Reports of the Commander-in-Chief, Staff Sections and Services
Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1991
C-in-C Report File: Fldr. 319: Report
Activities of Chief Surgeon's Office
February 28, 1919
EXCERPT ON VETERINARY CORPS IN THE AEF
HISTORY OF VETERINARY CORPS, A. E. F.,
FROM AUGUST 24, 1918 TO MARCH 1, 1919
By an act of Congress, on June 3, 1916, the Veterinary Corps of the Am. army was transferred from the Q. M. Corps to the Medical Department. At the outbreak of the present war the Surgeon General took steps to have the Veterinary Corps put on an efficient basis, and on October 4, 1917, G. O. 130, W. D., was published. This G. O. authorized one veterinary officer and sixteen enlisted men of the Veterinary Corps for each four hundred animal strength.
On Sept. 18, 1917, G. O. 39, G. H. Q., A. E. F., was published, which created a Remount Service in the Q. M. Corps and placed the Veterinary Service under the Remount Service.
In November, 1917, the Surgeon General sent to the A. E. F., two selected veterinary officers to be placed at the disposition of the C-in-C, with a view of organizing the Veterinary Service, A. E. F., on similar lines to that in the United States. The recommendations made by these two veterinary officers were not acted upon favorably at this time and the Veterinary Service remained under the Remount Service until August 24, 1918.
On July 26, 1918. G. O. 122, G. H. Q., was published, revoking G. O. 39, G. H. Q., 1917. This G. O. designated a field officer of the Mounted or Remount Service as Chief of Remount Service, A. E. F., as Assistant to the Chief Quartermaster, A. E. F., and an officer of the Veterinary Corps was detailed as Assistant to the Chief of Remount Service, and was to be designated as Chief of Veterinary Service, who was to have technical supervision of the Veterinary Service, A. E. F.
The failure to accept the comprehensive organization as outlined by S. R. 70, W. D., 19 17, and as outlined by the two veterinary officers that were sent to the A. E. F. from the Surgeon General's Office in November 1917, was a grave error and indicated a lack of understanding of what the animal situation was to become in the A. E. F.
On account of the absolute inefficiency of the Veterinary Service in the A. E. F., a change was necessary, and on August 24, 1918, G. O. 139, G. H. Q. was published directing the Veterinary Service, A. E. F. to be organized in accordance with S. R. 70, W. D., 1917, and transferring the Veterinary Corps from the Office of the Chief Quartermaster to the Office of the Chief Surgeon, A. E. F. A Chief Veterinarian was designated who was charged, under the Chief Surgeon, with the administration of the Veterinary Service.
On August 27, 1918. G. O. 142, G. H. Q., A. E. F., was published and announced Lt. Col. David S. White as Chief Veterinarian, A. E. F.
The adopting of S. R. 70, W. D., 1917, and the appointing of Lt. Col. White as Chief Veterinarian, A. E. F., marked the real beginning of the Veterinary Service as it stands today. This new organization provided a simple, direct and efficient mechanism for the evacuation of sick and inefficient animals from combatant forces to Veterinary Hospitals in the S. O. S., where organized and specially trained units cared for these animals. From these S. O. S. hospitals, the animals that were cured and free from disease were evacuated to the Remount Depots. The animals when received, if they were
considered as not fit for reissue were sold to butchers, sold to civilians, or slaughtered, as the case might be.
Veterinary hospitals were placed under command of their own officers and steps were immediately taken to collect scattered companies and half-companies of such hospitals into whole working organizations. The issue of convalescent animals from veterinary units back to organizations was stopped, and the policy of passing all convalescent animals through Remount Depots for reissue was instituted. The prompt rendering of weekly animal sick report and their accurate compilation was insisted upon. Requirements were anticipated and reinforcements, already overdue, were cabled for. Further hospital accommodation was sought and, with difficulty, an insufficient amount procured.
The use of railhead for evacuation of sick animals was absolutely refused by the First Army, without reference to G. H.Q., in spite of their use being emphatically demanded by the Chief Veterinarian, The result was that while this question was being decided, hundreds of animals were lost, through being evacuated long distances overland, when in a debilitated and sick condition, often suffering from serious wounds, while literally thousands were retained with divisions through the inability of the veterinary personnel to cope with the requirements of long overland evacuation. Eventually the necessity of evacuating by railroads was conceded and the policy adopted, but again a difficulty arose. Instead of it being realized that this was a Veterinary Service, it was considered to come directly under the staff of the armies. This meant that, this portion of the evacuating mechanism being out of the control of the army veterinarian, adequate arrangements could not be made to send trainloads of sick animals to the hospitals prepared to receive them. They were sent to hospitals deemed most suitable by the staff of the army, which did not always possess adequate knowledge of the receiving capacity of such hospitals. Presently this obstacle was removed, however, and veterinary evacuating stations, formed by the Chief Veterinarian in place of corps and army hospitals (sections) and commanded by their own officers, took over the evacuated animals from divisions and moved them by railroad to allotted hospitals.
On account of military necessity, it was impossible to evacuate all animals affected with disease, as it would have made our armies absolutely immobile as far as animal transportation was concerned, as animal replacements were not available in sufficient numbers. Upon the removal of a great percentage of the sick, the efficiency of the animals left was markedly increased.
Sick animals had been so long retained with divisions, however, that their evacuation in bulk, although absolutely necessary, threw great strain on all veterinary hospitals. Under this strain some hospitals perilously approached collapse. Help however was near, no less than ten veterinary hospitals were on the water or ordered to port. The assistance of the labor companies had been asked for to meet the personnel shortage until the arrival of these hospitals. These were promised and some were on their way. The final result, however, of an efficient veterinary service, gradually bringing the animal efficiency of the Am. army to a standard compatible with the Armies of the Allies was not reached before the signing of the Armistice on November 11.
Per telegraphic instructions to C. G., S. O. S., from the C-in-C, Lt. Col. D. S. White was relieved as Chief Veterinarian, A. E. F., on November 1, 1918 and Lt. Col. B. T. Merchant, Cavalry, was detailed as Chief Veterinarian, A. E. F.
On November 1, there were fifteen veterinary hospitals established but not all construction completed. At this time, we had approximately 12,000 V. H. Capacity, but it was necessary to handle many more animals than their capacity, using picket lines, corrals, paddocks, etc. On this date there were 14,861 animals in the hospitals.
A determined effort was made to locate new hospital sites and have more labor troops assigned to Veterinary Corps to aid in evacuation and care of sick animals until veterinary hospital personnel should arrive from the States, which were on the water or
cabled for. At this time, there were approximately 750 veterinary officers and 6,000 veterinary enlisted personnel, and 600 labor troops assigned to Veterinary Corps.
On this date, March 1, there are 20 veterinary hospitals, excluding army veterinary hospitals, with a capacity for 26,664 animals, and animals in hospitals on this date are approximately, 20,000. There are 885 veterinary officers, 9,282 veterinary enlisted personnel, and approximately 2,000 labor troops assigned to Veterinary Corps for duty.
While to a large extent it was impossible to evacuate all sick animals before the Armistice on account of military necessity, immediately on the signing of the Armistice the evacuation began, and to cite one instance of what the Veterinary Corps had to contend with, the First Army evacuated approximately 3,000 animals to the Veterinary Hospital at Verdun within twenty-four hours after the personnel arrived there for station, and the stabling capacity of this hospital is only 1,625.
Upon the appointment of Lt. Co1 White as Chief Veterinarian, a determined effort was made to have the proper statistical reports rendered, which had not been rendered complete before this time.
The principal communicable diseases that have affected the animals of the A. E. F. are strangles, mange, and glanders.
Until the Veterinary Corps was transferred to the Medical Department the practice of placing veterinary hospitals in remount depots was carried out, and upon bringing animals just purchased from the French civilians into the remount depots and veterinary hospitals the whole remount depot would become infected with disease and especially influenza in the A. E. F. By separation of the Remounts and Veterinary Hospitals and proper segregation of the sick, the number of cases of this disease dropped in October 5, 1918 to 900 cases. In the early winter months this disease again climbed to an average of about 1,500 cases, but now on this date, March 1, 1919, there are about 700 cases of this disease on sick report in the entire A. E. F.
On August 31, 1918, the most complete reports obtainable show that we had taken up on sick report for the month of August 72,118 cases, or about 44% of the total animal strength. This included 19,316 cases of mange, or about 27% of total sick. On Feb. 15, 1919, the last complete report on this date shows total number of animals taken up on sick report 48,975 or 27% of total animal strength. This includes 30,736 cases of mange, or 62% of total on sick report.
A determined effort is being made and has been made to stamp out mange, and it is succeeding. The above number of mange cases include not only the active cases of mange, but also the contacts.
The First Army has constructed sulphuration chambers to treat mange, while the Second and Third Armies have constructed dipping vats. The treatment is progressing favorably. While it is not believed possible to stamp out this disease entirely, it is under control and as a means of diminishing the animal efficiency of the A. E. F., it need not be considered to a great extent, provided the Veterinary Corps can continue to control the treatment and evacuation as they are now doing.
In all former campaigns glanders was a disease that took rapid and the great toll of the animal strength of armies.
In recent years, a substance called mallein has been placed at the disposal of veterinarians, which, when properly applied, distinguishes the animals that have this disease before clinical symptoms appear and before there is great danger of spreading the disease. The application of this substance, mullein, is called the mallein test, of which there are a number.
The intradermal palpebral mallein test was declared the official test of the A. E. F. on account of the simplicity and the rapidity with which large numbers of animals could be tested. This was practically a new test to the veterinary officers of the A. F. F., and instructing the veterinary officers in the use of this test has been a big undertaking. The veterinary officers not being familiar with this test, and with the reactions, a few cases of glanders undoubtedly escaped their attention.
The average weekly report on glanders showed 6 eases of glanders per week until on Nov. 23, when the report increased to 34 cases. On the increase of this number of cases, an investigation was started by the Chief Veterinarian. It was found on this investigation that some veterinary officers had not been using the test properly, and instructions were issued immediately on the technique and reading of reactors to this test. In addition to these instructions, veterinary officers that knew this test were sent to all different units in the A. E. F. to instruct and demonstrate the palpebral test. On account of a more accurate test the number of cases of glanders steadily increased until the week ending January 18, there were 391 cases reported. While it was found there was a general infection in the A. E. F., the veterinary hospitals and remount depots in the base sections were the worst infected.
On February 7, 1919, the Chief Veterinarian called a meeting of all Asst. Chief Veterinarians, commanding officers of veterinary hospitals, and senior veterinarians of Remount Depots to a conference at St-Nazaire to evolve comprehensive rules for the technique and reading of reactors to the intradermal palpebral test. These instructions have been approved by the C. G., S. O. S., and have been sent to all veterinary officers of the A. E. F. These instructions were published February 25, 1919, in
Bulletin No. 16, G. H. Q.
From January 18, to the present time, there was a rapid decline in the number of cases, and on March 1, there were only 44 cases reported which shows that the glanders situation is well in hand. The veterinary officers of the A. E. F. now understand the test thoroughly, and it is considered that this disease will not give more trouble than the usual number of glanders cases that is always found in large numbers of animals.