United States Navy Hospital Corpsman

This page is dedicated to the United States Navy Hospital Corpsmen who accompanied us on the battle field, who always put their lives in jeopardy to treat us, and who far too often gave their lives to save “their Marines”.

 

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What is a Corpsman | Decorations | Birthday | Becoming a Corpsman
Corpsman’s Pledge & Prayer | Transformation from Corpsman to Doc
US Navy Ships Named After Corpsmen | Number of Corpsmen Killed In Action

    

  

What is a Corpsman

Hospital Corpsmen serve as enlisted medical specialists for the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, where they render emergency medical treatment to include initial treatment on the combat field.

In the Continental Navy he was commonly referred to as “Loblolly Boy”.

By Navy regulation, in 1814, “Loblolly Boy” became the official title.

In 1841, Loblolly Boy became “Surgeon’s Stewart”.

In 1861, Surgeon’s Stewart became “Nurse”.

After the Civil War, Nurse became “Apothecary”.

In 1876, Apothecary became “Bayman”.

On June 17 1898, the Congress passed a bill authorizing the United States Navy Hospital Corps.  Three rates were created:

  “Hospital Apprentice
  “Hospital Apprentice First Class
  “Hospital Steward

In 1916, the Hospital rates became Pharmacist’s Mate, with 3 new rates.

In 1947 the Hospital Corps changed its rate titles to the familiar – Hospital Corpsman.

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Hospital Corpsman are the most decorated in the United States Navy

22 Medals of Honor
174 Navy Crosses
31 Distinguished Service Medals
946 Silver Stars
1,582 Bronze Stars

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Birthday of the United States Navy Hospital Corps

June 17, 1898

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Becoming a Corpsman

Corpsmen were assigned for Field Medical Service School (FMSS) training from various assignments around the country working in hospitals and clinics or from ships. The assignment brought many challenges to these enlisted Navy men learning the “Marine Corps Way” through a several week training program that would add field combat skills to their medical skills. During the Vietnam War years there were two FMSS schools located at Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune.

Students arrived as trained corpsmen, wearing the blue Navy uniform that designate them as Navy men, each having little or no experience with Marines. By the time they graduated, they would proudly wear the distinctive uniforms of the US Marine Corps bearing their Navy rating on their sleeves and collar designation.

Training at this school was not for the weak or those not in good physical shape. It was like boot camp all over again. Every morning there was a three mile company formation run, physical training and conditioning and through the day there was training on field medicine, hygiene, wound management, individual and small unit tactical operations and weapons training.

In order to become well versed in the traditions of the Marine Corps there were topics that included general military subjects, military drills, and weapons familiarization with the opportunity to qualify on the rifle. Corpsmen are trained in marksmanship, using an M16 and the venerable 1911 45 Cal sidearm. Later on in training, there were many night operation’s trainings, long hikes on hot days and setting up Battalion Aid Stations to prepare the newly minted “Marine” corpsman for their new assignments.

FMSS is a C school, meaning it is not required of all corpsmen. However, those who haven't attended the school are not eligible to serve in a Marine unit. Although Corpsman are not designated to engage in combat, they are in the thick of the action, and added to their field medical training are classes in combat survival, defensive techniques, the treatment of typical combat injuries and various other associated skills with which field medicine is closely related.

Corpsmen are also trained to manage multiple casualties under fire. Treating casualties in combat involves more than just medical know-how, which is why much of the school's training focus involves physical and mental conditioning geared toward preparing sailors for the rigors of a Marine Corps lifestyle. Accordingly, it is the school's contingent of Marine instructors who bring these sailors into the fold. Upon completion of training the corpsmen receive Navy Enlisted Classification of HM-8404.

After training, the corpsmen are assigned to Marine units deployed overseas or stateside. The learning never stops.

After assignment, the corpsmen become the medical provider for the Battalions or at the platoon or unit level. The training includes how to eat, speak, walk and talk like a Marine, and to earn the trust of the Marines they serve, that they will be there for them in their time of need.

Corpsmen take care of much more than combat wounds. They are the general medical provider for all of the Marines illnesses and non combat incurred injuries.

“Sick call” is a great time for the corpsmen to bond with their Marine brethren and it adds yet another experience that indicates that “Doc” will be there when the call for “Corpsman Up” is cried out.

--

Contributed by John K. Murphy, HM2, 1/9, 3rd Mar Div

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Hospital Corpsman’s Pledge

I solemnly pledge myself before God and these witnesses to practice faithfully all of my duties as a member of the Hospital Corps. I hold the care of the sick and injured to be a privilege and a sacred trust and will assist the Medical Officer with loyalty and honesty. I will not knowingly permit harm to come to any patient. I will not partake of nor administer any unauthorized medication. I will hold all personal matters pertaining to the private lives of patients in strict confidence. I dedicate my heart, mind and strength to the work before me. I shall do all within my power to show in myself an example of all that is honorable and good throughout my naval career.”

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A Corpsman's Prayer

Grant me, oh Lord, for the coming events;
Enough knowledge to cope and some plain common sense.

Be at our side on those nightly patrols;
And be merciful judging our vulnerable souls.

Make my hands steady and as sure as a rock;
when the others go down with a wound or in shock.

Let me be close, when they bleed in the mud;
With a tourniquet handy to save precious blood.

Here in the jungle, the enemy near;
Even the corpsman can't offer much lightness and cheer.

Just help me, oh Lord, to save lives when I can;
Because even out there is merit in man.

If it’s Your will, make casualties light;
And don't let any die in the murderous night.

These are my friends I'm trying to save;
They are frightened at times, but You know they are brave.

Let me not fail when they need so much;
But to help me serve with a compassionate touch.

Lord, I'm no hero -- my job is to heal;
And I want You to know Just how helpless I feel.

Bring us back safely to camp with dawn;
For too many of us are already gone.

Lord bless my friends If that's part of your plan;
And go with us tonight, when we go out again.

Author Unknown

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Transformation Hospital Corpsman to “Doc”

MEDIC! My father was a medic in the Army during the Korean War; from his stories I understood the title and the basic responsibilities of the medic. In the summer of 1966 I started my, full of surprises, adventure of becoming a Marine. In boot camp, I realized that all of our medical experiences, were brought to us by Navy people, sailors to be precise. The title of Hospital Corpsman, and sometimes Corpsman, was mentioned on a number of occasions during our training sessions and at times we even took notice of “him” on the side lines at our rigorous training locations.

One of our platoon members was passing a rumor that these Hospital Corpsmen were the ones that would be treating us Marines, on the combat field. To me, to have been treated by sailors at the MCRD clinic during boot camp was weird enough, but to be treated by sailors while in combat, that did not jive at all. After all, they were sailors and we were going to be Marines. SSgt Bell, our Senior Drill Instructor, went out of his way to make sure we understood that there were differences between Marines and sailors. He made it plainly clear that women and sailors wore pants and hats while Marines wore trousers and covers. How can it be that they, sailors, would be on the field of battle with us?

On a number of our evening runs in boot camp, we were taken to the end of a road, located at the edge of MCRD in San Diego. There we would stop the run, turn and face the chain link fence and just stand there and stare at the Navy boot camp barracks. Until of course, the unruly sailors would come out of their building in their mob formation and loudly and aggressively speak despairingly of our parentage and of our beloved Corps. We, of course, were appalled, but not surprised by their unmilitary behavior, and prided ourselves in our disciplined and gentlemanly response. We stayed at our position of “At Ease”, and said nothing.

The point is that learning to dislike sailors while we were going through boot camp was about the only skill we had to learn that we could not win a pennant for. With that sort of a relationship with our neighbors across the fence, I just did not see how being treated on the combat field by a sailor was a win-win proposition for us. Having sailors on the battle field with ground troops, especially Marines, just seemed naturally unnatural by any stretch of a reasonable imagination.

In some of our Marine Corps History classes, there was mention of Navy Hospital Corpsmen in combat while they were assigned to Marine units. There never was an official announcement by some bigger-than-life figure, like SSgt Bell that said, “From this day forward, wounded Marines on a field of battle will be treated by Navy Corpsmen.” News like that would have been carried as headlines by many of the nation’s newspapers. The fact that the Marine Corps was not speaking against such a practice was disturbing to me. You would think they would want better for their wounded Marines.

Is there a chance, that this policy is not new? If this was today’s policy surely my recruiter, at some point would have said to me; “By the way if you get wounded in battle, the guy considering saving your life will be a sailor. In pants and hat, of course.” I would have run out of the recruiter’s office screaming. My father would have reminded me that he had told me join the Army.

Maybe this was not news. It’s news to me, but perhaps, not news to the Corps; they seem to be comfortable with the idea. This may have been going on for a while. If it has, it will be just another surprise in boot camp; a rather important surprise, I would think.

Now that I know what these corpsmen look like, they appear to be more common in our Marine world than I had realized. They were almost everywhere, and they seem to be playing an important role for our sake. On one occasion, on the rifle range, we could not start to shoot until the Corpsman arrived. Obviously the Marine Corps thought this Corpsman was a pretty important person to this training scenario.

WAIT! NOW I REMEBER! NOW I REMEMBER! It was by the chain link fence, in the vicinity of the Navy barracks where we learned some of the names that the range staff were using in referring to the tardy Corpsman. That’s right; that was the place where we learned all those new nautical terms for sailors. Yep! By the chain link fence! That was the place! Some were long, multi-syllable words. Colorful language. Cheery and lively. Now I remember, we took an active role in the name calling of those sailors.

In boot camp, ITR and machine gun school, the corpsmen were there but at a distance. After basic training, I was assigned to an infantry unit (C 1/27) in Hawaii where the relationship with the corpsman was still distant. They were not billeted with us. If they were going with us for one of our training sessions, they would show up a few minutes before we left our barracks, or they would meet us at the training location. On our forced marches from Kaneohe to Bellows Air Force Base, the corpsman rode in the first-aid Mighty Mite jeep.

We got to talk to corpsmen if we needed their services. Casual conversation with them was not something that was encouraged or discouraged; it happened when we had a need of their medical skills. If we had the need, they would cross the invisible barrier between us and enter our world. As soon as they were done, they re-crossed the barrier and went back to their world. It was the system, or perhaps just circumstances.

Our battalion left Hawaii aboard a Navy convoy of three ships, which transported us, to our surprise, to San Diego. We were surprised because all of us, snuffies, knew we were going to Vietnam even though we had been told by the adults that we were going to attack, by an amphibious assault, Camp Pendleton in California.  On the way we discovered a secondary steering station for the ship near the aft section.  Besides a wheel it had a compass protected by a canvas cover.  During the day, we took turns checking the ship’s heading. To our surprise the heading was always different.  One of our corpsman heard us disparaging his navy and told us that the ships were being tactical. When the look on our faces suggested that either he or us, was being an idiot. He said, zigzagging, trying to confuse the enemy as to our destination and to avoid being torpedoed by a submarine.”  “WHAT FUCKING SUBMARINE?”  “Calm down, all Navy ships travel tactically in the open seas.”

Aboard ship, the Corpsmen were billeted with the units they would be assigned to in the field. Suddenly, the sailors dressed like us, they walked like us, they spoke like us; though occasionally they used really big words. They tolerated the long chow lines about as well as we did, and agreed with our assessment of the shitty Navy chow aboard “their” ship. They attended the same classes we did, they taught classes to us, and they slept in the miserable dungeons we slept in. They did PT with us and they went down the cargo nets just as we did. They treated our medical needs, just like they would do in the field. We did not have to go to the ship’s daily sick call; we sought out our unit corpsman when we had a medical need.

There were other things that we started to find out about “them” which were disturbing to us. For instances, and contrary to what we were taught in boot camp, these sailors had parents, brothers, sisters, pet dogs, hobbies, likes and dislikes. They came from big cities and small towns whose names sounded a lot like the places we came from. Our minds, reluctantly and slowly started the process of allowing us to see that there was a remote possibility, that perhaps, maybe, they might be more like us than we had realized. Every day they became more like us. Their pants and hats started to look suspiciously like our trousers and covers. Their over the shoulder bag, we stopped calling a purse. They taught us its proper name; a Unit One.

When we went on liberty in San Diego, we went ashore with our newfound friends, the sailors. We discovered when other sailors got in our faces and the fight was on, our shipmates stood with us. And to our surprise we discovered that they received a boatload of crap from ship sailors because they were assigned to the Marines. When that fight started, we were with them. The bond was growing. We survived, barely, capturing and liberating at least a part of Camp Pendleton. We gave the Corpsmen ample opportunity to practice their craft on us.

When we returned to Hawaii, they went to their house and we to ours. At training sessions, where we were likely to hurt ourselves or others, we would again see a corpsman nearby. Occasionally we would see one we had met aboard ship. If we did not recognize the sailor, we had learned to recognize the corpsman’s Unit One.

In the fields of Vietnam, it was easy to identify the Corpsmen; they carried their Unit One and usually had more canteens on their belts and packs than the grunts did. It was our practice not to wear rank insignia on our lapels when we were in the field, and having become more like us, the corpsmen adopted our practice. But when one got close enough to them, you could always find their caduceus displayed on their left lapel. When they introduced themselves, it was always as a Corpsman or with their rate and rank. Never did I witness one of them introduce himself as “Doc”.

They went on ambushes and patrols. They dug fighting positions and stood watches. They filled sand bags and helped carry supplies from the helicopters. When we humped, they humped with us. When we stopped for a break, they went to work. I was still in my first weeks in the field, we were on a long tiring patrol--on one of our ”Take Ten” breaks, I noticed the corpsman working his way through our column, and eventually made his way to me. Like the others, he asked me how I was doing. I think I nodded my head. Again, he asked me how I was doing. Again I nodded. The Marine veteran of field operations next to me kicked me and said, “Speak to him; he won’t go away until you do.” I was sure I was dying, but I said I was fine. The “Doc” moved to the guy to my left. “How you doing?”

Another time, another place, another “Take Ten” the “Doc” checked on a Marine that was nursing a bad blister on one of his feet. He told the Marine to remove his boot and sock so he could check on his injury. The Marine protested, saying that he was too tired to give a shit. The “Doc” got on his knees removed the Marine’s boot and sock, cleaned and treated his blister. When the “Doc” was done, our squad leader made sure the Marine put his own sock and boot on. I think the “Doc” would have replaced the boot on the Marine’s foot, if the squad leader had not stepped in.

These were simple everyday acts that the corpsmen did in looking out for us.

“Take your malaria pill.”

“Drink more water.”

“No, Kool-Aid is not the same as halazone tablets.”

“After you dry your feet put your dry socks on.”

“Where is your second pair of socks?”

“NO! You can’t drink the filthy water and then sallow the halazone tablet and jump up and down to shake the water in your stomach.”

“Christ, they didn’t give you real grenades to carry on your belt, did they?”

“I might as well fill a medevac card out for you now, it will save time later. For cause, I’ll just check the box for Stupid, and just wait to fill in the date and time.”

“Fucking Marines!”

“Just kill the damn leech. Use your bug-juice and get it off of you. Noooo! You can’t keep it as a pet.”

“Just where did the Marine Corps have to go to find you.”

“No, I don’t I want to have children with your sister.”

There are tons of stories about corpsmen we share that have not been written down, thousands of citations for heroism in the history of the Marine Corps. Most of the stories, if you were not there, you will never hear. It is a shame, for you will miss some emotional pain that will hurt deep in your heart. You will miss silent tears, while the eyes and mind drift to another time and place, and yet the mouth will show just the inkling of a smile as we think of friends that have gone. You will miss laughing so hard that it, too, will bring pain; physical pain this time, and again the eyes and mind will drift to faraway places. It is my hope that we, the Marines, who had corpsmen looking over us and after us, we who witnessed our corpsmen’s deeds, will share some of those stories with you.

It is fitting, although it happened by chance, that one of the Marines raising the flag on Mount Surabachi on the island of Iow Jima is a corpsman. And also by chance, the canteen pouch on his belt is empty. He had just shared his water with his Marines. I read that in some magazine article, which I am sure will be challenged by some who will say the story is a myth. It may be a myth, but I saw corpsmen do that very thing many times. I like the story. I’ll pass it on.

Unless you find yourself on a Marine base, you will probably see the following sight at an airport. It will be a person in a Marine uniform with only one rank insignia, black in color, on the left sleeve of the uniform instead of the traditional scarlet and gold which the Marines wear. Upon closer examination you will recognize the Navy rank insignia. Yep, he or she will be one of them--a Navy Corpsman assigned to a Marine unit. Wearing a Marine uniform. Any Marine uniform, except the Dress Blues.

The transformation from corpsman to “Doc” takes time; it takes bonding, it takes sharing experiences. As I mentioned earlier, not a single corpsman has ever introduced himself by saying ‘I am “Doc” such and such’. They have always waited for the Marine to bestow that honor of the title on them. And it is an honor for us Marines to bestow the title. The Corpsman did not become a “Doc” just because he was assigned to a Marine unit; the bond had to take place. The title transition happens when the Marine decides “I trust you with my life Doc””. Perhaps the transformation from corpsman to “Doc” happens more in the Marine. We are as proud today as we were yesterday to call our corpsman, “Doc”.

“CORPSMAN UP!” Was the dreaded cry declaring that another Marine’s life was in jeopardy. And yet the call of “CORPSMAN UP!” announced that the best we had to offer to the wounded Marine was on the way. Hope, was on the way.


Thank You! “Doc”

Semper Fidelis

Nik

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United States Navy Ships Named After Corpsmen

USS Benfold (DDG-65)
Named after Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Edward C. Benfold. He was killed in action while serving with the 1st Marine Division during the Korean War. He
posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

USS Caron (DD-970)
Named for Hospital Corpsman Third Class Wayne M. Caron who was killed in action during the Vietnam War, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

USS De Wert (FFG-45)
Named for Hospital man Richard De Wert. De Wert was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism while serving with the 7th Marines during the Korean War.

USS Durant (DE-389/WDE-489/DER-389)
A United States Navy, which served briefly in the United States Coast Guard. Named for Pharmacist's Mate Third Class Kenneth W. Durant. He was killed in action on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 3 November 1942 serving with the Marines. Pharmacist's Mate Third Class Durant was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal.

USS Frament (DE-677/APD-77)
Named for Pharmacist's Mate Third Class Paul S. Frament, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for heroism in the Guadalcanal campaign.

USS Halyburton (FFG-40)
Named for Pharmacist's Mate Second Class William D. Halyburton, Jr. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism while serving with the 5th Marines, during the Battle of Okinawa

USS Francis Hammond (DE/FF-1067)
Named in honor of Hospitalman Francis Colton Hammond, a Medal of Honor recipient.

USS Jobb (DE-707)
Named after Pharmacist's Mate Third Class Richard Patrick Jobb, killed on Guadalcanal while treating wounded. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

USS Daniel A. Joy (DD-585)
Named in honor of Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Daniel Albert Joy, USNR. Pharmacist’s Mate Joy was killed in action on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

USS Lester (DE-1022)
N
amed after Fred Faulkner Lester, a Navy Medical Corpsman serving with the U.S. Marines during the battle of Okinawa, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry. 

USS Liddle (DE-206/APD-60)
Named in honor of Pharmacist's Mate Third Class William P. Liddle who was killed in action, while serving with the 1st Marine Division, during the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

USS Litchfield (DD-336)
Named for Pharmacist’s Mate John R. Litchfield who served during World War I, in France with the 6th Marine Regiment. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for his bravery.

USS Thaddeus Parker (DE-369)
Named in honor of Pharmacist's Mate Thaddeus Parker who was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism while serving on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on the night of September 13-14 1942.  He was killed in action at New Georgia, Solomon Islands, on July 20, 1943; Parker was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal.

USS David R. Ray (DD-971)
Named for Hospital Corpsman Second Class David Robert Ray, killed in action, on 19 March 1969, at Phu Loc 6 near An Hoa, South Vietnam. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. 

USS Henry W. Tucker (DD-875)
Named for Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Henry W. Tucker who was killed in action during the battle of the Coral Sea on 7 May 1942 and posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

USS Valdez (FF-1096)
Named in honor of Hospital man Phil Isadore Valdez, who was killed in action on 29 January 1967, in South Vietnam. He was posthumously advanced in rank to Petty Officer Third Class and awarded the Navy Cross.

USS Walter C Wann (DE-412)
Named in honor of Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Walter Carl Wann. Petty Officer Wann was killed in action on the Tanambogo Islands, Solomon Islands, on 4 November 1942. For his actions on 7 August 1942, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star

USS Jack Williams (FFG-24)
Named for Pharmacist's Mate Second Class Jack Williams, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

USS John Willis (DE 1027)
Named for Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class John Harlan Willis. He was killed in action on Hill 362 during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

USS Don O Woods (APD-118)
Named in honor of Hospital Apprentice First Class Don Otis Woods. He died of wounds received in enemy action on 8 August 1942 while serving with the Marines on Gavutu, Solomon Islands. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

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Total Number of United States Navy Enlisted Medical Personnel
Killed In Action

American Civil War (1861–1865), 6
Spanish-American War (1898), 3
World War I (1917–1918), 20
Nicaragua (1932), 1
World War II (1941–1945), 1,170
Korean War (1950–1953), 109
Dominican Republic (1965), 1
Vietnam War (1962–1975), 639
Beirut, (1983), 15
First Gulf War (1990–1991), 0
Afghanistan (2001- )
Iraq War (2003–2010), 29


3rd Bn 26th Marines Hospital Corpsmen Killed In Action in Vietnam

BERNARD, CHARLES LOUIS JR

HN

USN

H&S

BEYER, William Arthur

HN

USN

H&S

BUTSKO, ALBERT MICHAEL

HN

USN

K

DUDLEY, CARL DOUGLAS JR

HN

USN

H&S

FINCHER, CECIL FRANKLIN JR

HN

USN

H&S

GREEN, ROBERT WILLIAM

HM3

USN

H&S

JACKSON, CURTIS DARRELL

HM3

USN

H&S

JANSSEN, ARNOLD

HN

USN

H&S

LANGSLOW, ROBERT MALCOLM

HN

USN

H&S

LUCAS, WILLIAM ROBERT

HM3

USN

I

McCORMICK, WILLIAM L

HM2

USN

I

McNAMAR, JIM CARL

HN

USN

H&S

MICHELS, JOHN JAY

HM3

USN

L

MOLE, MALCOLM GEOFFREY 

HM3

USN

K

RADTKE, ERIC RUDOLPH

HN

USN

K

SORRENTI, JOHN ANTHONY

HM3

USN

M

SPAULDING, RICHARD LEE

HM3

USN

K

TARRANCE, JAMES CURTIS

HN

USN

H&S

TONER, Louis Joseph

HN

USN

H&S

WICKLIFFE, ROBERT LOGAN

HM3

USN

H&S

WURTZ, EMIL JOHN

HM3

USN

H&S

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