Monday, April 6, 2009

Hospital Corpsman History

Prior to the establishment of the Hospital Corps, enlisted medical support in the Navy was limited in scope. In the Continental Navy and the early US Navy, medical assistants were assigned at random out of the ship's company. They were commonly referred to as Loblolly Boys, a term borrowed from the British Royal Navy and a reference to the daily ration of porridge fed to the sick. The nickname was in common use for so many years that it was finally officially recognized by the Navy Regulations of 1814. In coming decades, the title of the enlisted medical assistant would change several times - from Loblolly Boy, to Nurse (1861), and finally to Bayman (1876). A senior enlisted medical rate, Surgeon's Steward, was introduced in 1841 and remained through the Civil War. Following the war, the title Surgeon's Steward was abolished in favor of Apothecary, a position requiring completion of a course in pharmacy.
Still, there existed pressure to reform the enlisted component of the Navy's medical department - medicine as a science was advancing rapidly, foreign navies had begun training medically skilled sailors, and even the US Army had established an enlisted Hospital Corps. Navy Surgeon General J.R Tyron and subordinate physicians lobbied the Navy administration to take action. With the Spanish-American War looming, Congress passed a bill authorizing establishment of the US Navy Hospital Corps, signed into law by President William McKinley on 17 June 1898. A revision in 1916 established the rates of Hospital Apprentice and Pharmacist's Mate, a structure that would remain in place for over thirty years.
During World War I, Corpsman served throughout the fleet, earning particular distinction on the Western Front with the Marine Corps. A total of 684 personal awards were awarded to Corpsman in the war, including 22 Medals of Honor, 55 Navy Crosses, and 237 Silver Stars.
In World War II, Hospital Corpsman hit the beach with Marines in every battle in the Pacific. Joe Rosenthal's iconic photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, captured during that battle's early days, depicts Pharmacist's Mate Second Class John Bradley among the group of Marines on Mt. Suribachi that day. They also served on thousands of ships and submarines. Notably, three unassisted emergency appendectomies were performed by Corpsman serving undersea and beyond hope of medical evacuation. The Hospital Corps has the distinction of being the only corps in the U.S. Navy to be singled out in a famous speech by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal after the conclusion of the war.[1]
Hospital Corpsman continued to serve at sea and ashore, and accompanied Marine units into battle during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Fifteen Corpsman were counted among the dead following the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Today, Corpsman are serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Prior to selection to the Command Master Chief program, the 11th (July 10, 2006 - December 12, 2008) MCPON, Joe R. Campa, was a Hospital Corpsman.

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