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Introduction - Part II

Contents

PART TWO

HOSPITALIZATION IN THE EARLY WAR YEAR

7

DECEMBER 1941-MID-1943


Introduction

Despite its year of peacetime mobilization the United States was not prepared for the offensive when war came on 7 December 1941. An immediate necessity was the deployment of troops to protect the country and its overseas bases. At the same time the Nation's power had to be mobilized and co-ordinated with that of its Allies. The Army's total strength increased from 1,686,403 in December 1941 to 6,993,102 in June 1943. Although most troops were of necessity in training in the United States, enough were overseas by the latter part of 1942 to permit a transition from the defensive to the offensive with assaults upon the Japanese in the Solomons and the invasion of North Africa. By June 1943 the peak of the preparation phase was reached. The next month saw the beginning of a steady decline in the strength of the Army at home as more and more troops moved overseas. In the latter half of 1943 the invasion of Sicily and Italy occurred and the Pacific island-hopping, which was to culminate in the defeat of Japan, began.

The Medical Department, like the rest of the country, was unprepared to support offensive operations at the outbreak of the war. This lack of preparation is most evident in the field of hospitalization. Few hospital units were in training and equipment in the war reserve was inadequate and in part obsolete. Although hospitals in the United States were sufficient for the Army that had thus far been mobilized, additional beds had to be provided rapidly as the Army's numerical strength shot upward. The first year and a half of the war was therefore a period of "growing pains" for the Medical Department, during which it adjusted itself to the demands of global warfare and with some difficulty discarded or modified peacetime practices and procedures in favor of those required by far-flung offensives. It was a time of finding out what was wrong with prewar planning and of correcting errors; of meeting immediate needs in the quickest possible fashion and of preparing at the same time for future operations. Under General Magee's leadership, the Department exhibited certain conservative tendencies in hospital expansion and administration which sometimes irked those in higher positions of authority. Nevertheless many developments considered progressive in the later war years had their origins during this period.

At this time also a reorganization of the War Department shifted The Surgeon General to a new position in the official hierarchy. Affecting his responsibility and authority for hospitalization, it required major adjustments in the relationships of his Office with other War Department agencies. The main features of that reorganization and its effects, along with changes in units in the Surgeon General's Office concerned with hospitalization, need to be discussed before details of the expansion and administration of hospitals are considered.

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