Poor Medics

As an aside to the Patton stories above (Rx by the Numbers, Sep 1963), we doubt that the General had any true and lasting affection for the Medical Corps. This was not unusual among the regular line officers, and in Patton, impatient and dedicated to action as he was, the attitude was even more understandable.

The medics were the step-children of the ground forces. They were seldom briefed on operational plans, and on moving into some bivouac area were accustomed to hearing the executive officer groan; "My God, we forgot the medics." Whereupon they would automatically bed down for the night in the only unassigned swamp available. To the line officers we were a necessary but bothersome encumberment in peacetime training and field maneuvers, performing inconsequential and often annoying duties on generally healthy young males. In war time the medics were belatedly glamorized by the press correspondents, and did enjoy at times great affection and respect particularly among the actual combat troops. It was, however, an affection that diminished in inverse proportion as the distance from front line to rear increased.

Even though General Patton was a front line soldier and quite attached to his own personal surgeon (Charlie Odom, from New Orleans) who accompanied him throughout the African, Sicilian and European campaigns, the attitude of a lifetime was hard to overcome when it came to praise for his medical troops. After the Sicilian campaign, our regiment, along with all the units of his Seventh Army, was read the following congratulatory general order, excerpted here:

Soldiers of the Seventh Army:

Born at sea, baptized in blood, and crowned with victory . . . you have added a glorious chapter to the history of war. Every man in the Army deserves equal credit. The enduring valor of the Infantry and the impetuous ferocity of the tanks were matched by the tireless clamor of our destroying guns.The Engineers performed prodigies in the construction of impossible roads over impassable country. The Services of Maintenance and Supply performed a miracle. The Signal Corps laid over 10,000 miles of wire, and the Medical Department evacuated and cared for our sick and wounded.

The Infantry was enduring and valorous, the tanks were impetuously ferocious, the Artillery was tirelessly destroying, the Engineers were impossibly prodigious, Supply was miraculous, the Signal Corps outdid itself, and the Medical Department also ran.

Poor medics.

(c) The Doctor's Lounge, Muscogee County (Georgia) Medical Bulletin, Vol X, No. 9, 1963, p15-16

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