Harvard Medical School in World War II, 1944


Harvard Medical School in World War II, 1944

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Title: Harvard Medical School in World War II, 1944
Chemical Warfare Demonstration, Company D, Service Command Unit 1144. Harvard Medical School, 15 June 1944.

By the early 1940's the United States' involvement in World War II had created an increased need for trained physicians, both at home and abroad. In the Dean's Report for 1941-42, Dean Sidney Burwell reports that there were in the United States "about 175,000 physicians of whom not more than 155,000 are active. Some 5,300 men and women are graduated from medical schools in a year, while about 4,000 die annually. By January, 1943 over 40,000 physicians will be on active service with the Army or Navy."

This need for physicians led Harvard, as well as many other medical schools, to adopt an accelerated program of medical education. Dean Burwell writes of the Medical School's plan in his Dean's Report for 1941-42.

"Therefore, a new school year began on July 1, 1942, and will end on February 28, 1943. The next school year will begin on March 8, 1943, and end on December 11, 1943. Thus, a new class of 125 men is admitted every nine months, and a class of 140 will be graduated every nine months...By reducing the length of the summer holiday, it is possible, without altering the actual weeks of instruction, to complete the present curriculum in three calendar years...This action increases the number of men graduating from the Harvard Medical School by an average of about 45 per year. Similar action has been taken by other medical schools. The result of this combined action will be the production of about 5,000 extra physicians by 1945."

The school began to change its curriculum to include courses geared towards physicians that would soon be leaving for active service. At the request of the Army and Navy authorities, the Harvard Medical School, in common with many others, set up a course in Tropical Medicine for the academic year 1941-42. This course would "give students who are soon to be serving in the Army or Navy a working knowledge of important disease conditions which they are apt to meet with if they serve in the tropics and will equip them to recognize and to deal with these diseases." The teaching of surgical technique was intensified and made to apply to all the medical students. Training in First Aid was supplied, and training in the handling of gas casualties was offered in the fall of 1942.

The Army also assisted the production of trained physicians through the Army Specialized Training Program. In the Dean's Report for September 1, 1942 to July 1, 1943 Dean Burwell explains the relationship:

"The need for a continuous production of well-trained physicians required a mechanism for securing to medical schools an adequate supply of medical students even under conditions of total war. The Army through the Army Specialized Training Program has assumed the financial responsibilities for the education of over 300 potential medical officers among the students at Harvard Medical School. In the last week of June, 1943, these men, most of whom held reserve commissions in the Medical Administrative Corps, resigned these commissions and were inducted into the Army as Privates. As Company D, Service Command Unit 1144, these young men constitute a group in the Army in training as prospective officers. They are in uniform and are housed and fed under Army discipline in Vanderbilt Hall."

There were a number of demonstrations conducted for and by Company D in June and July of 1944. The image above is from the Chemical Warfare Demonstration conducted by Lt. Col. Mahoney on 15 June 1944, near the Medical area. Below is the Battalion Aid Station Demonstration conducted by Captain Allan Lernet, M.C, on the 22th of July, 1944. There were also demonstrations on Field Ration Procedure, Military Motor Maintenance, and Field Sanitary Expedients done on the Medical Quad and at Fort Devins in June and July of 1944.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10473/1784

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