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Introduction - Part III

Contents

PART THREE

HOSPITALIZATION IN THE LATER WAR YEARS MID-1943 TO 1946


Introduction

By the middle of 1943 the peak of the preparation phase of the war had been reached, and the United States and its Allies were ready to assume the offensive against the Axis powers. From then until the spring of 1945 troops moved steadily overseas, the number in the United States dropping from 5,355,683 to 2,753,455 and the number overseas growing from 1,637,419 to 5,403,931. In the fall of 1943, one body of American troops landed in Italy, carrying the offensive from North Africa to the European continent; others, by their attacks upon islands in the Gilbert and Marshall groups in the Pacific, began a two-pronged drive toward Japan. By the middle of the following year the Allies mounted their main attack against Germany, landing on the coast of France on 6 June 1944. Soon afterward the Central Pacific advance reached the Marianas and Southwest Pacific forces returned to the Philippines. Despite a German counteroffensive in December 1944, Allied forces moved inexorably toward victory in Europe and on 7 May 1945 Nazi Germany surrendered. Meanwhile, American troops in the Pacific pushed closer to the main Japanese islands, completing the reconquest of the Philippines and gaining control of islands in the Ryukyus chain. Then, on 10 August 1945, the Japanese Government sued for peace. Immediately afterward the Army's strength began to decline. By the beginning of 1946 the number of troops overseas dropped to 1,573,620 and of those in the United States to 1,895,652.1

Combat developments inevitably influenced the provision of hospitalization. With the movement of troops overseas the need for beds in station hospitals in the United States declined rapidly. On the other hand requirements for beds in hospitals of all types in theaters as well as in hospitals caring for overseas evacuees in this country mounted. The number of casualties and of soldiers with serious illnesses grew with the widening scope and increasing intensity of combat and the exposure of larger groups to disease hazards in various parts of the world. Estimating the number of beds that would be needed under such circumstances proved to be considerably more difficult than calculating the number needed for an Army in training. Moreover, to meet requirements for hospitalization, whatever they might be, the Medical Department had only limited means. New construction had been curtailed as the peak of the training phase had been reached; demands of overseas theaters for troops for combat operations and of the home front for civilian employees to produce war materials reduced the manpower pool, both military and civilian, upon which the Medical Department could draw; and in the fall of 1943 the number of doctors allowed the Army was limited to 45,000. These limitations meant that emphasis had to be placed upon more effective use of the means

1(1) Strength of the Army, STM-30, 1 Mar 47. (2) Biennial Report . . . Chief of Staff, 1943-45, pp. 1-87.


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available. Instead of building new hospital plants, for example, the Medical Department had to expand and improve those already built or use vacated station hospitals and troop housing. Changes had to be made in the hospital system to avoid waste of personnel and equipment. Policies for hospitalization had to be modified in order to hold bed requirements to the lowest practical number. And the organization and administrative procedures of hospitals had to be standardized and simplified to permit relatively smaller and more heterogeneous staffs to operate them.

The task of using limited means effectively and of planning their allocation among major commands in the United States and among theaters in all parts of the world fell to Surgeon General Kirk when he succeeded General Magee in June 1943. General Kirk maintained continuity in the program of hospitalization, preserving many established policies and furthering developments already begun, but he also evolved new policies to meet changing situations and established new methods of operation. Meanwhile, he expanded and strengthened his own office and sought changes in the existing War Department organization to facilitate discharge of his responsibility for the health and medical care of the Army.

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