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Navy Medicine History

Navy Medicine has a long and proud history. The first shots of the American Revolution fired at Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775 marked both the birth of a nation and the Continental Army. However, it was the British blockade of the American coast and the need to break that blockade that spawned the Continental Navy and ultimately what we now call the Navy Medical Department. Aboard ships captained by the likes of John Paul Jones and John Barry, were the first sickbays where ship surgeons, assisted by loblolly boys, practiced their healing craft. Although science and medicine has changed greatly over the last three centuries, Navy Medicine’s mission of healthcare and readiness remains true today as it did in the “Age of Sail.”​


 History Blog


Naval Hygiene in the Age of Epidemics

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, BUMED

The Navy’s South Atlantic Squadron arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1894 just as a deadly disease epidemic hit the city. To protect the crews, the shipboard surgeons—immersed in the principles of naval hygiene—issued a series of strict sanitary guidelines.


The Navy’s Fight against Scurvy

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

Few diseases have been more synonymous with sailors than scurvy. From the dawn of time scurvy has been described as the “Black Death of the sea,” and was once even as deadly as smallpox. Yet years after the British Royal Navy successfully demonstrated the treatment and prevention of this affliction through citrus fruit and lemon juice rations the disease continued to plague the U.S. Navy.


Beyond Heroism: Hospital Corpsmen and the Battle for Iwo Jima

By André B. Sobocinski, Historian, US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

At 0900 on February 19th, 1945, the first assault waves from the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions hit the beaches of Iwo Jima.  Embedded within these units were corpsmen like Pharmacist's Mate Second Class Stanley Dabrowski, of New Britain, Conn., who remembered, the tremendous noise, concussion of small arms fire, explosions of artillery and sounds of shells. "As we were coming into the beach we were under a rolling barrage of 16-inch guns of the battleships.  You could just feel those shells going over your head."

Junior medical officer holding a first aid class prior to Iwo Jima engagement, 1943.JPG
Junior medical officer holding a first aid class prior to Iwo Jima engagement, 1943

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