When the United States entered the war there were on duty in the Medical Department 491 Regular medical officers, 342 temporary officers, 86 officers of the Dental Corps, and 62 veterinary officers.1 The actual strength of the enlisted men of the Medical Department was 6,619, 2 many of whom were new men, authorized by the national defense act of June 3, 1916. It was considered that 10 medical officers and 100 enlisted men of the Medical Department per 1,000 men of the Army was a necessary allowance in war time,3 and, as these proportions were authorized by the President, it promptly became apparent that the Regular personnel would not make even a complete skeleton for the great numbers of Medical Department personnel which would be necessary for an army of two or three million men. The balance of the body would have to come directly from civil life, and was untrained in military matters, and largely ignorant of its place and functions in a military machine.
While the principles of medicine and surgery and the facts of science are the same for military as for civil life and practice, the whole environment of military life is so different from that of civil life, the methods of procedure necessary for the proper functioning of a great organization are so different from those of the individual and individualistic physicians, the dealing with men in masses and as soldiers is an affair so different from dealing with individual sick civilians, that the well-trained and well-equipped civilian physician or surgeon might stand almost useless and helpless, even in time of great need, unless helped to fit into the military machinery and trained to be a member of the team.
The situation was somewhat similar with respect to enlisted men. They had to be soldiers, and soldiers with special training in technical work--nursing, office work, hospital work, etc. They could not be expected to arrive from civil life with this training; yet the work of the Medical Department was increased with the addition to the Army of each new man. He had to be examined carefully, vaccinated, and cared for when sick, and proper records had to be made in regard to him.
It was planned, therefore, to open training camps and schools for commissioned and enlisted personnel of the Medical Department in the United States; to provide for the continuance, overseas, of the training begun at home; and to make possible the completion of the professional education of medical, dental, and veterinary students in the schools in which they were enrolled when drafted for service in the Army.
The steps in the accomplishment of this plan, as it concerned Medical Department personnel, are given in the chapters which follow. A discussion of the provisions for an enlisted reserve corps representing the professional schools may be found in Volume I of this history (pp. 160 et seq.).
(1) Weekly Reports, Personnel Division, S. G. O., On file, Record Room, S. G. O. Weekly Report File. Also: Surgeon General’s Annual Report, 1919, Vol. II, 1111.
(2) Annual Report of the Surgeon General, United States Army, 1919, Vol. II, 1111.
(3) Memorandum from the Surgeon General of the Army to Senator Chamberlain, September 20, 1917. Subject: Preparation for war of the Medical Department of the Army. On file, Record Room, S. G. O., 321.6 (Medical Department. Also: letter from the Surgeon General of the Army to The Adjutant General of the Army, May 21, 1917. Subject: Increase of the enlisted personnel, Medical Department. First indorsement thereon, The Adjutant General’s Office, June 15, 1917. On file, Record Room, S. G. O. 128732-T (Old Files).