The US Navy Corpsman Essay
The US Navy Corpsman has come a long way since the indoctrination of the medical field in the Navy. Along with the advancement of medicine, the roles of the Corpsman also advanced. Corpsman now play one of the most important roles in the Navy, as they go anywhere and everywhere the Navy goes. Whether it is sailing across the seven seas on any of the various ships or submarines or its on land working in our hospitals and clinics. Even going distant lands such as Afghanistan or Iraq fighting along side with Marines or Seabees, answering the call of fallen fighters as they yell for there Corpsman to come and help them up.
Corpsman have been around to see every war since the early years of America, and will continue to aid Sailors and Marines alike for many years to come. The origin of the Corpsman is dated back to 1775 where Article 16 of Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North America stated “A convenient place shall be set apart for sick or hurt men, to be removed with their hammocks and bedding when the surgeon shall advise the same to be necessary: and some of the crew shall be appointed to attend to and serve them and to keep the place clean.
The cooper shall make buckets with covers and cradles if necessary for their use. ” Originally a medical section of the ship would consist of two or three men. A surgeon, who was a doctor, a Surgeons mate, who usually was a doctor as well, and most times the third role was filled by an enlisted man. The surgeons mate roles are now usually fulfilled by senior enlisted Corpsman where as the enlisted mans job role is what a junior enlisted mans job is today, aiding Doctors in the recovery of the ill. One of the many duties of the enlisted personnel was to bring the daily ration of porridge or “loblolly” as it was also called.
The nickname “Loblolly Boy” was given to these men. It was such a wide used nickname that in 1799 Congress approved an act which reconstituted the need for having medical personnel on ships and deemed “Loblolly Boy” an official position years later in 1814. It wasn’t until 1818 when Navy regulations gave a description of a Loblolly Boys job. It included the following. “The surgeon shall be allowed a faithful attendant to issue, under his direction, all supplies and provisions and hospital stores, and to attend the preparation of nourishment for the sick.
The surgeon’s mates shall be particularly careful in directing the loblolly boy to keep the cockpit clean, and every article therein belonging to the Medical Department. The surgeon shall prescribe for casual cases on the gun deck every morning at 9 o’clock, due notice having been previously given by his loblolly boy by ringing of a bell. ” The first ever recorded Loblolly boy was John Wall in 1798 when he served on the U. S. S. Constellation. Throughout the Civil war, the roles of the Loblolly boy where very similar to there Revolutionary War predecessors.
The only difference was the advancement of medicine. The first commissioned Naval Hospital ship was the U. S. S. Red Rover. It was issued with more beds, bathrooms, kitchens, elevators and areas to carry up to 300 tons of ice. But along with the luxuries of having a Hospital Ship, also came the hell of battle. A Marine Private named Charles Brother aboard the U. S. S. Hartford recalls “The shell from the ram burst as it came through killing the Docs Stewards instantly…Very few were slightly wounded, all were either killed instantly or horribly mangled.
Our cockpit [sick bay] looked more like a slaughter house than any thing else. ” Up until 1898 Navy medical personnel where many times men who had no medical experience and got on the job training. Often if they where smart and where good at there jobs, they would eventually move to a different department on the ship because medical personnel where being paid some of the worst wages in the Navy. Surgeon C. A. Sigfried argued these points and it took the violent acts of the Spanish-American war to spur congress into action, but on June 17, 1898, the rate of Hospital Corpsman was established.
A few years later the first school for Hospital Corpsman opened in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1902. Since then the Hospital Corpsman have seen action in all the wars up to present day. In World War One, they fought along side Marines in the trenches. In one instant a early morning mustard gas attack injured 235 of the 250 Marines in the Company. The two Corpsman worked hard for hours to aid to their Marines, despite there own injuries. One of the Corpsman later died and the other had permanent damage done.
A heritage of valorous service with the Marines was born. Two hospital corpsmen received the Medal of Honor. Other decorations to hospital corpsmen included 55 Navy Crosses, 31 Army Distinguished Service Crosses, 2 Navy Distinguished Service Medals, and 237 Silver Stars. A hundred foreign personal decorations were granted to Navy hospital corpsmen, and 202 earned the right to wear the French Fourragere shoulder aiguillette permanently. Their 684 personal awards make the Hospital Corps, by one account, the most decorated American unit of World War I.
At the break out of World War Two, Corpsman where ready and willing to fight, air, land or sea. Corpsman where everywhere and anywhere. Submarines proved to be a difficult assignment for Corpsman seeing they had limited supply and couldn’t get very ill patients off ship in a reasonable amount of time. One instance a Corpsman had a very ill patient where he had to perform an appendectomy or else the patient would have surely died. He did so successfully using only spoons from the galley and torpedo fuel.
A very complex surgery to be completed not to mention the conditions he was in. The Korean War and Vietnam Corpsman also had there fair share of combat. They served along side Marines at the Chosin Reservoir and where attacked guerrilla style by the elusive Vietnamese. Today Corpsman are serving with Marines in the War on Terror in the Middle East. Many of us Corpsman know someone who has been there. My friend Isaac Trujillo served in Afghanistan and it is awe inspiring and scary at the same time that one day that could be me.
The shoes I have to fulfill are great and ones I don’t want to leave an inch empty. Today Corpsman fill a multifaceted role. Working on board ships or submarines. They could be fighting along side Marines or Seabees, keeping them fit for fighting. Also they could be like me, working in a Hospital shore side, keeping Active duty members, dependents and retirees healthy. For me being part of the Hospital Corps is more than a job, its an honor. I am honored to hold the same position greater men have held prior and I hope I don’t disappoint.