In 1887 the US Army established the Hospital Corps.  The US Navy began their lobby to Congress shortly after to establish their own.  With the Spanish-American war looming measures had to be taken.   On June 17, 1898, the US Navy Corpsman was created.  Also known as “Devil Docs“.

USN Corpsman at Marshalls Island

USN Corpsman at Marshalls Island Pacific

The Corpsman rate was not what we know today.  There was Hospital Apprentice (Enlisted), Hospital Apprentice First Class (Petty Officer 3rd Class), and Hospital Steward (Chief Petty Officer).  In 1916 the Corpsman rate changed into what we know today.  Allowing for a first, second, and third class rank.  Having three separate rates allowed an exclusive rate for pharmacist.

The current rates are:

  • E-1    HR
  • E-2    HA
  • E-3    HN
  • E-4    HM3
  • E-5    HM2
  • E-6    HM1
  • E-7    HMC
  • E-8   HMCS
  • E-9   HMCM

During WWII Devil Docs/Navy Corpsman would truly find their identity.  The Pacific island hopping campaign would see the fiercest fighting of any theater.  In places like Wake, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.  The US Marines paid for every step of ground they took. Devil Docs/US Navy Corpsman were beside our fellow Devil Dogs every step of the way!

USMC Devil Doc Blue-Side/Green-Side Flip Coin

During WWII the Navy was directly able to support the Marines in the Pacific from their Battleships and Carriers.  The Marines relied on the Navy to transport them around the Pacific.  They provided indirect fire in support of Marines.  They also supported Marines religiously and medically with Chaplains and Corpsman.

A Corpsman will spend time on the blue and green side.  The Navy and Marine Corps respectively.  Some start off on the blue side and find it a tough transition into Marine Corps life.  Others that go from green to blue can seem very “uptight” to their peers.

A Fleet Marine Force Warfare pin

Fleet Marine Force Warfare Pin

The true testament of integration to our Corps is the FMF pin (Fleet Marine Force).  The FMF pin symbolizes that the sailor has met all necessary requirements to support the Marine Corps.  My personal experience with a Devil Doc’s (Corpsman) in my unit was the intense study they had to do.  Everything ranging from Marine Corps history, USMC Unit breakdowns, and a understanding of the physical and mental requirements.  The FMF Pin is a combined 13-16 month process.  A Navy Devil Doc must be in a forward deployable unit with Marines to earn the FMF Pin.

US Navy Corpsman Devil Doc gets awarded for valor

US Navy Corpsman gets awarded for valor

Since Docs have been supporting the Marines they have earned

  • 23     Medals of Honor
  • 174    Navy Crosses
  • 943   Silver Stars
  • 1554  Bronze Stars

Devil Docs/US Navy Corpsman have fought beside our Marines as brothers-in-arms through the most visceral conflicts.  Marines carry a profound respect for their “Docs.” Even though Docs are technically non-combatants, they train and fight like Marines.  Marines and Docs that have deployed together and relied on each other mutually to cover each other’s six.  It is a bond of brotherhood that is unbreakable!  So to our Devil-Docs out there, fair  winds and following seas!  Semper Fi!