Friday, November 30, 2012

Military Station Hospital Records and Correspondence

Another National Archive Treasure
Family researchers are quick to request the Veteran Administration files of their ancestors. They also scour the medical reports and notes of injuries found in the veteran’s service records. Both of these medical based files give us a bit more about our veteran: place, injury/illness,cause of injury or illness, duration of time for recovery, etc. But rarely do researchers uncover medical reports and injury reports from the field Station Hospital. These valuable reports and associated correspondence can provide the researcher with additional information on troop events and activities, station information, early discharges and demotions. Plus they may fill in the gaps that the Fire of 1973 has left us.  We all know “…between 16-18 million Military Personal Files were destroyed in the fire of 1973 at the St. Louis National Personnel Records Center. This fire destroyed about 80% of Army records from Nov. 1 1912 to Jan. 1 1960; and 75% of all Air Force records from Sep. 25. 1947 to Jan 1. 1964.”

Military Station Hospital Records
Camp Hospitals kept records. The Adjutant General kept reports and the Surgeon General’s Office was kept abreast. There are impressive amounts of documentation and correspondence resulting from the station hospital records, and the best place to begin your search is with the Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (RG112).  Of course your pre-work, as explained below in the Case Study Brief, should have been completed, prior to taking on this NARA task. 

What to Expect?
The Surgeon General Annual report will not name your ancestor by name, but provides an overview of the hospital patients: number of disability discharges, mental issue occurrences, venereal disease issue, camp hospital outbreaks, etc.  

So, Where’s My Ancestor?
It is in the correspondence that you will find your ancestor’s name. Be sure to understand the process. 

  1. The hospital reports are forwarded to both the Veterans Service File (hopefully salvaged and safely archived in your ancestor’s file at the National Personnel Record Center, St. Louis) and a copy was traditionally sent to the Adjutant General’s Office (AGO).
  2. The AGO may maintain these records, but usually they were forwarded and are stored at the NARA in College Park (for Modern Military). However, you may also wish to check State Archives, and regional Archives. 
  3. RG407 Research
    The Adjutant General keeps the Surgeon General’s Office (SGO) abreast, and often has to notify the SGO for both disciplinary actions (in case of injuries caused by neglect which includes venereal disease) and for discharge due to medical reasons. The correspondence can most often be located in the AGO Decimal Correspondence of RG 407.2.1 Be sure not to disregard the Decimal Files of the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917 -
     even though there are over 5, 018 rolls of microfilm from 1948-1962 in the Decimal Correspondence (RG 407.2.1) alone.
It is in this chain of correspondence letters, notes, telegrams, that you may find your ancestor discussed. Know the common flu, unless resulted in death or discharge, did not warrant descriptive explanations to the AGO or SGO. However, you can find out if there was a flu outbreak using the SGO Annual Report.

Where Are Surgeon General Records Located?
As to not be confusing, please note that the Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (RG112) are not just held at the NARA in College Park, but also at the Regional Offices: Atlanta, Ft. Worth Texas, Waltham, MA etc.

Case Study Brief
A recent case of a burnt fire only held a veteran’s Certificate of Disability Discharge. It was clearly noted that the veteran was discharged on Section II - physical disability.  The veteran only served for 2 months and was discharged. Why? This document presented us with more questions than answers beginning with for what “physical reason” was he discharged?

Prior to fishing through the massive NARA Surgeon General and Adjutant General’s Correspondence, be sure to closely review anything in the veteran’s service file, (i.e. last pay voucher, discharge papers). Then it’s time to scour Morning Reports for the troops and years of your veteran.  These vital troop reports can narrow the dates of your ancestor’s injury, activities and locations. If your ancestor was removed to the station hospital, he is usually named at the time of hospital entrance and return to duty. However, rarely is it explained why he was sent to the station hospital. For this reason the related correspondence is needed.

Kathleen Brandt
accurate, accessible answers

1 comment:

  1. I haven't touched the Military medical records yet but plan to, of course and find this interesting and helpful. I will refer back to this. Thanks