3-588 Memorandum for General Somervell, April 2, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 2, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Somervell

April 2, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


There has come to me a situation regarding Army nurses who have been sent back from overseas theaters because of pregnancy. A particular incident that has my attention at the moment is the case of a nurse who is characterized as sort of a “guard-house lawyer”. She makes various allegations, which is rather normal under the circumstances. However, among the various things she alleges for her own defense is the following which caught my attention on the basis that there is possibly some foundation of fact:

“She claims that there are two nurses to every patient, and that the nurses therefore have too much time on their hands, and that the officers consider them as their special prey. She blames the Army for her condition, and she makes a general denunciation of the entire set-up”.

Mr. McCloy came back from Africa with the comment that his superficial impression was that the hospital set-ups were much larger than he could visualize any necessity for, and that some of the doctors thought the same. The other day I found that out at Fort Myer there was an excess of nurses, to my great convenience in Mrs. Marshall’s serious illness because of the delay in completion of a new ward. The thought occurs to me that we might get some reports on the South, Southwest Pacific, and Hawaiian theaters, maybe others, as to whether or not there is any over-generous allotment of nurses.1

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Lieutenant General Brehon B. Somervell responded on April 8 that the figure of ten patients or beds per nurse was used in determining the allocation of nurses to the various commands. Somervell included a chart showing the number of nurses per one hundred beds: only in the Southwest Pacific (with 10.9 nurses per hundred beds) and in North Africa (with 9.93 nurses per hundred beds) was the allocation standard currently being met. Excluding the North American command, which had an extremely low ratio due to the incompleteness of hospital construction, the average was 7.98. Replies regarding nurse allotments were still pending from several commanders.

Somervell wrote, with regard to Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy’s “superficial impression” that North African hospitals were too large, that the hospital establishment in North Africa had been determined with regard to troop strength and the type of operation, an opposed amphibious landing. It had been thought that heavy casualties would result, but casualties had been fortunately “much less than anyone could dare hope for.” Somervell pointed out that since future offensive operations were intended for the North African command the current number and size of hospital organizations were “not excessive.” (Somervell Memorandum for General Marshall, April 8, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 211.31 (4-2-43)].)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 626-627.

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Holding ID: 3-588

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