Marshall Doak Training to be a Corpsman

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Marshall Ralph Doak Chief Pharmacist's Mate United States Navy

Training to Be Corpsman
San Diego and the Hospital Corps School Coming from the fleet to the Hospital Corps School was a problem because there were also recruits coming direct from boot camp. Whenever anything happened in the area that was a disturbance or a problem, why they would come to me because I was from the fleet, I was the one they all looked up to and I would be to blame. For the 16 weeks that I was there I never got off the base. I always had chairs to sandpaper as punishment. The blame was never put in the right spot. They always came to the Senior member and I was it. The good thing was that it made me study and I graduated near the top of the class. I had my choice of duty and I said the Great Lakes.

A quick stop at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital and on to Norfolk Navy Hospital This is where I was sent as a hospital corpsman as a HA2. I was there probably three or four months, and I was transferred to Norfolk Naval Hospital at Portsmouth, Virginia where I stayed for probably seven or eight months. I was working in the pharmacy filling prescriptions, and I was working in the genital urinary ward. This was before penicillin and sulfa drugs, and the treatment for gonorrhea and syphilis was very crude. We were actually causing more difficulties. We had valentine irrigators where we were flushing the infection back into the prostate and the bladder. This was the treatment at that time. We also had a lot of gonorrhea of the eyes and arthritis. We used to take milk and sterilize it and give them milk shots which induced milk fever. This would give them a fever of 103, 104, or 105 degrees, and it seemingly helped considerably with gonorrhea arthritis. The treatment for syphilis at that time was IV arsenicals, and it was usually a three to four year treatment also using a heavy metal like bismuth. In those days it was unreal how poor the treatment was. The complications were severe. Now days, they give them a shot of penicillin and it cures it all with no problems. The rest of the period at Norfolk was uneventful.

I received my order to go back to the Great Lakes again, to the dispensary and Building 109. I got to meet one of the strongest politicians in the Navy and his name was John A. McCormick. He was a Chief Pharmacist, a Chief Warrant Officer who was in charge of Building 109. All the officers feared him whether they were commanders, captains or admirals. He was a democratic force. When Roosevelt received his nomination for the third term in Chicago, on the front page in the Chicago Tribune there was Johnny McCormick sitting about two seats from FDR at the main speaker's table. There were times I was his private secretary and I would place calls to the White House or the Bureau of Medicine for him. He could have any officer transferred or orders changed at his desire, and I'm sure there were political obligations involved.

My step father had a strict rule - if you were late at dinnertime you got no dinner. Sometimes football and basketball practice would make me late. But my mother would always put sandwiches under my pillow. I loved my mother dearly, but only respected my step father. My summer work was assisting two brick masons, John Savoldi and partner. I handled all the heavy work, brick block and mortar. My pay was $ a. I5/hour. But most of my pay went to my family. When I graduated from high school I didn't go to Senior Prom, because I didn't have a suit. Nor did I buy a $ 2.0a school annual. My little plastic bag that I carried in route to Rutgers contained one pair of old corduroy trousers, and several discarded shirts that my mother had hand reversed the collar. God, I was naIve and very stupid to attempt this adventure. But to get out of poverty is quite motivating. Looking back, I realize my personal situation wasn't so unusual. It was common amongst most of my peers but at varying levels.