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



The purpose of this volume is to record the manner in which the Medical Department functioned as a supply department during the World War and to give details concerning selected articles of supply. Because of the breadth of the subject, it is manifestly impossible to include herein all matters relating either to the administrative features of the subject or to the supplies themselves. Since this is the first time an attempt has been made to consider fully the history of Medical Department supplies, it is appropriate that due consideration be given to the pre-war history of supplies. More especially does this apply to that period of time intervening between the Spanish-American War and the World War, for it was during this interval that the Medical Department not only brought its field equipment to a high state of efficiency but also established for itself a reasonable reserve of such equipment. Furthermore, the supply experiences of the Medical Department in connection with the Mexican border mobilization of our Army (1911-1916) make a fitting prelude to any consideration of World War medical supply matters, for the one merged imperceptibly into the other.

It is to be regretted that it has been possible, through lack of space, to use only two of the reports of activities of the medical supply depots in the United States. The report of the New York medical supply depot was chosen as the type depot for description, because it always has been our most important depot and was the parent from which the others might be considered to have sprung. While its methods of procedure may have differed in certain respects from those of the other depots, and while it is true that some depots handled certain classes of articles to a preponderant extent, nevertheless the account of one of these supply depots answers present purposes very well. On the other hand, since the motor ambulance supply depot at Louisville was the only depot of its kind, a chapter has been devoted to it.

During war there are two distinct types of service: (a) The interior, where the procedures and supplies conform to those in times of peace; and (b) the theater of operations, wherein a different procedure and type of supplies must prevail. The major portion of the volume pertains to the question of medical supplies in the United States (the interior), and rightly, since supplies had to be procured there not only for the Army in the United States but also for the American Expeditionary Forces. Colonel Wolfe, who prepared this portion of the volume, has long been identified with Army medical supplies and served

a For the purpose of the History of the Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, the period of war activities extends from April 6, 1917, to December 31, 1919. In the professional volumes, however, in which are recorded the medical and surgical aspects of the conflict as applied to the actual care of the sick and wounded, this period is extended, in some instances, to the time of the completion of the history of the given service. In this way only can the results be followed to their logical conclusion.


in the finance and supply division of the Surgeon General’s Office as assistant chief in charge of distribution throughout the war. The last section of the volume concerns medical supplies in the American Expeditionary Forces and was prepared by Maj. Norman L. McDiarmid, M. C., who was on duty in the supply division, first of the office of the chief surgeon, Line of Communications, and then of the chief surgeon, A. E. F., following the nierging of the two offices in March, 1918, and was for a major portion of the time the chief of the division.

The section on medical supplies, American Expeditionary Forces, contains the history of but one of our medical supply depots which functioned in France. The same reason obtains here as in the case of the medical supply depots in the United States. Intermediate Medical Supply Depot No. 3, Cosne, was the principal and only full-stocked medical supply depot of the American Expeditionary Forces during the period of active hostilities. Unfortunately, there is no discoverable report of the activities of this depot, and in its place the history of the supply depot at Gievres has been used. The loss is more seeming than real, however, for the Gievres depot was the outgrowth of the depot at Cosne, and, until after the armistice was signed, was subsidiary to it. It functioned in the same manner as did the depot at Cosne.

To facilitate a proper understanding of the routine procedures concerning medical supplies in both the interior and the theater of operations, pertinent paragraphs of the Manual for the Medical Department, effective during the World War, are included in the appendix; in addition, the promulgations of General Headquarters, A. E. F., relating to the procurement and distribution of supplies, are included there.

As an index of the accomplishments of the Medical Department as a supply department during the World War, it is within the bounds of propriety to state that the department emerged from the World War unscathed by material criticism for not having either suitable or adequate supplies at all places where they were needed. This is in marked contrast to previous experience.