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CHAPTER VIII

Field Operations, Table of Contents

THE VETERINARY SERVICE

In Volume I of this history, it was related that the Veterinary Corps had been established and had become a part of the Medical Department by an act of Congress approved June 3, 1916, and that at the time of our entry into the World War, the organization of the Veterinary Corps had not been completed. In the absence of prescribed organization for the Veterinary Corps, General Pershing, in forwarding his project of the rear, in the late summer of 1917, made the Veterinary Corps, A. E. F., a part of the Remount Service,1 which in turn was a part of the Quartermaster Corps. Simultaneously, organization of the Veterinary Corps was being effected in the United States. A War Department order published in October, 1917, authorized the organization of a Veterinary Corps, to consist of 1 commissioned officer and 16 enlisted men for each 400 animals in service.2

In November, 1917, two selected officers of the Veterinary Corps were sent to France, to be placed at the disposition of the commander in chief, A. E. F., with the view of organizing the veterinary service of those forces, on lines similar to those in the United States.3 These two veterinary officers took with them to France an advance copy of Special Regulations, No. 70, War Department, 1917, which comprehensively outlined the organization of the veterinary service with a view of providing a simple, direct, and efficient means for the evacuation of sick and inefficient animals from combatant forces to veterinary hospitals in the Services of Supply, where organized and specially trained units might care for them. The regulations also provided for the evacuation of cured animals, from hospitals in the rear, to the remount depots, from which, when received, they could be either re-issued or otherwise disposed of.

The provisions of Special Regulations, No. 70, were not immediately adopted in the American Expeditionary Forces. The veterinary service continued to operate under General Orders, No. 39, referred to above, until July 26, 1918. General Orders, No. 122, G. H. Q., A. E. F., July 26, 1918, revoked General Orders, No. 39. By the provisions of General Orders, No. 122, an officer of the Veterinary Corps was detailed as assistant to the chief of the remount service and as chief of the Veterinary Corps, A. E. F.

In August, 1918, the Veterinary Corps, A. E. F., was reorganized in accordance with Special Regulations, No. 70, War Department, 1917;4 and it was transferred from the office of the chief quartermaster, A. E. F., to the office of the chief surgeon, A. E. F. A chief veterinarian was designated who was charged, under the chief surgeon, with the administration of the veterinary service, A. E. F.


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 The veterinary hospitals were placed under the command of officers of the Veterinary Corps, and steps were taken immediately to collect scattered companies and half companies of such hospitals into whole working organizations.3 The issue of convalescent animals from veterinary units back to organizations was stopped, and the policy of passing all convalescent animals through remount depots for reissue was instituted.3 The prompt rendering of weekly animal sick reports, and their accurate compilation, were insisted upon.

The veterinary service of the theater of operations, as provided by Special Regulations, No. 70, comprised the following personnel: A chief veterinarian, the adviser, under the chief surgeon, of the commander in chief, on all matters pertaining to the health and efficiency of the animals of the forces in the field; assistant chief veterinarians, one for each army, with duties and responsibilities similar to those of the chief veterinarian, but confined to the army to which each was assigned; corps and division veterinarians; and veterinarians assigned to mobile organizations.

Special Regulations, No. 70, provided for mobile veterinary sections, for base veterinary hospitals, and for veterinary convalescent depots. The veterinary hospitals, as evolved in the American Expeditionary Forces, however, comprised corps mobile veterinary hospitals (evacuation), base veterinary hospitals (stationary), and veterinary hospitals (stationary). They were subsequently authorized in Tables of Organization by the War Department.5

Though the utilization of railheads for evacuation of sick animals for mobile organizations was contemplated in Special Regulations, No. 70, their use for this purpose was refused at first in the First Army, without reference to General Headquarters.6 While the question was being solved at General Headquarters, hundreds of animals were lost through being evacuated long distances overland when in a debilitated condition and often suffering from serious wounds. Literally thousands of animals were retained with divisions because of the inability of division veterinarians to cope with the requirements of long overland evacuation.6

The necessity of evacuating sick and wounded animals by railroad from the front was conceded eventually, but again a difficulty arose. Instead of it being appreciated that this was a veterinary service, it was considered to come directly under the general staff of the army concerned. It meant that the railroad portion of the veterinary evacuation mechanism was out of the control of the army veterinarian; therefore, adequate arrangements could not be made to send trainloads of sick animals to the hospitals prepared to receive them.6 On the contrary, they were evacuated to the hospitals deemed, by the general staff of the army, most suitable, when there was not always adequate knowledge of the receiving capacity of such hospitals, available to the section of the general staff directing the evacuation. Presently, this obstacle to a smoothly operating evacuation system was removed. Veterinary evacuating hospitals (sections), commanded by veterinary officers, then received evacuated animals from divisions and removed them by railroad to allotted hospitals.6


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 Because of the military necessity for their retention at the front, it was impractical to evacuate all animals affected with disease.6 To have done so would have made our armies immobile, in so far as animal transportation was concerned, for animal replacements were not available in sufficient numbers. However, it was possible markedly to increase the efficiency of the remaining animals by evacuating the major portion of the sick.6

In the fall of 1918, when the opportunity presented adequately to evacuate sick and wounded animals from the combatant organizations, they had been retained for such a long time in divisions and had in consequence accumulated in such great numbers that the evacuation had to be on a very large scale. This large evacuation, although essential, threw a tremendous strain on all veterinary hospitals. Under this strain, some of them perilously approached collapse.6 In a measure, this collapse was prevented by the timely arrival of additional veterinary hospitals from the United States, and by the use of labor companies to assist the personnel of the Veterinary Corps.6

On November 1, 1918, 15 veterinary hospitals had been established; however, not all of them had been completely constructed.6 At this time, the veterinary hospital capacity was 12,000; but it was necessary to hospitalize a greater number of animals than this. To do so, necessitated the use of picket lines, corrals, paddocks, etc.6

A determined effort was made to obtain new hospital sites, and to have more labor troops assigned to the Veterinary Corps to assist in the evacuation and care of sick and wounded animals.6 The hospital capacity was increased as rapidly as possible until standing room for 26,664 animals was obtained. This was exclusive of the veterinary hospital capacity in the armies.7

The final result of the effort gradually to bring the animal efficiency of the United States Army up to a standard equal to that of the armies of our Allies was not reached until November 11, when hostilities ceased.7

REFERENCES

(1) G. O. No. 39, G. H. Q., A. E. F., September 18, 1917.

(2) G. O. No. 130, W. D., October 4, 1917.

(3) Annual Report of the Surgeon General, U. S. Army, 1919, Vol. II, 1363.

(4) G. O. No. 139, G. H. Q., A. E. F., August 24, 1918.

(5) Tables of Organization and Equipment, U. S. Army, Series B, Table 109, February 12, 1918, and Series D, Table 330, March 10, 1918, and Table 331, December 31, 1917.

(6) Annual Report of the Surgeon General, U. S. Army, 1919, Vol. II, 136.

(7) Ibid., 1365.