The basic unit of the United States Navy's medical program.

Corpsmen fulfill many, many roles in the military, such as:

  • act as LPN's in military hospitals. can actually test and become a registered LPN in most states with little further training.
  • are EMTs and Paramedics for smaller military facilities and for military hospitals overseas.
  • perform most administrative functions within military hospitals
    • Patient Administration
    • Records/archives
    • Technical(PC) Support
  • Many technical/specialty positions:
  • Serve as medical support for Marines in the field. (8404 corpsmen)

In addition, many corpsmen perform logistical duties, supervise galley/food services, and do general health inspections upon Naval ships.

The origins of the United States Navy's Hospital Corps can be traced back to an act of Congress in 1799, which provided:

"A convenient place shall be set apart for the sick and hurt men, to which they are to be removed, and some of the crew shall be appointed to attend them"

1814 - 1842 Loblolly Boy

It was the duty of the Loblolly Boy to go fore and aft the gun and berth decks ringing a small bell to give notice to "those slightly indisposed and with ulcers" to attend the surgeon at the mainmast. Both from old Navy Regulations and accounts of shipboard life, the Loblolly Boy's duties included providing the cockpit with water, containers for amputated limbs, and braziers of charcoal for heating tar with which to stop hemorrhage. He also provided buckets of sand to catch the blood from amputations and wounds, and to pour over the blood on the decks so that the surgeon would not slip while working.

1842-1863 Surgeon's Steward

The Surgeon's Steward replaced the Loblolly Boy. The pay of the Surgeon's Steward was $18.00 per month and one ration.

"A Surgeon's Steward is allowed at all hospitals and Navy yards and on board every vessel having a Medical Officer. As it is important that a respectable class of persons should be employed in this capacity, surgeons will endeavor to select such as have some knowledge of pharmacy and ordinary accounts and are of industrious and temperate habits."

Instructions for Medical Officers, U. S. Navy, 1857.

This was the first time that specially qualified personnel were sought to serve in the this position.

"Surgeon's Stewards to rank next after Master-at-Arms (who was the Leading Petty Officer of the Vessel), and Surgeon's Stewards are never to be discharged without the consent of the officer appointing them or their successor, except by sentence of a court-martial.

U. S. Navy Regulations, 1865.

1866-1873 Apothecary

"The designation of persons serving as Surgeon's Stewards is changed to that of Apothecary, and they will be appointed for duty in the Medical Department of the Navy, ashore and afloat, in the same manner as Surgeon's Stewards have theretofore been appointed. A candidate for examination and first enlistment as apothecary must be a graduate of some recognized college of pharmacy and must be between 21 and 28 years of age.

U. S. Navy Regulations, 1896.

1873-1898 Bayman

"The Surgeon's division shall consist of all junior Medical Officers of the ship, the apothecary, and the bayman. Bayman shall be given a course of instruction on board the receiving ship or at a Naval Hospital before drafted for service on a sea going ship. Bayman are personal attendants on the sick.

U. S. Navy Regulations, 1893.


The Hospital Corps came into existence as a unit of the Medical Department under the provisions of an act of Congress approved June 17, 1898. This act provided for appointment to the warrant rank of pharmacist and established the following ratings:

  • Hospital Steward (Chief Petty Officer)
  • Hospital Apprentice First Class (Third Class Petty Officer)
  • Hospital Apprentice

After initial establishment, the rank and structure of the Hospital Corp continued to evolve over the years.  In 1948, the traditional rating insignia was changed from a Red Cross to a Caduceus and the following ranks and ratings were established.

Hospitalman Recruit (E-1)
Hospitalman Apprentice (E-2)
Hospitalman (E-3)
Hospital Corpsman Third Class (E-4)
Hospital Corpsman Second Class (E-5)
Hospital Corpsman First Class (E-6)
Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-7)
Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-8)
Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-9)

It is important to note that the Hospital Corps is not only the only enlisted Corps, but is also the most highly decorated.  Over the course of its history, Hospital Corpsmen have been awarded 21 Medals of Honor, 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Crosses, 943 Silver Star Medals, and 1,554 Bronze Star Medals.

"Wherever you find the Navy, wherever you find the Marine Corps, there you will find the Navy Hospital Corpsman. In times of peace, he or she toils increasingly, day and night, providing quality care to numerous beneficiaries. In times of war, he is on the beaches with the Marines, employed in amphibious operations, in transportation of wounded by air, on the battlefield, and on all types of ships, submarines, aircraft carriers, and landing craft. In short, wherever medical services may be required, the hospital corpsman is there, not only willing but prepared to serve his country and his fellow man above and beyond the call of duty. "  


The members of the United States Marine Corp aren’t in the habit of passing out compliments lightly. They’re usually men and women of few words and would rather let their actions speak for themselves. That’s especially true when it comes to patting the backs of the members of the U.S. Navy.

For as long as they both have existed there’s been a rivalry between the two branches (technically the Marines are part of the Navy) that borders on craziness. From personal experience I can still recall being locked up for a night somewhere in Norfolk, Virginia. The situation occurred when me and some of my jarhead friends tried to take over a Navy enlisted mans club.

There were broken bottles and a bit of blood and we were all hauled off by the MP’s to spend a night in the local jail. It wasn’t until the next day when our Gunny came by and got us all out.

We paid dearly.

Not for the fight itself, but for getting him up in the middle of the night.

Anyway, any Marine, especially those who were amongst the backbone of the Corps, the grunts and ground pounders will tell you the Navy Corpsman are one special breed. We could talk shit all we wanted about the Navy in general but when it came to those fuckers, well, let’s just say they were off limits.

They had that rare combo that consisted of balls of steel and the compassion of Florence Nightingale.

I think their prayer about sums it up…

The 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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