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
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
"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.
"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.
"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 CORPS' ESTABLISHMENT IN 1898
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)
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. "
NAVEDTRA HM 3&2