World War 2 combat medics


December 15, 2003, 11:14 PM
What did they typically carry for weapons and equipment? Im curious because my Grandfather was a combat medic in the Philippines during World War 2. Unfortunately, he is not with us anymore so I cant ask him.

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December 15, 2003, 11:15 PM
Nothing bigger than an M1 carbine generally. I'd imaginge a thompson would be a coveted item.

December 15, 2003, 11:27 PM
He was there during the late stage of the war, and he was a Private.

December 16, 2003, 12:41 AM
hmm, i had an instructor in EMT school who was 83, and had been running active EMS since he was a combat medic in the pacific. I wish i knew where to find him because i would ask him.

Mike Irwin
December 16, 2003, 01:07 AM
By international law at the time, they carried no offensive firearms; generally that was interpreted to mean no weapons of any kind other than their corpsman knife, a quasi knife/bolo/machete. Also by international law, they were supposed to be non-combat personnel, ergo not targets. It often didn't work that way.

Check these webpages.

I believe later in the war, especially in the Pacific, no one cared if the corpsman carried a weapon or not, usually a handgun, as they were specifically targeted by the Japanese.

December 16, 2003, 07:49 AM
Standard practice for U.S. forces in Europe was that Medics would not carry weapons or munitions. I'm sure there were exceptions, but that was the SOP.

I'm not sure what the SOP was in the Pacific, and if it differed between Army and Marine units, but I have seen references to armed medics in the Pacific defending their patients under fire.

December 16, 2003, 09:06 AM
My uncle was a medic in the Phillipines during WWll as well. He never talked about it. My mother said he was never the same when he returned home. From what I've read and seen I also believe medics were unarmed per the articles of war. I understand the Germans honored the red cross medics, (mostly) but the Japanese did not. They felt if you kill the medic, that means no medical care for the wounded fighting soldier. Can you imagine going into combat unarmed? Their has to be a special place in heaven for medics.

rick newland
December 16, 2003, 09:38 AM
In the book "Flags of our Fathers" the Navy corpsman were armed with .45 autos when the Marines invaded Iwo.

December 16, 2003, 09:50 AM
Can you imagine going into combat unarmed? Their has to be a special place in heaven for medics.

It's the same stateside. I can't even carry pepper spray on duty and i can think of more than a few pacific islands that weren't as bloody as this city is on a good weekend.

December 16, 2003, 10:35 AM
I seem to recall a medic being awarded the Medal of Honor for defending his patients against charging Japanese soldiers. Used a 1911 he was carrying.

Mike Irwin
December 16, 2003, 11:42 AM
"Their has to be a special place in heaven for medics."

Don't know about heaven, but there certainly is in the annals of the Medal of Honor.

More Medal of Honor winners have been Corpsmen or Medics than any other individual group.

More than one so honored became a medic because he was a conscientious objector.

" I seem to recall a medic being awarded the Medal of Honor for defending his patients against charging Japanese soldiers. Used a 1911 he was carrying."

Yes, one of the later island battles in the Pacific, Okinawa or Iwo Jima. As I noted, later in the war, given that the Japanese specifically targeted medics, many carried weapons for defensive purposes.

I recall a quote, but I'll be damned if I can find it, from a medic to the effect of "I could carry a weapon, but that would mean that I couldn't carry as much morphine or as many dressings."

December 16, 2003, 12:04 PM
(I grew up around this guy and he's still living today.)

Most did what their counscious allowed. Some carried .45's, some carried a Bible. Here is an example:


When he knelt to pray that first night in the Army, they showered Desmond Doss with jeers and catcalls. When he quietly but firmly refused to pick up a rifle, they called him a coward. When Harry Truman decorated him with the Medal of Honor, they called Desmond Doss the unlikeliest hero.

Although officially classified a conscientious objector, Doss saw himself as a conscientious cooperator, a proud noncombatant. Deeply religious and deeply patriotic, he declined the deferment offered him as shipyard worker in 1942 just as firmly as he refused to learn to shoot a rifle. A Seventh-day Adventist who daily read his Bible and said his prayers, Doss came to war to save lives, not to take them. He endured the harassment, fought attempts to discharge him as being unfit for service and trained to be a medic.

Assigned to the 77th Infantry Division and shipped to the Pacific, Doss served on Guam, Leyte and, finally, Okinawa. In the process, the tall, thin Virginian became the very symbol of courage and service to those who once jeered him.

In May, 1945, the 1st Battalion of the 307th Infantry Regiment was ordered to scale the 50-foot Maeda escarpment on the southern end of Okinawa. A barrage of Japanese mortar and rifle fire met the Americans and the battalion was forced off the escarpment, leaving behind 75 wounded comrades and Desmond Doss. Working slowly and doggedly under continuous enemy fire, Doss dragged each man to the edge of the cliff, tied him in a rope sling and lowered him to safety. One by one, he rescued them all.

Two weeks later, in another bitter fight, Doss rescued his badly wounded company commander. “He saved my life,” says Jack Glover. “The man I tried to have kicked out of the Army ended up being the most courageous person I’ve ever known. How’s that for irony?”

Not long afterward, Doss was seriously wounded in the legs trying to shield three other men from a Japanese grenade. Six hours later, a party of stretcher bearers found him and began carrying him off the field. Doss spotted another American hurt worse than he was and insisted that they put him down and take the other man. As he crawled toward safety Doss was shot wounded again by a sniper.

On the way out to a hospital ship offshore, Doss discovered that he had lost the Bible his wife Dorothy had given him. He sent word asking if the men could keep an eye out for it. The word passed from man to man, and an entire battalion combed the battlefield until Doss’s Bible was found. A sergeant carefully dried it out and mailed it to Doss.

On Oct. 12, 1945, Desmond Doss received the Medal of Honor from President Truman. He would spend a total of six years in hospitals as a consequence of his wounds and a bout with tuberculosis. Today, almost totally deaf, Doss lives with his wife in the mountain community of Rising Fawn, GA, where he serves his church with all the quiet determination he once put at the service of his country.

“I don’t think there is anyone who appreciates peace more than I do,” Doss once told an interviewer. “I am sad for the true heroes who paid the supreme price for our freedoms.”

Here is the Official Citation (and photograph of him):

December 16, 2003, 12:34 PM
" I seem to recall a medic being awarded the Medal of Honor for defending his patients against charging Japanese soldiers. Used a 1911 he was carrying."

Yes, one of the later island battles in the Pacific, Okinawa or Iwo Jima. As I noted, later in the war, given that the Japanese specifically targeted medics, many carried weapons for defensive purposes.
Robert Bush is his name and I believe he is still with us. I worked at Bush clinic at Camp Courtney, Okinawa.
Rank: Hospital Apprentice First Class, US Naval Reserve (serving as Medical Corpsman with a rifle company)

Location of action: Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands

Date of action: May 2, 1945

Medal received from: President Harry Truman, October 5, 1945

Official Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Medical Corpsman with a rifle company, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands, 2 May 1945. Fearlessly braving the fury of artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire from strongly entrenched hostile positions, Bush constantly and unhesitatingly moved from one casualty to another to attend the wounded falling under the enemy's murderous barrages. As the attack passed over a ridge top, Bush was advancing to administer blood plasma to a marine officer lying wounded on the skyline when the Japanese launched a savage counterattack. In this perilously exposed position, he resolutely maintained the flow of life-giving plasma. With the bottle held high in one hand, Bush drew his pistol with the other and fired into the enemy's ranks until his ammunition was expended. Quickly seizing a discarded carbine, he trained his fire on the Japanese charging pointblank over the hill, accounting for six of the enemy despite his own serious wounds and the loss of one eye suffered during his desperate battle in defense of the helpless man. With the hostile force finally routed, he calmly disregarded his own critical condition to complete his mission, valiantly refusing medical treatment for himself until his officer patient had been evacuated, and collapsing only after attempting to walk to the battle aid station. His daring initiative, great personal valor, and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in service of others reflect great credit upon Bush and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

December 16, 2003, 01:29 PM
Not really a medic, but I remember seeing ( I took a picture, but I can't find it a the moment) the gravestone of a LT j.g Osborne, US Navy, in the US cemetary at Belleau Wood in France (slightly off topic-WWI, not WWII). The man had earned the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, and the Croix de Guerre.

I looked him up-the guy was a dentist.

December 16, 2003, 01:32 PM
He could have carried practically anything.

In Europe, medics were treated fairly well by both sides. European Theatre Medics often painted extra crosses on their helmets and wore extra arm bands to increase their visibility to both friend or foe. They also didn't carry weapons very often because that was one of the only ways they could be treated badly. Its against the rules of war for a noncombatant to carry weapons and both the allies and axis took offense at this rule being broken even if it was just a pistol.

The Pacific was the opposite. The Japanese did not follow the rules of war, even those included in the treaties that they had signed. Medics drew fire, so pacific medics didn't wear armbands and often covered the crosses on their helmets. Some undoubtably carried rifles or at least sidearms and their officers looked the other way. But there is no official weapons loadout for a medic so who knows?

Phil Ca
December 16, 2003, 02:24 PM
I was about to suggest a Google search using "Desmond T. Doss" in the search area. There is his entire story there and how he was awarded the CMOH for his heroism in the Pacific theatre. He would not want to be called a hero though, since he considered his actions as just doing his duty.

He was a Seventh-day Adventist and did not believe in the taking of another person's life. He entered the service as a CO(conscientious objector) and endured all sorts of derisive comments and personal attacks, such as having boots thrown at him.

I met him when I was a kid. I believe it was at a church camp meeting at Walla Walla College, in Washington State. When I was in boarding school we had a group called MCC, or Medical Cadet Corps. Our soon-to-be, draft age young men were enrolled to study military technicques of marching and discipline, as well as extensive first-aid and evacuation of the injured while under hostile fire.

When I was of age and could have entered the MCC, I did not because I had an aversion to dealing with blood and gore. Since then I have taken one EMT course and an untold number of regular and advanced first aid courses.

When I was 17, due to some family problems and disagreement with public school officials, I joined the US Army and spent the next 10 years in the military. I was not a CO and did carry a firearm, but was never required to use it on anyone, even in Vietnam.

I urge you to read the article on Desmond T. Doss, it is very inspirational even today, some 60 years later.

December 16, 2003, 02:29 PM
(See post above, re: Doss)

Nice old guy .... a great generation.
Much different than the "me" generation of today.

December 16, 2003, 03:38 PM
I recall reading in what I think is one of Steven Ambrose's histories of the European theater during WWII of two German medics who, while carrying handguns and transporting wounded, were killed by their American captors. Reason was because they were armed. The Americans unloaded the German wounded and left them at the side of the road.

Sean Smith
December 16, 2003, 04:11 PM
Last I checked, medics in the U.S. military are authorized to cary sidearms (i.e. pistols), but nothing more as far as weapons are concerned. These are for the sole purpose of protecting themselves and their patients. Under the Geneva Conventions, medical personnel being armed does not deprive them of protection under the Convetions, so long as the weapons are strictly to defend themselves and their patients (Article 22). In theory, when acting as sentries or guards of a medical facility, medical personnel do not lose their protected status, and presumably could use heavier weapons in that limited defensive capacity. However, in general the U.S. military tends to interpret international law in a very strict and conservative way, so it wouldn't surprise me that medical personnel go with only M9s, or nothing at all.

Of course, the scum we tend to get in wars with as often as not treat the Red Cross as a bull's-eye. :rolleyes:

December 16, 2003, 04:44 PM
My best friend is a Navy Corpsman attached to a Marine unit right now. He carries an M4.

I think our (Seabees) Corpsmen carry a normal M-16, but I am not sure. Might be a pistol.

December 16, 2003, 05:26 PM
Wow. Thanks for all of the replies! You guys sure seem to know a lot!

December 16, 2003, 07:02 PM
I did my time as a medic (91b) with 3rd Batt. 327th Inf. 101st Airborne. Got out in 96 and at that time line medics carried M9's and the FLA crews had a M9 for the TC and M-16a2's for the drivers. I reckon it's still about the same now.

Phil Ca
December 16, 2003, 07:09 PM
While looking through the Google site I found that a movie is being made of desmond Doss' action during WW2.

I also found out that the army medic field pack is named after him. You can find it all on Google.
It is called Mighty M3C Cpl. Desmond T. Doss Combat Lifesaver Assault Pack.

I did a search on google and placed a phone call to his wife . He is nearly deaf so I was not sure if he would use the phone. They were out so I will try later or another time.

December 16, 2003, 08:43 PM
I'm not sure what the policy was in WWII, but my uncle's brother-in-law was a Navy Corpsman who saw action during several Pacific island invasions. He carried an early Winchester M1 Carbine, and from what I've been told he fired it more than once during combat. Apparently, he was a pretty tough hombre, and figured if they were going to shoot at him he'd return the favor. He passed the carbine on to my uncle, and my uncle gave it to me several years ago.

December 17, 2003, 10:22 AM
In one of Ambrose's books, he mentions that every time he brought up a medic to one of the old WW2 combat vets he was interviewing, the reaction would be "Bravest man I ever met. Let me give you an example..."

If you think about it, it took a lot of courage just to be a CO during WW2, so it's not surprising they acted the same way under fire.

Navy joe
December 17, 2003, 11:51 AM
It's the same stateside. I can't even carry pepper spray on duty and i can think of more than a few pacific islands that weren't as bloody as this city is on a good weekend.

To even imply comparison between a stateside EMT and a WWI,WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc. combat doc is disrespectful in the extreme.

December 17, 2003, 12:28 PM
To even imply comparison between a stateside EMT and a WWI,WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc. combat doc is disrespectful in the extreme.

It's not disrespectful at all. We became corpsmen, medics, and EMT's to help others. That's what it's always been about. Ask Khornet, he'll tell you the same thing.

BTW, I was an HM3 and Khornet was in the Medical Corps, in case you want to know.

Navy joe
December 17, 2003, 02:29 PM
I did not mean in regard to helping people. Paramedicine will probably be one of the things I do when I retire at the ripe age of 39. I meant in rgard to feeling disarmed as a stateside medic. No matter how bad the city is, it is disorganized or drug focused violence. The object of the game is not "kill the medic, all his buddies and then parade their heads around on a pike." Further, there are plenty of cops around who are responsible for keeping the medics safe.

I might believe that a stateside medic is worthy of the same heroic praise as some combat medics just as soon as I hear of them being wounded and continuing to care for their charges, going repeatedly under fire to places that their gun carrying comrades failed to make it, or laying their body over a wounded man and returning fire to defend their patient. Being an EMT is a noble profession, but I think that being unable to carry pepper spray on the job pales in comparison to what some of these men faced.

Jeff White
December 17, 2003, 02:52 PM
Clubsoda22 said;
It's the same stateside. I can't even carry pepper spray on duty and i can think of more than a few pacific islands that weren't as bloody as this city is on a good weekend.

I'm sorry my friend, but their is no comparison between being a civilian EMT and a combat medic. Not even the TEMS guys who support LE Tac Teams have to face what a combat medic faces. How many times have you had to get up from behind cover and run out under heavy fire to get a patient? How many IVs do you start while the incoming fire is showering you with dirt, rock chips and other debris? How many times have you been the only medic on the scene where you had so many casualties you had to triage because you didn't have the time or the supplies to treat all of them. And let's not forget that a combat medic serves his friends. One minute he's joking and sharing the comradeship that only those who have served in ground combat arms will ever understand and the next minute he's doing everything he can to keep his friend alive....You have the luxury of treating strangers and that allows you to maintain a professional detachment.

While your city may have a weekend where EMS calls exceeded the number of casualties in 24 hours of some battle, you also have the entire resources of your city to deal with it. A combat medic may very well be the only medic on the scene of 10 or more serious casulaties for hours. All he's got is what he's carrying on his back. No nice rig full of supplies. Nope, no comparison....


December 17, 2003, 05:30 PM
My grandfather served in WWII in the Phillipines and New Guinea as a medic. since he has passed on, I can't ask him (he never would talk about the war anyway). We do have pictures of him carrying various guns including M1 carbine, 1911 Colt, and a revolver (1917?), He also mentioned a fondness of the Thompson and we have a few pics as well, but most showed him carrying a M1 carbine while overseas.

Phil Ca
December 17, 2003, 09:10 PM
Yesterday I made a Google search and found the number of Desmond Doss, who earned the CMOH on Okinawa in WW2. Since he is deaf and doesn't deal with the phone too well, I talked to his wife. They are fine people and he is still active in his local church.

He spent more than 5 years in a VA hospital after 1945 due to TB. During his stay in the VA hospital he was given too many antibiotics and as a result his ears became infected. This led to his hearing loss and he had a cochlear implant in 1988. Many years ago he had one lung removed also.

His wife, Francis, has written a book in 1998 and she sells them from her home and in some Adventist Book Centers. They are $12.00 postpaid. I asked if her husband would autograph it along with her and she said yes.

If anyone is interested in reading about a genuine WW2 hero who is still living here is the address.

Desmond T. Doss
4600 Hwy. 157-lookout Mountain
Rising Fawn, Georga 30738-2035


December 17, 2003, 10:28 PM
Navy joe

I'm sorry I misunderstood you.

You're right about civilian EMT's not facing nearly the same kind of conditions corpsmen in combat areas face.

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