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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Building Corpsmen Culture: The Early Years of the Hospital Corps School

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, BUMED Students at the Hospital Corps School Newport, ca. 1914 For almost as long as there has been a Hospital Corps there has existed a school charged with imparting the values, traditions and requisite tools to prospective corpsmen.  On June 18, 1914, the Navy established the Hospital Corps School at the Naval Training Station in …

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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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