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HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY
James C. Magee
A CONCISE BIOGRAPHY
MEDICAL CORPS, U.S. ARMY
MR. RODERICK M. ENGERT
DR. JOHN T. GREENWOOD
The information contained herein was carefully compiled from available records and is believed to be accurate.
MAJOR GENERAL JAMES CARRE MAGEE, MEDICAL CORPS.
Born: 23 January 1883, Donegal County, Ireland
Service number: O-2565
Died: 15 October 1975, Walter Reed General Hospital, D.C.
Father: Edward Carre Magee
Mother: Elizabeth Armstrong Magee
Wife: Irene MacKay Magee (died, 1946)
Son: Mervyn MacKay Magee (Major General, U.S. Army, retired)
Son: James C. Magee, Jr. (Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, retired)
M.D., Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 1905
Army Medical School, Washington, D.C., May 1909
Army Medical School, Advanced Course in Preventive Medicine, November 1922
Medical Field Service School, Advanced Course, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, December 1928
Army Medical School, Advanced Graduate Course in Preventive Medicine, 1939
1st Lieutenant, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), 22 July 1908
1st Lieutenant, Medical Corps (MC), Regular Army (RA), 27 May 1909
Captain, MC, 25 June 1912
Major, MC, 15 May1917
Lt. Colonel, MC, National Army (NA), 15 June 1918
Colonel, MC, NA (temporary), 5 May 1919
Major, MC, RA, 27 January 1920
Lt. Colonel, MC, RA, 27 May 1929
Colonel, MC, RA, 27 May 1935
Major General, The Surgeon General, 1 June 1939
Jul 1908-Oct 1908 Post Surgeon, Fort Michie, New York.
Oct 1908-May 1909 Student, Army Medical School, Washington, D. C.
Jun 1909-Feb 1909 Assistant to Surgeon, Presidio of San Francisco, California
Mar 1910-Mar 1913 Various assignments, Mindanao and Jolo Islands, Philippine Islands.
Apr 1913-Dec 1915 Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Jan 1916-Apr 1917 Assistant to the Surgeon, 2d Division, El Paso, Texas.
May 1917-Jul 1918 Various assignments with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.
Aug 1918-May 1919 Assistant to the Chief Surgeon, First U.S. Army, AEF.
Jun 1919-Dec 1919 Commanding Officer, Base Hospital, Camp Dix, New Jersey.
Dec 1919-Jun 1922 Instructor, National Guard Medical Department Troops, San Antonio, Texas.
Jul 1922-Nov 1922 Student, Army Medical School, Postgraduate Course, Washington, D.C.
Jan 1923-Sep 1923 2d Division Surgeon, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Sep 1923-Jun 1925 Corps Area Medical Inspector, 4th Corps Area, Atlanta, Georgia.
Aug 1925-Aug 1927 Commanding Officer, Station Hospital, Fort McPherson, Georgia.
Sep 1927-Aug 1931 Post Surgeon, Fort Myer, Virginia.
Sep 1931-Dec 1935 Instructor, all medical detachments, Pennsylvania National Guard, Philadelphia.
Dec 1935-May 1939 Executive Officer, Walter Reed General Hospital.
1 Jun 1939-31 May 1943 The Surgeon General
31 Oct 1943 Retired
Fellow, American Medical Association
Honorary Fellow, American College of Surgeons
Association of Military Surgeons of the United States
American College of Physicians
Board of Directors, American Foundation for Tropical Medicine
Honorary Fellow, American Association for Surgery of Trauma
Member, Military Order of the Carabao
Honorary President, Washington Chapter, Pan American Medical Association
Director, Columbia Hospital for Women, Washington, D.C.
Central Committee, American Red Cross
Board of Directors, Saint Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Board of Commissioners, U.S. Soldiers' Home, Washington, D.C.
Member, Board of Hospitalization, National Research Council
Distinguished Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
Distinguished Service Medal
Major General James C. Magee, United States Army. For exceptionally distinguished and meritorious service in a position of great responsibility as Surgeon General of the Army for four years terminating 31 Nay 1943. His farsighted and dynamic energy was greatly responsible for our soldiers being able thus far to emerge from battle with the lowest mortality rate among the wounded in our history. The Army has benefited greatly from his eagerness to avail himself of the most expert advice and data from the civilian medical profession in the fields of research against epidemics. He foresaw and prevented a dangerous shortage of surgical instruments by pressing the development of domestic manufacture, resulting in an ample supply and improved quality of these vital materials. Under his guidance the Army's battle against the acquisition of venereal disease produced the lowest rate of infection in the Army's history.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE
"Post Swimming Pool," Military Surgeon 52:524-535, May 1923.
"Relationship of Health of Civilians to Efficiency of the Army," Am. Journ. Pub. Health 30:l283-l290, November 1940.
Medical. Activities in Time of Emergency, Proc. Interst. Postgrad. M.A. North America (1939) pp. 230-235, 1940.
"Establishment of a Board for Investigation of Influenza and Other Epidemic Diseases in the Army," JAMA, l16:512, February 8, 1941.
"Medical Preparation for Present Emergency," Mississippi Doctor , l8: 546-550, March 1941.
"Medical Activities of Augmented Military Forces," Ann. Int. Medicine , l4: 2l73-2178, June 1941.
"Symposium on Medical Preparedness; Procurement of Medical Personnel and Matériel in Present Emergency," JAMA, 117:253-255, July 26, 1941.
"Military Emergency and Medical Profession," JAMA, 1l7:68l-682, August 30, 1941.
"Medical Department, U.S. Army," Am. S. Trade A. J., 28:16, October 194l.
"Medical Field Service in Modern Combat," M. Ann. District of Columbia, l0:433-436, November 1941.
"Activities of Medical Department in Augmentation of the Army," Army Medical Bulletin (No. 56), pp. 1-10, April 1941.
"Medical Education and the War; United States Army," JAMA, 119:1255-1257, August 15, 1942.
"Army Hospitals on Distant Shores, Serving American Soldiers," Hospital Management, 55: 15-17, January 1943.
"Appraisal of Medical Department at War," Military Surgeon, 92:113-119, February 1943.
"Military Medical Service with Special Emphasis on Tropical Diseases," Texas Rep. Biol. & Med., 2:3-2l, 1944 and Proc. Anniv. Tufts Coll. Medical School, pp. 13-31,1944.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MAJOR GENERAL JAMES CARRE MAGEE, Medical Corps
James Carre Magee was born in County Donegal, Ireland, on 23 January 1883. He was the fourth son of a native Pennsylvania businessman who were then working in Ireland. The Magees soon returned to Pennsylvania where James Magee spent his youth. He attended Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and received his M.D. in 1905. Following service as an Army contract surgeon (September 1907-July 1908), Magee was selected as one of the initial first lieutenants in the newly established Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and received his commission on 22 July 1908. He subsequently applied for a commission in the Regular Army's Medical Corps and was appointed a first lieutenant on 27 May 1909, after completing the course of study at the Army Medical School, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Magee's early military career was spent at a variety of assignments, including post surgeon at Ft. Michie, New York (July-October 1908); student, Army Medical School, Washington, D.C. (October 1908-May 1909); assistant to the surgeon, Presidio of San Francisco, California (June 1909-February 1910); and a three-year stint (March 1910-March 1913) in the Philippines on the islands of Mindanao and Jolo where he was involved in campaigns against the Moros. He returned to the United States and was assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from April 1913 to December 1915. From January 1916 until April 1917, he was assistant to the surgeon, 2d Division, at El Paso, Texas. Then under the command of Brigadier General John J. Pershing, the 2d Division (?) would soon be heavily engaged in operations along the Mexican border in the Punitive Expedition against Mexican irregulars. While at El Paso, Magee was evaluated as an accomplished and excellent medical officer.
With American entry into the First World War in April 1917, the U.S Army units serving along the Mexican border were amongst the first to be shipped to France with Pershing, who was appointed commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). Magee, who was promoted to Major on 15 May 1917, sailed for France with Base Hospital No. 12 in early May 1917. On 30 November 1917, he was reassigned to headquarters, 2d Division, for a month before becoming assistant to the surgeon, Advanced Section, Services of Supply (SOS), AEF. In this position, Magee served with distinction, earning a commendation from Brigadier General William R. Sample, commander of Advanced Section. In August 1918, he was assigned as assistant to the chief surgeon of the First U.S. Army, then Colonel Alexander N. Stark, MC, in which capacity he participated in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives of September-November 1918. He was awarded the Purple Heart for meritorious services in these operations. Magee remained with First Army during the early months of its occupation duty in Germany and in May 1919 was promoted to Colonel, National Army.
Returning to the United States in June 1919, Magee commanded the base hospital at Camp Dix (now Fort Dix), New Jersey, until December 1919, when he was ordered to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, as instructor of the National Guard Medical Department troops of the Eighth Corps Area, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. In January 1920, he reverted to his permanent Regular Army rank of Major. Magee remained at Fort Sam Houston until June 1922, when he was ordered to Washington, D. C., for the Advanced Course in Preventive Medicine at the Army Medical School. Upon completion of that course he was ordered to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in January 1923, where he served as the division surgeon of the 2d Division and commanding officer of the 2d Medical Regiment until September. While division surgeon, Magee was noted for his unusual tact and for obtaining excellent results without friction. In September 1923 he was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia, where he served until June 1925 as assistant to the Corps Area surgeon with duty as the medical inspector of all medical units in the Fourth Corps Area. In this assignment Major Magee was rated "an efficient, alert, painstaking officer of pleasing personality."
For two years, beginning in August 1925, Magee was commanding officer of the station hospital at Ft. McPherson, Georgia. In September 1927, he assumed the duties of post surgeon, Ft. Myer, Virginia, serving in that capacity until August 1931. During his tour at that post, he completed the advanced course at the Medical Field Service School, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, from October to December 1928. While at Ft. Myer, Magee was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Medical Corps, on 27 May 1929.
In September 1931, Magee was once again assigned to instructor's duty with the National Guard, this time in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with responsibility for all medical detachments of the Pennsylvania National Guard. He was promoted to Colonel on 27 May 1935. In December of that year, he assumed the duties of Executive Officer at the Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D. C., under Brigadier General Wallace DeWitt, M.C., who commanded Walter Reed from 1935 to 1940. DeWitt rated Magee as a very valuable officer who was well qualified and unusually considerate and tactful.
On 27 April 1939, the White House announced the nomination of Magee to be Major General, Medical Department, and The Surgeon General, U.S. Army, to succeed Major General Charles R. Reynolds whose appointment terminated on 31 May. On June 1, Dr. Magee was promoted to Major General and appointed The Surgeon General of the Army. The outbreak of World War II in Europe in September 1939 and the declaration of limited national emergency by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that month confronted the new Surgeon General with enormous difficulties as the Army and the nation slowly began preparing for war. A calm and rather conservative man, Magee confronted huge problems in preparing the Army Medical Department for its enormous wartime expansion and a worldwide conflict.
Since the War Department reorganization and creation of the War Department General Staff in 1903, the Office of The Surgeon General had been a staff element of the War Department. A major reorganization of the War Department in March 1942 compounded Magee's problems by removing The Surgeon General and his office from the War Department Special Staff and making it a subordinate organization under the Services of Supply (SOS), later redesignated the Army Service Forces (ASF). This reorganization largely ended The Surgeon General's traditional position and staff relationship of reporting directly to the Secretary of War and Chief of Staff and being personally responsible to them on all matter affecting the health of the Army. While General Magee, however, did not believe it was The Surgeon Generals duty to, as he put it, "throw his hat on the ground and dance on it to command attention." While this reorganization was taking place, Magee continued to confront a major ongoing attempt to splinter the authority of The Surgeon General through the transfer of all Army Medical Department personnel and facilities then assigned to supporting the Army Air Forces to a new, independent Air Surgeon's Office in the newly established Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Forces.
Despite numerous formidable obstacles, Magee pushed through a number of important changes which were at first opposed by the General Staff or Services of Supply after March 1942. These included such measures as the establishment of 102 general hospital units (compared with a recommended 32), and the construction of a number of new, large cantonment-type hospitals in the United States rather than a haphazard expansion of inadequate existing facilities. On the recommendation of The Surgeon General, the Secretary of War in January 1941 established the Board for the Investigation and Control of Influenza and Other Epidemic Diseases, better known as the Army Epidemiological Board (AEB), predecessor of today's Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB). Foreseeing the danger of a shortage of surgical instruments, most of which were procured from Germany before the war, he pressed the rapid development of domestic manufacture, which resulted in ample supply and improved quality of these critical items. This was the first time that surgical instruments was made on a large scale in the United States. Shortly after the United States entered the war, Magee took steps to secure the services of many outstanding civilian physicians, including such men as Hugh J. Morgan, Fred W. Rankin, Edward Churchill, and Michael DeBakey, who were commissioned in the Medical Corps, Army of the United States (AUS). These "civilians in uniform" composed the corps of highly qualified medical and surgical consultants who served in the Surgeon General's Office (SGO) as well as in commands throughout the United States and in overseas theaters and were essential to the outstanding success of the AMEDD during World War II.
General Magee's wartime tenure as The Surgeon General was marked by outstanding successes as well as stinging criticism. Magee was never a favorite of Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, although the two had served together in the First Army during World War I (Check?). Magee's personal relations with the powerful commanding general of the Services of Supply, Lieutenant General Brehon B. Somervell, were equally poor. As a result, criticism of the Medical Department's organization, administration, and supply policies and practices from within the Services of Supply as well as from the public found fertile ground with Marshall and Somervell and led to a major investigation by the War Department's Wadhams Committee from August through November 1942. The committee's final report outlined a number of recommendations to improve the efficiency of the Army Medical Department was submitted in November 1942. For a variety of reasons, many of the recommendations were never fully implemented while The Surgeon General's Office began carrying out other recommendations early in 1943. While Magee's adversaries may well have encouraged the Wadhams Committee's investigation of the Medical Department in a thinly-veiled attempt to remove him for his position as The Surgeon General, it failed to secure his removal.
Magee tried to emphasize that The Surgeon General's traditional responsibilities to advise the Secretary of War and Chief of Staff on health and medical issues affecting the Army could not be effectively carried out in this organizational structure. He lacked direct access to both the Secretary and Chief of Staff and was submerged under Somervell's restrictive SOS bureaucracy that severely limited Magee's access to the highest decision-making levels in the War Department. Sound medical advice often did not reach those levels. This policy was only reversed late in 1944 through the personal intervention of the Secretary of War who directed that The Surgeon General would have unincumbered, direct access to him and the Chief of Staff on all matters pertaining to the health of the Army.
When James Magee assumed his duties as The Surgeon General, the AMEDD numbered 2,181 officers and 9,359 enlisted men-a total of 11,540 in a peacetime Army numbering 188,565. The expansion of the Army in 1940-41 increased the AMEDD by more than 10-times to 23,890 officers and 107,867 enlisted personnel-a total of 131,757-in December 1941. By the time that Magee ended his tour at the end of May 1943, the AMEDD numbered 91,401 officers and 514,957 enlisted personnel for a total of 606,358 in an Army of 6,858,591 that was scattered throughout the United States and around the world. Building, equipping, training, and deploying such a medical force was no small accomplishment. But at the same time, The Surgeon General had to protect the health of the fighting forces through aggressive preventive medicine programs and care for those who were battle casualties, sick, and injured. To do this, the AMEDD had to develop and operate a worldwide evacuation system and hospitalization structure for Army forces. A worldwide medical logistics system that provided the required medical and surgical supplies and equipment had to be built to support the full and continuing operation of evacuation and hospitalization in some of the most hostile environments in the world. This meant research, development, and procurement of new medicines and equipment. The foundations for all of this were laid during Magee's years as The Surgeon General.
As the time approach for Magee's 4-year appointment as The Surgeon General to end on 31 May 1943, Marshall informed the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, that he was "determinedly opposed to" Magee's reappointment in the post. Although Magee's supporters in the military and civilian medical communities, most notably the Navy Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Ross McIntyre, who doubled as the President's personal physician, supported Magee's reappointment, Marshall prevailed in seeking his retirement. Marshall, however, did not succeed in gaining Presidential acceptance of his candidate for Surgeon General, Brigadier General Alfred W. Kenner, the chief surgeon of Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower's North African Theater of Operations (NATO). Rather, President Roosevelt, with some urging from the civilian medical community, and Secretary Stimson, who sought someone with "vigor, initiative, and aggressiveness" and administrative ability that he thought to be lacking in the Surgeon General's Office, selected then Brigadier General Norman T. Kirk, commander of the Percy Jones General Hospital and a renowned orthopedic surgeon, as the next Surgeon General.
Upon the expiration of his appointment as The Surgeon General on 31 May 1943, General Magee went on terminal leave until his retirement on 31 October 1943. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his services in the building the wartime Army Medical Department. The citation accompanying the award noted that he was "greatly responsible for our soldiers being able thus far to emerge from battle with the lowest mortality rate among the wounded in our history."
Unfortunately, James C. Magee received little of the real credit that was due him for what he accomplished during his difficult years as The Surgeon General. Few Surgeon Generals have faced the enormous wartime medical and military challenges that Magee had to surmount with American entry into World War II, and perhaps none, except for Brigadier General William Hammond during the Civil War, ever had to confront such persistent and determined opposition from within the leadership of the U.S. Army itself.
Major General James C. Magee spent his retirement years quietly after his wife died in 1946. He lived the last years of his life at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, D.C., of which he was a founding member. He died at the age of 92 of arteriosclerosis at Walter Reed on 15 October 1975, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on 20 October.