Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral William C. Braisted, Surgeon General and Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

May 28, 1917.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY

     Great interest and many inquiries concerning the health of the Navy and the presence of epidemic disease make it desirable to state officially from time to time in the Bulletin the facts in the case.

     There has been great extension in the Navy and more extension will follow. At present the Medical Department must care for the officers and enlisted men of the Navy, and the Marine Corps, the Flying Corps, the Reserve Force, the National Naval Volunteers, Coast Guard, Light house services, and Midshipmen a total of approximately 160,000 persons. This number will be further increased as the authorized increases become available and will approximately amount to something over 250,000 persons who must, when ill, be taken care of by the Medical Department of the Navy. Within the last few months, the total personnel of the Navy had increased about 90,000, the rapid influx of young men from civil communities when epidemic disease is more than usually prevalent, and the lack of time for the usual careful detention together with new and at times emergency housing in cold and wet weather, has produced an increased number of sick and has taxed the Medical Department at some places to a degree.

     There have been many cases of measles, and mumps, here and there cerebro-spinal meningitis, a few cases of scarlet fever, chicken pox, diphtheria, etc. These cases have appeared pretty generally all over the service, perhaps most marked at Great Lakes. Since January there have been about 3000 cases of epidemic disease mostly measles and mumps, many cases very slight and being sick but for a few days. There have been no deaths from measles and mumps except when complicated by pneumonia. The situation is improving now and another month will probably find a normal condition. The Commander-inChief reports today that conditions in the Fleet are about normal.

     The usual total deaths in the Navy with a personnel of 70,000 is about 334 or 4.8 per 1000: the ordinary mortality in civil communities varies from 5-15 or more per 1000.

     The total deaths this year from epidemic disease since January 1, 1917 a period of five months, has been 141, which is more than has been the case in years past, but when the increased personnel from 70,000 to 160,000 is taken into account with the concentration due to mobilization, and the unusual conditions existing the showing is not unsatisfactory.

     The Medical Department is working day and night to expand its provisions for the sick, not alone for the present need but for the increased personnel soon to be taken in and which must be carefully housed and cared for during the coming winter.

     The Medical Department is well equipped with doctors, nurses, and supplies of all kinds; the lack of hospital housing where needed is being rushed and will be completed <in> from forty to ninety days. Some of our hospitals such as Norfolk which takes care today of the sick of over 40,000 people are naturally very, busy, so are the hospitals at most of the large stations.

     The Medical Department is meeting all these unusual conditions quickly, effectively, and successfully, and is fully alive to the great task already existing and which increases from day to day as the war goes on.

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Roll 46. Document is on, “Bureau of Medicine and Surgery/Washington, D.C.” stationary.

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