Lest the impression be left that corpsmen distinguish themselves only in times of war and disaster, it should be added that their role in quiet times is equally as illustrious. They serve around the world in Navy hospitals, aboard ships and submarines, and with Marine Corps units of all Fleet Marine Forces. Often on duty independent of a medical officer, they bear the full responsibility for medical care of their shipmates, maintaining the health of the Navy, rendering first aid, and caring for the sick with a competence that has earned them the respect of all. Their methods of medical management are constantly reviewed and revised to reflect the latest technologies in treatment. In addition, since 1958, they have received special and intensive instruction in the management of the mass casualties that might follow in the wake of a chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) warfare attack. Also, hospital corpsmen often have had opportunities to serve in the latest scientific projects. For example, Thomas R. Thorne, HM3, participated in Project Mercy. For his role in the biomedical support of the free worlds first manned space flight, he received in June 1961 a letter of appreciation from the Director of Bioastronautics.
With the escalation of the Vietnam conflict between 1963 and 1975, hospital corpsmen were called to serve in Southeast Asia. They served in Marine Corps and Navy air/ground forces, naval support activity hospitals (Saigon and Danang), hospital ships (USS REPOSE and USS SANCTUARY), Riverine Warfare (Brown Water Navy), and Navy ships on the Gun Line off the coast of South Vietnam and Yankee Station off the coast of North Vietnam. They served in Cambodia and supported troops from places like the Marine Corps Air Station (Rose Garden) in Thailand. Like their predecessors, they performed emergency treatment in all kinds of combat conditions. They were assigned to small medical teams that provided care and health advice to Vietnamese civilians. Some were assigned as medical advisors to Vietnamese military units, which required that they live in small, poorly defended villages. Hospital corpsmen truely felt the brunt of the Vietnam conflict. Six hundred twenty were killed or mortally wounded and another 3,353 were wounded in action. Awards for gallantry and intrepidity in action included 3 Medals of Honor, 29 Navy Crosses, 127 Silver Stars, 2 Legions of Merit, 290 Bronze Stars, and 4,563 Purple Hearts.
Since the fall of Saigon in April 1975, hospital corpsmen continue to serve in the many hot spots around the world. Fifteen hospital corpsmen were killed in the line of duty when the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, was bombed and destroyed by terrorists. Hospital corpsmen were present at sea and ashore when the United States took military action in Grenada. Todays hospital corpsmen perform as assistants in the prevention and treatment of disease and injury. They assist with physical examinations, provide patient care, and administer medicinal. They perform general laboratory, pharmacy, and other patient support services. They assist in the administrative, supply, and accounting procedures within medical departments ashore, afloat, and with the Marine Corps. They instruct medical and nonmedical personnel in first aid, self-aid, personal hygiene, and medical records maintenance. They assist in the maintenance of environmental health standards, and they are prepared to assist in the prevention and treatment of CBR casualties and in the transportation of the sick and injured. Senior hospital corpsmen perform technical planning and management functions in support of medical readiness and quality health care delivery. In addition to their general assignments, hospital corpsmen trained as technicians perform specialized functions within the operational forces, clinical specialties, and administrative department, and they may be assigned duties independent of a medical officer.
These complex duties require that each hospital corpsman have broad-based training and a versatility neither demanded nor expected of other enlisted rating in the Navy.
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 unceasingly, 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.