Monthly Archives: March 2011

Commentators / Masters for Society Panels at the Upcoming McMullen Naval History Symposium

by Thomas L Snyder

A couple of weeks ago, I announced with great pleasure that the Society will have two panels on maritime medicine at the Naval Academy History Symposium in September. Of particular pleasure for us is that graduate / medical students wrote four of the six papers.

Today I’m very happy to announce the Commentators / Masters for our panels. Both sat on our Papers Selection Board, so they are very aware “up front” with the quality of the works they will be reviewing.

For the panel “Guantanamo to Puerto Rico to Project X231: Medical Ethics, Biomedical Experimentation and Archeology”, our Commentator / Master will be Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite. Professor Finley-Croswhite is a full professor of history at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. In June 2010, she stepped down from the Chairmanship of her Department after a four-year stint. She says she is very much looking forward to more teaching and writing. A magna cum laude history major at the University of Richmond, Annette received her PhD from Emory University. She received her full Old Dominion professoriate in 2009. In 2010, she published, with Gayle K Brunelle, a real barnburner of a history–Murder in the Métro: Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France. Her other book, a product of her PhD work is Henry IV and the Towns: The Pursuit of Legitimacy in French Urban Society, 1589-1610. Professor Finley-Croswhite has published more than fifteen scholarly papers; she is active in presenting history to the community, with more than twenty lectures, fora and mini-courses given. Her academic CV contains 16 pages of scholarly and academic activity and production. Professor Finley-Croswhite serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine.

Professor Harold D Langley has agreed to serve as Commentator / Master of the panel “The Health of Sailors”. After serving in the Army, during which he received the Meritorious Service Medal, Doctor Langley earned his AB at Catholic University of America, and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. During a busy and varied career, he has served as manuscript specialist at the Library of Congress, diplomatic historian at the Department of State, Professor of History at Catholic University and Associate Curator of Naval History at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr Langley’s publications include pioneering studies A History of Medicine in the Early U.S. Navy and Social Reform in the United States Navy, 1798-1862. Professor Langley has also edited or co-edited several historical works. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine.

With these experienced and erudite Commentators, and two panels of excellent papers, I think we can look forward to excellent sessions at the Naval Academy History Symposium at Annapolis in September.

©2011 Thomas L Snyder

Guest Blogger: Welcome to Dr Lorraine McConaghy

Some weeks ago, I floated the idea of posting the work of guest bloggers here, and invited interested people to write brief posts about their historical passions, their works-in-progress, the thorns in their historical sides, and so on. Our first guest blogger is Society member Dr Lorraine McConaghy. Lorraine is the Public Historian at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.

Lorraine McConaghy is interested in U.S. Navy medicine in the antebellum period, and has studied the medical history of the sloop-of-war Decatur, 1854-1859.  The Old Navy records at Archives 1 – National Archives and Records Administration – include instructions for outfitting the ship’s sick bay as well as stipulating the books provided for the surgeons’ library, and the drugs, instruments and medical supplies allocated to the ship.  Illness and injuries on board ship are documented by a day-to-day medical log, and – for the first half of the commission – the surgeons’ medical journal of treatment.  Analysis of these records demonstrates the relationship of illness to disciplinary offenses, the course of shipboard epidemics of infectious disease, the relationship of liberty to a variety of medical complaints, and the pattern of workplace injury during bad weather or other dangerous duty.  Also, during the first half of the commission, Surgeon Richard Jeffrey and Assistant Surgeon John Taylor acted as amateur scientists, documenting the natural history and anthropology of the Strait of Magellan, and shipping specimens back from Valparaiso to the Naval Lyceum at the New York Navy Yard.  During the second half of the commission, the Decatur became a hospital ship for survivors of William Walker’s filibuster of Nicaragua, and Assistant Surgeon Levi Cooper Lane – later one of the founders of what is today the Stanford University School of Medicine – supervised their care and later published reminiscences about his experiences.  McConaghy is interested in exploring whether the Decatur’s medical experience was a typical one in this period on the eve of the Civil War.
We welcome your questions and comments.

© 2011  Society for the History of Navy Medicine

Society Panels Accepted for McMullen Symposium on Naval History

by Thomas L Snyder

Today I received notice that the two panels of three papers each the Society proposed for the 2011 McMullen Naval History Symposium, to be held at the U S Naval Academy 14 – 16 September, have been accepted!

I am very proud of our scholars, and I thank our Papers Selection Board–Professors Harry Langley and Annette Finley-Croswhite for their diligent discernment to select six papers for two coherent panels, out of the sixteen original paper proposals. Originally announced in this blog in January, the panels are:

  • For Panel 1–”From Guantanamo to Puerto Rico to Project X231:  Medical Ethics, Biomedical Experimentation and Archeology”  The papers are “Welcome to Isolation! Understanding the first permanent quarantine station in 19th century Puerto Rico” by Paola A Schiappacasse, a PhD candidate at Syracuse University; “Germ Warfare:  Project X-231 and the Technological Challenge of Airborne Disease Control”, by Gerard J Fitzgerald, PhD, a visiting lecturer/scholar at the University of Virginia; and “Military Ethics and Military Duty:  The Role of Navy Physicians in the Force-Feeding of Guantanamo Bay Detainees”, by Raed Moustafa, a first year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine; Moustafa holds an MA and an MPH.
  • For Panel 2–”Health of Sailors”  The papers are “The most virulent case of Fever I have ever heard of’:  The Royal Navy, the Caribbean, and Yellow Fever, 1860-63″, by John Beeler, PhD, a professor of history at the University of Alabama; “Health of British Sailors stationed in the Caribbean during the American Revolution 1776-1783″, by Cori Convertito-Farrar, a graduate student at the University of Exeter in the UK; and “Suicide of an Admiral:  Its Impact on British Naval Operations in the West Pacific, 1854″, by Andrew Rath, a graduate student at McGill University, Montreal.

The Society’s Mission is to promote research, study and publication on all aspects of the history of maritime medicine. To that end, last year we established our Society Graduate Student Travel Grant Program.  As you can see from our panel listing, we will be giving checks for $750 to each of our four student panelists during the Symposium!

Congratulations to all our scholars!

©2011 Thomas L Snyder

Hospital Ship “Op ten Noort”

by Thomas L Snyder

This past weekend (27 Feb-1Mar) marked the 69th anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea, in which a combined American-British-Dutch-Australian fleet was completely destroyed by an equal-sized Japanese fleet which enjoyed the advantages of superior gunnery, air superiority and a new, long-range torpedo. Only one hospital ship was present in the area, Op ten Noort.(1) Launched in Amsterdam in 1927, she was originally commissioned to passenger service in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. With the onset of World War II, the Dutch Royal Navy took her up from trade for conversion to hospital duty. This work, performed at the naval yard at Surabaya on the north coast of the Island of Java, was completed 14 February 1942.

Op ten Noort Before She Was Taken Up from Trade for Duty as a Hospital Ship (7)

One week later, while under way from Surabaya, the ship was bombed. Flying debris from a near-miss killed one physician, a nurse and a medical technician and eleven others wounded(2). Another source claims one doctor and three nurses killed(3). On 28 February, she received orders to rescue survivors of the ships de Ruyter, Java, Encounter and Kortenauer, all sunk during the running fleet battle the preceding day and night. She was diverted from this mission by Japanese destroyers Amatsukaze and Murasame, searched, and her radio-telephone equipment destroyed. A day later, she sailed under Japanese orders to Bandjermasin on the south coast of Borneo where, over the next several days, she took on as many as 900 survivors from the many allied ships sunk in the battle. Early in March, she sailed to Makassar on the southwest coast of the Celebes (now Sulawesi) Island. There she remained, under Dutch flag, serving as the hospital facility for several area POW camps. In October, the Dutch flag was stricken, to be replaced by the Rising Sun ensign. A month later, she departed, under Japanese command, for Yokohama. In Yokohama her Dutch medical staff of 44 were interned at the Aiko Medical Facility in Miyoshi, Hirshima Prefecture; the 35 Indonesian crewmen went to the Kakugorocho Church in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Reportedly, all but one Indonesian survived the war.(4)

Thereafter, the ship, was commissioned in the Imperial Japanese Navy as the hospital ship Tenou Maru. Two Surgeon Captains–Endo Haruo from 31 Mar 1942 and Shimizu Masayoshi from Dec 1943– have been identified as serving the ship’s medical director.  Her crew apparently consisted of civilian employees of the Kawasaki Kisen Kaishi Company Line during her very busy career in the southwest Pacific.

On 25 July 1944 she was strafed and damaged by aircraft from Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58. During September and October 1944, the ship underwent repairs and remodeling, with a second, dummy smokestack funnel added to disguise her true origin. Surgeon Captain Satoshi Kamishiro became her medical director in December, and her very active career throughout the western Pacific continued until the end of July 1945.  On 16 August, apparently by direction of Japanese Naval authorities, she was moved to a point just outside Japanese territorial waters of the Sea of Japan, off Maizuru Port, Kyoto, and scuttled.(5)

Several days after the Armistice, the Dutch government made inquiry about the ship’s location. In prolonged postwar arbitration proceedings, the Japanese admitted the facts of the scuttling, but, on a technicality denied responsibility for reimbursing the Dutch government for the loss of the ship. Finally, in 1977, the Dutch agreed to a settlement said to amount to 100 million yen, just over $1 million at today’s exchange rates (the Yen was likely significantly stronger in 1977).

The Company of Master Mariners of Australia, on their web page about Op ten Noort state “Her subsequent career [as hospital ship] illustrates the viciousness of the Pacific War: bombed by the Japanese on February 22, 1942, in violation of the Hague Conventions; commandeered by the Japanese on February 28, in violation of the Hague Conventions; used by the Japanese in October to transport mines while in hospital colors, in violation of the Hague Conventions; strafed by American carrier aircraft in violation of the Hague Convention; scuttled on August 17, 1945, in violation of the ceasefire. There were incidents involving hospital ships on both sides, but those involving the Op Ten Noort were unquestionably deliberate and especially egregious [emphasis mine].”(6)

(1) I was first made aware of Op ten Noort from a very brief mention of the ship in van Oosten, F. C., “The Battle of the Java Sea”, Naval Institute Press, 1976, p. 74. The book number 15 in the Naval Institute’s “Sea Battles in Close Up” series.
(2) “IJN Hospital Ship HIKAWA MARU No. 2: Tabular Record of Movement” by Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall, accessed 1 March 2011, This web page is part of a much larger “” website. The material here seems authoritative, with citations listed, though not in formally academic format.
(3) “Op ten Noort-class hospitalship”, accessed 1 March 2011, Although this page bears the root title “netherlandsnavy”, it is not an official navy website;rather, the site is a private effort by Jan Visser. While exuberantly sourced, Mr Visser has not footnoted his material.
(4) “Civilian Internment Camps in Japan”, apparently compiled by Wes Injerd, accessed 1 Mar 2011, This webpage, part of a much larger assessment of Japanese civilian internment camps appears to be very well sourced, but, again, not footnoted by the compiler.
(5) “Reports of International Arbitral Awards–Case of the Netherlands Steamship Op ten Noort-Decisions I and II (Netherlands, Japan) 16 January 1961”, accessed 1 Mar 2001,, page 510.
(6) Company of Master Mariners of Australia, “Op ten Noort”, accessed 1 March 2011,
(7) Image source:

©2011 Thomas L Snyder