University of North Carolina Asheville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Soldiers: The Men and Women of the

 

Medical Corps in World War II

 

 

 

 

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the History

Department in Candidacy for a

Degree of Bachelor of Arts in History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By

Brandon Pittman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asheville, North Carolina

November 22, 2002 [date listed on paper. donated to Special Collections December 2005]

 

Introduction

“Another man was hit in the arm and shoulder.  He was bleeding quite badly.  I cut of his shirt around the wound with my bandage shears, poured in sulfa powder and applied the dressing.  I was writing up the tag on the man when another flight of German bombers came over very low and, when one was directly over me, I saw the bombs release.  However the bombs kept going forward so they missed us.”[1] This quote comes from the memoir of Allen N. Towne, a combat medical aidman who served during World War II.  Many of these men risked their lives to save the lives of others.  It must be taken into account however, that the Medical Department of the United States did much more to help the war effort beside patching up wounded soldiers.  For example, the control of epidemics and the development of the Blood Program were two major accomplishments of the Medical Department.  If the Medical Department wouldn’t have contributed in these two areas the number of U.S. casualties would have been unimaginable. The Medical Department is often overlooked as a contributing factor to Allied success, but the Medical Corps in WWII deserved as much credit for the Allied Victory as any other Corps of the United States Army, including the infantry, artillery division and even the Allied air force. Using specific case studies, this paper will look at several different roles that the Medical Corps filled during the Allied campaign.  Through disease prevention, new time-saving procedures by them, incredibly well-trained personnel, and new technology, the Medical Corps were able to save valuable man power throughout the war.  They also influenced the campaign in other ways which are not so obvious, such as boosting the moral of the soldiers through their mere presence.   The Medical Department’s mission in World War II was to conserve the fighting strength of the armed forces.  They were able to accomplish this mission and help the Allies to victory.

 

Historiography

There are few scholarly works that have been written on the history of the Medical Department in World War II.  Most of the material looks at Medical Department experiences in World War II from a narrow angle, specifically that of the nurse or medic.  These pieces all tend to praise specific units in the Medical Department and specific things the Medical Department has done.  Historian Stephan Ambrose, for instance, praises the work done by the World War II medic in his journal essay, “Medic!”  In this essay, Ambrose claims that the medic was a blessing to the battlefield.[2] Ambrose compares the Medical Department of the Civil War to that of World War II.  His essay argues that Medical Corps had progressed remarkably since that time.  Getting killed in World War II wasn’t much different than getting killed in the Civil War, but if a soldier were injured he stood a much greater chance of survival with the World War II Medical Corps to look after him.  Ambrose gives statistics for those admitted to a tent hospital in the Civil War about fifty percent died.  These statistics drastically changed by the time of World War II when only four percent of those being admitted into a field hospital died.[3] Charles M. Wiltse also praises the work done by the medic stating that, “His mere presence in the company is a moral builder, because the men know as long as ‘Doc’ is there they will not be left to die on the battlefield.”[4]  Bruce Cameron Mansfield’s dissertation Soldiers Without Rifles: Combat Medics, Field Surgeons, and the United States Medical Corps in World War II, most closely resembles my thesis in that he looks at the medical department as a more whole part, and gives them credit for saving many lives in World War II.  He specifically argues that the evacuation system, was very effective at saving lives.[5]  Mansfield’s thesis includes a fairly large section on war time medicine and technological breakthroughs in medicine.  For example he argues that the pharmaceutical development of Penicillin was the most important technological break through in the war.  Mansfield’s thesis, like my own, uses a good number of memoirs and he addresses a problem that should also be addressed. The fact that memoirs are not impartial is important to consider when reading them.  They are more than a simple recounting of events, and heroism is prevalent in them.  Information gleaned from these primary sources should be read with the understanding that these memoirs are written withing the framework of a heroic account.[6]

The control of epidemics by the Medical Corps, is a specific achievement that many modern historians are quick to point out as essential to the war effort.  Albert E. Cowdrey argues that the prevention of disease was one of the most important tasks for the Medical Department in World War II.  Disease had long been the enemy of armies and if the Medical Department was going to be successful in fulfilling their mission, they would have to treat and prevent disease.[7]

A large number of these secondary sources are basically just accounts of the events that took place within the medical department.  One of the largest sources of secondary information that one could hope to find on the operations of the Medical Department is in two series published by the United States Army entitled “The Technical Services” and the “Clinical Series.  The books in these series provide detailed accounts of the operations of the Medical Department.  Although they do speak of how important certain services were, they are mainly historical accounts.  For the most part, works done on the Medical Department in World War II are basically recasting accounts of events with no thesis.  Most of them are on specific units, such as that of LeGette Blythe’s 38th Evac: The Story of the Men and Women Who Served in World War II With the 38th Evacuation Hospital in North Africa and Italy.  The 38th Evacuation Hospital is a specific hospital that I use as a case study in my thesis.  Blythe’s book would be best described not as a historical account, but as a published manuscript with an added commentary.  About 85% of the book is quoted primary source material taken from the archives at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.[8]

I will bring something new to what has been done by showing how the Medical Department as a whole, not just specific units, helped to preserve the fighting strength.  The goal for this paper is not to show that the Medical Department had improved tremendously since previous wars, or that they were extremely effective at saving lives.  The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Medical Department was a vital component in the Allied Forces’ victory, and without them, the outcome would have been strikingly different.

 

The Control of Disease

Controlling Epidemics was one of the largest, if not the largest, contributions the Medical Department made to the Allied victory.  Epidemics would become an ever constant concern for the Medical Department as soldiers came in contact with people in new lands and cut their way through malaria infested jungles.  One group in particular argued, going into the war, that the ability to control epidemics would decide the outcome.  The New York Academy of Sciences held a conference in the summer of 1943 just as America was entering the war.  The object of this conference was to convince those in command that controlling disease among the troops should be a priority.  The president of The New York Academy of sciences, Horace W. Stunkard, introduced the topic by announcing that the medical profession was unprepared to cope with the problems of diseases that will arise as troops are sent into tropical regions.[9] Stunkard warned, that United States troops would enter regions where the native population was heavily infected, and that there was almost a certain probability of American Troops becoming infected if something was not done.  Stunkard believed that millions or more of Americans might become infected with parasitic diseases, and this in turn would cause a great loss of efficiency and the strength of the fighting forces would be weakened.[10] Until this time the study of parasitic diseases had been just an academic subject to American scientists.  However, since the American entrance into the war, the diseases produced by parasitic organisms would become one of the most momentous and challenging problems of the day.  The tropical and the subtropical regions were the areas that would pose the greatest danger.   The civilian population would also be at risk because the troops returning home would carry the diseases back with them.[11]

Lowell T. Coggeshall, another speaker at the conference, informed the audience that malaria would be the predominant parasitic disease the troops would come in contact with.  Malaria thrives in tropic conditions, and a great majority of the troops would see action in tropical areas, especially in the Pacific campaign.  As an example of just how much danger malaria posed he used survey statistics from Liberia.  In repeated surveys made among the native villages adjacent to the troops, nearly one hundred percent of the children in these villages showed circulating parasites, and the adults in the region averaged seventy percent infected. These rates may seem high but they weren’t considered excessive at all for Africa, and American troops serving in this region would be highly susceptible to malaria.[12]

The Axis was aware that parasitic diseases would play a factor in the war and they heeded the warnings of their scientists.  The medical departments of the armies of Germany, Italy, and Japan had been working on methods of outbreak control long before conflict ever broke out.  Stunkard stated that if the United States’ training and experience in the treatment, control, and prevention of parasitic diseases were compared to that of the Axis countries, it would be clear how inadequate and unprepared the United States was.[13]

The commanders of the Armed Forces undoubtedly realized the significant impact that an epidemic outbreak could have on the war effort.  A major portion of responsibility for controlling epidemic outbreaks was delegated to the Medical Corps.  At the Army Medical School, candidates received an introduction and review of the epidemiology that many of them had learned in medical school.  They studied hundreds of hours of epidemiology, which would prepare them well for practicing medicine and controlling epidemics in the tropical combat areas.[14]  The common diseases that could become epidemics and render enormous numbers of troops useless or dead were the dysentery group, typhus, dengue and malaria.[15]  All of these diseases could be controlled by preventative measures, prophylactics, or by suppression.  One of the most important jobs of the evacuation hospitals was to give immunization shots to enlisted men in order to prevent an epidemic outbreak.[16]  Douglas B. Kendrick, a prominent Army Surgeon, argued that the control of epidemics was the largest factor of Allied Victory in World War II.  He states, “If we as physicians learned nothing else at the Army Medical School, we did learn how to moderate and control epidemics making it possible to bring World War II to a successful ending with us as the victors.”[17]  Members of the Medical Department were instructed routinely on treating disease.  While in basic training at Fort Bragg, the 38th Evacuation Hospital was subjected to many types of training to prepare them for practicing medicine in combat zones.  Controlling epidemics is significantly present in their training.  Each week the officers were issued a training program which consisted of an hourly schedule of each day’s events.  Instruction on tropical medicine and epidemiology appear frequently on the schedule.[18]  Obviously epidemics were at the forefront of ever ones mind on the eve of World War II.

Malaria was one of the epidemic diseases that could potentially cripple the fighting forces of the United States.  The United States’ initial invasion in World War II was the invasion of North Africa, known as Operation Torch.  In North Africa malaria was endemic, and in the spring of 1943; it was on everyone’s mind in the medical department.  The largest cause for hospitalization for the summer of 1943 was malaria, with dysentery following closely behind.[19]  The men and women of the evacuation hospitals were instructed on how to keep malaria at bay.  Everyone in the hospital camp, including the patients and doctors, slept under mosquito nets and frequent checks were made to ensure that everyone was properly protected.  Repellent cream was distributed to fight off mosquitoes. Atabrine and Quinine were pills that were used to combat malaria.  Atabrine tablets were distributed among the patients and doctors, nurses and enlisted men, and all personnel were instructed to take two daily.[20]  The members of the evacuation hospitals not only treated themselves and members of the Armed Forces to prevent malaria, but sometimes had to go above and beyond the call of duty to help prevent an epidemic.  They were instructed to hunt and destroy any mosquito breeding places that they found.[21]  Douglas B. Kendrick, who served as General MacArthur’s personal physician in Japan, recalls hearing him say that without the control of malaria in the Far East, the Japanese could have easily overran the American soldiers and conquered the entire Pacific Ocean area.[22]

Typhus was the most feared disease in the all Theaters of Operations but was especially feared in the jungle regions.[23]  LaVonne Camp, a nurse who served in the 14th Evacuation Hospital, treated patients afflicted with this terribly debilitating disease, “Patients with dysentery and malaria were always with us, and we treated them effectively.  The disease that struck terror in the hearts of every American was mite-borne typhus.”  Americans had good reason to fear this disease, for Americans who contracted typhus became much sicker than the East Asians who contracted it.  Caucasians were much more likely to die from this disease than were the natives of East Asia.  The disease was mite-borne, and rats were one of the vectors (carriers) of this illness.  The rodents that lived in the camps were always a frightening presence.[24]

The jungles were not the only places that Americans had to fear.  Civilized areas brought with them their own share of unique killing microbes.  Members of the 38th Evacuation Hospital, serving in Italy, found the Italian mud put their mission in serious jeopardy.  The mud was much more than an inconvenience to them.  The Italian mud increased the chances that the casualties would develop infection.  Here the main fear of every medical member and wounded soldier was gas gangrene.  In countries were agriculture was a way of life, the earth in these regions had been fertilized with animal and human waste for generations.  This soil was full of microbes that caused gas gangrene and great care had to be taken in these areas when cleaning a wound, because any foreign matter in a wound could easily cause a serious infection.[25]  Areas like North Africa and the Pacific region had seen very little agriculture so gas gangrene was not such a major threat in these places.

 Prevention undoubtedly helped keep the number of disease contractions low, but many members of the fighting forces inevitably succumbed to disease.  The goal of the Medical Department shifted then from prevention to control.   A significant number of treatments in the evacuation hospitals were given to patients suffering from illnesses. The “38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin,” a daily news letter issued to members of the 38th Evacuation Hospital every day while overseas, shows that the hospital had a number of cases of malaria on June 28, 1943.[26] Whenever troops had to penetrate deep into the jungle, disease was inevitable.  In the Pacific Theater, one group of troops had to penetrated deep into the jungle in order to flank the Japanese from behind enemy lines.  LaVonne Camp recalls that when this group of soldiers emerged, they filled the 14th Evacuation Hospital beds.  After months of fighting in the horrendous jungle conditions many of these men were very near death.  These patients were racked with diseases including typhus, malaria, and amoebic dysentery.  All of these men had to be treated in the 14th Evacuation hospital.[27] In LaVonne Camp’s memoir she claims that everyone serving in the Pacific Campaign had a round with dysentery at some time or another.  Dysentery causes its victim to become dangerously dehydrated and if not properly treated can be severely debilitating.  Infusions of plasma were used to treat this disease, because the plasma fought off the disease and re-hydrated the patients.[28]

 

The Chain of Evacuation

New technologies were perfected and incorporated as part of the Medical Department’s procedures.  The Chain of Evacuation was a fairly new procedure that the Medical Corps employed during World War II that drastically helped preserve the fighting strength of the Armed Forces.  The Chain of Evacuation was first developed during the Civil War.  It was during this time that it was found to be more effective to treat patients in an order determined by the severity of their wounds.[29]  The Chain of Evacuation was applied during both the Spanish American War and World War I.[30] The reason the Chain of Evacuation is such an effective device is because of two simple reasons.  First it kept soldiers who were not severely injured from having to be deported far away from the lines of combat.  When a soldier was mildly injured,  such suffering an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other situation that made them temporarily ineffective for combat they would be treated at a battalion aid station or  Evacuation hospital and then sent back to the front lines to resume fighting as quickly as he could be treated effectively.  Second, for the more seriously injured soldiers, the Chain of Evacuation proved to be the difference between life and death.  Mortality rates were extremely low for an injured soldier in World War II.  In the Mediterranean Theater of Operations the chances of a wounded soldier surviving were twenty-seven to one.  Out of one hundred and twelve thousand soldiers injured in this theater, only four thousand died.[31] Although there were many factors which contributed to this percentage of low mortality rates, the efficiency with which a soldier was stabilized and the quick speed in which he arrived at the evacuation hospital saved a huge number of lives, therefore much credit must be given to the Chain of Evacuation.  Partly due to the efficiency of the initial steps of the evacuation process, the 38th Evacuation Hospital was able to enjoy extremely low mortality rates.  For a total of one hundred and thirty-eight days from November 7, 1943 to March 26, 1944, the 38th Evacuation Hospital admitted nearly 10,000 patients, and amazingly only around seventy of those died.[32]

The Chain of Evacuation begins in the front line of combat.  The medic is the first step in the Chain of Evacuation.  His is one of the most difficult jobs in the Medical Corps.  He has to provide immediate first aid often while under enemy fire.  Historian Stephen Ambrose claims that Germans often intentionally aimed for medics working on the front lines, even though this was strictly against the Geneva Convention.  To add insult to injury, the medics were classified as noncombatants under the Geneva Convention so they did not receive combat pay, which amounted to an extra ten dollars a month, even though they faced the same dangers as the infantry.  Medics needed to be in excellent shape, so they went through the same training, except for weaponry use, as the men in the line company.[33]  The medic’s job was not to repair the damage from the bullet but to stabilize the patient for transport to the next step in the Chain of Evacuation.  One of the first things that a medic did was determine the extent of the injuries, pour sulfa powder into the wounded area, give morphine if needed, and finally dress the wound.  After it was clear the soldier was stabilized, the medic would then start EMT, or Emergency Medical Tag.[34]  The emergency medical tag provided essential information for doctors and nurses farther down the line in the Chain of Evacuation.  The tag’s information included the man’s dog tag information, the nature of his wounds, approximate time of injury, and the details of treatment given so far.  A fair percentage of the time, however, this was done at the battalion aid station, because medics were really in no position to do paper work.  If they had administered morphine they would attach the empty serrate (syringe) to the wounded soldier so that an overdose would not occur.  The EMT remained with the casualty for his entire duration in the Chain of Evacuation.[35]

Transportation was an essential component of the Chain of Evacuation.  Once the casualties were in safe distance from the enemy lines, they were loaded onto ambulances, trains, ships, or planes, but these machines were often inaccessible during the heat of battle.  Wounded Soldiers therefore had to be carried out by manpower.  This responsibility fell to the litter bearers.  The goal of the litter bearers was to haul the wounded man to a collecting station or battalion aid station without causing further injury to the casualty.  Most of the times the haul was less than a mile away but in rugged terrain the litter bearers had to go much farther, sometimes even doing the job of the ambulances.[36] In the Pacific Campaign the litter bearers had an incredibly tough, but essential, job to do.  In her memoir, World War II nurse LaVonne Camp speaks of some of the kind of tough work the litter bearers had to do.  Often thick jungles and guerilla action, which was notorious to the Pacific theater, prevented casualties from being evacuated by air.  Most often casualties arrived at the 14th Evacuation Hospital only after days of struggling though thick jungles, forging rivers, and crossing dangerous mountainous terrain.  Getting casualties to an evacuation hospital in the Pacific theater required death-defying efforts by the litter bearers.[37]

Conditions in the campaign have from the beginning taxed all the services to the limit of their capacity, but none more than the medical department.  The removal of the wounded from the battlefields has required more than the ordinary amount of skill, fortitude and endurance on the part of the litter bearers, who carry their comrades, by hand over miles of treacherous mountain trails through artillery and mortar fire and in all kinds of weather.  Truly they have earned their place among the unsung heroes of this campaign.  The skillful medical attention rendered each patient so willingly is indicative of a superior degree of singleness of purpose - to achieve the Medical Department’s mission of conserving the fighting strength of the army.[38]

The battalion aid station or the field hospital was the next crucial step in the Chain of Evacuation.  The battalion aid station was located less than a mile from the front lines.  At the battalion aid station the casualties would be separated into one of three groups by a medical officer.  The three groups consisted of those who where fatally wounded, those whose wounds were not serious and those who needed immediate medical attention.  This method of grouping was called a triage.  At the battalion aid station the patients would be maintained for shock, receive more antibiotics, have their EMT’s updated and finally be prepared for further advancement in the evacuation chain.[39]  The Field Hospitals provided emergency surgery for those who could not otherwise survive the next step in the evacuation process.  The field hospital was one of the major assets to the phased evacuation process because of its mobility.  Field hospitals worked in teams of two - one staying packed and moving in front of the other when the lines moved.  The surgery that took place here was quick patch type surgery but was efficient enough to keep the casualties alive long enough to make the next journey in the evacuation process.[40]

            From the battalion aid station the patient would be sent to an evacuation hospital.   The evacuation hospital was the last stop, before the soldier was shipped to a general hospital located far from the battle lines, in the zone of interior.  Evacuation hospitals provided definitive treatment.[41]   Because they were located close to the front lines and were constantly moving, patients who could not return to duty within in two weeks were shipped out.[42]  Evacuation hospitals were very well equipped to deal with just about any injury that came through their door.   A World War II reporter was astonished by how well equipped the mobile, hospital was:

The surgical team and laboratory tents are in the middle of the big compound.  There are three fully equipped surgeries, and they are astonishingly modern.  All equipment is brand new.  It is like the newest hospital in New York City, except that the floor is dirt, and the walls are canvas, and the street outside is a deeply boghole of red clay.[43]

 

The Development of the Blood Program

 

Great strides were made in medical technology in the years leading up to World War II.  The Medical Department quickly and efficiently incorporated these technologies to help preserve the fighting strength.  However, the Medical Department was not only quick to implement new technologies, it was also able to advance some of these relatively new technologies to new heights.  The development of the Blood Program takes its place, beside control of epidemics, as one of the greatest achievements of the Medical Department during World War II.  Douglas B. Kendrick an Army Surgeon and a pioneer of the Blood Program gives credit the new advancements in medical technology for saving many lives.  “The availability of blood, plasma, and albumin, in conjunction with supplies of penicillin, and improvements in surgical principals set forth in Italy by Colonel (Pete) Churchill and his consultants, reduced the morality rates from eight percent in World War I to four percent in World War II.”  At the beginning of the United States entry into World War II, the average physician in private practice or the medical officers serving in the Medical Corps knew very little about blood transfusions and replacement fluids.[44]  This was something that would change tremendously.  By the end of the war practice of blood transfusions would be common knowledge, and practiced extensively among the men and women who made up the Medical Corps.

With war on the horizon, American Army researchers by June 1940 were working on a way to make blood transfusion safe for battlefield use. There were several problems that past researchers on blood transfusions had encountered when trying to design a way to make blood transfusions available for the battlefield.  These problems became the main objectives of those working on the blood program.  They would have to find solutions, before this remarkable new technology could be implemented on the battle field.  One problem that had baffled researchers in the past was that often a fever developed after the infection of blood, even though the tubing had been sterilized.   Researchers discovered that it was not due to the incompatibility of blood but rather to a substance that was resistant to sterilization.  The cause of this fever was a heat resistant chemical that remained in the tubing when it was cleaned and reused.[45]  Another huge problem that these researchers had to overcome was giving these intravenous fluids a long shelf life.  During storage in battlefield conditions these packages could be exposed to all types of extreme conditions, ranging from temperatures below freezing to well above one hundred degrees.[46]  Dried Plasma and Albumin were appropriate solutions to this problem.  Dried plasma was an appropriate solution to this problem because it could be stored under a vacuum for an indefinite period.  It had many advantages over other types of intravenous fluids.  It was easily turned back into a liquid and administered through an IV when water was added to the bottle.  This allowed it to be easily stored and transferred to theaters of operations across the ocean.[47]  Albumin was formed from globulins, the two different proteins in plasma.  It had a higher molecular weight, which made it a very dependable replacement fluid.  Albumin could also be packaged and put in the field with out the need of refrigeration.

The design alone of this new technology did not make it an effective agent. To be effective at saving lives and preserving the fighting forces, the Medical department had to train its members in the use of this new technology.  This would seem like a daunting task given the current knowledge among medical members of blood transfusions, but the medical department quickly and efficiently trained its members how to administer this new technology.  Some of the instruction was given to new members of the Medical Corps while in training.  Allan Towne a medical battalion aidman wrote about the training he received while at the Fitzsimons Hospital on blood transfusions and plasma.  He describes in his memoir how they drew blood from one and another so that they would be prepared to give blood transfusions or plasma.[48]  Unfortunately this technology matured after most of the medical officers had been shipped overseas.  Even though they had the ability to produce tremendous amounts of replacements fluids, the medical units oversees had to be instructed in its proper use.  This became the newest task of the blood program.  Research and Shock Committees sent representatives into the field to instruct these medical units on the use of replacement fluids.

Plasma and Albumin were great alternatives, but there was really no substitute for whole blood on the battle field.  The Blood Program had to turn its attention to making whole blood readily available to hospitals over seas. Members of the medical units were well bled to help supply the great need for blood.  They bled themselves as well as neighboring service commands.  The members of the 38th Evacuation Hospital, found the newly discovered plasma to be a “great adjunct” but stated that it was “no full substitute for whole blood.”  They found it necessary to sometimes use ten to fifteen pints of whole blood on a single patient to combat shock, and get patients through surgery and postoperative care.[49]  This is an important piece of evidence because it shows just how invaluable the Blood Program was to the war effort.  These doctors and nurses of the 38th Evacuation Hospital went from knowing very little, if anything, about blood transfusions and plasma, to depending on it.   As reports came in that cases of trauma needed reinforcements of whole blood in addition to blood derivatives, the Blood Program began to search for a way to supply the hospitals oversees with this commodity.  Colonel Edward “Pete” Churchill, who had joined the Mediterranean theater in 1943, set up blood collecting centers in Italy and was able to supply the entire 5th Army with blood all during the campaign.  Following his example, the Blood Program collected blood in the United States, iced it while in route to its destination overseas, and transported it to the field hospitals.   Toward the end of the war, it became possible, through equipment developed by the Blood Program, to ship whole blood through the air to all the fighting fronts.  Douglas B. Kendrick stated in his memoir that, “These developments proved immensely valuable in World War II.”[50]

 

Boosting Moral and Preventing Malingering

The Medical Corps contributed to the war effort in indirect ways as well.  The Medical Corps in many ways served as a moral booster to the men fighting on the front lines.  Another way they helped the war effort in an indirect way was through discovering and preventing soldiers from malingering, which is pretending to be sick so that one can avoid one’s duty.  As I pointed out earlier in the paper, Charles M. Wiltse argued that the mere presence of the medic on the field could boost the moral of the entire company.[51]  I agree with this historian to the fullest extent, but I have found evidence that shows that it was not just the lone medic who served to boost moral, but was the medical department as a whole.  The American troops were not sent into battle alone but always with plans for some kind of medical care.  As soldiers waited to cross the English Channel for the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, hundreds of thousands of nurses, doctors and hospital staff were waiting to cross with them.[52]  Surely the sight of all these medical professionals waiting to cross the channel with them must have had a positive impact on the soldier’s moral.  Knowing that there was a well-qualified medical team to take care of them in the case that they were injured, played a part in many soldier’s courageous actions.  It must have had similar effect to wearing armor into combat today.  A patient at the 38th Evacuation Hospital showed high moral despite his injuries.  This high moral was undoubtedly due to the well-trained doctors and nurses who were taking care of him at this hospital.  This patient wrote a poem while in this hospital unit and gives the 38th Evacuation Hospital credit for winning the war:

“The Fighting Thirty Eight”

By: Pvt. Hyman Greenspan Ward 15

When all of our shinny rifles are laid upon their rack

When we’ve finished washing mess kits and wearing GI slacks

“Pa, who won the war?” our kids will ask in a simple childish faith.

And we’ll proudly give this answer, “Why the fighting Thirty Eight”

Yup, the fightin’ Thirty Eight my son an outfit bold and strong,

With thermometers and Stethoscopes they sang the victory song,

With Iodine and bandages and varieties of pills,

And pretty nurses healing all our ills,

From old Ft. Bragg to the P. of E. And then across the ocean.

They fought their way with Gentian Violet and good ole Calamine Lotion

The howling of the patients like a serenade each day,

And the doctor’s cherry answer, “My boys, you’ll be O.K.”

What did they do, you ask, my son, why their fame was known to all,

When men were sick and wounded they were at their beck and call,

So if any one should ask who won the war, by faith,

Tell them ‘bout the inside dope, ‘twas the “Fightin’ Thirty Eight.”[53]

It has highly unlikely that this was the only man, serving overseas, whose moral was given a boost by the care, or the knowledge of care, in the event of injury.  Although the source does not give details as too what the patients injuries where, the fact that the man thought dearly of his treatment by the doctors and nurses instead of worrying about his injuries, is valuable evidence showing that the Medical Corps provided a great moral boost.

Another indirect way that the Medical Corps contributed to the war effort is through by stopping soldiers from malingering and assuming the role of detectives to determine which wounds were self inflicted wounds.  While working at a base hospital, Allen Towne was put to work with a psychiatrist who was trying to determine the best way to stop soldiers from malingering.  His method may seem a cruel but it undoubtedly stopped soldiers from failing to perform their duties by pretending to be sick.  The psychiatrist would give men who claimed to be sick a spinal tap.  A spinal tap was very painful and the pain lasted for days.  After the spinal tap was given Towne says that they either made a speedy recovery or was indeed really sick.[54]  It was an imperative job for the doctors who staffed the field and evacuation hospitals to determine who was malingering and try to put a stop to this.  The 18th Infantry with whom Towne served was always in desperate need of man power, and it was important that sick or slightly wounded soldiers were not evacuated because they would be gone a long time and they needed every man.[55]  Another way that doctors took on the role of detectives was to determine which men came in with self inflicted wounds.  Men inflicted wounds on themselves usually by shooting themselves in the hands or feet for the same purpose as malingering.  This was considered a form of AWOL and it was a courts martial offense.  Towne recalls seeing some of these cases in his memoir.  The men suffering from self inflicted wounds were usually in more pain, he observed, than the other patients.  He believed this was probably from a feeling of guilt.  Several courts martial were held in the aid station and this problem ceased immediately.

 

Conclusion

            The Men and Women who volunteered to go overseas and serve in the Medical Department did so for the same reason that drove men to carry a rifle and join the infantry.  Both these groups wanted to fulfill their duty to their country, and stop the Axis powers.  They were both soldiers, fighting on the same side for a common goal.  The world saw an immense loss of life, in a technologically advanced war on both the Axis and the Allied sides.  If the Medical Department would not have risen to the challenge, the amount of lives lost would have been unimaginable.   It was not the purpose of this paper to claim that the Medical Department won the war, for that would be a ridiculous claim.  The purpose of this paper was to demonstrate that the war could not have been won without them.

  


 

[1] Allan N. Towne, Doctor Danger Forward: A World War II Memoir of a Combat Medical Aidman, First Infantry Division, (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2002), 45.

[2] Stephen Ambrose, “Medic! World War II European Theater of Operations U.S. Medics”  American Heritage, 48 (November 1997): 76-87

[3] Ambrose, 76.

[4] Charles M. Wiltse, The Medical Department: Medical Services in the Mediterranean and Minor Theaters, The United States Army in World War II Series in The Technical Services, edited by Stateson Conn. (Washington D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History Department.

[5] Bruce Cameron Mansfield, “Soldiers Without Rifles: Combat Medics, Field Surgeons, and the United States Medical Corps in World War II” (M.A. Thesis, Western Washington University, 2000), 4.

[6] Mansfield, 5.

[7] Albert E. Cowdrey, Fighting for Life: American Military Medicine in World War II (New York: The Free Press, 1994), 5.

[8] LeGette Blythe, The Story of the Men and Women Who Served in World War II with The 38th Evaucation Hospital in North Africa and Italy (Charlotte, North Carolina: Heritage Publishers, 1966)

[9] Horace W. Sutnkard, “Introduction to the Conference on Parasitic Diseases,” in Parasitic Diseases and American Participation in the War, ed. Wilbur G. Valentine. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 44 (New York: The Academy, 1943): 193.

[10] Stunkard, 193

[11] Sunkard, 191.

[12] Lowell T. Coggeshall, “Current and Postwar Problems Associated with the Human Protozoan Diseases,” in Parasitic Diseases and American Participation in the War ed. Wilbur G. Valentine.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 44 (New York: The Academy, 1943): 199.

[13] Stunkard, 192.

[14] Douglas B. Kendrick, Memoirs of a Twentieth-Century Army Surgeon, ed. Julie Riley Bush (Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower University Press, 1992), 53.

[15]38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin,  21April 1943.   APO 509, Volume, II Number 101. United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library. Folder 1:2.

[16] Charles Stewart, The Ninth Evac: Experiences in a World War II Tent Hospital in North Africa and Europe (New York: Vantage Press, 1990), 7.

[17] Kendrick, 53.

[18] Officers Training Program, United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records. University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library.  Folder 1:2.

[19] Wiltse, 201.

[20] 38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin, 21 April 1943.

[21] 38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin, 21 April 1943.

[22] Kendrick, 53.

[23] Lavonne Telshaw Camp, Lingering Fever: A World War II Nurse’s Memoir (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1997), 79.

[24] Camp, 46.

[25] Margaret Bourke-White, They Called It Purple Heart Valley: A Combat Chronicle of the War in Italy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944) 115.

[26] 38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin, 28 June 1943. Volume II, Number 166. United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library, Box 4 Folder 1:9.

[27] Camp, 43.

[28] Camp, 46.

[29] Cowdrey, 5.

[30] Clarence McKittrick Smith, The Medical Department: Hospitalization and Evacuation, Zone of Interior  (Washington D.C: Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1956), 4.

[31] Wiltse, 1.

[32] Stokes Monroe, Typed Historical Record of the Unit, United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library, Folder 1:12. 71.

[33] Ambrose, 80.

[34] Towne,45.

[35] Mansfield, 21.

[36] Mansfield, 22.

[37] Camp, 44.

[38] Mark W. Clark Lt. General to Colonel J. I. Martin, 13 December 1943. 38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin. APO 464, Volume II, Number 313. United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library. Folder 1:13.

[39] Mansfield, 23.

[40] Mansfield, 25.

[41] Smith, 4.

[42] Wiltse, 5.

[43] “Tent Hospital Keeps Busy” Stars and Stripes Article. United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library. Folder 4:2

[44] Kendrick, 90.

[45] Kendrick, 83.

[46] Kendrick, 88.

[47] Kendrick 83,

[48] Towne, 5.

[49] Monroe, 53.

[50] Kendrick, 89.

[51] Wiltse, 2.

[52] Diane Burke Fessler, No Time for Fear: Voices of American Military Nurses in World War II (East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1996), 2.

[53] Hyman Greenspan, “The Fighting Thirty-Eight” The Personal Diary of Otis Hunter Jones Captain M.C.  United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library. Folder 4:1.

[54] Towne, 11.

[55] Towne, 31.

 

 

Primary Sources

38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin 21April 1943.   APO 509 Vol. II Number 101.

United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Folder 1:2.

38th Evacuation Hospital Daily Bulletin, 28 June 1943. Volume II, Number 166. United

States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Box 4 Folder 1:9.

Burke-White Margaret. They Called It Purple Heart Valley: A Combat Chronicle of the

War in Italy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944.

Camp, LaVonne Telshaw, Lingering Fever: A World War II Nurse’s Memoir. Jefferson,     

North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1997.

Clark, Mark W. Lt. General to Colonel J. I. Martin, 13 December 1943. 38th Evacuation  

Hospital Daily Bulletin. APO 464, Volume II, Number 313. United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library. Folder 1:13.

Coggshall, Lowell T. “Current and Postwar Problems Associated with the Human

Protozoan Diseases,” in Parasitic Diseases and American Participation in the War, ed. Wilbur G. Valentine. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 44.  New York: The Academy 1943.

Greenspan, Hyman. “The Fighting Thirty-Eight” Transcribed into The Personal Diary of

Otis Hunter Jones Captain M.C.  United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library. Folder 4:1.

Kendrick, Douglas B. Md. Memoirs of a Twentieth-Century Army Surgeon, ed. Julie

Riley Bush, Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower University Press, 1992.

Monroe, Stokes. Typed Historical Record of the Unit. United States Army 38th

Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library, Folder 1:12.

Officers Training Program. United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Records.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Folder 1:2.

Stunkard, Horace W. “Introduction to the Conference on Parasitic Diseases,” in Parasitic

Disease and American Participation in the War, ed. Wilbur G. Valentine. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 44.  New York: The Academy, 1943.

“Tent Hospital Keeps Busy” Stars and Stripes article (n.d.). In United States Army 38th

Evacuation Hospital Records, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Library. Folder 4:2

Towne, Allen. Doctor Danger Forward: A World War II Memoir of a Combat Medical

Aidman, First Infantry Division. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2000.

 

Secondary Sources

Ambrose, Stephen E. “Medic! World War II European Theater of Operations U.S.

Medics.” American Heritage, 48 (November 1997): 76-86

Blythe, Legette.  38th Evac: The Story of the Men and Women Who Served with the 38th

Evacuation Hospital in Italy and Africa. Charlotte, North Carolina: Heritage Publishers, 1996.

Cowdrey, Albert E. Fighting for Life: American Military Medicine in World War II.

 New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Fessler, Diane Burk. No Time for Fear: Voices of American Military Nurses in World

War II. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1996.

Mansfield, Bruce Cameron.  Soldiers Without Rifles: Combat Medics, Field Surgeons,

and the United States Medical Corps in World War II. M.A. thesis, Western Washington University, 2000.

Smith, Clarence McKittrick. The Medical Department: Hospitalization and Evacuation,

Zone of Interior.  The United States Army in World War II Series in the Technical Services, Washington D.C: Office of the Chief of Military History Department of the Army, 1956.

Stewart, Charles F. The Ninth Evac: Experiences in a World War II Tent Hospital in

North Africa and Europe. New York: Vantage Press, 1990.

Wiltse, Charles M. The Medical Department: Medical Services in the Mediterranean and

Minor Theatres. The United States Army in World War II Series in the Technical Services, edited by Stateson Conn. Washington D.C: Office of the Chief of Military History Department of the Army, 1965.