In the Spring of 2016 I had the good fortune to meet with two surviving WWII crewmen from my Dad’s ship, USS Leon APA 48. The first gentleman was Dwight Huddle (middle) who was a boiler man; the second gentleman was Printy Arthur, a Navy corpsman and a member of the Leon’s beach medical team. Printy served on the beach at all five of the Leon’s amphibious assaults, including Saipan, Angaur, Leyte, Luzon, and Okinawa.
Meeting Printy encouraged me to revisit the drawings/paintings by Irwin Hoffman and William Franklin Draper that illustrate medical treatment for combatants in Pacific amphibious assaults. A first drawing (pastel on paper) by Hoffman depicts a corpsman carrying a wounded marine to an aid station. Anyone who has seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge will understand how dangerous this job could be.
Hoffman’s second work, a painting, depicts a beach with three landing craft debarking marines in the background as a corpsman administers morphine to a marine with a chest wound (note the red M on the marine’s forehead). In contrast to earlier assaults when navy corpsmen wore Red Cross armbands, this corpsman has learned that the Japanese rarely respected the Geneva Convention rules protecting medical personnel and other non-combatants.
Finally, one of Draper’s paintings—A Warrior Homeward Bound—captures the care and compassion that sailors showed when handling wounded marines as they returned aboard ship for medical care.
For those who were badly wounded in the first few days on a Japanese beach, the goal was to get to the sick bay aboard the transports. There, medical teams who had trained in primitive conditions (Hoffman below) worked around the clock to provide the best care possible under bad circumstances.
Credits: Naval History And Heritage Command, Irwin Hoffman and William Franklin Draper Collections