U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
Skip Navigation, go to content







AMEDD MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS External Link, Opens in New Window






Chapter II



Development of the Army Veterinary Service 

The history of the development of the Army Veterinary Service during the period between 1916 and World War II devolves on such a large number of subjects that it will be considered by major topical subjects and each will be discussed in chronologic order.


The congressional legislation authorizing the Veterinary Corps was section 16 of the National Defense Act, approved 3 June 1916. This important historical document is quoted: 

Sec. 16. VETERINARIANS.-The President is hereby authorized, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint veterinarians and assistant veterinarians in the Army, not to exceed, including veterinarians now in service, two such officers for each regiment of Cavalry, one for every three batteries of Field Artillery, one for each mounted battalion of Engineers, seventeen as inspectors of horses and mules and as veterinarians in the Quartermaster Corps, and seven as inspectors of meats for the Quartermaster Corps; and said veterinarians and assistant veterinarians shall be citizens of the United States and shall constitute the Veterinary Corps and shall be a part of the Medical Department of the Army.  

Hereafter a candidate for appointment as assistant veterinarian must be a citizen of the United States, between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-seven years, a graduate of a recognized veterinary college or university, and shall not be appointed until he shall have passed a satisfactory examination as to character, physical condition, general education, and professional qualifications.  

An assistant veterinarian appointed under this Act shall, for the first five years of service as such, have the rank, pay, and allowances of second lieutenant; that after five years of service he shall have the rank, pay, and allowances of first lieutenant; that after fifteen years of service he shall be promoted to be a veterinarian with the rank. pay, and allowances of captain, and that after twenty years' service he shall have the rank, pay, and allowances of a major: Provided, That any assistant veterinarian, in order to be promoted as hereinbefore provided, must first pass a satisfactory examination, under such rules as the President may prescribe, as to professional qualifications and adaptability for the military service; and if such assistant veterinarian shall be found deficient at such examination he shall be discharged from the Army with one year's pay.  

The veterinarians of Cavalry and Field Artillery now in the Army, together with such veterinarians of the Quartermaster Corps as are now employed in said corps, who at the date of the approval of this Act shall have had less than five years' governmental service, may be appointed in the Veterinary Corps as assistant veterinarians with the rank, pay, and allowances of second lieutenant; those who shall have had over five years of such service may be appointed in said corps as assistant veterinarians with the rank, pay, and allowances of first lieutenant; and those who shall have had over fifteen years  


of such service may be appointed in said corps as veterinarians with the rank, pay, and allowances of captain: Provided, That no such appointment of any veterinarian shall be made unless he shall first pass satisfactorily a practical professional and physical examination as to his fitness for the military service: Provided further, That veterinarians now in the Army or in the employ of the Quartermaster Corps who shall fail to pass the prescribed physical examination because of disability incident to the service and sufficient to prevent them from the performance of duty valuable to the Government shall be placed upon the retired list of the Army with seventy-five per centum of the pay to which they would have been entitled if appointed in the Veterinary Corps as hereinbefore prescribed.  

The Secretary of the War, upon recommendation of the Surgeon General of the Army, may appoint in the Veterinary Corps, for such time as their services may be required, such number of reserve veterinarians as may be necessary to attend public animals pertaining to the Quartermaster Corps. Reserve veterinarians so employed shall have the pay and allowances of second lieutenant during such employment and no longer: Provided, That such reserve veterinarians shall be graduates of a recognized veterinary college or university and shall pass a satisfactory examination as to character, physical condition, general education, and professional qualifications in like manner as hereinbefore required of assistant veterinarians; such reserve veterinarians shall constitute a list of eligibles for appointment as assistant veterinarians, subject to all the conditions hereinbefore prescribed for the appointment of assistant veterinarians.  

Within a limit of time to be fixed by the Secretary of War, candidates for appointment as assistant veterinarians who shall have passed satisfactorily the examinations prescribed for that grade by this Act, shall be appointed, in the order of merit in which they shall have passed such examination, to vacancies as they occur, such appointments to be for a probationary period of two years, after which time, if the services of the probationers shall have been satisfactory, they shall be permanently appointed with rank to date from the dates of rank of their probationary appointments. Probationary veterinarians whose services are found unsatisfactory shall be discharged at any time during the probationary period, or at the end thereof, and shall have no further claims against the Government on account of their probationary service.  

The Secretary of War shall from time to time appoint boards of examiners to conduct the veterinary examinations hereinbefore prescribed, each of said boards to consist of three medical officers and two veterinarians.  

Little had been accomplished toward implementation of the provisions of the above-cited act before the entry of the United States in World War I. The Selective Service legislation (Overman Act) of 18 May 1917 gave the President full authority for expanding the Veterinary Corps beyond the provisions of the National Defense Act (1). Under this authority, War Department General Orders No. 130 (section III), 4 October 1917, established the Veterinary Corps, National Army, as follows:

1. The President directs that under the authority conferred by section 2 of the act "To authorize the President to increase temporarily the Military Establishment of the United States" approved May 18, 1917, there be organized for the period of the existing emergency a Veterinary Corps, National Army, to consist of the commissioned and enlisted personnel hereinafter specified.  

2. The total number of commissioned officers and enlisted men may be approximately equal to, but shall not exceed, 1 commissioned officer and 16 enlisted men for each 400 animals in service; the veterinarians and assistant veterinarians of the Regular Army, National Guard, drafted into the Federal Service, and Officers' Reserve Corps in active  


service, shall be considered as a part of the total commissioned personnel herein authorized.  

3. The commissioned personnel shall consist of veterinarians and assistant veterinarians and the grades and the ratios in grades shall be as follows:  

Seven veterinarians with rank of major to 20 veterinarians with rank of captain, to 36 veterinarians with rank of first lieutenant, to 37 assistant veterinarians with rank of second lieutenant.  

In no case shall original appointments or promotions be made so as to make the ratio between any of the grades above that of second lieutenant to the grade next below it above the ratio specified.  

4. The enlisted personnel shall consist of men of the grades indicated below and the proportions of these men shall not exceed those indicated. In each 200 enlisted men there may be 5 sergeants first class, 10 sergeants, 10 corporals, 40 farriers, 2 horseshoers, 1 saddler, 3 cooks, 43 privates first class, 86 privates.  

5. The Surgeon General will submit recommendations to the Secretary of War for the commissioned and enlisted personnel now required for the organization authorized above, which, upon approval by the Secretary of War, shall be put into effect. The organization of the Veterinary Corps will be subsequently increased or decreased as the needs of the service require upon recommendations by the Surgeon General after they have been approved by the Secretary of War. * * *  

A Veterinary Corps, National Army, having been provided, the principles and policies for its operation were provided in SR (Special Regulations) No. 70, 15 December 1917, Special Regulations Governing the Army Veterinary Service. This regulation contained the first comprehensive description of the administrative and functional organization of the Army Veterinary Service. Additional implementing instructions were contained in a series of circular letters which were promulgated by the Surgeon General's Office during World War I and thereafter until late in 1920. Special Regulations No. 70, supplemented by the Surgeon General's circular letters, provided administrative and technical guidance until supplanted by 52 numbered Army Regulations which were published in 1921-22. These Army Regulations, with minor changes from time to time, were in effect at the beginning of World War II.

After World War I, the wartime military establishment was replaced by a more permanent peacetime organization under the provisions of the act of 4 June 1920 which amended the National Defense Act of 1916 to the degree that a new law seemed to emerge. This act, as further amended or modified by the appropriation act of 30 June 1922, the act of 14 July 1932, and the act of 31 July 1935, markedly influenced the development of the Army Veterinary Corps. The effect of these acts will be discussed in their relation to the subject headings which follow:


When the National Defense Act of 1916 came into existence, there was no veterinary service organization above the regimental, camp, and depot level and no professional supervision or coordinating control over the separate local activities. The act did nothing to change this situation as it  


contained but little above the specific provisions for forming a corps of commissioned officers within the Medical Department. The Surgeon General, in early 1917, invited certain civilian veterinarians to confer with him on planning the organization and expansion of a wartime veterinary service.1 A special committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association submitted a recommendation to the Surgeon General's conference group for the organization of a veterinary service patterned after that of the British Army's veterinary service. The conference group accepted this proposal, and a recommendation was submitted to the War Department on 14 July 1917. This recommendation resulted in the publication of General Orders No. 130, 4 October 1917, which established the organization of the Veterinary Corps, National Army. Prior to the issuance of this general order, The Surgeon General, anticipating its publication, had replaced his original conference group with a veterinary advisory board of five prominent civilian veterinarians to formulate plans for the more detailed organization and administration of the veterinary service. The recommendations of this board resulted in the publication of SR 70 which, together with the Surgeon General's circular letters, provided administrative and technical direction until 1921.

After the appointment of a civilian veterinary advisory board, a Veterinary Division was established in the Surgeon General's Office in October 1917 when a number of the original veterinary advisers were commissioned in the Veterinary Corps, National Army, and were assigned to duty in the Veterinary Division. Under the directorship of Medical Corps officers from 1917 to 1922 and Veterinary Corps officers thereafter, the Veterinary Division continued through World War I and thereafter as the office at War Department level responsible for the operation of the Army Veterinary Service.  

During World War I, practically all of the veterinary officers were assigned to combat divisions, remount depots, and other units within the Zone of Interior which were exempt from control of the six departments within the United States. For this reason, veterinary officers were not assigned to department headquarters. The Surgeon General's Office exercised direct coordination and supervision of the veterinary service at the many exempted installations. This was accomplished through five senior veterinary officer general inspectors who traveled from camp to camp within each of five established geographic areas. These inspectors were of great value in advising the many young and inexperienced veterinary officers and  

1Merillat and Campbell (Veterinary Military History of the United States, 1935, p. 491) indicated that the conference members included Maj. Gen. W. C. Gorgas, The Surgeon General; Maj. C. G. Furbush, MC ; Maj. G. E. Griffin, VC; Lt. A. L. Mason, VC; and the following civilian veterinarians: V. A. Moore, dean of the New York State Veterinary College, Cornell University; C. J. Marshall, of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; D. S. White, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Ohio State University: J. R. Mohler, assistant or acting chief of the Bureau of Animal Industry, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and C. E. Cotton, president, American Veterinary Medical Association. Of these, Marshall, White, and Cotton were commissioned into the Veterinary Corps, National Army, on 3 October 1917.  


in keeping The Surgeon General informed on all matters pertaining to the newly organized service. Various required reports were submitted directly to The Surgeon General from all exempted stations.  

After World War I, more and more of the formerly exempted units and installations were placed under the control of the departments in line with a general policy of decentralization. With this change, the need for traveling general inspectors no longer existed, and the assignment of a veterinary officer to the office of each department surgeon to supervise the Veterinary Service within the area became desirable. The first such department veterinarian was assigned in 1919; others were assigned later. The military departments were discontinued in 1920 but were replaced by nine numerically designated corps areas. Thus, the former department veterinarian became a corps area veterinarian. His duties were first completely outlined in Army Regulations in 1920. The number of corps area headquarters to which a veterinary officer was assigned varied from year to year. After mid-1938, each corps area had an assigned corps area veterinarian, and the onset of World War II saw veterinary activities well coordinated within the corps area commands.  

Reference to the responsibilities of the Army Veterinary Service when outside of the Zone of Interior and to the office of chief veterinarian in an expeditionary force was first contained in SR 70. At variance with the more commonly accepted concept of subordination to the chief surgeon, this SR 70 provided that the chief veterinarian report direct to the commander in chief. Under this concept, the Chief Veterinarian, American Expeditionary Forces in France, was assigned to the office of the force's Chief Quartermaster where he became veterinary technical adviser to the theater's remount service rather than a central administrator of the veterinary service. The veterinary service was in fact under the direct control of the Quartermaster Corps instead of the Medical Department. This arrangement was wholly unsatisfactory from every standpoint, but it was not corrected until August 1918 when the Army Veterinary Service was finally placed under Medical Department control and the Chief Veterinarian was assigned to the Chief Surgeon's Office.  

Department veterinarians were assigned to the Hawaiian, Philippine, and Panama Canal Departments in 1918. From the office of the department surgeon, they supervised and coordinated the veterinary services in these departments in the same manner as the veterinary service was supervised by department or corps area veterinarians in the Zone of Interior.  


Regular Army Officers  

It was not until the spring of 1917 that anything was materially accomplished to provide a commissioned veterinary corps as authorized by the  


National Defense Act of 1916. Before that time, a board of officers, composed of three Medical Corps officers and two veterinarians, was appointed to examine the physical and professional qualifications of veterinarians then in Cavalry, Field Artillery, and Quartermaster Corps for appointment into the Veterinary Corps, Regular Army. Later, the examinations were extended to civilian veterinarians. By 6 April 1917, 58 officers with previous military service had been commissioned. By July 1918, the corps had been filled to its authorized strength of 118. The authorization remained at this level until, under the 1920 amendments to the National Defense Act, it was increased to 175. The vacancies thus created were partially filled (to a total strength of 163 by December 1920) by integration into the Regular Army of selected Veterinary Reserve officers who had seen active military service during World War I. The appropriation act of 30 June 1922 provided that, effective 1 January 1923, pay would be restricted to 126 regular Veterinary Corps officers. The cutback from the then actual strength of 158 to the authorization of 126 was accomplished in part by normal attrition, but the appointments of 22 officers were forcibly terminated by "pink ticket." The National Defense Act was never amended to reflect the reduced authorization, but the restriction was repeated in successive appropriation acts so that the authorization and actual strength was still 126 at the beginning of World War II. Subsequent to the integration program noted above, vacancies within the authorized strength were filled only in the lowest grade by appointment from an eligible list established after examination of candidates for appointment.  

Temporary promotions of Regular Army Veterinary Corps officers were made under authority of the provisions for the National Army during World War I. Permanent promotions were made upon completion of a fixed number of years of service and successful completion of physical and professional examinations (table 1).

TABLE 1.-Years of service required for promotion of Veterinary Corps, Regular Army, officers, as described by law, 1916-40


Act of 3 June 1916  

Act of 4 June 1920

Act of 31 July 1935

Second lieutenant

Original appointment.

Original appointment.



To first lieutenant

After 5 years

After 3 years

Original appointment.

To captain

After 15 years

After 7 years

After 3 years.

To major

After 20 years

After 14 years

After 12 years.

To lieutenant colonel

Not authorized

After 20 years

After 20 years.

To colonel



After 26 years

After 26 years.


Reserve Officers

With the onset of World War I, it was evident that the demand for veterinary officers would have to be met by the appointment of veterinarians in the Veterinary Section, Officers' Reserve Corps, under authority of the Officers' Reserve Corps section of the National Defense Act of 1916. In the spring of 1917, The Surgeon General authorized the deans of veterinary colleges and some few leading practitioners to conduct professional examination of veterinarians who might apply for appointment as second lieutenants, Veterinary Officers' Reserve Corps. After the fall of 1917, candidates for appointment were examined by Medical Department boards of officers at Army camps. During the wartime period, a total of 1,596 veterinarians were commissioned in the Reserve and served on active duty. Like the veterinary officers of the Regular Army and those of the National Guard, Veterinary Corps Reserve officers were integrated into the National Army on 4 October 1917, under the provisions of General Orders No. 130. On 7 August 1918, all officers were transferred into the U.S. Army (2). This latter personnel action was interpreted as one of outright discharge from the Officers' Reserve Corps, so the demobilization of the Army resulted in the unconditional release of all former Reserve Corps veterinary officers from further military obligation (1). The Veterinary Officers' Reserve Corps then comprised only the few who had not been called to active duty and those who had been discharged prior to 7 August 1918.

The Veterinary Section of the Officers' Reserve Corps was reestablished on 1 January 1919 and by the end of that year had 92 members. Many former veterinary officers who had rendered satisfactory service during the war were reappointed in the Reserve in the grades held when relieved from active duty. Later, the majority of new appointments were veterinarians who had completed their training under the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program which was started in four veterinary colleges in 1920. The number in the Reserve, which from 1925 to 1938 averaged about 1,000, had increased to over 1,500 in 1940, providing an adequate source of supply of veterinary officers when needed during World War II. After mid-1930, over 100 Reserve Corps veterinary officers were, on their own application, ordered to active duty with the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) for which certain administrative and supply functions, including the inspection of food by veterinary officers, were being performed by the Army. These officers were relieved from active military duty in late 1939, but many were reemployed as civilian employees of the CCC to perform meat inspection duties.

National Guard Officers

During World War I, 74 officers with the National Guard were inducted into Federal service. These, like all other veterinary officers, were  


integrated into the National Army on 4 October 1917 and into the U.S. Army on 7 August 1918. These were discharged from military service following the war. Later, veterinarians again became a part of the National Guard, and, by 30 June 1941, 34 National Guard veterinary officers were in active Federal service. Also included among the 2,313 veterinary officers who saw active military service during World War I were 17 originally appointed in the National Army, 207 appointed in the U.S. Army after 7 August 1918, and 2 retired Regular Army Veterinary Corps officers. The peak active strength was 2,234; this peak was reached on 30 November 1918. The peak active strength in Europe during World War I was 890 officers on 28 December 1918.

Enlisted Men

The National Defense Act of 1916 did not provide for veterinary enlisted personnel. The first provision for enlisted men was contained in General Orders No. 130, which established a National Army Veterinary Corps consisting of commissioned and enlisted personnel. It provided for a strength not to exceed 16 veterinary enlisted men for each 400 animals in the Army. The number of enlisted men rapidly increased, and a wartime peak of 18,007 men was reached on 31 October 1918. About two of every three enlisted men saw oversea service. Demobilization after World War I saw the rapid release of wartime or Selective Service enlisted men from the Veterinary Service. During the spring of 1919, the War Department authorized enlistment or reenlistment with the Medical Department, Regular Army, for immediate assignment to duty with the Veterinary Corps. War Department General Orders No. 127, 17 November 1919, augmented the Medical Department enlisted strength by 1,500 personnel spaces with the expressed contingency that personnel "* * * will be enlisted in the Medical Department but will be assigned to duty with the Veterinary Corps." By 30 June 1920, there were 965 enlisted men, "Medical Department (Veterinary Service)," on duty. Under the 1920 amendments to the National Defense Act, a reduction in overall Medical Department enlisted personnel authorization was effected, and this was reflected in the decrease of the veterinary suballotment to 800 in 1922. Further reduction in authorization followed, and the average authorization through the years to 1940 was approximately 600, while the average actual strength was very close to this figure. Both the authorized and actual enlisted strengths were generally below that necessary for operation of a fully efficient veterinary service.


Training in World War I

The most discouraging situation in the beginning wartime expansion of the Army Veterinary Service was its inadequate training. Practically all veterinary officers were lacking in military experience, and there was a very  


serious shortage of trained men to help the untrained, as there was no corps of commissioned officers before 1917. Training of individual officers and enlisted men was necessary as was also the training of units. Many officers were of necessity self-trained. On-the-job training was conducted in unit schools at regimental, depot, division, and camp level wherever possible, but the quality of training was too often poor due to lack of trained instructors. Most of the few experienced officers who were available as instructors were assigned to the Medical Department special training facilities or schools listed in table 2.

TABLE 2.-Veterinary personnel enrolled in training courses and schools in World War I

Training facility

Date opened

Date closed

Number enrolled



Veterinary Training School (section, Medical Officers' Training Camp, Camp Greenleaf, Ga.

15 Feb. 1918

18 Dec. 1918



Veterinary Section, Medical Officers' Training Camp, Fort Riley, Kans. 

25 Feb. 1918 

-Sept. 1918



Veterinary Training School, Camp Lee, Va.

-June 1918

15 Feb. 1919



Meat and Dairy Hygiene and Forage Inspection Course, General Supply Depot, Chicago, Ill.

27 Aug. 1917




Course, Veterinary Laboratory, Philadelphia, Pa. 

-Jan. 1918









The course was discontinued, and in its place, on 25 June 1920, the School of Military Meat and Dairy Hygiene and Forage Inspection (later renamed the Army Veterinary School) was established.
2The Veterinary Laboratory was transferred during March 1920 to Washington, D.C.  

Only about one-half of the Veterinary Corps officers serving during World War I received military veterinary training in Medical Department or other training installations giving formal instruction. Approximately the same proportion of enlisted men received this type of training. The school at Camp Lee, Va., was concerned principally with the organization and unit training of 36 hospital and replacement units for the American Expeditionary Forces in France; 6,500 of its students were sent overseas with organizations. The school at the General Supply Depot in Chicago supplied specialized training in food and forage inspection.

Training After World War I

The end of World War I brought the early closing of all of the war?time veterinary training schools or facilities other than the Course in Meat 


and Dairy Hygiene and Forage Inspection in Chicago and the veterinary laboratory course in Philadelphia. The latter was transferred to Washington, D.C., in and later became a part of the Army Veterinary School.

The course of instruction at the Chicago General Supply Depot was designated as the Veterinary School of Meat and Dairy Hygiene and Forage Inspection in 1920,as an Army special service school under the Medical Department for the training of veterinary officers and enlisted personnel (3, 4). The school was reorganized in early 1922 and was renamed the Army Veterinary School. Pursuant to War Department authorization of 7 July 1923, the school was transferred to Washington, D.C., where it was integrated into the organization of the Army Medical Center (5). The school conducted the basic course for Veterinary Corps officers and the technicians' course for enlisted personnel throughout the peacetime period. The Army Veterinary School graduated 162 officers and 196 enlisted men between 1920 and 1941.

In 1920, the Medical Field Service School for the field training of Medical Department personnel was established at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. Groups of Veterinary Corps officers first regularly attended this school in 1923; a total of 113 Veterinary Corps officers had graduated before 1941.

The following tabulation shows the number of Veterinary Corps officers graduating from Army schools, other than Medical Department schools, during the peacetime period.

Army War College


Command and General Staff School


The Cavalry School


The Chemical Warfare School


Quartermaster Corps Subsistence School





During the same period, 15 Veterinary Corps officers completed courses in civilian educational institutions.  

Some of the most important peacetime training was the training conducted in veterinary ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) units in four veterinary colleges between 1920 and 1935. During this period, nearly 500 veterinary ROTC students received their professional degrees and were commissioned as second lieutenants in the veterinary section of the Officers' Reserve Corps.


Shortly after becoming a part of the Medical Department, the Army Veterinary Service was equipped and supplied in common with the Medical and Dental Corps. However, at the beginning of World War I, there was practically no veterinary equipment or supply on hand. The relatively small holding of veterinary supplies in the hands of the Quartermaster Corps was transferred to the Medical Department, and veterinarians who were then


entering active military service were asked to bring their equipment with them for purchase by the Army. In addition, the Secretary of War granted authority to civilian animal humane organizations to furnish gift donations so that Army animals would not suffer from the lack of veterinary equipment and supplies.

Donations of considerable amounts of equipment and supplies were made by the Blue Cross Society, sponsored by the American Red Cross, and by the Red Star Animal Relief, organized as a part of the American Humane Association. The appropriations act of 12 May 1917 provided funds for the Medical Department expressly "for the purchase of veterinary supplies," but it was late 1917 before nearly adequate stocks were available in the Medical Supply Depot, St. Louis, Mo. Supply tables revised in early 1918 provided new wallets, chests, and unit assemblies, largely patterned after British Army equipment, for veterinary detachments, hospitals, and other field units. Before 22 April 1918, nearly $4? million had been expended for veterinary equipment and supplies, which by that time were on hand in adequate amounts.  

After World War I, the Medical Department supply tables were subjected to various revisions, but the classification of veterinary supplies remained more or less the same after 1928. During the peacetime period, the Medical Field Service School and the Army Veterinary School, working with the Veterinary Division of the Surgeon General's Office and selected test units in the field, did much to improve and develop the veterinary equipment and supply, particularly the various assemblies for field use.  


1. The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War. The Surgeon General's Office. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1923, vol. I.

2. War Department General Orders No. 73, 7 Aug. 1918.  

3. Letter, The Surgeon General to The Adjutant General, 10 May 1920, subject: Special Service School for Instruction of Veterinary Personnel in Meat, Dairy, and Forage Inspection Duties.  

4. Letter, The Adjutant General to Deputy Officer, General Supply Depot, Chicago, Ill., 25 June 1920, subject: Veterinary School of Meat and Dairy Hygiene.  

5. Letter, The Surgeon General to The Adjutant General, 22 June 1923, subject: Transfer of Army Veterinary School From Chicago to Washington, D.C., 1st indorsement thereto.