View Full Version : "Corpsman Up"

11-13-02, 07:50 PM
History of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps

Although corpsmen go back to the very beginning of the Navy, it was over 100 years ago, in June 1898 that the Hospital Corps was officially established.
In 1814, Navy Regulations mention a "loblolly boy" who was to serve the surgeon and the surgeon's mate. The loblolly boy prepared for battle by filling containers with water to hold amputated limbs. In addition, his duties called for maintaining the braziers of charcoal to heat the tar which was used to stop the hemorrhaging from the amputations. Keeping the deck safe for the surgeon around the operating area was a duty during battle. The deck, slippery with blood, was to be treated with buckets of sand. Sounds gruesome, but cannon balls and cutlasses were not tidy weapons and amputation was the standard treatment for compound fractures.
The "surgeon's steward" replaced the loblolly boy. Recognizing the need for additional trained help, surgeons selected promising young men for training in elementary medicine. More than a clean up person, this specialist is probably the true forerunner of today's corpsman.
When Congress established the Hospital Corps, the Secretary of the Navy appointed 25 senior "apothecaries" as Pharmacists. These 25 are the charter members of the Hospital Corps.

Twenty-two Navy Corpsman have been awarded the Medal of Honor, America's Highest Decoration, for extreme heroism. Many were awarded posthumously.



11-14-02, 01:47 AM
As a Marine, there are only three males of the species I would offer my seat to: a fellow Marine, A Navy corpsman, or a MedEvac Helo Jockey.

Anyone else can stand in line and wait.

11-30-02, 06:44 PM
Almost every Marine who spent time in Vietnam has heard the cry, "Corpsman Up !!!!" The circumstances varied widely, but the result was a constant. A U.S. Navy Corpsman, wearing the same dirty, torn, and smelly green utilities worn by his Marine brothers and "armed" with his B-1 medical kit, went to the aid of wounded Marines. Usually under enemy fire, these "angels in green" performed lifesaving miracles with complete disregard for their own safety.
These FMF (Fleet Marine Force) Corpsmen were something special to us Marines. Although they took their fair share of kidding and good-natured harassment, they were in every sense of the word a fellow Marine. They took the same chances, lived in the same mud-filled hole, ate the same cold C-rations as Marine grunts. Many of them share the same space on The Wall as the men they tried to save.

Like their brave Army medic counterparts, the Corpsman was a special breed and developed skills that made them invaluable to field operations large and small. Many of our corpsmen became full-fledged members of our grunt squads and reconnaissance teams, filling in for their Marine buddies whenever and whereever needed.

A great many of us made it home because of a Corpsman. We will never forget them.




11-30-02, 07:17 PM

To the Navy, the Marines are like a bastard child. They are part of the family but should not be heard or seen, that is until they are needed. To the Marines the Navy is only a form of transportation, a very boring form while haze grey and under way.

For over two hundred years this LOVE/HATE relationship has existed between the two, and about the only thing that unites them in a peaceful environment is when any other branch of the military tries to interfere with either one.

This relationship is true in all sections of the Navy and Marines except for two, the Marine GRUNT and Navy CORPSMAN. Here one will always find a much closer bond, a bond more akin to blood brothers.

Having served over 20 years as a Marine grunt I came in contact with many Navy Corpsman, most of which were Fleet Marine Force Corpsman, the Marines in bell bottoms. During that time I never saw a time of friction, one was always there for the other, to help or to sacrifice.

Never was this sacrifice greater to me than it was in June 1967 on a rocky hillside in Viet Nam.

I was 19 years old, a fire team leader with 5 months of combat behind me, lucky enough to only have gotten a few minor scratches. Our re-enforced platoon of about 46 Marines, which should have been about 60, was in the fifth day of a seven day security patrol in an area that had seen an increase of activity by our local counterparts, the Viet Cong, (VC) and North Vietnamese Army, (NVA).

After a long, hot and humid day of humping, we set in a defensive position on a small hill with the hopes of a quiet night, a night that we all hoped would be uneventful. The night was clear, lit up by a very full and bright moon. That bright moon shone over us like a protecting angel.

At 0500 the next morning the moon was gone and the darkness became encompassing. Around 0515, that darkness was lit up by rifle fire and exploding grenades. Our platoon was attacked by an estimated company strength unit of NVA and VC, their initial point of attack was on my squad's position.

I was first wounded by a grenade that landed behind me resulting in multiple shrapnel wounds in my back and arms, penetrating my left lung and severing a nerve in my right arm, rendering it useless. Shortly afterward I was shot through the upper right side, small hole in, big hole out and although it was a through wound, it had the kick of a mule.

As I lay there in the darkness with the battle going on around me, tasting blood and cordite, wondering what else could happen, I knew I needed help but worried about the consequences if I started yelling "Corpsman Up". I had no desire to have someone else hurt particularly since corpsman had the unenviable pleasure of drawing bullets like bees to honey.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd class Rick Crabtree was our "doc", he had been with the platoon for about 4 months and was a good friend to all and a hell of a corpsman. The last thing I wanted was for him to get hit helping me; no, that's wrong, the last thing I wanted was to die on that hillside, the next thing was to have Rick hit.

In certain situations the mind has a tendency to play games with you as mine did then. The age old calling of "Corpsman Up", has always gotten help to wounded Marines. In this case my mind kept telling me if I yelled corpsman up, that Rick would not come, since he was on the top of the hill and I was down the side of the hill. Plus the fact that if I started yelling for a corpsman I would just draw more fire to my position. Sanity took hold and I just let out a yell, "Rick, it's Rod, I'm hit". In no time a figure came sliding down the hillside. Throwing caution to the wind, ignoring the battle raging around us, Rick was there. He asked why I was lying down on the job, Corpsman humor I guess. I told him I was glad he made house calls, that I was hit in the back and side and felt I was kind of F--ked up. Rick rolled me over and I felt his hands as they passed over my back, stopping periodically to feel a hole. Now field corpsman have never been known for their bedside manner and Rick was no different, his comment of "Aw, **** Rod", kind of led credence to my personal feeling. He hit me with a serrate of morphine, did something to my back, rolled me over, and told me I would be ok and not to go anywhere 'till he got back. "No problem".

I don't know exactly how long the fighting lasted, morphine kind of shrouds your perception of time. When things quieted down we were still on our hill and Rick had patched up 14 wounded Marines, 2 others were killed. In my morphine daze I remember hearing Rick tell the platoon commander that we needed emergency me-evac, we had dead and wounded and Rod was hit bad, kind of like telling a pregnant woman she's going to have quintuplets.

I kept drifting in and out of consciousness but it seemed like Rick was always there. He must have bounced around that hillside like a kangaroo working on Marines, but he was always coming back to check and work on me.

It was just shortly after sun-up when the med-evac choppers got there to take us out, Rick was with me when they wrapped me in a poncho and I had a panic attack, we always wrapped our dead in a poncho, thought I was dead and didn't know it, but it was just a lift to the chopper.

I lost a lot of blood that morning but I never completely succumbed to shock. In less than an hour I was being prepped for surgery in 1st MED battalion, Danang. When I finally awoke two days later, to some crazy corpsman screaming in my ear, my first perception was that I was a receptacle for every small rubber hose in Viet Nam. After I became coherent to my surroundings the duty screamer told me that Rick had been by earlier that day to check on me, there was a note from him on my chart, "Hang in there Rod, see you after summer break". More Corpsman humor.

I did see Rick again, six weeks later I returned to my platoon, and less than a month later I was patching him up on yet another hillside, where I received my second purple heart and he got his first.

For a field corpsman, many said Rick was awfully lucky to go so long without getting wounded. He was lucky, but more than that he was good. A professional in every aspect of the word. An individual that threw caution to the wind when it came to taking care of HIS Marines. A Corpsman I would go through hell or high water for, and one I owe my life to.

Rick survived his wounds, unfortunately I lost contact with him over the years, but he is never forgotten.

Henry L. Rode's USMC, (retired)