June 17 marks the 114th birthday of the Navy Hospital Corps. Since 1898, wherever Sailors and Marines are called to serve, Hospital Corpsmen stand proudly by their side; when the call, “Corpsman up!” goes out, they respond with honor and courage.
In 1945 Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal said, "The Hospital Corpsmen saved lives on all beaches that the Marines stormed. You Corpsman performed foxhole surgery while shell fragments clipped your clothing, shattered the plasma bottles from which you poured new life into the wounded, and sniper’s bullets were aimed at the brassards on your arms." No other individual corps, before or since, has been so singled out and honored.
Whether assigned to hospitals, clinics, hospital ships, naval fighting vessels, fleet hospitals, Marine surgical companies, forward resuscitative shock surgical units, or as “grunt” Corpsmen on the frontlines with Marines or Special Warfare units, Hospital Corpsmen serve with the utmost professionalism and bravery.
The Hospital Corpsman rating is the most highly decorated in the United States Navy with 22 Medals of Honor, 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Medals, 946 Silver Stars and 1,582 Bronze Stars. Additionally, 20 naval ships have been named in honor of Hospital Corpsmen.
On March 18, our nation lost one of the few remaining Hospital Corpsman Medal of Honor recipients, Master Chief Petty Officer William Charette.
As a Hospital Corpsman Third Class during the Korean War, he served with the 3rd Marine Division. According to his Medal of Honor citation, Charette repeatedly and unhesitatingly moved about a barrage of hostile small arms and mortar fire to render assistance to his wounded comrades. When an enemy grenade landed within a few feet of a Marine he was attending, Charette immediately threw himself on the patient to absorb the entire concussion of the missile with his body.
Although he suffered from painful facial wounds and shock from the blast, which also ripped his helmet and medical aid kit from him, Charette tore off parts of his clothing to make emergency bandages, and continued to administer medical aid to the wounded in his unit and to those in adjacent platoon areas.
In 2003 when he was asked about his actions, Charette said, “I could hear the bullets zipping by my head, but I couldn’t leave the guys there.”
Charette is but one example of the selfless, heroic legacy of Hospital Corpsman, past and present.
In August 2009, the Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River lost one of its own, Hospital Corpsman Third Class Anthony Garcia, who was killed in action Aug. 5, 2009, while deployed with the 3rd Marine Division in Farah Province, Afghanistan.
Today, 23,000 regular and 6,000 reserve members of the Hospital Corps continue to serve around the globe. In peace and war, the Hospital Corps has compiled a truly honorable legacy of valor and lifesaving sacrifice.
Hospital Corpsmen Awards and War Facts
Prior to WWI during the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Battle of Vera Cruz in Mexico, the Philippine insurrection and aboard the USS Bennington in San Diego Four Medals of Honor
World War I
Two Medals of Honor, 55 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Medals, and 460 other major awards and citations.
16 Hospital Corpsmen were killed in action in WWI.
World War II
Seven Medals of Honor, 67 Navy Crosses and 464 Silver Stars Hospital Corpsmen were at the forefront of every invasion and involved in every action at sea.
Pharmacist Mate Second Class John Bradley was among the group of Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
1,724 Hospital Corpsmen were killed in action during WWII.
Five Medals of Honor
107 Hospital Corpsmen killed in action.
Vietnam conflict (1963-1975)
Three Medals of Honor, 29 Navy Crosses, 127 Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, 290 Bronze Stars and 4,563 Purple Hearts
628 Corpsmen were killed in action and another 3,353 were wounded.
Beirut, Lebanon, Marine Barracks bombing (Oct. 23, 1983)
Fifteen Hospital Corpsmen were among the 241 American personnel killed. Many other wounded Corpsmen disregarded their injuries and performed lifesaving actions amid the carnage.
Global War on Terrorism:
Operation Iraqi Freedom
29 Hospital Corpsmen were killed in action Operation Enduring Freedom
22 Hospital Corpsmen were killed.