Hospital corpsman may function as medical administrative personnel and health care providers at medical treatment facilities, clinical or specialty technicians. They serve as battlefield corpsmen with the Marine Corps, providing emergency medical treatment in combat situations. According to their qualifications, they may also be assigned the responsibility of independent duty aboard ships and submarines, Fleet Marine Force, SEAL and Seabee units and also may be assigned to duty stations that are isolated and no medical officer is available.
The Continental Navy (American Revolution) and the early Navy had little enlisted medical support and medical assistants were assigned at random from the ship’s company. Primary duties were to keep the irons hot (used to close wounds and lacerations) and buckets of sand “at the ready” in the operating area. (The sand was poured around the operating area to keep the surgeon from slipping on the bloodied ship deck.) They were called “loblolly boys”, a term borrowed from the British Royal Navy and the name stuck, being officially recognized by Navy regulations of 1814. Later the title was changed to nurse (1861) and then to bayman (1876). A senior enlisted medical rate, titled surgeon’s steward was introduced in 1841 and remained through the Civil War and was then abolished and replaced with “apothecary”, which required completing a course in pharmacy.
The Hospital Corps was established in June 17, 1898, by a Congressional law signed by President McKinley just prior to the Spanish-American War. At that time three rates were created: hospital apprentice, hospital apprentice first class (a petty officer third class), and a hospital steward, which was a chief petty officer.
By 1916 the Navy established a new rate structure, introducing a second junior rate; there were now hospital apprentice second class (HA2c) and hospital apprentice first class (HA1c). Petty officers new rating title became pharmacist’s mate (PhM) which held to other Navy ratings such as boatswain’s mate and gunner’s mate. Pharmacist’s mate third class (PhM3c0, second class (Phm2c), and first class PhM1c) were now the petty officers, and chief pharmacist’s mate (CPhM) was the CPO or chief petty officer.
Following WWII the Hospital Corp changed their rating title to the generic term of hospital corpsman and the rates became hospital corpsman third class (HM3), second class (HM2), and first class (HM1) and chief hospital corpsman (HMC) along with senior chief hospital corpsman (HMCS) and master chief hospital corpsman (HMCM) in 1958.
Hospital corpsmen served throughout the fleet earning particular distinction on the Western Front with the Marine Corps during WWI. During WWII those assigned to Marine units made beach assaults with the Marines in every battle in the Pacific. A Navy Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class was among the group of marines in the historical photo of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima. Hospital corpsmen served in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Doyle Davidson enlisted in the United States Navy and reported for duty February 1, 1952. He attended boot camp in San Diego and attended Hospital Corps School at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego for twenty weeks. He served at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital and there spent seven months on the neurosurgery ward serving most of that time as senior corpsman of that ward.
|News clipping in the Joplin Globe.|
He received orders to ship out to Yokosuka Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan in October 1953 where he remained for 27 months. While in Japan he served in Captain Marshall Cohen’s office, Chief Medical Officer for the Far East Command and the Chief of Dispensary Services, Yokosuka. His immediate superior was Chief Petty Officer McCarty. Doyle served as senior corpsman on all emergency services during those 27 months and was also on Surgical Team 15. His duties also included typing all Captain Cohen’s correspondence. He has shared frequently that his wife and daughter joined him while he was in Japan until he returned to the States.
|Doyle fulfilling his typing duties as a hospital corpsman.|
Doyle served four years in the United States Navy and was discharged as a hospital corpsman second class December 1955 and placed in the Naval Reserve (inactive) four years.
Today training to become a hospital corpsman begins at Basic Medical Technician Corpsman Program located at Joint Base Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
The need for hospital corpsmen in the vast array of foreign, domestic and shipboard duty stations, along with the United States Marine Corps units, the Hospital Corps is the largest occupational rating in the United States Navy, with about 25,000 members active duty and reserve.
Compiled by Kathryn Currier
Sources: Wikipedia; Doyle Davidson/Water of Life Ministries