Archive for the 'Navy Medicine' Category

Mar 26

March 27, 1953: Korean War Sailor Earns Medal of Honor

Thursday, March 26, 2015 3:57 PM
NH 59604 Hammond

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Francis C. Hammond


By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Residents of Alexandria, Va. can honor an American hero with a tip of their hats to Francis C. Hammond Middle School on Seminary Road this Friday. It was 62 years ago on Friday when that school’s namesake, a young Alexandria man, performed “great personal valor in the face of overwhelming odds” while taking care of wounded members of the 1st Marine Division in South Korea.

Hammond was born Nov. 9, 1931 to Harry and Elvira Hammond, in Alexandria, Va. Harry worked at a pharmacy, and after high school Francis joined him, planning to become a pharmacist.

Then, on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations Security Council called the invasion a “breach of peace” and President Harry S. Truman quickly committed American troops to a combined United Nations force to defend the 38th parallel.

Francis decided to enlist, joining the Navy. First, he headed off to the Navy’s Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Ill. Once a medic, he proceeded to California for more training. Anticipating he would be sent to Korea, Francis married his girlfriend in June 1952. The following year, Feb. 1, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Hammond was assigned to the 1st Marine Division in South Korea.

On the night of March 26, Hammond and the 1st Marines were trying to retake Combat Outpost Reno, which the North Koreans had overrun earlier that day. The Marines encountered heavy mortar and artillery fire as they neared the outpost.

“We kept going forward and finally gained posts in a small shallow trench,” said Marine Sgt. William R. Janzen from a series of articles collected by B.J. Sullivan a librarian at the school which bears Hammond’s name.

Undeterred and undaunted by the mortar and artillery fire, Hammond got to work.

“He was all over the place patching up the wounded, no matter how slight their wounds,” Janzen remembered. “Even after he himself was wounded he continued moving about the area, ignoring his own wounds, and giving as much aid and comfort to the other wounded as he possibly could under the circumstances.

“The bravest man I saw out there that night was Corpsman Hammond.”

As a relief unit showed up, Hammond’s division was ordered to pull back. Hammond refused. According to the Virginia War Memorial’s website, “[he] did not want to leave his men, so he stayed behind to help evacuate the wounded, refusing care for himself. While assisting the units relieving them, [Hammond] was mortally wounded by enemy mortar fire.”

Four months later, an armistice would end the conflict.

For his actions, Hammond posthumously received the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor citation concludes, “By his exceptional fortitude, inspiring initiative and self-sacrificing efforts, HC Hammond undoubtedly saved the lives of many Marines. His great personal valor in the face of overwhelming odds enhances and sustains the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

A port bow view of the frigate USS FRANCIS HAMMOND (FF 1067) underway.

A port bow view of the frigate USS FRANCIS HAMMOND (FF 1067) underway.

In his honor, the Navy commissioned a frigate named for him on July 25, 1970, the USS Francis Hammond (FF 1067). She served her country until decommissioned in July 2, 1992.

The Francis C. Hammond High School was named for the Medal of Honor recipient in 1956. It became a middle school in the 1970s.

The Francis C. Hammond High School was named for the Medal of Honor recipient in 1956. It became a middle school in the 1970s.

The Francis C. Hammond High School, which opened in 1956, was named in his honor. Now a middle school, “the school crest (donated by the Class of ‘62) still graces the floor of Hammond’s central hall with the motto ‘Vivat Academia’ (Long live Academics) and is protected by four sparkling brass 3-inch .50 caliber ammunition shells (simulated) donated by the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, Virginia,” according to a city of Alexandria website. There is also the Francis Hammond Parkway, a street in Alexandria lined with tidy brick homes.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Francis C. Hammond never saw the middle school named in his honor. But no doubt another legacy Hammond would leave behind — Francis C. Hammond Jr., born a few months after his father’s death – would see the school named for his father’s selfless action.


Apr 2

Construction of First Naval Hospital

Monday, April 2, 2012 8:53 AM

April 2nd, 1827

Construction of the United States’ first Naval hospital begins

The original historically registered building remains a centerpiece of the complex after renovations and expansions.

On April 2nd, 1827, the construction of the U. S. Navy’s first hospital began, in Portsmouth, Virginia. Although the construction of this hospital, which was finally completed in 1830, took three years, it marked a great milestone in the history of U. S. naval medicine. Previously, the Navy had been ill-equipped to aid its wounded sailors, especially in times of war, and the construction of a hospital dedicated solely to naval medicine at last paved the way to innovations that would prove invaluable, such as hospital boats from the Civil War onwards. An article which appeared in the September 1929 issue of Proceedings, documented the history of naval medicine, from the very beginnings of the world’s first navies, to the developments later made by the twentieth-century American and European navies. The article, written by Commander W. L. Mann (M. C.), USN, is excerpted below:

A cursory review of the origin and development of the profession of naval medicine shows that it evolved during the days of the Roman Empire, almost disappeared as a distinct entity during the Dark Ages, and later became an organized medical service in the Venetian navy during the fourteenth century. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 26

Comission of U. S. Navy’s First Hospital Ship

Monday, December 26, 2011 1:00 AM

December 26th, 1862

USS Red Rover is commissioned

The USS Red Rover, the first hospital ship of the U. S. Navy, was commissioned on December 26th, 1862, after a year of service in the Army during the Civil War. An article in the November 1968 issue of Proceedings, written by W. T. Adams, commemorates the Red Rover’s brief but successful career, which ended in 1865. Not only was the Red Rover the first ship of her kind, but she also served a variety of capacities for the Union forces during the War, far beyond the demands of an ordinary hospital ship.

To those familiar with modern standards of naval medical care, it may be difficult to visualize the days when treatment of the shipboard sick and wounded was limited to the surgeon working in a makeshift sickbay—with no hope of better facilities until the ship reached a port which might have a hospital, days or even weeks into the future. It was a situation that existed in the U. S. Navy, however, until the chaos of the Civil War produced the USS Red Rover, the Navy’s first hospital ship. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 23

Navy TV – gone to the dogs…

Thursday, June 23, 2011 5:21 PM

Such a cliche, isn’t it. But this month on All Hands TV from NavyTV – a special Chapter on the Carolina Canines. This program is working with the Charleston Navy Brig to train dogs for wounded warriors. This helps the inmates and is a great service to the wounded warriors who will depend on these wonderful dogs as aides and companions.

The journey starts at the SPCA. The healing for everyone involved is amazing, the trainers who feel a sense of redemption, and the wounded veteran who is given the trained animal to assist them with their daily lives, from turning on lights, to being the steady companion when the spaces are too small and there are too many people; and the life of the dog, spared from the cages of the pound or even worse.

Watch this piece.. and realize the healing power of a dog!

Oct 19

Navy Medicine at War: Final Victory

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 12:01 AM

This 2009 Navy documentary chronicles the compelling stories recalled by Navy Medical Department personnel – physicians, dentists, nurses, and hospital corpsmen during the final year of World War II. 

Part 1 begins with the invasion of Okinawa, and includes an interview with Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert Bush, awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry on Okinawa. 

Part 2 includes emotional interviews with Navy veterans who survived kamikaze attacks while serving on board ships stationed off Okinawa . 

In Part 3, former American POW’s recall hearing the news of Japanese surrender while being held in prison camps, and the subsequent air drop of relief supplies by American aircraft. 

Part 4 details the medical conditions and treatment of released American POW’s at the end of World War II, as well as their difficulties on arriving home. 

Part 5 concludes the film with closing thoughts from veterans of World War II.



Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 1

Wings for the Doctor: Naval Flight Surgeon

Friday, October 1, 2010 12:01 AM

This 1971 U.S. Navy film describes the role of the Naval Flight Surgeon.


Sep 2

World War II Submarine Appendectomy

Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:01 AM

On 11 September 1942, Pharmacist’s Mate First Class (PhM1/c) Wheeler B. Lipes agonized over the most difficult decision of his life. He had just diagnosed his shipmate, Seaman First Class Darrel D. Rector, with acute appendicitis. With their submarine Seadragon (SS-194) cruising in enemy waters, there was no way to get Rector to port in time. World War II submarines always carried a well trained corpsman, but their small, 55-man complement did not rate a doctor. Lipes could attempt an appendectomy, but the operation might kill his shipmate.

After joining the Navy in 1936, Lipes had received his medical training in the Navy hospital course in San Diego and had served at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia and at the Naval Hospital in Canacao near Manila before entering the submarine service in 1941. Classified as an electro cardiographer, he had assisted Navy doctors during many operations, including several appendectomies.

On 8 September 1942, the Seadragon was several days and thousands of miles out from Fremantle, Australia, on her fourth war patrol, cruising off the Indonesian coast, when Rector first came to Lipes complaining of nausea and abdominal pain. Lipes told him to get to his bunk and rest. At first the corpsman thought something might be wrong with Rector’s gall bladder, but Rector soon began to display the classic symptoms of appendicitis: fever, rigid abdominal muscles, abdominal tenderness, and acute, localized pain. Lipes kept Rector in his bunk, packed his abdomen with ice, and restricted him to a liquid diet.

Nevertheless, Rector’s condition worsened. On the morning of 11 September, Lipes reported the situation to the commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander William E. Ferrall. Lipes said that unless Rector received an emergency appendectomy almost immediately, the 19-year-old seaman would die. The skipper asked the pharmacist’s mate what he intended to do. “Nothing,” said Lipes. Ferrall lectured him that everyone had to do the best they could and asked the 23-year-old pharmacist’s mate whether he thought he could do the surgery. “Yes sir, I can do it,” said Lipes, but “everything is against us. Our chances are slim.” The skipper explained the situation to Rector. Would the seaman allow the pharmacist’s mate to operate? “Whatever the doc feels has to be done is okay with me,” said Rector. Ferrall ordered Lipes to perform the surgery.

The skipper took the boat into relatively safe water and submerged to 120 feet to provide a stable platform. Every member of the crew, from the box-plane man to the galley cook, participated in the operation. Lipes boned up on the appendix from a medical book. The ship’s medical kit provided a few basics, including sulfa tablets, twelve hemostats, a packet of scalpel blades, catgut for sutures, and a limited quantity of ether. The rest of the instruments had to be improvised. A hemostat became a scalpel handle. Five tablespoons with the handles bent back served as retractors. Commercially-sterilized “Handi-pads” substituted for gauze sponges. A tea strainer covered with gauze served as a mask for administering the ether. Boiling water and torpedo alcohol provided sterilization. The operation would be performed on the wardroom table, barely long enough for the patient to stretch out on without his head or feet hanging over.

Lipes didn’t know how long the operation would last and whether there was enough ether. He had no way to do a blood count or urinalysis or to monitor the patient’s blood pressure, nor was there any intravenous fluid.

Nevertheless, with everyone at his assigned station, the operation began. Lipes began administering the anesthesia at 1046. Thereafter Lieutenant Franz Hoskins, the Communications Officer, served as anesthetist. With the skipper making and recording detailed observations at four to seven minute intervals, Lipes made the incision at 1107. At first he had difficulty finding Rector’s appendix. But then he slipped his fingers down behind the caecum, and there it was. The distal tip was black and gangrenous.

Lipes detached the appendix, tied it off, removed it, and preserved it in a jar of torpedo alcohol. He cauterized the stump with carbolic acid. He took sulfa, ground from tablets into powder and baked in the ship’s oven to kill off spores, and sprinkled it into the peritoneal cavity. Lipes finished suturing at 1322. Rector regained consciousness less than half an hour later.

The seaman’s three-inch incision healed nicely and he was back on duty in a few days. The Seadragon returned to port six weeks after the operation. The medical officer of the submarine squadron pronounced Rector okay. After examining the appendix, the medical officer concluded that Lipes and his shipmates had indeed saved Rector’s life. When the story broke in the press, Lipes became a national hero.

At bottom, it was training and leadership that saved the seaman’s life. The training Lipes had received had given him the know-how and confidence to perform at a level well above the normal expectations of his rating. The skipper’s decision to order Lipes to perform the surgery reflected his own confidence in the pharmacist’s mate’s training. And it was Lieutenant Commander Ferrall’s leadership that inspired Lipes to go above and beyond the call of duty and enabled him to organize the crew for an operation totally outside the realm of their experience.