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Admiralty Islands Invasion - Medical Report

Lt. Johnson, BUSH Medical Officer

Dr. Johnson - 1944
Submitted by Lt. George Johnson,
Medical Officer, USNR
BUSH Medical Department - 1944

Medical Dept. - 1944
During the initial days of the Admiralty Islands invasion, February 29, 1944 through March 4, 1944, the USS BUSH provided medical treatment for wounded servicemen. All but one of these men were from the U.S. Army's First Cavalry Division. This page contains excerpts from a report written by the ship's doctor, Lt. George Johnson, about these events.

The term Hospital Corpsmen is synonymous with the Pharmacist's Mates that served in the ship's Medical Department under the direction of Lt. Johnson. Also, the acronym AUS means Army United States.

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March 5, 1944



A reconnaissance in force was ordered by Commander Task Force 76 in the vicinity of the Momote Airdrome on Los Negros Island, Februrary 29, 1944 at 0815. Hyane Harbor was the point of landing.

The mission of the U.S.S. BUSH was to embark, transport, and land a portion of the landing force, and to support the landing by naval bombardment.

The attack ws made by A.P.D.s (fast transports) and destroyers, and the U.S.S. BUSH stood by after the initial bombardment to receive casualties sustained by the first assault wave.


At 0834 one naval casualty, a member of the assault-boat crew (see Case I, diagnosis: Gunshot Wound, left chest), was brought aboard and treatment begun. The fear of pulmonary hemorrhage necessitated day and night attention.


Phase I consisted of the bringing aboard of casualties, examinations, attention to shock and pain, and the deciding of procedures to follow. This phase overlapped phase II (operative procedures.)

At 0842, March 1, 1944, word was received that a boat load of casualties would be sent to the U.S.S. BUSH. At 1039 seven wounded army casualties were taken aboard, five stretcher and two ambulatory cases accompanied by Lt. George Novis (MC) AUS. These wounded (see Cases II through VIII inclusive) were brought aboard by members of the after-repair party and transported by stretcher bearers and members of the forward-repair party to the forward battle-dressing station which is in the Officers Wardroom.

The Wardroom, Captain's cabin and the Commodore's cabin had been prepared to care for the most serious casualties, while an adequate number of the crew's bunks aft had been cleaned for the remainder.

The Wardroom was the clearing station. Blood pressure, pulse, and respiration was taken immediately and shore treatment cards were checked. The wounded were examined, and two cases were put to bed in the crews quarters aft (Cases II and IV.) The two stretcher bearers, four men from the crew, and one officer were put to work moving and washing the injured who were quite dirty after a day and night in fox holes. The Hospital Corpsmen were busy giving morphine and plasma and directing the undressing and washing of the wounded.

It was decided that Case III should have his head wound debrided and irrigated; Case V should have the Thomas splint reapplied to his leg and dressings reapplied; Cases VI and VII should have exploratory abdominal operations; while Case VIII would be watched and decision concerning operation postponed. Approximately three hours later it was decided to operate.

At approximately 1238 two critically injured and one ambulatory cases (see Cases IX, X, and XI) were brought aboard accompanied by Captain George Thornhill (MC) AUS, First Cavalry Division. The critically injured were given plasma and it was decided to take no action other than general measures at that time. Case IX was put to bed in the crews quarters aft with no further procedures.

At 1617 Colonel Hall (MC) USA, Division Surgeon, Fifth Cavalry, brought Case XII, a very critical post operative gut resection case, aboard and assigned an army doctor to help temporarily.

Operation began in the wardroom, at 1200, Case III being first. It was then decided to set up both the Wardroom and the Sick Bay for major operations, which was made possible by the elastic medical organization. A Pharmacist's Mate, with a stretcher bearer as an assistant, was detailed in charge of set-ups in each place. The Army doctors operated on Case VI in the Wardroom using local anaesthesia. The Ship's Medical Officer operated, simultaneously, on Case VII with the Chief Pharmacist's Mate adminstering the other anaesthesia and the Pharmacist's Mate first class assisting.

Case VIII was then operated on in the Sick Bay. Lt. Novis assisted the Ship's doctor and Captain Thornhill gave the other anaesthetic. The Chief Pharmacist's Mate watched the patients during this time and the Pharmacist's Mate second class set up the Wardroom for another operation.

Case XI was then operated on under spinal anaesthesia. The groin wound was explored, irrigation and debridement were accomplished nd the Thomas leg splint reapplied. The operator was the Ship's Doctor and Captain Thornhill was the assistant.

Operations lasted from 1200, March 1, 1944 to 0200, March 2, 1944. During that time casualties were received and examined. Oxygen and Wangensteen suction were started on one patient. Plasma and morphine were given as required. Three sterile major operating packs were used as well as much other sterile material. During that time the ship made four bombardments and had two "dry" runs made by Japanese planes.

IV. STAGE OF POST-OPERATIVE CARE: (from 0200, March 2, 1944 to 1245, March 4, 1944.)

There were four cases in the Commodore's cabin (Cases II, V, VI, and XII), two cases in the Captain's cabin (Cases VII and VIII), two cases in the Wardroom (Cases X and XI), and four cases aft in the crew's quarters.

The post operative gut resection and exteriorization case (Case XII) died at 242, March 2, 1944. Case X (gunshot wound of the head) died at 1450, March 2, 1944. Both bodies were buried at sea at 1000, March 3, 1944.

Because of enemy action, the army doctors were unable to leave the ship. They remained aboard until the casualties were transferred.

Morning rounds were made. Orders were written morning and night. Morning care, baths, meals, and feeding were attended to by the Pharmacist's Mates.

Intravenous fluids were given as required and included four grams of sodium sulfanilamide. Wangensteen suction was used on two patients. Oxygen by nasal catheter was given one patient.

On request of the Medical Officer two men were assigned each day for work under the Pharmacist's Mates to assist with the nursing, feeding, and cleaning.

The sterile pack materials were returned clean on the morning of March 4, 1944 from the laundry which was operated upon the order of the Executive Officer. I.V. sets were sterilized as needed.

Upon transfer of the patients to LST 464 the general condition of all patients was improving. The doctor's order sheets, the nursing notes, and complete write-ups, were transferred with each patient.

V. MATERIALS USED: (February 29, 1944 to March 3, 1944.)


Dried Blood Plasma--------------------------------- 8 units
5% Glucose in N/S----(1000 c.c.)------------------ 12 units
Tetanus Toxoid--------------------------------------- 2 c.c.
Sulfanilamide powder for I.V.---------------------- 4 grams
Morphine Tartrate-------------------------------20 syrettes
Morphine Sulfate------ (37-1/4 gr. shots)----74-1/8 gr. tabs.
Codeine Sulfate------ (10-1 gr. doses)--------------40 tabs.
Atropine Sulfate------- (1/100 gr. each)---------------2 tabs.
Nembutal------------ (1 1/2 gr. each)-----------12 capsules
Phenobarbital--------------------------------------2 1/4 grs.
2% Porcaine-----------(60 c.c.)---------------------1.2 grs.
Spinal Porcaine----------------(1 ampule)-----------150 mg.
Ephedrine Sulfate----------------(1 ampule)---------- 3/8 gr.
Post. Pit Extract-------(1 c.c. ampule)---------------10 units
Sulfanilamide Powder----(5 gm. pkgs.)--------------------20
Sulfathiazole Crystals------(sterile ampules)-----------6 tubes
Sulfathiazole Tablets------(7.7 gr. each)------------------124
Ether-----------------------(1/4 lb.cans)-------------------10
Alcohol------------------------------------------2 1/2 gallons
Adhesive tape-------------------------------------------1 roll
Bandage--------------------(2 inch)------------------12 rolls
Bandage--------------------(3 inch)------------------12 rolls
Battle dressings----------------------------------------2 small
Battle dressings----------------------------------------1 large
Pillow Cases-----------------------------------------------12
Catgut------------------------------------------------8 tubes
Nonabsorbable stay suture----------------------------2 tubes
Surgical cotton---------------------------------------3 yards


#16 Soft rubber catheter----------------------------------1
Syringes broken-------------------------------------------2
Surgical Gloves-----------------------------------------4 pr.
Thomas leg splint-----------------------------------------1


Dried Plasma----------------------------------------6 units
Thomas Splints--------(Arm and Leg)-----------------1 pair
Tetanus Toxoid--------(one bottle)------------------50 c.c.
Metal Pole Litters-----------------------------------------2
Surgical Needles------------------------------------------4


1. Even a small number of seriously injured men require more hands than the Medical Department can provide. It is estimated that we had seventy-two man-hours of help by other than the Medical Department personnel. Our help was adequate and by proper direction, was efficient. The officer who took charge of moving the wounded and rounding up help was of inestimable value. The ship gave us whole hearted cooperation.

2. Space on board a destroyer makes the proper care of seriously injured men difficult. They must be grouped to facilitate observation and nursing care. A vessel of this type is operating a great deal of the time at general quarters which means that all hatches are dogged and ventilation cut off in the living spaces. The living spaces with exception of the Division Commander's cabin and the Captain's cabin are all below the main deck. The problem of getting the seriously injured men into and out of these spaces has not been solved on this vessel. Therefore it was only through the generosity of the Division Commander and Captain for the use of their living spaces and the officers for the use of their wardroom that adequate attention was given.

3. It is essential to cope with such emergency that a great many sterile packs, dressings, and fluids be prepared; that first-aid equipment, be available in all parts of the ship; and that the ship's personnel be trained to handle any contingency.

4. It is invaluable to have the following equipment available: Sterile I.V. sets, Wangensteen-suction apparatus, Oxygen administration apparatus, suction for use in operations and sterile spinal anaesthesia sets.

5. The Hospital Corpsmen functioned with efficiency best expressed by Captain Thornhill (MC) AUS. "When you tell them to do something, they do it, no questions asked, and they do it right!" In addition, they showed initiative and willingness.



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