U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
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    In 1953, The Surgeon General and his advisory committee on the Medical History of World War II decided that such a history would not be complete without a volume devoted to the surgical consultant system. A panel was therefore appointed to implement and expedite the publication of such a volume. Great credit is due the many men who served as surgical consultants in World War II for their cheerful acceptance of the responsibility of contributing to this volume so many years after the completion of their military duties, in order to refresh their memories, it was necessary for them to delve into reports long since hidden in their own files or in those in the Office of the Surgeon General. Their willingness to do so stemmed in large part from their feeling, in which I concur most heartily, that the surgical consultant system in World War II was effective and responsible in large measure for the remarkable surgical achievements in the care of the sick and wounded and therefore should be recorded for historical as well as practical reasons. There is every reason for these men to feel proud of their accomplishments in World War II. Their efforts constituted a real factor in the success of the surgical results that were obtained and which were responsible for the maintenance of the efficient and smoothly functioning surgical services supplied to the Army.

    There is an obvious need for capable surgeons in the role of consultants in times of war. When the civilian medical profession is called upon to furnish surgeons to the, Army, individuals of widely varying degree of competence offer their services. It is difficult for the military authorities to evaluate the true qualifications of the members of such a large and diverse group. They are apt to feel that a doctor with the designation of surgeon can perform any medical or surgical duty and therefore can be assigned with impunity to any position which calls for a surgeon. In fact, this same feeling may he applied to doctors in general, regardless of their specialized training, so that one might find a well-qualified surgeon holding sick call while a general practitioner with little or no surgical experience might be occupying a surgical position. The handpicked surgical consultant, however, who is interested in building and maintaining an efficient organization in the area under his jurisdiction can ascertain what surgeons are available to him, can sort them according to their qualification and experience, and can arrange for their proper assignment. The classification and suitable assignment of surgical personnel is, I believe, the most important function of the consultant. By placing the proper man in the proper place, one is able to build an organization which will function in the most efficient manner. Such a procedure promotes morale and, in utilizing the individual talents of the surgeons under one's jurisdiction, affords the best surgical care to the sick and wounded.

    It is not only imperative that the newer methods of treatment be made available to the surgeons throughout the Army framework but also that strict adherence to those surgical procedures which have been found most effective be enforced. These objectives can best be accomplished by the consultant and, next to his handling of personnel, constitute the most important part of his duties. With his knowledge of what is happening in his area, the consultant is well suited for the furtherance of public relations and for liaison within his headquarters, with the Office of the Surgeon General, with civilian surgeons, and with other consultants. He can and should be interested in the training and education of the surgeons under his authority. Surgical meetings can be organized at which discussions are held on the proper management of pertinent cases, papers can be read, and the current literature reviewed. The consultant has the duty also of reviewing manuscripts prepared in his area for publication in surgical journals. Still another function of the consultant is to survey the equipment and supplies of various installations and to insure that the facilities with which to function in a proper manner are made available. These functions are merely a few of the more important ones which the surgical consultants performed in World War II. Many others are revealed in the chapters of these volumes. The consultant system in World War II was begun on a small scale and, owing to the excellent results which it produced, was steadily expanded until it reached the furthermost parts of the Medical Department within the Army. The surgical consultant system gained in stature as the war progressed and emerged as an important cog in the machine which was manned by the thousands of surgeons who gave of themselves so unselfishly in the war effort.

    It is said, and I believe rightly so, that medical histories of wars are rarely read, even in wartime. It is to be hoped that such a fate will not befall this volume, for it contains much of interest, particularly to those who may in the future become a part of a surgical consultant system. The men who have contributed to it hope that the account of their efforts and their experiences will not escape the attention of their successors and will prove of value to them.

    An account of the activities of surgical consultants in World War II would not be complete without special mention of the role which Brig. Gen. Fred W. Rankin, Chief Consultant in Surgery to The Surgeon General, played in contributing to the success of the consultant system. He was unusually well fitted for his position in that he possessed certain attributes which enabled him to accomplish his mission in a most effective manner. His wide knowledge of the personalities and capabilities of a large number of American surgeons made it possible for him to assign accurately suitable individuals to key positions within the structure of the surgical consultant system. His early recognition of and his continued stress on the importance of the proper placement of personnel cannot be overemphasized. He repeatedly stated during the war that his most effective means of providing the highest standards of surgical care for the sick and wounded was to put the right man in the right place. He had an uncanny ability to recognize important problems and to approach them directly while disregarding the insignificant details. He had tremendous determination, was never overawed by rank, and stood fast to those principles which he considered to be just and right. He hated red tape and was unswerving in his efforts to cut through it to further time prosecution of the war. He was an inspiring leader and one who constantly espoused the highest principles of his profession.