U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
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Chapter IV


The Medical Department Of The United States Army in The World War



When the chief surgeon's office, A. E. F., was organized on July 28, 1917, one of its divisions was that of records and correspondence. This division was charged not only with central control of all communications entering and leaving the office but also with certain elements of internal administration of the office. The last mentioned duty later determined the name of this division.

The methods adopted for the care, control, and disposition of records, and for office administration, were not the result of preliminary plans, for to a large degree they were adaptations to necessities. It was soon determined that a definite system of recording correspondence capable of expansion had to be established, therefore, the War Department filing system was instituted with such modifications as appeared necessary for its adaptation to the needs of the Medical Department in time of war. This system adopted at this time was never changed in principle. The procurement of equipment and supplies for the current work and expansion of the chief surgeon's office became one of the duties of this division, thus taking over services which had been performed by several officers prior to its organization. One of the earliest duties of the office staff had been to obtain office supplies and equipment. The three small rooms at No. 17 Rue Constantine in which the office of the chief surgeon first was located in June, 1917, were furnished by the French Government with a few tables, desks, and chairs, which with several typewriters brought from the United States, constituted the initial equipment of the chief surgeons' office. The procurement of the additional furniture and equipment required when the chief surgeon's office moved, in July, into the six rooms allotted it in the Hotel St. Anne, was, in part, one of the earliest activities of the administration division.

An exceptionally aggravating difficulty, which existed at first arose from the fact that at that time no American post office service was provided, and mail intended for personnel of the Medical Department was addressed in the care of the chief surgeon. All of this mail found its way to the administration division, where its importance and value were fully appreciated, but where there was not force adequate to handle it. When the first officials of the American post office arrived, some 10,000 letters had accumulated.

Another duty of the administration division was the improvisation of such blank forms as were necessary, and provisions for the printing of these and other documents. Often the division was embarrassed by the demands for paper, and many expedients were utilized to conserve the supply. Old envelopes were used for scratch paper, letterheads were cut in half for short letters and memoranda. Small pieces were used whenever possible and both sides of each sheet were used in mimeographing, multigraphing, printing, etc., but despite all the efforts at economy the shortage in paper was always serious.

aEntire chapter based on "Report on the administrative section of the chief surgeon's office, A. E. F., undated," by Capt. R. A. Dickson, M. A. C. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.


Very early in the history of the American Expeditionary Forces the need for clerical help in the chief surgeon's office became very urgent. Soldier clerks were drawn from the six base hospitals then serving with the British and a few others were enlisted from among American citizens resident in France. Difficulty in obtaining suitable clerical help continued after the chief surgeon's office moved with headquarters to Chaumont, early in September of 1917. However, while the chief surgeon's office was located at Chaumont the need for clerks was gradually relieved, for during this time base hospitals began to arrive in France; and as they could not promptly be located, their personnel was available for transfer. Accordingly some of the stenographers and typists from these units were assigned to the chief surgeon's office.

As the work continued to expand other personnel, commissioned, enlisted, and civilian, were assigned to this office until their number eventually approximated 500 persons. The officer in charge of the administration division supervised the two officers who were in command of the two detachments into which were grouped enlisted personnel assigned to the chief surgeon's office. One of these officers also was in general charge of the civilian employees on duty in the office.

In his procurement and care of office furniture and equipment the officer at the head of this division was assisted by a property officer who was immediately accountable for all Government property in the chief surgeon's office. Other officers under his jurisdiction were those engaged in the service of the record room and library, and the officers who served by roster throughout the night in the chief surgeon's office. Another of the duties discharged by the chief of this division was the procurement of additional office space. Work was increasing in a geometrical ratio and until after the armistice was signed progressively greater expansions in accommodations were necessary.

It had been anticipated that the nine rooms assigned to the chief surgeon's office in one of the French barracks at Chaumont would be ample for prospective needs, but they were soon outgrown and the problem of additional accommodations became very serious. This was solved as an incident to the transfer of the chief surgeon's office to Tours, on March 21, 1918.

The extent to which personnel, records, office equipment, and supplies had increased at Chaumont was evidenced by the fact that when the chief surgeon's office moved to Tours an entire train was necessary for their transportation, in contrast to one car which had been ample for the movement of the chief surgeon's office from Paris to Chaumont.

At Tours the chief surgeon's office occupied rooms in building No. 3 of the French Barracks No. 66, but by September 1, 1918, it had so expanded that the finance and accounts and the statistical divisions were moved to other buildings.

No record was kept in detail of the vast amount of correspondence, reports, and returns which passed through the chief surgeon's office. It was decided that the time necessary to count and tabulate the number of pieces of mail could be used more advantageously otherwise. All these documents passed through the record office. Incoming mail was opened in one office, taken to the desk of the officer in charge of records and correspondence, and thence


distributed by him and his assistants to the different divisions of the chief surgeon's office. Similarly, mail from the different divisions of the office, after being signed by the respective chief, was concentrated here, examined, and sent to the mailing room. By this means all the information passing in or out of the office was so concentrated that the officer in charge of this division was able to answer many inquiries coming over the phone or otherwise, without reference to other divisions. This method also enabled him to follow up many papers that might otherwise have been misplaced.

All telegrams were numbered beginning with No. 1 on the 1st of each month so that any reply could refer to the number on this telegram and the sender could be located without delay.


(July 28, 1917, to July 15, 1919)

     Lieut. Col. Robert A. Dickson, San. Corps, chief.
        Maj. Arthur Morehouse, San. Corps.
        Maj. Arthur W. Proctor, San. Corps.
        Capt. William J. Fenton, San. Corps.
        Capt. Henry W. Kelly, San. Corps.
        Capt. Frederick W. Mueller, jr., San. Corps.
        Capt. Frank Steiner, San. Corps.
        First Lieut. Orin F. Hallam, San. Corps.
        First Lieut. Harry C. Hanford, San. Corps.

aIn this list have been included the names of those who at one time or another were assigned to the division during the period, July 28, 1917, to July 15, 1919.
There are two primary groups-the heads of the division or the section and the assistants. In each group names have been arranged alphabetically, by grades, irrespective of chronological sequence of service.