District Medical Officer
The District Medical Officer advised the Commandant in regard to all medical matters related to his command, including the adequacy of material and personnel, the construction program, and the expansion or reduction of facilities. He inspected, supervised, and coordinated the medical activities of the district and made reports of the inspections, via the Commandant, to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
The most important activities that he inspected were the five Naval hospitals located at Pensacola, Florida; Corpus Christi, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Norman, Oklahoma; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The hospital at Pensacola was the only one of the five that had been built and was operating when the district was reactivated, in December 1940; the last of the others, however, had been commissioned by June 1943. The two large dispensaries at the Naval Training Canter, Gulfport, Mississippi, and the Naval Repair Bass, Algiers, Louisiana, also were built after the war began. The hospital at Pensacola and the dispensary at Algiers were not ordinarily filled to capacity (the completion of the hospital in New Orleans relieved the situation in Algiers), but the other hospitals and dispensary were generally crowded. The number of authorized beds for the five hospitals and two dispensaries was 4,678; when V-J Day arrived these activities were accommodating 6,805 patients by means of the closer spacing of beds and the use of
When the war ended, the Eighth Naval District was scheduled to have three more Naval hospitals - all in Texas. One was being built in Houston, and the construction of two more, in Austin and Marlin, had been approved. The District Medical Officer, like the District public Works Officer, examined and made recommendations on the plans for all proposed construction of medical activities in the Eighth Naval District, but he played a necessarily passive role in reviewing the plans for projects over which the Commandant had little or no control.
Among other activities inspected by the District Medical Officer were the medical facilities for all the V-12 units and receiving stations. The inspection of these numerous, widespread units of course required much time.
The District Medical Officer had no cognizance over the medical facilities at the Air Functional Training Commands. He went to Corpus Christi and inspected the Naval Hospital, but did not go on the air base and inspect the dispensary. The facilities of the Air Commands were Inspected by the Area Inspector of Medical Activities for the Central Area, which included the Eighth and Ninth Naval Districts. The Area Inspector, who was directly under the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, also inspected the activities under the Commandant's jurisdiction, so that a double-check was made of these activities. The District Medical Officer, who visited all activities each year, timed his inspections so that they came about six months after the Area Inspector's. He sent all his inspection reports to the Bureau of
Medicine and Surgery via the Area Inspector.
The District Medical Officer could effect temporary transfer of medical personnel at activities under the Commandant's cognizance, but permanent transfer could be made only through the Bureau of Personnel. He also acted on requisitions for and disposition of medical supplies and property.
It was his duty to keep informed on sanitary conditions and the prevalence of disease in and around district activities. The Eighth Naval District fortunately had no epidemic during this war. There was an epidemiological unit attached to the Naval Hospital in New Orleans and one at each of the four large air training centers. The District Medical Officer could give orders directly to the epidemiological unit at the hospital in New Orleans, but if he wished to have one of the other units investigate an activity near its base, he had to request the services of the unit through the Chief of the Air Functional Training Command under which the center operated.
One of the most important functions of the District Medical Office was the fight it waged against venereal disease in the Eighth Naval District, which, unfortunately, had the highest rate of infection of all the districts. In June 1942 the Bureau assigned a Venereal Disease Control Officer to the staff of this office for duty in connection with venereal disease control at activities within the geographic boundaries of the Eighth Naval District. He served the Air Commands activities as well as those under the cognizance of the Commandant. By way of doing so, he maintained liaison with Army and civilian authorities, and gave advice and assistance to civilian
agencies concerning venereal disease control and educational programs. He acted as a consultant on all matters in his field. He assigned Deputy Venereal Disease Control Officers for temporary duty at those activities in the district which were in need of help in controlling venereal disease.
The Bureau assigned the first of the Deputy Venereal Disease Control Officers to the District Medical Officer's staff on 5 March 1945. By August 1945 three more had been assigned. These officers were primarily operating personnel and secondarily consultants.1 In cooperation with the senior Medical Officer of an activity, it was the Deputy Venereal Disease Control Officer's duty to plan and develop the educational program, including the handling of the bulk of the group education assignment, such as lectures and the showing of films. He aided in the administration of reporting contacts which probably caused the infection of infected personnel and helped analyze contact data; he also gave training to medical personnel in interviewing and obtaining such data. He assisted in the development of prophylaxis facilities and programs, including matters relating to the procurement and distribution of prophylactic materials.
The control of venereal disease among Naval personnel depended on close liaison with civilian authorities throughout the districts, after getting from infected men the names and addresses of girls involved, the Naval medical officers reported these to the local Public Health Department, so that this agency could take steps to have the
girls examined and treated. If the evidence showed a woman definitely to be a prostitute, the Naval medical authorities reported her to the Police Department. When it was discovered that a certain number of infected men had picked up their women at a certain bar or tavern, the establishment was reported to the Social Protection Section of the Federal Security Agency, to the Health Department, and to the Police Department. If these agencies did not take action to close the place, a report was made to the Joint Army-Navy Disciplinary Control Board, with the recommendation that the establishment be placed out of bounds for military personnel. The primary concern of this board was the control of venereal disease. It was established in the Eighth Naval District in August 1944 in accordance with a joint directive issued by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy.2 The District Shore Patrol Officer and the Venereal Disease Control Officer were the Navy members of the board. Nine sub-boards were established throughout the district.
When the effectiveness of penicillin in the treatment of venereal disease was discovered, the Public Health Department in New Orleans put on an educational campaign in which it was proclaimed on posters and announced by loudspeakers from vehicles driven through the streets that gonorrhea could be cured by penicillin in four hours. Naval Medical authorities noted that, not long after the campaign had got under way, the rate of venereal infection went up considerably among Naval personnel in the New Orleans area. The general conclusion was
that many of the men decided that, if gonorrhea could be cured so easily by the new drug, there was no need of fearing the consequences of carelessness.
The education of Naval personnel in the control of venereal disease continued with increasing vigor throughout the district. The opinion of medical officers engaged in the work, however, was that a thorough course of indoctrination in the matter given to the men in boot camp would have been worth far more than the training given to them later.
Originally, the District Medical Officer had to inspect and coordinate dental as well as medical activities. However, on 16 October 1943, a Captain of the Dental Corps was assigned to the Eighth Naval District as Assistant to the District Medical Officer.3 Seven months later he received orders detaching him from this duty and ordering his "to report to the Commandant, Eighth Naval District, for duty as District Dental Officer."4 Though the organization of the headquarters staff left the District Dental Officer under the District Medical Officer, he functioned, for all practical purposes, as a division head. The change in orders brought about no change in services performed, since from the beginning this officer had fulfilled the duties of District Dental Officer.
This entailed advising "the Commandant, via official channels,
on all dental matters within his purview."5 He planned the increase or reduction of dental facilities in accordance with the Commandant's plans for operation of the District, coordinated the dental activities, and acted as a consultant to local Naval authorities relative to dental matters. He made periodic inspections, at least yearly, of dental clinics at all activities under the Commandant, and visited activities without dental officers in order to see their needs. Before an activity installed or made major changes in its facilities, he inspected for the Commandant. Before the disestablishment of activities began, there were forty-five activities that had dental clinics, with from one to thirty-five dental officers attached to each. The District Dental Officer believed that, in spite of the immense improvement in dental service in the District, the service would not be truly adequate until additional dental personnel were allowed. Whereas the ratio of medical officers allowed was 6.5 per 1000 Naval personnel, the ratio of dental officers was 2 per 1000. The District Dental Officer could bring about temporary change of duty for dental personnel under the Commandant by working through the Director of Distribution, though he could not effect permanent change.
One of the services rendered by the District Dental Officer was the occasional issuance of "Information Memorandum for Dental Officers." In these memoranda, issued after 8 February 1945, attention of the dental officers in the district was called to the more important current directives and interpretation was made of the more difficult
passages in them. Common errors made in routine reports were pointed out. There were notes on the care of new dental equipment, on dental supplies, and the like. In short, the memoranda touched on numerous matters that busy dental officers might fail to see or might have trouble with.
The first mobile dental unit to be used in any of the Naval districts began operating in the Eighth Naval District on 18 February 1945. When the war ended, this unit was on its eleventh trip around the district serving activities that had no clinic. The Commanding Officers of activities to be visited by the unit were notified in advance so that they could make the arrangements necessary for using its facilities to the fullest. It had two complete sets of equipment. The personnel attached were two dental officers, two dental assistants, and one motor machinist mate, who served as driver and maintenance man. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery had nine of these mobile units built and fitted out in New Orleans. The personnel attached to the eight units that were sent to other districts were all specially trained by the staff of the District Dental Officer.
On 4 November 1943 the District Dental Officer was assigned the additional duty, on orders from the Bureau of Personnel, of inspecting dental facilities for the Functional Air Commands activities within the geographic limits of the district. There were no Area Inspectors of Dental Activities as there were of Medical Activities; if there had been, it is possible that the District Dental Officer might not have had the additional inspecting duty.
1. BuMed ltr. BUMED-Y-rw/P3-1/P3-2, dtd. 16 Feb. 1945. 2. Joint Agreement on Joint Army-Navy Disciplinary Control Boards, dated 29 Aug. 1944. 3. In accordance with BuMed ltr. to BuPers, P16-l/ND(094) dtd. 16 Oct. 1942. 4. BuPers Serial No. 23939/Pers-3187-MB-4, dtd. 16 May 1944. 5. BuMed ltr. to Comdts. Naval Districts: BuMed-D-HCB/ND/CD(021), dtd. 11 Feb. 1944.
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