U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
Skip Navigation, go to content

HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY

AMEDD BIOGRAPHIES

AMEDD CORPS HISTORY

BOOKS AND DOCUMENTS

HISTORICAL ART WORK & IMAGES

MEDICAL MEMOIRS

AMEDD MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS External Link, Opens in New Window

ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORIES

THE SURGEONS GENERAL

ANNUAL REPORTS OF THE SURGEON GENERAL

AMEDD UNIT PATCHES AND LINEAGE

THE AMEDD HISTORIAN NEWSLETTER

Foreword

Contents

Foreword

At the onset of World War II, problems of unprecedented size and scope challenged the U.S. Army Medical Department simultaneously. These problems ranged from mobilizing and housing personnel to receiving, storing, and shipping supplies and equipment from constructing facilities to activating installations. None was more demanding than the task of training thousands of men and women to provide the fighting forces with the finest medical care in the history of warfare.

Companion volumes in this series set forth in great detail the achievements of the Medical Department in the fields of personnel, supply, and hospitalization and evacuation in the Zone of Interior. This volume is a historical account of the success of the Medical Department in training thousands upon thousands of civilian soldiers in the practice of field medicine.

The problem began with the mass induction of recruits upon general mobilization. It was aggravated by the need to train personnel for a variety of duties-front-line combat service, support service in the theaters of operations, specialized and convalescent services in installations in the Zone of Interior-on an accelerated basis. It was compounded by the need to train medical personnel so they could practice their skills in any climate or environment anywhere in the world-from the tundra of Alaska to the jungles of Buna Gona, from the sands of North Africa to the swamps of Guadalcanal.

While it is true that the principles of medicine and surgery are the same in war and in peace, the application of these principles in the practice of field medicine is vastly different. To perform effectively, the soldier-physician must think in terms of treating and caring for masses of patients, learn to make do with what is available, and understand fully his role as a member of a team charged with the awesome responsibility of conserving the strength of the fighting forces. No more formidable task faced the Army Medical Department than that of turning a civilian into an effective member of a military-medical team.

Although there was extensive study and planning for the expansion of the Army Medical Department during the period of Limited National Emergency, from the invasion of Poland in August 1939 to Pearl Harbor in December 1941, little was actually done. The men who were inducted for 1 year under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 were given combat training in preference to specialized or technical training. The Army Medical Department was also handicapped by lack of funds to construct troop housing and classrooms at the training centers and to expand facilities at the technical and advanced technical training schools. The shortage of instructors at the training centers and technical schools was a chronic problem. Training equipment had to be improvised or simulated. Irregular arrivals and unscheduled transfers of trainees resulted in vast fluctuations in enrollments. During slack periods, supplies and equipment were underutilized or wasted. In contrast, heavy training loads taxed facilities and faculties and required emergency shipments of food, supplies, and equipment.

In the initial stages of mobilization, the Army National Guard, the Organized Reserves, and affiliated medical units from civilian universities provided the trained physicians, nurses, and technical personnel. The rapid buildup required additional manpower to activate much needed medical units. This was achieved by stripping trained personnel from the medical training centers to make up cadres to activate new units. Unit readiness was accelerated by conducting advanced individual training in the units along with the unit basic and advanced training. Individual and unit training programs had to be adjusted continually to meet accelerated replacement requirements and deployment schedules. These problems were compounded by divided responsibility for the training of medical personnel after the reorganization of the Army in 1942. Although The Surgeon General retained technical responsibility for all medical training, he lost control of all training except that of the few units assigned directly to him.

This volume records the problems of training men and women for an Army Medical Department which at peak strength numbered 700,000, or more than three times the strength of the entire Regular Army in 1939. It is a tribute to those who were responsible for fulfilling the training requirements of a Medical Department that had to care for the health of the Army and simultaneously prepare for its role of providing combat medical support. It describes honestly and frankly the errors and failures as well as the achievements of the dedicated men and women who trained the physicians, dentists, nurses, others in professions allied to medicine, and the enlisted personnel, all of whom made up the teams that cared for some 14 million patients during the Second World War.

It is hoped that this account of the training of U.S. Army Medical Department personnel in World War II will be a guide to the planners of the future.

RICHARD R. TAYLOR,
Lieutenant General,
The Surgeon General.

Return to the Table of Contents