Skip to main content

Surgeon General of the Navy William C. Braisted and Surgeon General of the Army William C. Gorgas, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


February 7, 1918

2nd endorsement.

To:       Secretary of the Navy.

Subject:  Transportation of sick and wounded of American Expeditionary Forces from Europe to United States.

     1.   As directed in 14351-4:1 Op-22-B January 29, 1918,2 a conference was held with the Surgeon General of the Army, and the following recommendations are submitted:

(a) That the hospital ships HAVANNA and MERCY should be considered as entirely unavailable for Army purposes as “sick transports”. Their total capacity is relatively very small, and it is believed that they will be completely occupied with their function of accompanying mobile units of the fleet as medical supply ships and for the care of the sick and wounded of the Navy.

(b) That Navy transports now in service at present, it is believed, will suffice for bringing back large numbers of certain types of cases requiring nominal medical care and nursing, in short, cases not confined to bed. A limited number of bed cases, under proper conditions for their care and comfort, can be returned in the sick bays of these ships. However, the number of such cases will be limited by the number of beds available after the Navy sick and the sick of troops in transit are taken care of. It has been a fact on every Navy transport, making the eastward trip to date, that the sick from the troops in transit has overflowed the sick-bay accommodations. These Navy transports, however, are already engaged in bringing back to the United States Army cases of various types. The Army Medical Department delivers these patients to the medical officer on the transport at the port in Europe. Upon arrival at anport in the United States, the Surgeon of the Port (Army) takes charge of transportation of patients from the transport and their subsequent care.

(c) That to take care of the more serious cases (bed cases), contingent on casualties which may be expected to reach thousands in number and the urgent need which will develop to relieve the hospitals in France in order that they may be ready for further casualties following another extensive engagement, it is considered absolutely necessary that there be furnished a number of hospital ships of “sick transports.” It is considered as a conservative estimate that six ships will be required, of sufficient speed and tonnage to insure a bed capacity of 500 or more and one round trip every month.

(d) Under the above conditions we recommend that the medical provisions needed in the transport of troops and the transportation of sick and wounded of the Army be entrusted to the Navy.

Signed – W. C. Braisted, Surgeon General, U. S. Navy.

         W. C. Gorgas, Surgeon General, U. S. Army.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “129680.”

Footnote 1: These are the initials of the people who decoded and transcribed the cable.

Footnote 2: The document referred to has not been found.

Related Content