A Look Back

The Sailor’s Diet of 1862

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, BUMED On July 25, 1862, following reports of sickness and low morale, Fleet Surgeon William Maxwell Wood was ordered by the Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles to conduct a medical and sanitary inspection of the James River Flotilla.[i]  Fleet Surgeon William Maxwell Wood Travelling aboard the steamer USS Satellite, Wood visited the principal vessels …

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The Saga of Idaho, Hospital Ship of the Asiatic Squadron

Long before the appearance of the first white-hulled hospital ships, the Navy employed an assortment of vessels to meet the need of hospitalization at sea.  Among the lesser known, and perhaps most unique, was a sailing ship commissioned in the age of steam called USS Idaho. Extending 298 feet in length with a beam of 44 feet, Idaho was completed …

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Naval Hygiene in the Age of Epidemics

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, BUMED *** The Navy’s South Atlantic Squadron arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1894 just as a deadly disease epidemic hit the city.   To protect the crews, the shipboard surgeons—immersed in the principles of naval hygiene—issued a series of strict sanitary guidelines.  For months the Squadron remained in port and yet almost entirely free of …

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The Navy’s Fight against Scurvy

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Scurvy patient, ca 1842. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine Few diseases have been more synonymous with sailors than scurvy.   From the dawn of time scurvy has been described as the “Black Death of the sea,” and was once even as deadly as smallpox. Yet years after the British …

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Beyond Heroism: Hospital Corpsmen and the Battle for Iwo Jima

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Arthur C. Clayton administers a blood plasma injection to a wounded Leatherneck, Feb 1945. At 0900 on February 19th, 1945, the first assault waves from the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions hit the beaches of Iwo Jima.[i]  Embedded within these units were corpsmen like Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class …

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