Recently people have been joining me on my Sunday Walks in Downtown Albany. Typically, I walk in Albany when I'm scheduled as a tour guide on the USS Slater. A slide show and a map are detailed at this blog entry. I plan on walking on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. You can contact me at:

More on the USS SLATER (

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tour 10/27/2007, Hospital Corpsman

It was a cold and rainy October day. Not just a drizzle, it was coming down in buckets. Accordingly it wasn't very busy. I gave one tour to a small family group. Their son was a marine on active duty and their daughter was in the process of joining the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. Instead of focusing the tour on the Slater's equipment, and the historical context I tried to discuss Navy Life in general. Unfortunately as a Gunner's Mate who left active duty over 35 years ago, my knowledge was somewhat dated. To compensate, I introduced the visitors to as many navy vets as possible to give them a broad perspective on Navy life. Luckily, the Capital District Chief Petty Officers Association was on board with a birthday cake (celebrating the 10 anniversary of the Slater's arrival in Albany NY). They also had an opportunity to meet Rear Admiral Paul Czesak. We have one regular volunteer who's still on active duty at Navy Nuclear Power School in Malta NY (aka Mechanic For Hire) unfortunately he wasn't on board that day.

Because of the rain I kept the tour below decks (indoor) as much as possible. And, I tried to focus on hospital corpsman related items. During the course of the tour we encountered an uniform with a 1st class rating badge with a red Geneva Cross instead of the Winged Caduceus (which is used today). In 1948, the Navy changed the names and insignia of the Hospital Corps. They also changed the rating name from Pharmacist Mate to Hospital Corpsman.

I know that the Navy places VERY BIG emphasis on technical competence. I did a little research relative to the technical knowledge required for a Corpsman. Here's a few links:

Hospital Corpsman Basic Training Course (check drop down boxes on top of page for links to reference materials)

Integrated Publishing - Corpsman Manuals

While it isn't included on a regular tour I made it a point to visit the USS Slater sick bay. Since it's off the guided tour I didn't have any good historical background material. A little Google search afterward found this interesting story by the USS Slater's Museum curator, Pat Perrella. It concerns the USS Atherton (DE-169), a Destroyer Escort that had the distinction of sinking the last U Boat during WWII (U-853).

".......Ironically, while U-853 was under deadly attack, with ATHERTON rocking amidst the tremendous noise and force of the exploding ordnance, a life-saving drama was taking place below deck in ATHERTON’S “Sick Bay” and photographs bear witness to the unprecedented event. A German POW was being tenderly attended by Jewish Lt. Maurice Vitsky (Dr.) USN, Surgery, following an emergency appendectomy. Pvt.1/c Franz Krones, German Army POW #31G668894, had been transferred by breeches buoy to ATHERTON from M/V 2-1 on 20 April 1945, while the convoy (GUS-84) was forming near Gibraltar in the Mediterranean. Krones was critically ill with a ruptured appendix and Dr. Vitsky, as Division Medical Officer aboard ATHERTON, operated immediately with the assistance of 20-year-old Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd Class, Thomas J. Ciaccio. The prisoner was helpless and desperately ill. Dr. Vitsky and Phm. Ciaccio compassionately nursed their patient throughout the Atlantic voyage and U-853 attack to drain his infection, administer penicillin and provide whatever nourishment he could sustain. Capt. Iselin was also concerned for his charge and frequently took time to inquire about the status of the patient. The ATHERTON crew never forgot Krones and always wondered about his fate after he was transferred to a military hospital when DE-169 finally reached Boston. ...."

More about this story and an interesting postscript is available at this link.

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