casualty out of harm’s way and on to a battalion aid station or a collecting and clearing company for further treatment. This care would mean stabilizing the patient with plasma, serum albumin, and, later in the war, whole blood. In some cases, the casualty was then moved to the beach for evacuation. In others, the casualty was taken to a divisional hospital, where doctors performed further stabilization, including emergency surgery if needed.
Navy hospital ships, employed mainly as ambulances, provided first aid and some surgical care for the casualties’ needs while ferrying them to base hospitals in the Pacific or back to the United States for definitive care. As the war continued, air evacuation helped carry the load. Trained Navy nurses and corpsmen staffed the evacuation aircraft.
Enabling the Navy and Marine Corps to defeat the enemy also meant recognizing that disease more often than enemy action threatened this goal. During the battle for Guadalcanal in the Solomons, malaria caused more casualties than Japanese bullets. Shortly after the landings, the number of patients hospitalized with malaria exceeded all other diseases. Some units suffered over a 100 percent casualty rate with personnel being hospitalized more than once. Only when malaria and other tropical diseases were brought to heel could the Pacific war be won.
Navy medical personnel moved quickly to reduce the impact of malaria and other tropical diseases. Personnel trained in preventive medicine oiled malaria breeding areas and sprayed DDT. Physicians and corpsmen dispensed quinine and atabrine as malaria suppressants.
The Pacific war was massive in scale, fought over vast stretches of ocean. Fleets engaged one another often many miles distant from one another. Carrier-based aircraft were the surrogates that sought out the enemy and delivered the ordnance. U.S. Navy task forces consisting of carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts required their own medical support and each of these vessels had among their crews corpsmen, physicians, and, aboard the larger vessels, dentists as well. By October 1945 the fleet numbered over 7,000 vessels from landing craft and auxiliaries to the Essex class carriers and Iowa class battleships. The hundreds of vessels smaller than destroyers had their corpsmen to be sure, but the larger vessels rated physicians, corpsmen, dentists, fully equipped sick bays, battle dressing stations, and usually an operating room. The standard medical complement for a 7,250-ton escort carrier was one medical officer, a flight surgeon for the embarked air group, a dentist, and about 13 corpsmen. A much larger 27,100-ton Essex class carrier like USS Franklin (CV-13) boasted four physicians augmented by a flight surgeon, 3 dentists, and 31 corpsmen. During routine operations, physicians and corpsmen serving aboard vessels in the South Pacific encountered and treated heat and humidity related maladies exacerbated by confinement without air conditioning—heat exhaustion and stroke, fungus infections, heat rash, and breathing disorders.
The encounters between Japanese and American fleets were most often brutal affairs with many casualties generated in both brief and sustained actions. Torpedoes, bombs, and armor-piercing shells produced horrendous wounds. When the Japanese launched their kamikaze terror campaign, medical personnel were often overwhelmed. A single suicide plane plunging through the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and igniting fueled and armed aircraft produced hundreds of burn victims within seconds. As the fighting drew ever closer to the Japanese home islands in early 1945, thousands of sailors were killed and wounded by these human-guided missiles.
Navy medical personnel also served aboard submarines that prowled the Pacific destroying thousands of tons of Japanese shipping. Among its crew, each submarine carried one highly trained corpsman or pharmacist’s mate, as they were then called. (Physicians were not assigned to submarines.) Indeed, one of the most dramatic stories to come out of World War II recounted an emergency appendectomy performed by a 23-year-old corpsman as his submarine, USS Seadragon, cruised submerged in enemy waters. The corpsman, Wheeler B. Lipes, successfully removed the badly infected appendix and saved his patient. This heroic story not only highlighted the skill and resourcefulness of Navy corpsmen, but also buoyed the nation’s spirits early in the war when news from the Pacific was anything but encouraging.
When World War II finally ended with the Japanese surrender aboard USS Missouri (BB-63) on 2 September 1945, the U.S. Navy had become the largest maritime force the world had ever known. And the Medical Department which supported that Navy would itself never again have as many personnel, or staff as many hospitals, dispensaries, and hospital ships as it did on that day.
What followed victory was rapid demobilization as soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in the Pacific theater headed home. Helping get them there were aircraft carriers, battleships, LSTs, and Navy hospital ships—all of which became troop transports in what was called “Operation Magic Carpet.”
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
1 folder, unrestricted, no finding aid
Records of Chief Pharmacist Mate Archie Charles Evans service during
World War II in which he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal "For heroic
service as a Corpsman, attached to the U.S.S. Marblehead, during
operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Java Sea on 4 and 5
February 1942. Seriously wounded in the original blast when his ship
sustained two direct hits during an enemy bombing attack, Evans refused
aid for himself and immediately proceeded to treat the wounded in his
area until they could be evacuated to the battle-dressing station.
Continuing without sleep and suffering intense pain from burns and a
broken arm sustained in the blast, he worked steadily for two days and
two nights, ministering to the wounded and accepting treatment only when
the ship reached port." Records include his ID cards, record jacket,
newspaper clippings, a photograph of the Marblehead and a 1951 letter
from Warner Bros about making a movie.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
On Civil War Medicine
Commemorating the 150th Anniversary
of the Battle of Antietam
October 5-7, 2012
Individuals are invited to submit lecture proposals for the NMCWM’s Twentieth Annual Conference on Civil War Medicine to be held October 5-7, 2012. Proposals should be one to five pages in length, typed and double-spaced, and must be accompanied by a bibliography. They also should include the title, speaker’s full name, short biographical sketch including professional and academic affiliations, mailing address, e-mail address, telephone and FAX numbers, and a brief statement as to why the topic is particularly appropriate for this forum. Presentations should be limited to 45 minutes, followed by a five-minute question-and-answer period. All presentations must be in a PowerPoint format.
Deadline for submission is 1 April 2012. Proposals should be sent to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Attention Conference Program Committee, P.O. Box 470, Frederick, MD 21705. All proposals will be considered, but submission of a proposal does not guarantee an invitation to speak.
For more information, contact Ms. Karen Thomassen at Museum@civilwarmed.org or call 301-695-1864.
James A. Zimble, Navy surgeon general, dies at 78
By Emily Langer, Washington Post December 30, 2011
Additional information, including conference agenda and registration, can be found at:
Sunday, January 1, 2012
A new lease on life for the Old Naval Observatory
By Thomas L. Snyder,
Washington Post, January 1 2011
This is the building the historian's office and archives are currently based in.
Part IV: Navy Medicine in the “Great War” and Inter-War Years, 1917-1941
By Jan Herman and Mr. Grog
In April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called for a declaration of war against Germany, and American isolationism headed for temporary retirement. The United States was now committed to its first European conflict. In order to maintain the health of a rapidly growing wartime Navy and care for its sick and injured, the Navy Medical Department had to recruit and train hundreds of physicians, dentists, and nurses, as well as thousands of hospital corpsmen.
Even though the U.S. Navy never engaged a German fleet during its year and a half participation in World War I, Navy medical personnel served with Marine Corps units on the Western Front; aboard every man-of-war, troop transport, and supply ship; with submarine divisions, aviation groups; and with the United States Railway Battery in France. In 1917, the Navy deployed 38 physicians, 5 dentists, and 348 hospital corpsmen to France; nurses went as well. What they encountered were trench warfare’s frightful realities—trench foot, disease, rats, vermin, the complete absence of the most rudimentary hygiene, and the terrifying results of gas warfare—mustard, phosgene, and chlorine.
Those medical personnel with the Marine Brigade in France also had to deal with other war trauma—shrapnel, blast injury, high velocity projectile wounds, and psychiatric disorders, then collectively known as shell-shock. From that terrible conflict in Europe, medical personnel became skilled in trauma resuscitation, the treatment of wounds and infectious disease, and war’s psychological wounds. disease, and the psychological wounds of war.
Because of the prevalence of communicable diseases, preventive medicine was a major component of a Navy physician’s daily routine. Indeed, illness could be acquired in places other than the battlefield. According to one Navy physician, venereal disease in wartime France increased because control of licensed prostitution had become less rigid. By his account, 50 percent of French prostitutes were infected with syphilis in its primary or secondary stages.
Aviation and submarine medicine were born during World War I. Both fields should not have surprised anyone for the airplane and submarines were, for the first time, used extensively by the combatants. During the 1920s and 1930s, these new technologies would keep many Navy personnel busy learning how to protect the human body in both hypobaric (aviation) and hyperbaric (undersea) environments. To support the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, the Navy established five hospitals. They included Navy Base Hospitals Numbers 1 and 5 at Brest France, Navy Base Hospital No. 2 at Strathpeffer, Scotland, Navy Base Hospital No. 3 at Leith, Scotland, and Navy Base Hospital No. 4 at Queenstown, Ireland.
Notable among these medical facilities were the base hospitals in Brest. That city served as a major port where American troops disembarked and thousands of wounded were sent home. Navy Base Hospital No. 5 had a minimum capacity of 500 beds and throughout the war it averaged 400 patients. During the influenza epidemic that number reached 800. The hospital had all the facilities necessary for providing advanced medical and surgical care and received patients from other naval stations in France, from the Merchant Marine, and from U.S. naval facilities of all classes. The hospital remained in operation until March 1919.
The Navy added to its “fleet” of hospital ships in 1918 with the acquisition of two former steamships, Havana and Saratoga, which became USS Comfort (AH-3) and USS Mercy (AH-4), respectively. Although provisions of the Geneva Convention protected hospital ships, Navy officials feared that the German government would not abide by these agreements. As a result, both vessels remained in American waters until the final month of the war when they were used as troop transports.
Navy medical personnel exhibited great valor during World War I. A total of 60 Medical Corps officers, 12 Dental Corps officers, and 500 hospital corpsmen were assigned to field service with the Marine Corps. By the time the war ended in 1918, two physicians, two dentists, and two hospital corpsmen had earned the Medal of Honor; 684 citations and awards were awarded to the 331 Navy medical personnel who served in France.
Navy Cross recipient Lena H. Sutcliffe Higbee (1874-1941), Superintendent of the Nurse Corps, was one such honoree. She helped pioneer a new training program to augment the number of nurses being deployed to France when trained nurses were in short supply. The “Vassar Training Camp” served as a finishing school for many of these nurses. During Higbee’s tenure, the Navy Nurse Corps grew from 160 in April 1917 to 1,386 by the Armistice in November 1918.
It has been said that the “war to end all wars” closed not with a bang but a “cough.” Even after the Armistice was signed, Navy medical personnel, including Higbee’s nurses, continued to combat the so-called “Spanish Flu” in the pandemic that ultimately killed between 22 and 40 million people worldwide.
A year after the Armistice, Navy medical personnel found themselves involved in another conflict that grew out of the Russian Revolution. When Allied forces intervened in a civil war between “Whites” and “Reds in post-Czarist Russia, the Navy went with them. Navy Medical personnel participated in other post-war foreign interventions, most notably in Haiti. During the U.S. occupation, which lasted from 1915-1934, Navy medical officers and hospital corpsmen served in the public health arm of the newly created Haitian gendarmerie supervising the drainage of low-lying areas, the cleaning of streets in cities and villages, and the control of disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Even though the period between the world wars saw a shrinking military, the United States was the only nation to maintain hospital ships. The aging and obsolete Solace was decommissioned in 1921 and replaced by Relief (AH-1), the first U.S. vessel to be built as a hospital ship from the keel up. She was commissioned on 28 December 1920 with a bed capacity for 500 patients, and served as the largest, most modern, and best equipped hospital ship up to that time. Relief also became the first Navy hospital ship to allow Navy (female) nurses aboard as regular staff.
The inter-war period also saw swift developments in military and civil aviation, which solved many problems concerning human endurance and the adverse effects of accelerative forces, anoxia, fatigue, and psychological stress. To deal with these aviation related issues, the U.S. Naval Medical School instituted a course in aviation medicine.
Japanese aggression in China, the rise of Nazism in Germany, and the threat of a new world conflict initiated a rebuilding program for the U.S. Navy in the 1930s. In a message to Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt recommended a 20 percent increase in our naval strength, and Congress took heed. From June 1939 to June 1941, the number of active duty Navy physicians went from 841 to 1,957; the Dental Corps increased from 255 to 511; the Nurse Corps increased its rolls from 439 to 524; and the Hospital Corps increased in size from 4,467 to 10,547. By the summer of 1941, the Navy had 23 hospitals in commission and two hospital ships. It was not enough. On 6 December 1941, who could have anticipated what lay ahead for a nation and a Navy unprepared for war.