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2/6/99:Notes from Kevin McFarland's interview of his grandfather, James McFarland, about his memories of medical care for sailors in the US Navy in the Pacific just before and during World War II.
1. Were you ever treated or operated upon by a Navy doctor?
I developed an infection deep in the tip of the middle finger of one hand, and a navy doctor on board my battleship, the USS Maryland, did operate on it . He made an incision in my finger to drain the infection and gave me antibiotics.
2. Did enemy sailors receive different medical treatment?
I did not see any Japanese prisoners of war during my service in the Pacific.
3. Were regular doctors assigned to your ship, or did the crew rely upon non-physicians for medical emergencies?
I served on two ships during WWII. The first was the battleship USS Maryland with over 1400 men aboard. This ship had several regular medical doctors among the officers in command. I also served later on a smaller repair ship, which had a single medical officer (a fully trained medical doctor). Enlisted men serving as medics helped the doctors on board.
4. What was the worst medical problem you faced while on board ship?
While on board the repair ship, another ship tied up to ours for repair. The men on this ship were already sick with a disease called amoebic dysentery, then a nearly untreatable intestinal illness. It spread to about half of the men on my ship, and I was lucky not to get it. Even the doctor on my ship became ill with it, and the navy had to fly in doctors from Pearl Harbor to diagnose and treat the ill sailors as best they could. We were all quarantined on our boats for about six weeks, until those who did not die from the illness managed to recover.
5. Did you know of any surgery on board a ship during the War?
My best friend developed appendicitis while on the USS Maryland. Luckily we were at Pearl Harbor at the time, so instead of operating on him on our ship, they took him over to a hospital ship where a navy surgeon removed his appendix.
6. Did you see injured sailors treated during the attack on Pearl Harbor?
No. There were only about 5 casualties aboard the USS Maryland at Pearl Harbor.