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The Army Medical Department Civilian Corps:
A Legacy of Distinguished Service, Page 4

The Army Medical Department Civilian Corps: A Legacy of Distinguished Service

The Army Medical Department Civilian Corps: A Legacy of Distinguished Service, page 3

clear. By March of 1945 there were approximately 11 civilian employees for every 10 enlisted Soldiers in the AMEDD.6

After the war ended, the rapid discharge of personnel led to shortages that induced the AMEDD to resume the practice of hiring contract surgeons and dentists once again. By the end of 1948, 285 civilian professionals where thus employed.7 The personnel shortage became critical enough that Congress passed a “doctor draft” law in September 1950 and funneled money to the AMEDD to hire even more contract surgeons and dentists. When Surgeon General Raymond Bliss requested still more civilian personnel, an Army-level staff study objected on the grounds that “further encroachment upon military medicine by civilian medicine may well threaten the very existence of the Medical Department.”8 The Army was again at war, this time in Korea, and once again the Army Medical Department was struggling to meet its personnel requirements.

Civilian doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel played an important part in supporting the Army during the Korean War. In the Army hospitals based in Japan and Korea, local civilians served in large numbers. Japanese nurses served as aides to the American nurses, sometimes outnumbering the Americans by as many as nine to one. The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice rather than a treaty. This circumstance, coupled with the continuation of conscription for both doctors and enlisted men, slowed the pace of the inevitable post-war drawdown.

In the ensuing decade the jubilation that had swept America in 1945 was superseded by a sense of foreboding as the Cold War simmered, threatening to erupt with a devastating nuclear exchange. The notion of military service, once a point of pride and honor among Americans, began to lose its sheen. Military manpower numbers were sustained through the draft, but a burgeoning civilian medical industry competed effectively with the government for qualified doctors, scientists, and medical administrators. According to a Surgeon General report, “Recruitment of well-trained and experienced personnel for top-level medical research and scientific as well as managerial positions was a difficult and chronic problem.”9 In 1959 the Medical Department began formal career management programs for civilian employees in 12 career fields: civilian personnel administration, comptroller, safety, supply management, procurement, education and training, equipment specialist, librarians, information and editorial, automatic data processing, intelligence, and engineers and scientists. The Surgeon General implemented these programs to develop a more effective civilian workforce by providing promotion opportunities and training incentives. In 1964 the AMEDD added the Medical Department Central Funding Program, which provided funding for civilian employees to

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6 Ibid., p. 255.
7 Albert E. Cowdrey, The Medics’ War (Washington: Center of Military History, 1990), p. 30.
8 Ibid., p. 33.
9 William S. Mullins (Ed), A Decade of Progress: The United States Army Medical Department, 1959-1969 (Washington: Office of the Surgeon General, 1971), p. 113.