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Chapter II

Books and Documents > Medical Department of the U.S. Army in the World War, Volume III, Finance & Supply





At the end of March, 1917, there were in operation within the continental limits of the United States, six medical supply depots, located at New York City; Washington, D. C.; St. Louis, Mo.; San Francisco, Calif.; San Antonio, Tex.; and El Paso, Tex. The depots at San Antonio and El Paso had been established in 1916 for the supply of troops mobilized on the Mexican border; the other depots had functioned as such for many years. The general organization of all these depots at the declaration of war, April 6, 1917, was essentially the same, although no attempt had ever been made to standardize their methods and render them entirely uniform. Each succeeding officer in charge of a depot made such minor changes in its interior administration as seemed to him appropriate and advisable.



Each depot was under the charge of an officer of the Medical Department, selected because of his special qualifications for that work. When practicable an assistant was assigned to duty as an understudy; the remaining personnel of the depot forces were civilian employees.


The civilian employees in the supply depots were of two classes, those whose duties were unskilled manual labor only and those of higher grade. The former were subject to labor regulations promulgated by the President; the latter were classified employees subject to civil-service rules.

The labor regulations governed the employment of unskilled labor in Federal offices in nearly all the large cities of the United States. To secure the service of laborers under these regulations, application for the certification of eligibles was made by the officer in charge to the local board of labor employment. From such certifications suitable laborers were selected. The number and compensation of unskilled laborers and workmen in the depots were determined by the Surgeon General under the direction of the Secretary of War. No workman or laborer was permanently employed by the month without authority from the Surgeon General, nor at a salary of more than $60 a month without special authority from the Secretary of War. They could be reduced or discharged at the discretion of the Surgeon General, as the interests of the service required. In emergencies, temporary laborers could be employed under labor


regulations, if applicable, without previous authority but at not more than $0.25 an hour. If the position of an unskilled laborer or workman, employed at less than $60 per month by authority from the Surgeon General, became vacant the vacancy might be filled without new authority but a report of the change was to be made promptly to the Surgeon General. Persons employed as unskilled laborers or workmen could not be assigned to work of the grade performed by classified employees.

Civil employees, above the grade of unskilled laborer or workman, were appointed by the Secretary of War upon the recommendation of the Surgeon General, selection being made from the list of eligibles furnished by the United States Civil Service Commission or by reinstatements or transfers by the Secretary of War under civil-service rules. Their number and compensation were authorized by the Secretary of War and their promotion, reduction, and removal determined by him upon the recommendation of the Surgeon General. Their assignment to and transfer between stations at home or abroad were regulated by the Surgeon General under the Secretary's direction. If a vacancy occurred among them by death or otherwise, the officer in charge promptly reported to the Surgeon General whether it was necessary to fill the vacancy, in which event he submitted a recommendation for promotion or for an original appointment, as was appropriate. Temporary appointments without examination and certification by the Civil Service Commission, pending permanent appointment, promotion, or transfer, were not made by the Secretary to any classified position except when the public emergency required it, and then only upon the prior authorization of the commission. Such appointments continued only for the period necessary to make appointment through certification of eligibles or by promotion or transfer, and in no case without prior approval of the commission would they extend beyond 30 days from the receipt of the Secretary's certification or beyond 30 days from the date of the temporary appointment. Recommendations for the promotion of classified employees originated with the officer under whose supervision the employee was serving. No recommendations originating otherwise were considered. Classified employees were promoted, reduced, or discharged only by the Secretary of War, but the officer under whom they were serving had authority to suspend them from duty and pay for a cause. In such cases he informed the suspended employee the reason for his suspension and gave him three days in which to answer the same in writing. If the answer was satisfactory the employee might be restored, without further action, to duty and pay. If no reply was received at the end of three days, or if the reply was unsatisfactory, the officer in charge reported his action, his reasons therefor, and his recommendations in the premises (together with the written answer received by him, if any) to the Surgeon General for the information and action of the Secretary of War. Every appointment, promotion, reduction, or discharge of a civil employee, temporary or permanent, made by an officer of the Medical Department, was required to be reported promptly to the Surgeon General, with the name of the person concerned, the date of change, and citation of the authority therefor. In case of death the date and place of death were given; in case of death or discharge the date to which the


employee was paid and by what officer. Records were kept in each office of the name and address of the nearest relative to be notified of an employee's death.

Each officer under whom the classified employees of the Medical Department were serving, prepared and forwarded to the Surgeon General, on June 30 and December 31 of each year, a report of their efficiency during the preceding six months. Attendance, ability, adaptability, habits, and application, each marked separately on the scale of 100, were the factors considered in determining the efficiency of each employee. The names in each class or grade were entered on the efficiency report in the order of merit, those with the same efficiency rating being arranged in accordance with length of the service in the Medical Department. Promotions in the classified service were made in the order of merit as established in the last semiannual efficiency report, subject to such examination as might be ordered under civil-service rules. Employees who failed during any six months to attain a rating of 70 in efficiency were regarded as deficient in their respective classes and were subject to regrading, and, at the discretion of the officer under whom they were serving, were reported to the Surgeon General for reduction. Those employees whose rating on two consecutive reports fell below 70 were invariably reported for reduction. If the rating of any employee on two consecutive reports fell below 60 in efficiency or below 50 in application, habits, or ability, he was required to be reported for discharge.

The following records and files were required to be kept at all medical supply depots: Correspondence, funds received and expended, purchase orders and contracts given for medical and hospital supplies, articles received, articles expended, requisitions, issues, articles on hand, invoices of packages turned over to the quartermaster for shipment, contents of packages, and employees. A proper return on Forms 17, 17A, and 17C were required to be forwarded at the end of each quarter and a duplicate copy of the return, with a complete set of vouchers retained in the files of the depot. Other reports and returns were made from time to time as required by the Surgeon General.


The activities at each depot may be classed under the heads purchasing, receiving, storage, issuing, shipping, finance, returns, and records.1 These activities were carried on under the supervision of the officer in charge by a chief clerk, a receiving clerk, a shipping clerk who was also in charge of storage or warehousing, a finance clerk, a returns clerk, a chief packer, and such number of clerks, packers, laborers, and watchmen as might be necessary for the volume of business of the particular depot. At the smaller depots two or more of the activities might be supervised by a single clerk. A chief clerk usually assumed the duties of purchasing. He had such assistants for this purpose as he required.

The purchasing department of the depot had charge of all matters relating to the actual purchase of supplies. Here were prepared the circulars of advertisement for the semiannual or other large purchases. The bids were preserved until the day of opening, when they were opened, read, and abstracted and awards made. Contracts were written, and when duly signed were sent to the


contractor for signature; when duly signed by both the contractor and contracting officer, they were forwarded to the Surgeon General for approval. When advice of the approval by the Surgeon General of all contracts pertaining to the articles on a particular circular of advertisement was received, copies of the contract were forwarded to the returns office, Department of the Interior, for file, as required by law. Formal and informal quotations were solicited and purchase orders written when the amounts did not exceed $500. Records were kept, by commodity, of the date on which the contract or order was placed, the name of the firm to whom the order was given, and the unit price paid. Purchase orders were filed serially and, together with the contracts, provided the basis for the information which was entered on the record of articles purchased. Samples submitted were comparatively the standard sample. Estimates of supplies needed by the depot were prepared in this section and forwarded to the Surgeon General for authority to make the necessary purchase. Copies of contracts and purchase orders were furnished the receiving clerk, who checked against them the bills received from the vendors at the time of delivery of the articles purchased.

The receiving department took charge of all supplies immediately upon their delivery where the vendor checked the quantities against the contract or purchase order and reported the fact to the officer who had charge of inspection. As soon as the supplies were inspected they were turned over to the shipping department for storage or to the issue department for issue, as the case might be. The bills were then forwarded to the chief clerk, who turned them over to the finance clerk for the preparation of necessary vouchers. The shipping department warehoused the supplies which were received for storage and later delivered them to the issue department or marked them for issue in accordance with instructions received from the issue department to fill requisitions. For the issue department there was provided a suitable room and counters for facility in making issues. The common routine, when a requisition was received by the chief clerk, was for one of the packers to collect from the shelves and place on the counter all articles on the requisition where the quantities were less than those contained in the original packages received from the manufacturer. These articles were then assembled by classes and in quantities appropriate to the customary size of packing boxes. The quantities to be placed in each box were determined and a list was prepared to show the articles and quantities in each box. This list was commonly called a packer's list. A copy was retained in the packing room and the original forwarded to the officer to whom the supplies were consigned. A list of original packages was then furnished the shipping department. These packages were collected in the shipping room and marked in accordance with package numbers furnished by the chief packer. As soon as all the articles available in stock had been packed and prepared for shipment the requisition was checked to show the articles and quantities issued and those still due. The requisition was then referred to the return department, where invoices and receipts were prepared and mailed to the consignee. Invoices of packages turned over to the quartermaster were then prepared either by the returns department or the shipping department and delivered to the local depot


quartermaster, who sent the necessary transportation to remove it from the warehouse to the railway station for shipment. One copy of the invoice of packages was receipted by the quartermaster making the shipment, and when the supplies were delivered to him or his representative responsibility of the medical officer for them ceased. The shipping department not only warehoused the supplies received and attended to the shipping but it also kept a record of the package and package numbers contained in each shipment, together with the dates they were delivered to the quartermaster for shipment.

Five copies of the invoice receipt forms, 23, 24, 28, or 31, were prepared. Two copies were signed on the invoice side by the medical supply officer, one copy of which was forwarded to the Surgeon General and one copy, accompanied by two unsigned copies, were forwarded to the consignee. The fifth copy was temporarily retained by the returns department for use in the preparation of the quarterly return of medical property.

The return of medical property was kept on Forms M. D. 17A and 17B. The A series were white sheets and the B series were blue ones. In keeping the return the name of the article was typed at the bottom of the sheet on both the white and blue copies. These sheets were arranged in accordance with the nomenclature and arrangement of the standard supply table, a blue and white one alternating. During the preparation of the return they were kept in a Shannon file of suitable size. Whenever an entry was to be made a carbon would be inserted between the white and the blue sheets of the article to be entered and the entry made on the white sheet with indelible pencil and on the blue sheet by the carbon copy. The entry gave the date of the voucher, the number of the voucher, and the quantity of the article received or issued on that voucher. All vouchers, whether receipts or issues, were numbered in one series. If a single page were not sufficient to provide space for all the entries during the quarter, such additional sheets were added as were necessary. At the end of each quarter the quantities in each column, the issue, and receipts were totaled and the balance remaining placed in the appropriate space at the foot of the last sheet, under each article. The white sheets were then segregated and bound in packages of suitable size, with Form 17 on the face, 17C on the back. The sheets in the return were numbered consecutively from the first to the last, except that additional sheets for any one item bore the same number as the original sheet for that item. The medical supply officer certified on Form 17C of the last package to the correctness of the return. When the return had been properly checked against receipts and issues it was forwarded to the Surgeon General.

When the bills had been received and the property accepted, vouchers for the articles received were prepared by the finance department on Forms 330 or 330A and sent to the contractor for signature. When received back, check was written and the voucher signed by the purchasing officer and the check by the disbursing officer. Before the articles enumerated on the voucher, an invoice of purchase, Form 12, was prepared, which showed the name of the vendor, the articles and quantities purchased, and was signed by the purchasing officer. This invoice of property purchased served to charge the purchasing officer with the responsibility for the property, and one copy of it was delivered


to the returns department for use in the preparation of the quarterly return of medical property. The other copy accompanied the voucher to the Surgeon General's Office, where it was again checked against the purchase voucher and filed with the property accounts of the officer who made it. At the end of each month the finance department prepared an abstract of disbursements, arranged in chronological order, in which the vouchers were paid. A separate abstract was prepared for every appropriation under which supplies were purchased. The abstract contained in brief the name of the vendor, the class of articles purchased, and the gross amount paid on the voucher. The total of each abstract was entered at the foot of the last sheet. In addition there was prepared an account current which showed, by appropriations, the funds remaining on hand from the preceding month, funds received during the month, and funds disbursed during the month, and the balance remaining to the credit of the disbursing officer. The abstracts of disbursement were the basis for the entry of the amounts of funds disbursed during the month. Both abstracts and accounts current were prepared in duplicate, one copy forwarded to the Surgeon General, for administrative examination, accompanied by the substantiating vouchers, and one copy retained at the depot, substantiated by the duplicate copy of the voucher. A record was kept by the finance department of the funds placed to the credit of the disbursing officer during the month whether by warrant or by deposit or proceeds of sales or other collections. Checks were always written on blanks furnished by the Treasury Department. Each check was identified by the entry on its face of the number of the voucher or vouchers for which it was payment.

Army Regulations required that no contract or purchase, on behalf of the United States, should be made unless authorized by law or made under the appropriation adequate to its fulfillment, except for clothing, subsistence, forage, fuel, quarters, and transportation of medical and hospital supplies, which, however, was not to exceed the necessities of the current year. Articles of foreign production or manufacture could not be purchased abroad for importation without special authority from the Secretary of War. Articles of domestic production or manufacture were preferred to those of foreign origin, cost and quality being equal. Supplies and services not personal required for the use of the Army were to be procured where they could be purchased the cheapest, quality and cost and interests of the Government considered. Except where procurements were in small amounts, supplies and services were to be procured only after public notice inviting proposals for the same. The officer charged with the duty of making a contract of purchase is responsible under the laws and regulations for his action.


On May 24, 1917, the Secretary of War authorized the establishment of additional medical supply depots at Philadelphia, Pa.; Chicago, Ill.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Louisville, Ky. (vicinity of Jeffersonville, Ind.) 2

The location of these depots was based upon the approved plans of the War College division of the General Staff 3 for the establishment of 1 divisional cantonment in the Northeastern Department; 4 (later reduced to 3) in the


Eastern Department; 11 (later increased to 12) in the Southeastern Department, of which 3 (later increased to 4) were National Army and 9 were National Guard; 5 in the Central Department, all National Army; 6 in the Southern Department, 1 National Army and 5 National Guard; and 3 in the Western Department, 1 National Army and 2 National Guard. The actual sites had not been selected at the time authority to establish the new depots was granted, but the areas within which they were to be located had been sufficiently well determined for the purpose. At this time it was contemplated that the Philadelphia depot would supply the troops in the Eastern and Northeastern Departments, the Chicago depot those in the Central department, and the Atlanta depot those in the Southeastern Department.

As soon as the necessary orders for the transfer to their new stations of the officers selected to take charge of these depots had been issued, a letter of instruction was written to each of them concerning the depot to be under his charge. The letters varied only with regard to matters relating to the territory to be supplied and the amount of floor space for the given depot. The following letter concerning the Chicago depot is similar to the others and contains the purpose of the instructions.

MAY 29, 1917.

From: The Surgeon General.

To:  Major-------, Medical Corps, Field Medical Supply Depot, Washington, D. C.

Subject: Medical Supply Depot, Chicago, Ill.

1. You have been designated to take charge of the medical supply depot to be established at Chicago, Ill., and it is desired that you proceed to that point with the least practicable delay upon receipt of your order to select a building suitable for the purpose. Upon arrival you should get in touch with the depot quartermaster at that place and secure his assistance in securing a suitable building.

2.  It is expected that your depot will supply the troops stationed, roughly speaking, west of the Alleghanies, north of the Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma line, and east of the Rockies, which will comprise five divisions of the new National Army to be called into service the 1st of September, and such regular organizations as are now or may be formed within those limits. It is estimated that you will require 75,000 square feet of floor space. If you can find this in one building on a railroad spur with suitable approaches for wagons and trucks you will have obtained a most satisfactory location. Care should be taken to secure as nearly a fireproof building as is possible, the floors of which should have a carrying capacity of not less than 300 pounds per square foot. One with a greater carrying capacity would be preferable. If the building is more than one story, adequate elevator service will be necessary. If the building is not already provided with metal shutters for fire protection and an adequate water fire-protective system, an effort should be made to induce the owners of the building to install them and in the event of their refusal application should be forwarded to the department commander for the installation of the necessary apparatus. An estimate of cost should accompany the request. As soon as you have located the building you should secure estimates for the cost of the material and labor necessary to install the shelving and counters in your issue room and any other changes needed. These estimates should be forwarded to the department commander at the earliest practicable date. At the same time you should make application for the installation of the necessary telephone service. For this, consult with the local quartermaster.

3. As soon as you have found a suitable building, inform this office of the street address thereof and instructions will be issued to the New York medical supply depot to send you your initial equipment. Additional supplies as needed will be issued to you on requisitions forwarded through the department surgeon. You should keep your stock replenished by timely requisitions.


4. While it is probable that you will be required to make purchases to meet emergencies, it is not contemplated at the present time that you should act as a disbursing officer. All obligations incurred by you should he properly vouchered and forwarded to this office for payment, through the department surgeon.

5. Your depot will handle all classes of medical supplies--post, field, dental, veterinary, and automobile--as well as blank forms. Should you receive requisitions for which at the time you have not the supplies on hand to fill, a list of the articles not in stock should be forwarded to this office through the department surgeon with the least practicable delay in order that instructions may be issued to ship them from other depots.

6. You are authorized to issue supplies on requisitions approved by department or the division surgeons within your district. It is contemplated in the ordinary issue of supplies that the expendable articles required by regimental and other organizations will be issued by the property officer of the divisional cantonment hospital and that the nonexpendable articles for these organizations will be issued from your depot. Your depot will issue the necessary supplies in bulk to the cantonment or base hospital on requisition.

7. It is contemplated that a cantonment hospital will be established with each division when the troops have reached their training camps. The initial equipment of this hospital is given in the attached list designated  Wolfe base hospital unit. It is not known at the present time exactly where these camps will be nor how soon their equipment will be required. The initial equipment for them will be issued by you upon instruction from the department surgeon. The bulky articles--bedsteads, mattresses, pillows, chairs, and ref rigerators--will be issued direct to the hospital from the New York depot or from the contractor. Upon receipt of instructions by you from the department surgeon to issue supplies to any cantonment or base hospital, you should promptly inform the officer in charge of the New York depot of the place and the name of the officer designated to receive these bulky articles.

8. It is contemplated that large quantities of the various classes of supplies will be stored at your depot in addition to the immediate needs for issue, and for this reason you will require the floor space indicated in paragraph 2.

9. The initial personnel for your depot, consisting of a chief clerk, an invoice clerk, a chief packer, and possibly a shipping clerk and laborer, will be ordered to you from other depots upon receipt of information from you that you have secured the necessary building. Other employees will be authorized as required upon request from you stating the number and qualifications. Payment of these employees will be on pay roll duly certified by you and forwarded to this office for payment. Your attention is invited to paragraph 110, Manual for the Medical Department, 1916, relative to the emergency employment of laborers.

10. You should make requisition for the necessary office equipment for your depot at the earliest practicable date in order that it may reach you promptly. You should investigate the local market to determine prices and availability in your vicinity. If the prices be reasonable, authority will be given you to purchase locally. Anything which you can not secure locally or for which the price quoted is unreasonable should be referred to this office.

11. Inasmuch as you will be required to issue blank forms, you should make ample provision in the way of building cabinets for the proper storage and protection thereof while in storage and awaiting issue.

12. It is suggested that the material for shelving, counters, and these cabinets for blanks should be millwork as far as practicable, everything cut ready to assemble when it reaches your depot.

13. Boxes for packing should be purchased locally provided there be an adequate box manufacturer in the vicinity. If not, requisition therefor should be forwarded promptly.

By order of the Surgeon General.

Very little difficulty was experienced in Atlanta and Chicago in securing adequate and suitable storage space to meet the requirements of the letter of instructions. The situation at Philadelphia proved quite difficult. While the warehouse selected was the most suitable of any available in the city, it was not on a railroad siding. The street in front and the alley in the rear were both narrow and congested with traffic.



The initial step in the consolidation of storage and issue may be said to have been taken near the end of December, 1917, with the development of an organization within the War Department known as the storage and traffic service.4 The function prescribed by this section was:

To provide for the coordination of movement of troops and shipments of munitions and supplies of every kind during manufacture, and after final assembly, and to see that provision is made for the necessary storage and other facilities on the seaboard and at interior points, and to advise and assist the Chief of Staff in reference thereto.

In charge of this organization was a director of storage and traffic. The organization was divided into two branches, one dealing with storage facilities and the other with transportation. The chief of the section dealing with storage facilities was known as the director of storage. While the functions of this section and its relation to other organizations of the War Department varied somewhat during the period of its existence, its chief retained the title of director of storage throughout.

On January 3, 1918, call was made by the director of storage and traffic for information from all the supply bureaus concerning: (a) Present storage facilities location, capacity in square feet, and character of supplies for which designed; (b) plans made for additional storage; (c) funds available for construction of storage space; (d) localities at which supplies are being manufactured; (e) personnel engaged in connection with storage and transportation of supplies.5

Not long after the information called for in this request had been furnished the following instructions were received:



Washington, January 21, 1918.

Memorandum for Surgeon General.

1. In order that the storage and warehousing facilities of all branches of the service be coordinated so far as is deemed advisable, all matters pertaining to the location and construction of new storage or warehousing facilities are to be submitted for approval to the director of storage before final action is taken.

2. The director of storage is to be furnished with such information and reports relative to storage and warehousing operations as he may from time to time require.

_______ ________,

Director of Storage and Traffic.

The first measure looking toward consolidation of storage was contained in a proposed method of operating the New York storage facilities put forward by the director of storage and traffic in March, 1918.6 This proposal, made to the Chief of Staff, covered both storage facilities and loading activities related to overseas shipment. That part of the method dealing primarily with storage proposed (1) that the practice of assigning certain definite warehouse space to the several bureaus of the Army be discontinued and that any existing arrangements of this character be canceled; (2) that all storage facilities of the port be operated and controlled by a storage officer, who, as the representative of the director of storage and traffic, was to be on the General Staff Corps;


(3) that all Army supplies arriving in the metropolitan district were to he under the control of the storage officer and by him were to be allocated to piers, shipside, or storage in accordance with instructions issued by the ship control committee and information as to priorities, furnished by the bureau representatives; (4) that the storage officer was to issue a warehouse receipt for all supplies unloaded into storage and that the receipt was to evidence the termination of the accountability of the bureau originating the supplies placed in store.

The director of storage and traffic stated as a reason for the measures proposed that an investigation of the storage situation at the port of New York had developed the fact that the warehouse facilities were only partially utilized, although an actual shortage space existed at the port. This state of affairs had resulted from the prevailing practice of assigning certain warehouses or definite space in warehouses to the several bureaus of the Army, the space assigned ceasing to be available even though unoccupied.6

As may have been expected, the proposal met with considerable objection from the supply bureaus. The reasons for these objections were many. Those of the Medical Department included the following:7

It is a basic principle of storing that articles of one class and of one kind--that is to say, all packages of any one individual item--should be stowed together. This is absolutely necessary to avoid confusion in handling. It is manifestly impossible to so estimate space that none shall be lost, due to failure of each individual stack to occupy all the space intended for it. If this basic principle be accepted, there is manifestly no advantage in placing one item of medical supplies in one stack and filling in the adjacent space with quartermaster supplies or the supplies of any of the other supply bureaus. It would make for efficiency to have medical supplies in a warehouse by themselves, ordnance supplies in another, quartermaster in another, and so on, assuming, of course, that each warehouse was filled with the same class of supplies.

The lack of utilization of space at the port of embarkation, New York, at the present time is manifestly due to a lack of accumulation, on the part of the supply departments, of the required reserve for the maintenance of the prospective number of troops abroad, rather than to an excess of space alloted to such supply departments. It should not be taken as a criterion of what will obtain when what might be considered as normal conditions of overseas supplies exists. It is believed that having a moderate amount of storage space in excess of the immediate needs is far better than having too little. Economy in storage space is a good thing and can be exercised quite as well by the respective supply departments as by a central warehousing organization. Space remaining unoccupied in any warehouse for any length of time should be taken from the supply department to which assigned and reassigned to another supply bureau whose warehouses appear to be inadequate. Warehousing space to permit of stowing, by classes, should he provided and should be assigned to the respective supply bureau furnishing that class of supplies.

The objections to a central warehousing system are essentially the following:

(a) Lack of familiarity on the part of the operating personnel with the different classes of supplies.

(b) Difficulties incident to the proper handling by inexperienced persons of supplies of the same or similar classes received from different sources at different times.

(c) The liability of inexperienced persons to send out the wrong articles, due to confusion of names. This is particularly true as regards Medical Department supplies. A number of drugs have the same basic element, but are put up in different form, and generally different combinations of chemical substances; for instance, ammonium carbonate and ammonium chloride; sodium bicarbonate, sodium borate, etc. Some are put up in tablet


form, some occur in crystals; some shipments of drugs have the official Latin name stenciled on the box, while others have the commercial name.

(d) The lack of complete familiarity with all the component articles entering into unit equipment, which would result most certainly in the failure to properly check in or check out the number of packages containing a specific equipment of the unit. It is necessary that all articles comprising a unit be stowed in such proximity that the entire unit can be shipped complete. It is necessary that the persons handling this equipment be thoroughly familiar with it so that they may recognize at once any deficiency or discrepancy in the contents of the unit. This can not be entirely overcome by any system of marking which might be adopted.

(e) It is impracticable to order out supplies by numbers and weights of packages, whether they be stored in the same compartment or in different warehouses. It is not at all improbable that boxes of the same numbers and weights, and possibly similar contents, may be received at the warehouse from different depots. One may contain field supplies, another veterinary supplies, and a third post supplies. Unless persons handling the shipment be thoroughly familiar with the equipment, the probabilities of sending out the wrong package are very much greater than the probabilities of forwarding the proper package.

(f) It will be impossible to hold a general warehousing force--men who to-day may handle engineer property, to-morrow Signal Corps, the next day ordnance, and the next day medical--to that fine degree of accuracy which is necessary for the efficient forwarding of supplies which obtains from the personnel handling one class of supplies only.

(g) Besides all this, there would be lacking the facilities for the training of personnel and the handling of Medical Department supplies which now obtains and which will continue to obtain if the warehouses are assigned to the respective supply departments as hitherto.

The plan for the operations of the storage at the port of New York as finally promulgated 8 provided for a port storage officer, who was to have exclusive control of all storage facilities at the port operated for the joint use of the several bureaus of the Army. He was authorized to exercise coordination and control over the storage facilities operated by the several supply bureaus and shipment of supplies through that port. Each supply bureau was represented by a port supply officer appointed by the chief of the bureau. This port supply officer was a member of the staff of the commander of the port, and was the technical officer and assistant of the port storage officer, on all matters concerning the supplies of his respective bureau. These port supply officers were charged with all provisions necessary for the receipt, storage, preservation, and production of supplies and material pertaining to their respective bureaus at the port. They were to perform their duties under the provision of the port storage officer and in conformity with such regulations as might be issued under the authority of the commander of the port. Supplies intended for shipment overseas were to be invoiced to the proper port supply officer instead of the port storage officer. The port supply officers were to act also as direct representatives of their respective supply bureaus.8 In this phase of the development, storage was coordinated but not centralized or consolidated. So far as can be determined the results obtained were entirely satisfactory. Supplies moved with as much dispatch as the state of shipping permitted, and all storage space that was assigned to the Medical Department was fully used.

By the middle of October 1918, plans for a complete consolidation of storage and issue, as well as procurement, were well under way. The order directing the transfer of the supply functions of the Surgeon General's Office to the director of purchase and storage and the director of finance is quoted below:


Supply Circular No. 102.




Washington, October 24, 1918.

Subject: Transfer of certain branches of finance and supply divisions, Office of the Surgeon General.

1. In accordance with the terms of Supply Circular No. 80 and Supply Circular No. 91. The entire supply branch and supply depots branch of the finance and supply division of the Office of the Surgeon General is hereby transferred to the office of the director of purchase and storage. The administration division of the finance and supply division of the Office of the Surgeon General, in so far as it relates to the work of purchase, storage requisition, and requirements, is hereby transferred to the office of director of purchase and storage.

2. Purchases made by various officers of the office of the Surgeon General for the purpose of experimental and research work shall continue to be made as in the past, provided that as soon as such material adopted as a result of such experimental and research work is standardized the purchase and storage of such material shall thereafter be performed by the office of the director of purchase and storage.

3. The finance branch and disbursing branch, and so much of the administration branch as relates to finances and accounting, of the division of finance and supply of the Office of the Surgeon General are hereby transferred to the director or finance.

4. The personnel, property, stores, supplies, and records of the organizations transferred under the provisions of paragraph 1 hereof are transferred to the office of the director of purchase and storage.

5. The personnel, equipment, and records pertaining to the finances and to the finance and accounting activities of the organizations transferred by paragraphs 1 and 3 hereof, in accordance with Supply Circular No. 98, are hereby transferred to the office of the director of finance.

6. Local emergency purchases by officers of the Medical Department may be continued under existing instructions of the Office of the Surgeon General.

7. This order will take effect November 15, 1918.

By authority of the Secretary of War:

Major General, Assistant Chief of Staff,

Director of Purchase, Storage and Traffic.

The instructions contained in Supply Circular No. 102 were carried into effect in the field under the following instructions:

Purchase and Storage Notice No. 128.


Washington, December 13, 1918.

Subject: Transfer of medical supply depots.

1. In accordance with the terms of Supply Circular No. 102, the medical supply depots transferred to the office of the director of purchase and storage are hereby assigned, with all personnel, warehouses, equipment, records, leases, and other property, as follows:

(a) The medical supply depot at New York City, N. Y., to the zone supply officer, New York City, N. Y.

(b) The medical supply depot at Philadelphia, Pa., to the zone supply officer, Philadelphia, Pa.

(c) The field medical supply depot at Washington, D. C., to the zone supply officer, Washington, D. C.

(d) The medical supply depot at Atlanta, Ga., to the zone supply officer, Atlanta, Ga.

(e) The medical supply depot at Chicago, Ill., to zone supply officer, Chicago, Ill.


f) The medical supply depot at St. Louis, Mo., to the zone supply officer, St. Louis, Mo.

(g) The medical supply depot at San Antonio, Tex., to time zone supply officer, San Antonio, Tex.

(h) The medical supply depot at San Francisco, Calif., to the zone supply officer, San Francisco, Calif.

2. Requisitions for supplies required by the above medical supply depots will be sent direct to the requisition service branch, domestic distribution division, office of the director of storage, who will refer them to the medical subdivision for indication of action.

3. All matters relating to policy of issue and authorized allowances of medical, dental, and veterinary supplies for use in distribution in the United States will he referred to the medical subdivision, domestic distribution division, office of the director of storage, which will determine such matters, and when necessary will refer them to the Surgeon General's Office for administrative action.

4. Zone supply officers, or other officers in charge of general supply depots, will submit to the domestic operations division, office of the director of storage, such data and questions concerning medical supply depots under their jurisdiction as may be necessary for the information or approval of the chief of the domestic operations division.

R.E. Wood,

Brigadier General,

Director of Purchase and Storage.

General instructions relating to the method of handling medical supplies and the operation of forming medical supply depots are indicated in the following purchase and storage notice:

Purchase and Storage Notice No. 121:




Washington, December 11, 1918.

Subject: Supervision of medical supply depots and supplies in the office of the Director of Storage.

1. Effective December 10, 1918, the domestic operations division in tile office of the director of storage, will assume the responsibility for and direct the operations of all general medical supply depots, reserve depots, camp medical supply depots, etc., in accordance with paragraph 5, Purchase and Storage Notice No. 34.

2. Effective December 10, 1918, the port operations division in the office of the director of storage, through the port storage officers, will assume responsibility for and direct the movement of all medical, dental, and veterinary supplies through ports of embarkation in accordance with paragraphs 7, Purchase and Storage Notice No. 34.

3. (a) Effective December 10, 1918, the statistical record branch, administrative division, in the office of the director of storage, will assume the responsibility for and direct the maintenance of all stock records for medical, dental, and veterinary supplies, except those released to the overseas distribution division for shipment to the American Expeditionary Forces.

(b) General medical supply depots and camp medical supply depots will make regular stock reports at stated intervals of all medical, dental, and veterinary supplies, on prepared stock report sheets forwarded to them by the statistical and record branch, storage administrative division.

(c) Any additional information required from time to time in reference to stocks of medical, dental, and veterinary supplies will be secured through the statistical and records branch, storage administrative division, when required by the divisions in the office of the Director of Storage.

4. (a) Effective December 10, 1918, the overseas distribution division in the office of the director of storage will assume the responsibility for and direct the movements of medical, dental, and veterinary supplies to ports of embarkation when such supplies are for shipment to the American Expeditionary Force.


(b) The work of that part of the finance and supply branch of the Medical Department assigned to the overseas distribution division will continue to follow out the program outlined by the Surgeon General's Office until the completion of the present overseas program. As stock becomes available which is not required for overseas distribution it will be transferred to the jurisdiction of the domestic distribution division and the personnel now in the overseas distribution division will be transferred to the domestic distribution division as the requirements of the former are completed. For the present, constant liaison must of necessity be kept between the overseas distribution division and that part of the former finance and supply division of the Medical Department controlling the overseas program.

(c) The medical subdivision, overseas distribution division, will receive copies of such distribution orders as are issued in its favor by the domestic distribution division, medical subdivision, and will arrange for releases and take such further action as may be necessary for the expeditious loading of material in question in accordance with present procedure.

5. (a) Effective December 10, 1918, the domestic distribution division, office of the director of storage, will assume responsibility for and direct distribution of all medical, dental, and veterinary supplies except those consigned to ports of embarkation for shipment to the American Expeditionary Force.

(b) The requisition service branch will receive all requisitions from general medical supply depots, camp medical supply depots, and Medical Department units at camps, posts, forts, and other stations; will submit them for indication of action to the medical subdivision, domestic distribution division, and take the action indicated by the latter. In addition the requisition service branch will trace shipments and report on deliveries and receipts to the medical subdivision for its information and guidance.

(c) All matters of policy regarding disposition, issue, and storage and authorized allowances of medical, dental, and veterinary supplies, except those consigned to ports of embarkation for shipment to the American Expeditionary Force, will be referred directly to the medical subdivison, domestic distribution division, in the office of the director of storage, which will determine such matters, and when necessary will refer them to the Surgeon General's Office for administrative action.

(d) All matters pertaining to surplus stocks on hand in various depots, camps, posts, forts, and other stations will be referred to the medical subdivision, domestic distribution division, in the office of the director of storage.

(e) Other matters, such as reports and inquiries pertaining to storage space, the operation and maintenance of general medical supply depots and camp medical supply depots, reserve depots, etc., personnel and general policy, will be referred by the medical subdivision, domestic distribution division, to the domestic operations division, which will make report directly to the medical subdivision, domestic distribution division.

(f) All general medical supply depots, camp medical supply depots, Medical Department units at camps, posts, forts, and other stations will forward all requisitions for supplies needed direct to the requisition service branch, domestic distribution division, which will refer them to the medical subdivision, domestic distribution division, for indication of action, and will take the action indicated thereon.

6. All personnel engaged on the above work is hereby transferred to the division of the office of the director of storage, assuming the responsibility for and directing the work in accordance with this notice.

R.E. Wood,

Brigadier General,

Director of Purchase and Storage.

In order that there might be no cessation in the continuance of the distribution of medical and hospital supplies, the personnel in the Office of the Surgeon General engaged on procurement and distribution were transferred with the records to the office of the director of purchase and storage. In the field the medical supply depots, with their personnel, became sections of zone supply depots. While all depots came under the provision and control


of the zone supply officer under the new plan of operation personnel with technical training required for the proper operation of the depot were not as a rule displaced.9 The enlisted personnel of the Medical Department on duty at medical supply depots with a few exceptions were transferred to the Quartermaster Department. Those of the emergency forces were demobilized at the time and in the way prescribed by the War Department. Those belonging to the regular establishment continued in the service as quartermaster personnel until the expiration of their current enlistment or until they secured transfers to the Medical Department.

The new system was placed in operation in accordance with instructions in Circular No. 131, above quoted, and remained in operation until the autumn of 1920, when a return was made to the principle of individual control of the zone depots and the procurement and issue of the zone supplies by the various bureaus of the War Department having supply functions. Experience during the period of its operation had demonstrated that a single supply system is too complicated for general use in providing supplies for the Army. The necessity of an individual initiative of each supply bureau was clearly shown.


The issue of medical supplies was not limited to the personnel and organizations of the Medical Department, but extended to the entire Army. A first-aid packet was provided for the personal equipment of every officer and soldier. Foot powder and adhesive plaster were furnished every organization at the rate of one tin of foot powder and one spool of adhesive plaster per squad (eight men). These articles and quantities were obtained from the surgeon of the organization upon request by the company or other organization commander. When so issued the request was filed and the articles then were dropped by the surgeon from his return of property as expended with the sick. The surgeon of an organization obtained these articles for this purpose in the same manner as he obtained his other supplies.

The Medical Department units may be grouped definitely into two classes, namely, mobile and fixed. The former operate with the combat troops and furnish first-aid and primary treatment. Their supplies are limited because of limited transportation available. Such supplies are put up in the most compact form and ready for use with very few preliminaries. They are packed in containers suitable for transportation and are commonly referred to as field supplies. Medicines are in tablet form for ready dispensing; surgical dressings are in compressed form and sterilized within their wrappings as protective covering. They were packed, with simple apparatus for the treatment of wounds, in cases especially designed for them, the object being to reduce weight and bulk. During the war the mobile units included medical detachments, with regiments and smaller organizations, sanitary trains (ambulance companies, and field hospitals), and evacuation hospitals. They moved with the troops they served. Even the evacuation hospitals remained in a given location only long enough to give primary treatment to the wounded of the troops they served and evacuated them to fixed hospitals in the rear. The equipment of


these units is given in the appendix under the titles, combat equipment, camp infirmaries, camp infirmary reserves, ambulance companies, field hospitals, and evacuation hospitals.

During the war fixed units were post hospitals, general hospitals, base hospitals, convalescent and other special hospitals. These units provided definitive treatment and care for the sick and wounded until restored to duty or separated from the service. The equipment of such units was necessarily elaborate and bulky. Their supplies were provided in the usual commercial containers. Medicines were supplied in crystal, powder, or liquid form to be prepared for dispensing by the pharmacies of such institutions. Dressings were supplied in bulk and nonsterile to be prepared in such form as required and sterilized at the hospital. In short, the equipment and supplies conformed to those of standard civilian institutions of like character.

All supplies required by mobile and fixed units were obtained with few exceptions upon requisitions prepared on the standard forms and forwarded through the prescribed channels. This applies as well to articles of equipment furnished by other supply services as to the supplies and equipment furnished by the Medical Department. In peace time requisitions were divided into two classes, annual and special. Special requisitions were again divided into annual, quarterly, and emergency. Articles were grouped into post, field, and dental medical supplies. Separate requisitions were required for each group. The rules (Manual for the Medical Department) governing their routine preparation and channels of transmission appear in the appendix (p.856).

The requisition having been forwarded through the prescribed channels, the officer who forwarded it was advised by the approving authority of the action taken by him upon it and of its transmittal to a medical supply depot, the location of which was stated, for issue subject to the modifications, if any, in his office. In due time he received from the medical supply depot a signed invoice of the articles issued accompanied by a packer's list and two receipts (exact copies of the signed invoice, generally carbon copies) for his signature. The shipment was received by the local quartermaster and delivered to the officer to whom consigned. All original packages in the shipment were segregated and the packed boxes unpacked and the contents checked against the packer's list. When the shipment had all been verified the receiving officer signed the two copies of the receipts and forwarded one copy to the Surgeon General and the other to the depot from which the shipment came.

The invoice and the receipts were given the receiving officer's voucher number. The articles on the invoice were then entered on the return and the invoice filed in its proper place as a voucher to the return. Whenever there was a discrepancy between the articles received and the invoice, the difference was usually settled by correspondence between the two before the receipt was accomplished.

As soon as the receipt was mailed the receiving officer became accountable for all the articles enumerated therein and rendered a return for them at the prescribed period, generally when his accountability terminated by transfer to another officer.



(1) Based upon reports of the activities of the various medical supply depots made by the officers in charge. Copies on file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(2) First indorsement from The Adjutant General to the Surgeon General, May 24, 1917. On file, A. G. O., 2596673 (Old Files).

(3) Memorandum from Chief of War College Division, General Staff, to Chief of Staff, May 4, 1917. Subject: Designation of camp sites for training of new troops. On file, Record Room, A. G. O., Correspondence Files 2593945 (Old Files).

(4) G. O. No. 167, War Department, December 28, 1917.

(5) Letter from the Director of Storage and Traffic to the Surgeon General of the Army, January 3, 1918. Subject: Storage facilities. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S.G.O., 713 Misc./8.

(6) Letter from the Director of Storage and Traffic to the Chief of Staff, March 8, 1918. Subject:  Proposed method of operating New York storage facilities. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-268 G. S./3.  

(7) Letter from the Surgeon General to the Director of Operations, General Staff War Department, April 1, 1918. Subject: Proposed method of operation of New York storage facilities. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 750-268 G.S./3.

(8) G. O. No. 54, War Department, June 3, 1918.

(9) Memorandum for Office of the Surgeon General from Director of Storage, November 21, 1918, relative to operation of medical supply depots. On file, Finance and Supply Division, S. G. O., 713-750 Wash./509.  509