235 Years of Army Medicine: Bringing Value... Inspiring Trust

What is it'

This year marks the 235th anniversary of Army Medicine, beginning with the Continental Congress establishing a hospital department on July 27, 1775. This rudimentary medical support system, initially staffed by contract physicians holding no military rank, grew into today's Army Medical Department.

What has the Army done'

Army Medicine has been innovative and forward-thinking from the very beginning. In 1777, George Washington ordered that his entire Army receive smallpox inoculations - a bold move that demonstrated the confidence he had in his medical providers, saving innumerable lives amongst his Soldiers and the surrounding civilian populations.

During the American Civil War, Dr. Jonathan Letterman developed an echeloned system of evacuation and medical care that was emulated around the world. Letterman's system is still evident as the foundation for today's battlefield medical care.

In 1900, the Army sent Maj. Walter Reed to Cuba to study yellow fever. His research proved that mosquitoes were responsible for spreading the disease. The preventive medicine techniques that he and Major William Gorgas pioneered brought yellow fever under control for the first time in human history. The ability to prevent mosquito-borne diseases enabled the United States to complete the Panama Canal in 1914, changing global trade forever. Army doctors in WWI developed techniques to store and transport blood, facilitating battlefield blood transfusions for the severely wounded. During WWII, Army Medicine was instrumental in the production and distribution of penicillin and other antibiotics, proving the extensive value of these lifesaving new medicines.

The wars in Korea and Vietnam ushered in a new era in military mobility, as helicopters evolved to take on new, complex missions. The most famous helicopter of this era, the UH-1 "Huey", was designed with Army Medicine input to make it the ideal evacuation platform. Army "Dustoff" crews evacuated almost a million allied military personnel and civilians during the Vietnam War, redefining the concept of trauma care and evacuation.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future'

Army Medicine continues to support both the warfighter and the public. Advances in battlefield medicine, far forward deployed medical assets, and more highly skilled combat medics have increased survival rates for Soldiers wounded in ongoing operations to more than 90 percent. Army medical teams have deployed to provide care for earthquake victims in Pakistan and Haiti, tsunami victims in Indonesia, and hurricane victims on our own Gulf Coast. Army medical research and experience continues to benefit Soldiers and civilians alike.

Why is this important to the Army'

A Soldier's willingness to serve is often contingent upon his or her confidence in the Army's ability to provide necessary support. Army Medicine has consistently provided quality care to Soldiers, their Families, and others in need, bringing value and inspiring trust.


U.S. Army Medical History