3d Medical LaboratoryUnit History

“Old Glory” flying over Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas (Military Reservation & Leon Springs Military Reservation, 23,592 acres, troop capacity 719 Officers & 25,825 Enlisted Men). The photo was taken during the inter-bellum years.

Introduction:

The Medical Laboratory was designed to provide the Army medical service with facilities that were immediately available for certain types of laboratory supplies; supplemental laboratory examinations, and epidemiological and sanitary investigations. Among its specific functions were: routine water analyses, special examinations of meat, food, and dairy supplies, investigation of epidemics and epizootics, distribution of special reagents and solutions, culture media, and diagnostic biologicals not furnished through routine channels.
The Medical Laboratory performed on behalf of US Army medical units special serological, bacteriological, pathological, and chemical examinations. Such units augmented temporarily in emergencies the Laboratory Section of any Army unit, or assisted in the organization of a combined Laboratory Section functioning for several units grouped in the same locality.
The Medical Laboratory also furnished support for post-mortem examinations incident to special investigations, and collected and preserved such pathological specimens of historical or educational value to the US Army Medical Department.

The first of these units, the 2d Medical Laboratory, was activated September 1, 1940, and was followed on February 10, 1941, by the 3d Medical Laboratory. During 1942, eight more Medical Laboratories were activated and organized, making available the 1st through the 10th Medical Laboratories. Some of these were activated at Camp Rucker, Ozark, Alabama (Division Camp –ed), although the majority were activated at Fort Sam Houston. All were provided with technical training. While within the jurisdiction of the Third United States Army, many of these units entered into field maneuver training either in Louisiana or at San Bernardino, California. Beginning in December 1943 and continuing until February 1945, eight additional numbered Medical Laboratories were activated in the Zone of Interior, at Camp Ellis, Table Grove, Illinois (Army Service Forces Training Center –ed), Fort Lewis, Tacoma, Washington (Army Ground Forces Training Center –ed) or Camp Barkeley, Abilene, Texas (Armored Division and Medical Replacement Training Center –ed). The nineteenth unit was activated in the Central Pacific Area. Unlike the others, the last few units were hastily organized and were not given any extensive training, causing some problems in the field.

Southwest Pacific Area > The 3d Medical Laboratory (including assigned Veterinary Laboratory Officers and Technicians) was the first Laboratory unit to be deployed in the SWPA arriving in Australia June 18, 1942. It rendered Theater wide laboratory service and detached mobile units and advance sections into New Guinea before the arrival of the 5th Medical Laboratory (July 13, 1943). This unit relieved the 3d Med Lab in some areas in Australia and New Guinea and also covered the Admiralty Islands and New Britain. The 5th Medical Laboratory eventually was consolidated at Finschhafen, New Guinea (April 13, 1945). The 8th Medical Laboratory arrived in Australia August 15, 1943, and, after a diversified deployment of its mobile sections to Brisbane and Townsville in Australia and to Port Moresby and Milne Bay on New Guinea, it was consolidated on Biak Island in October 1944. Following the initial landings of US forces on Leyte October 20, 1944 and the successful occupation of the Philippine Islands, the laboratory organizations in the region now included the 3d, 5th, and 8th Medical Laboratories; these and the 19th Medical General Laboratory were transferred to the West Pacific Area. They were eventually augmented by the newly arrived 26th and 27th Medical Laboratories and the 363d Medical Composite Detachment (Laboratory). These units were in fact deployed as small detachments or advance mobile sections to two or more island bases which required laboratory services. Lines of communication and means of travel between these bases were rendered especially difficult by large distances measured by sea miles, so that the laboratory sections frequently acted in the capacity of an independent Medical Laboratory. Laboratory services were established during the early phases of operations in the Philippine Islands; the detachment of the 19th Medical General Laboratory, which landed on Leyte on D-Day, was joined by the 27th Medical Laboratory November 12, 1944, the latter setting up station at Tacloban. Subsequently, the Advance Section of the 3d Medical Laboratory and the 363d Medical Composite Detachment (Laboratory) operated on Leyte Island. When American Forces bypassed the major concentration of the Japanese to invade Luzon, the 26th Medical Laboratory arrived at Lingayen Gulf 12 days after the date of the invasion (January 9, 1945). It was the only laboratory unit operating on Luzon Island for the succeeding 6-month period, although this operation saw the largest US contingent yet employed in the Pacific. The 363d Medical Composite Detachment (Laboratory) opened station on Luzon June 1, 1945.

Activation & Training:

The 3d Medical Laboratory was activated February 10, 1941 at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas (Military Reservation –ed), with an authorized strength of 11 Officers and 41 Enlisted Men. The original cadre comprising only 5 Enlisted Men were transferred from the Post Medical Detachment, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The men were quartered in canvas tents at the Post until February 28, 1941, when they moved to temporary barracks # 1353 where Laboratory Headquarters was established and remained at this location until November 24, 1941.
The first Commanding Officer was Captain Alva E. Miller, MC, who joined the unit February 17, 1941.
The organization was assigned 41 Selective Service personnel who reported March 28 after having completed 4 weeks of intensive basic training.
Effective unit strength of the Laboratory on March 28, 1941, was 7 Officers and 48 Enlisted Men.
Following completion of 13 weeks of basic training, the training of Laboratory Technicians was begun with men being assigned to the “Medical Field School” at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and the “William Beaumont General Hospital”, El Paso, Texas. The remaining men started training under supervision of Officers pertaining to the unit at the Station Hospital (Ft. Sam Houston).
In compliance with War Department Directives the unit was to be composed of 65% Regular Army, 3-year enlistments, and therefore necessitated transfer of 19 EM on June 29 and replacements by men coming from the 4th Medical Supply Depot. After being assigned for Task Force duty with an authorized strength of only 11 Officers and 11 Enlisted Men, excess personnel were transferred to the 2d Medical Laboratory on August 19, 1941.
After training of all Reserve Officers at the “Medical Field Service Training School”, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, had been completed, three of the Officers attended the “School of Tropical Medicine”, in Washington D.C. During the period of Third United States Louisiana Maneuvers, 5 Officers of the 3d Medical Laboratory were attached to the 2d Medical Laboratory at Lake Charles, Louisiana, for practical training in field laboratory functions. An experimental Mobile Laboratory was taken from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to Rockingham, North Carolina, by personnel of the 3d Medical Laboratory consisting of 1st Lieutenant Kenneth R. Cross, MC, and 8 Enlisted Men. From October 5 to November 15, 1941, this unit investigated the water supply for troops of the First United States Army from a bacteriological standpoint and an investigation of bacillary dysentery among these same troops involving a performance of approximately 300 stool cultures of which 90% were positive, checked and confirmed by the Fourth Corps Area Laboratory, Atlanta, Georgia. Moreover, this Mobile Laboratory performed 918 separate lab procedures.

Organization:

The strength of the 3d Medical Laboratory on July 8, 1942, was 11 Officers and 48 EM. The Officer Staff was composed of 9 MC Officers; 1 VC Officer; and 1 SnC Officer. 22 out of 48 Enlisted Men were with the 3d Med Lab and trained when orders were received for embarkation for overseas; the remaining 26 EM were transferred from other organizations and were untrained in field lab work.
T/O & E 8-611, dated April 1, 1942 mentioned an authorized strength of 11 Officers and 51 Enlisted Men, consisting of Unit Headquarters, 1 Stationary Laboratory Section (subdivided into a Bacteriological, Pathological, Chemical, Serological, and Veterinary Group), and 3 Mobile Laboratory Sections.
T/O & E 8-611, dated August 25, 1943 authorized a total strength of 11 Officers and 47 Enlisted Men.
T/O & E 8-500, dated April 23, 1944 indicated an authorized strength of 11 Officers and 44 Enlisted Men (1 Stationary Laboratory & 3 Mobile Sections). Another change in T/O & E 8-500 was introduced January 18, 1945.

Movement Overseas:

T/O & E 8-611, organization of the Medical Laboratory, Army or Communications Zone, dated 1 April 1942. It authorized an overall strength of 11 Officers, 51 Enlisted Men, and 7 vehicles.

The 3d Med Lab left Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, on November 24, 1941, for foreign duty in the Philippine Islands. It embarked at San Francisco POE, California, on December 6, 1941, with an aggregate of 7 Officers and 41 Enlisted Men. The unit however returned to port and debarked December 11 in San Francisco (because of the Jap attack against Pearl Harbor –ed). Following a temporary station at Fort McDowell, Angel Island, California (Port of Embarkation –ed), the unit was attached to the Station Hospital at Fort Ord, Monterey, California (Army Ground Forces Training Area –ed) for duty and quarters. Training of 30 EM assigned just prior to embarkation was continued under supervision of the 3d’s own Officers. The transfer of 10 EM from this unit had unfortunately to take place on February 15, 1942, as they were found mentally incapable of performing technical laboratory work. During March, 5 new Officers were assigned to the organization by WD orders. Command of the 3d Medical Laboratory was now assumed by Major Francis E. Council, MC, O-16969, as from March 13, 1942.

The 3d Medical Laboratory was again ordered to overseas duty embarking at San Francisco POE on May 26, 1942, with destination Australia. Authorized strength for this movement was 11 Officers and 45 Enlisted Men. In order to obtain these numbers, 23 new and untrained men were assigned prior to sailing, this number being necessary due to losses to OCS and increase in strength. After arrival in Australia, 3 more EM with scientific training desirable for lab work joined the unit (the first contingent of United States Forces, numbering 4,600 personnel, and designated TF South Pacific diverted from the Philippines arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, on December 22, 1941 –ed).

Australia:

1942 >
After leaving San Francisco POE on May 26, 1942 for a destination unknown, the 3d Med Lab arrived in Australia after an uneventful journey of 23 days at sea.
The organization debarked on June 18, 1942 at Brisbane, Australia. Officers and EM were immediately quartered in tentage in Area “D” at Ascot Race Track, north Brisbane, Queensland, awaiting assignment to duty and procurement of buildings to house the Laboratory. All the equipment and lab supplies remained crated and in storage in the “Social Service Institute”, Brisbane. It was later set up in the “School of Veterinary Science” located at Yeerongpilly, south Brisbane, Queensland. While stationed in Brisbane, the unit functioned as a Laboratory and Malaria School for Base Section # 3 until August 1943. The Advance Section later opened another Laboratory for Base Section # 2 in Townsville in August 1942 which operated until September 1943.
The unit’s CO, Francis E. Council, had in the meantime been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Medical Corps.

Australia – Base Sections
Base Section # 1 > Northern Territory (Headquarters – Darwin)
Base Section # 2 >Queensland (Headquarters – Townsville)
Base Section # 3 > Queensland (Headquarters – Brisbane)
Base Section # 4 > Victoria (Headquarters – Melbourne)
Base Section # 5 > Southern Australia (Headquarters – Adelaide)
Base Section # 6 > Western Australia (Headquarters – Perth)
Base Section # 7 > New South Wales (Headquarters – Sydney)

On July 28, 1942, Captain James H. Park, MC, was appointed Commanding Officer of the 3d Medical Laboratory Advance Section and left Brisbane, for Townsville, Queensland, located in the combat zone to make proper arrangements for buildings and space. On August 9, 1942, 2 Officers and 20 EM departed from Brisbane with full lab equipment entraining for Townsville. Upon arrival in Townsville, the CO accompanied by one other Officer joined the advance party. The Laboratory was set up in the immediate area of the 12th Station Hospital (which furnished quarters and rations).
From August 13 to August 31, 1942, the entire time was spent uncrating and setting up laboratory equipment along with usual camp duties and company administration being performed. Installations of proper appliances were done by Engineer personnel of Base Section # 2.

Typical view illustrating a US Army Dispensary set up and (locally-built) Ambulance in the Australian bush. Photo taken early 1942.

From September 1 to September 15, 1942 inclusive, the time was spent completing lab installations and obtaining supplies. On September 15, 1942, the 3d Medical Laboratory Advance Section was officially opened for work in all departments, and from September 15 to September 30, approximately 1,800 specimens were received and reports made.
On September 18, Captain J. H. Park, commanding the Advance Section was placed on TD to make a tour of inspection of Field Hospitals stationed at Hughenden, Queensland, Australia. Colonel Mitchell, MC, Surgeon, Base Section # 2, appointed Captain Charles A. Armbrust, Jr., MC, O-400983 to lead the organization during the CO’s absence and continue the work as prescribed by Captain J. H. Park.
On September 30, 1942, Captain William S. Monlux, VC, O-366190 and 2 Enlisted Technicians were ordered to “Iron Range” to make a survey on a possible typhus epidemic. After inspection it appeared that three men were found with high fever, specimens of blood were taken from various men in that area, fortunately with negative results. Seven students were assigned to the Advance Section for lab training which lasted two weeks, after which they returned to their proper stations.

On October 9, 1942, one Enlisted Man of the 3d Medical Laboratory Advance Section was placed on TD with the US Army Dispensary in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, to set up a small lab to take care of routine blood counts, blood typing, and urinalysis. October 19, Captain C. A. Armbrust, Jr. was transferred for a permanent change of station to the Advance Base now in Port Moresby, New Guinea (another Officer of the Base Section in Brisbane assisted by 3 EM later joined Captain Armbrust to establish a Medical Field Laboratory in that vicinity –ed).
From October 1 to October 31, 1942 inclusive, time was spent performing lab work of all kinds. Approximately 4,000 specimens were received and reports made from September 15 to October 31 inclusive.

1943 >
On 30 January 1943, Headquarters, 3d Medical Laboratory, became Stationary Section, 3d Medical Laboratory. The organization was located in Base Section # 3, Yeerongpilly, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in the buildings of the “School for Veterinary Science”, Queensland University, Brisbane. The lab was housed in a modern one-story building equipped with all the necessary facilities and student classrooms. Tents had to be put up in addition to the two barracks to accommodate the additional troops which were attached for quarters and rations, especially Detachment, “F” Company, 135th Medical Regiment (attached 17 Jan 43) consisting of 1 Officer and 31 Enlisted Men. Officers were quartered in an old house on the School grounds and the EM housed in temporary wooden barracks nearby. The mess hall was located in another wooden structure, shower facilities were adequate, and hot as well as cold water was available. Both Army and Navy personnel, including troops stationed in Base Section # 3 were served by the 3d Med Lab.

Changes of command took place as follows:
January 30, 1943 – Lieutenant Colonel F. E. Council was replaced by Major G. T. Crout as CO > 3d Medical Laboratory (Lt. Col. F. E. Council was assigned to Headquarters, United States Army Advance Base).
March 21, 1943 – Major J. H. Parker (ex-CO Advance Section) succeeded Major G. T. Crout as CO > 3d Medical Laboratory, who was transferred to Base Section # 2, Dispensary, APO 922.
More transfers and exchange of Officers followed throughout the 1st quarter of 1943. It should be noted that the 3d Med Lab did NOT treat any patients. With regard to medical supplies the situation was generally satisfactory, except that microscopes and certain dehydrated media were unprocurable. Sanitation measures and facilities were very satisfactory, water was obtained from the Brisbane municipal supply, food was sufficient and of good quality.

Partial view of Camp Ascot, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Base Section # 3. Photo taken in March 1942. Brisbane’s Eagle Race Course was converted by the Australians into one of the first camps to quarter American troops after their arrival in Australia.

During February 1943, a stool survey was carried out on members of the 32d Infantry Division. Out of a total of 950 stools, hookworm represented 6.95% and a very large majority of the intestinal parasites found were indeed hookworms. Beginning March 1, 1943 the Laboratory began examining malaria smears taken from the 32d Infantry Division who suffered recurring attacks. After investigating 1,000 smears, it appeared that 51% were positive. Also beginning March, a general malaria survey was carried out specifically among personnel of the 126th Infantry Regiment (32d Inf Div –ed) following a complete treatment after returning from operations in New Guinea. Of the 1,534 men examined, 2.5% were still positive (Captain Austin J. Corbett, Pathologist, wrote a report of his findings on Scrub Typhus, and Major James H. Park published a report on immunological reactions following Typhus vaccinations in US Army personnel). A number of other Officers were sent on temporary assignment to study malaria, while awaiting permanent assignment elsewhere.
The stool survey carried out on personnel of the 32d Infantry Division continued (by July 1, 1943, 4,348 stools had been examined) and was to be completed by August 1, 1943. Meanwhile routine laboratory work for the various unit Dispensaries, Station and General Hospitals located in Base Section # 3 continued on a regular basis.

Between July and September 1943 a number of clinical laboratory procedures were performed (which could not be accomplished by other units). They specifically included:

  • routine water analysis
  • special examinations on food products
  • investigations of epidemics or increased prevalence of diseases
  • distribution of special laboratory supplies
  • special serological, bacteriological, pathological, parasitological, and chemical examinations

As of July 1, 1943, Major James H. Park was in command of both the Stationary Section and the 3d Medical Laboratory. He reverted to the status of CO > Stationary Section (i.e. Headquarters –ed) only after Colonel Francis E. Council was re-assigned to the 3d Med Lab and assumed command of the entire unit on August 12, 1943. Three (3) Officers were assigned elsewhere, while 2 others were placed on TD with the 42d General Hospital. Personnel losses were however not fully compensated.

The operation of the Stationary Section in Base Section # 3 officially ceased as of August 26, 1943, when the 8th Medical Laboratory arrived and moved into the buildings. Under movement orders dated August 27, 1943, the organization departed APO 923 on September 11, 1943 by water en route to APO 929, arriving at its destination September 19 and absorbing the Detachment of the 3d Med Lab. The members of the original Stationary Section were meanwhile attached to Advance Section USASOS for quarters and rations.

New Guinea:

1943 >
The Headquarters Section, 3d Medical Laboratory left APO 923 on September 11, 1943 and arrived at APO 929, Port Moresby, New Guinea, September 19, where it remained until moving to another location between October 15 and 16, 1943. This last movement took entirely place by air transportation, with all Officers, Enlisted Men, and equipment being moved in this manner. The Section was currently located at APO 503, Unit # 1, Dobodura, New Guinea, about 25 miles west of Oro Bay. The area, relatively flat and sandy, occupied by the Laboratory was adjacent to that of the 363d Station Hospital and the “USASOS Signal Training School” and about a ¼ mile from the 87th Station Hospital. Installations consisted of five prefab buildings, 54 by 20 feet, with concrete floors, running water, electric lights, and a closed drainage system. All buildings were screened, and duly occupied by the parasitology and pathology departments (one building), the serology, hematology, and bacteriology departments (one building), the chemistry department and the unit supply (one building), a separate lab for the investigation of Scrub Typhus (one building), with the last building being occupied by members of various investigative and other units active in special projects. The area immediately surrounding the lab was covered by kunai grass, while jungle and dense vegetation was about ¾ mile distant. Officers and Enlisted personnel usually slept in pyramidal and small wall tents raised approximately two feet above the grounds and which were provided with wooden floors.

General view of a Medical Supply Depot as in use in the Southwest Pacific Theater.

The organization provided all clinical laboratory facilities for all hospitals in the area, also serving Army Air Force personnel, service troops and tactical units stationed here. It had to be modified in order to fit conditions of the Theater for several reasons: the geographical location of the unit – the availability of transportation – the ability to use this transportation. Owing to the particular nature of the terrain and the great distances involved, the 3d Medical Laboratory was divided into THREE Sections:

  • Headquarters Section, 3d Medical Laboratory (APO 503)
  • Advance Section, 3d Medical Laboratory (APO 713)
  • Mobile Section, 3d Medical Laboratory (APO 929)

Each Section became a self-sufficient Laboratory in itself, able to perform all types of bacteriology, serology, blood chemistry, histo-pathology, and hematology examinations. The Headquarters served as the main source of supply for the other two Sections for biologicals, antigens, and special media and chemicals.

Colonel F. E. Council, Commanding Officer, moved his Headquarters from the Mobile Section to the Headquarters Section on November 22, 1943. Since Major J. H. Park left the organization to take over command of the 5th Medical Laboratory November 14, 1943, he was succeeded by Major C. A. Armbrust, Jr. who now assumed command of the Headquarters Section.

The Advance Section which functioned as a Laboratory and Malaria School for Base Section # 3 until August 1942, later opened a Laboratory for Base Section # 2 in Townsville, Queensland where it operated from August 1942 until September 1943. The Advance Section then moved from Townsville, Australia to Lae, New Guinea, in November 1943 and operated as the Base “E” General Laboratory until March 1945.
During the quarter there were several transfers of personnel, including both Officers and EM, among the three Sections of the Laboratory.

Training was a continuous process with all men working in the lab now being trained full Laboratory Technicians. Moreover, Enlisted personnel were rotated through the various departments from time to time to improve skills and be able to carry on the work in any department in case of emergency.
All medical supplies and equipment were obtained through the Base Medical Supply Depot, with only temporary shortages of certain items, such as dehydrated culture media, agglutinating antigens, agglutinating sera, and various chemicals, occurring. Operating in forward areas did cause problems in replenishing supplies stored in rear areas. While the great majority of the equipment stood up extremely well in the tropical climate, some chemical and bacteriological media were affected by the excessive heat and humidity of the tropical environment, although this remained negligible. A very small amount of equipment was lost and damaged through the changes in station. Rations were being furnished by the 363d Station Hospital and water supply came from the Samboga River which was about 100 yards away from the buildings. The water was stored in a 1,000-gallon tank and used for lab work and showers (non-chlorinated). Drinking water (chlorinated) was obtained from Lyster bags filled daily by the 892d Chemical Truck Company.

Officers and men were housed in pyramidal tents with raised wooden floors. All personnel did their own laundry, while laboratory linen was being taken care of by the Base Quartermaster Laundry unit. Sewage and waste disposal were under control, there were pit latrines, a closed drainage system, and an adequate soakage pit.

Laboratory tests performed by the organization between October 1 and December 31, 1943 included:
Bacteriology > 649 stools – 155 water – 32 miscellaneous smears – 146 miscellaneous cultures
Chemistry > 903 blood analyses – 263 urine analyses – 69 water – 20 spinal fluid – 13 stools – 10 miscellaneous analyses
Hematology > 843 analyses
Serology > 2,856 analyses
Pathology > 185 analyses

Member of the United States Typhus Commission collecting mites in the jungle of New Guinea. Scrub Typhus was the object of an extensive study by the US Typhus Commission who sent a team to the SWPA (summer of 1943) under Dr. Francis Blake, Dean of Medicine at Yale University.

1944 >
Early 1944 Headquarters Section, 3d Medical Laboratory, plus a partial group of the 4th Medical Detachment, Museum and Medical Arts Service (authorized strength 1 Officer & 6 EM –ed) were on duty at Dobodura, New Guinea. On January 18, 1944, the Mobile Section moved from APO 929 to APO 503 having been replaced in the Koki Mission area (near Port Moresby) by a Detachment of the 8th Medical Laboratory. The movement was carried out by air, upon which the Mobile Section was absorbed by the Headquarters Section. An additional prefab building 30 by 50 feet had in the meantime been added to house a “School for Laboratory Technicians”. The reinforced group continued to serve all hospitals and troops stationed in the area (the Advance Section, 3d Medical Laboratory, remained on duty at Base “E”, APO 713 –ed).

Re-assignments and transfers continued to take place with some of the Officers going on TD with other units and others attending “Chemical Warfare School”, at APO 923. As of March 1, 1944, the unit started operating a “School for Laboratory Technicians” under a plan for a 6-weeks training course. First classes opened with 10 students. There were no formal staff meetings, however daily conferences were held to discuss any problems. Informal discussions of all autopsies were held with a view of correlating findings.
Supplies came in through Base channels involving certain equipment for the School. Replenishing became more difficult while operating in forward areas and some items badly needed repair or replacement due to the excessive heat and humidity causing some deterioration. Overall living and operating conditions remained mostly the same since moving to the current location.

The following lab tests were performed between January 1 and March 31, 1944:
Bacteriology > 1,182 tests
Chemistry > 968 tests
Hematology > 849 tests
Serology > 2,095 tests
Pathology > 77 tests
Parasitology & Entomology > 375 examinations
In addition to the regular laboratory work, investigation of insect vectors, animal hosts, and immunological reactions to scrub typhus continued by Laboratory personnel in conjunction with members of the US Typhus Commission on duty in the SWPA.

A total of 11 Officers and 36 Enlisted Men were on duty at APO 503 (combined Headquarters + Mobile Section –ed). On April 7, 1944 a detachment entitled “Organization for Malaria” consisting of 3 Officers and 3 Technicians were transferred from Headquarters Section to the Advance Section, APO 713. They were joined by 2 more Officers on April 15 and 22 respectively. Between April 26 and May 19, 1944, 3 Officers who had been away on TD to other organizations returned to the unit. Some personnel losses as well as some gains were recorded during the first six months of 1944 but losses could never be fully compensated.
The “School for Laboratory Technicians” continued its program of classes with the first session extending from March 1 to April 15; the second from April 16 to May 30; and the third from June 1 to July 10, 1944. Training remained continuous. The current medical literature was deficient since no publications were received except those subscribed to by individual Officers at their personal cost. Recreation within the facilities allowed for baseball, swimming, theater, and movies. Discipline was very good, though morale was only fair because of the low turnover in personnel which prevented promotions.

Quite a few interesting reports and studies were submitted for publication by members of the 3d Medical Laboratory.
April 1944 – “An Investigation on the Bio-Chemistry of Scrub Typhus”, prepared by 1st Lieutenant Sidney P. Gottfried, SnC, O-475806.  May 1944 – “A Correlation of the Weil-Felix Reaction with some of the Clinical Features of Tsutsugamushi Disease”, written by Captain Edwin N. Irons, MC, O-327693. June 1944 – “Treatment of Uniforms for Protection Against Larval Mites”, prepared by 1st Lieutenant Raymond C. Bushland, SnC, O-527962.

Between April 1 and June 30, 1944, the following examinations and tests were performed by the Laboratory:
Bacteriology > 1,108 examinations
Chemistry > 1,065 examinations
Hematology > 1,258 examinations
Serology > 3,186 examinations
Pathology > 1,226 examinations

View of some prefabricated buildings as used in New Guinea and other areas in the SWPA. Of Australian construction, these buildings were quickly set up and adequately equipped for use either as a Base Dispensary, Dental Clinic, Medical Laboratory, or simply as a Medical Ward.

By mid July 1944, the situation of the 3d Medical Laboratory was as follows, the unit having been divided into three Sections was located in different areas:

New Guinea – 3d Medical Laboratory Stations
Headquarters Section – Dobodura, New Guinea, APO 503, Base “B”
Advance Section – Lae, New Guinea, APO 713, Base “E”
Detachment – Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, APO 565, Base “G”

A Detachment consisting of 4 Officers and 18 EM was organized at Base “B”, APO 503, on September 12, 1944 in compliance with 3d Medical Laboratory General Orders No. 16 and placed under command of Major William S. Monlux. Of these, 3 Officers and the 18 Enlisted Men were removed from the Headquarters Section located at Base “B”, the other Officer came from the Advance Section at Base “E”, APO 713. The Detachment embarked aboard ship at Base “B” on September 13 in compliance with Movement Order # 111, Headquarters, Base “B”, Buna, Oro Bay, dated September 9, 1944, reaching Base “G”, Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, APO 565, on September 17, 1944 where it served as Base “G” General Laboratory until August 1945. After arrival it was allotted two 57 x 20 feet prefab buildings which were still under construction. The Detachment was attached to the 51st General Hospital for quarters and rations, and was housed in a temporary tent area.

The prefabricated buildings were of typical Australian manufacture measuring 57 x 20 feet, with tented expansion wards if necessary, and fully supplied with the necessary equipment and appliances.
The 3 Sections operated independently and were totally self-sufficient capable of performing all types of bacteriological, serological, hematological, and other chemical procedures with Headquarters Section regulating an overall control with regard to procedures and policies. In this manner the organization was able to overcome its greatest “handicap”, mobility, though as a result of this division there were actually 3 Laboratories in one. There was inevitably a shortage of personnel, primarily of Enlisted Men, and it was considered that minimum Enlisted strength absolutely necessary to operate each Section efficiently was to be ranging between 15 and 20 men.
It should be noted that because of the tactical situation in the SWPA, the Mobile Sections never functioned with the direct support of the Base Laboratory. Instead, each one operated as an independent unit (except when Headquarters Section and one Mobile Section joined forces). Due to the situation, no bulky equipment such as hot air ovens, water baths, and water sinks could be taken along. Such equipment was simply improvised and when the supply situation improved, proper equipment was secured (it never took place). Few items employed by Allied or enemy lab units were used as none was superior to those provided by the Army.
The unit had no experience with Field Chest Laboratory, vertical field autoclaves proved unsatisfactory, dehydrated media and chemicals suffered from exposure as soon as the seals were broken, they were often stored in dry boxes with an electric light bulb which could not always prevent deterioration, 52°C melting point paraffin was unsatisfactory (high melting point 56°C was better), chloroform bottles often leaked causing losses (better packed in sealed cans), the 3 KVA generator was inadequate, refrigerators used were in excess of T/O & E recommendations but provided for a  better performance. The US Typhus Commission arrived in the Theater in October 1943 to carry out investigations on Scrub Typhus and utilized the facilities of the 3d Medical Laboratory almost constantly throughout 1944. Their observations, studies, and examinations took almost over a period of a year and a half to conclude. On repeated occasions the Laboratory cooperated with the Chemical Warfare Service, the Ordnance Corps, the Army Air Forces, the Provost Marshal and other branches of the service on laboratory problems which were not of a medical nature.

Typical shed built with local materials to store medical supplies. This particular one illustrates a small Medical Store or Depot established at Oro Bay, New Guinea, Base “B” and Intermediate Section Headquarters.

During the third quarter of 1944 some new construction was started and completed. A new animal house 45 x 15 feet was built to replace the smaller one which had become inadequate to house the increased number of lab animals. A new water tower replacing the former one which had collapsed was also built and the Enlisted Men received a dayroom.
Many Officers were either transferred or assigned to other organizations. A few of them were exchanged within the New Guinea Bases, or went on TD in forward areas on special assignments. Some were re-assigned to the 3d Med Lab after a brief absence, and only a few new Officers joined the unit.

Between July 1 and September 30, 1944 the following tests were performed:
Bacteriology > 1,595 tests
Chemistry > 610 tests
Serology > 2,694 tests
Hematology > 132 tests
Pathology > 1,320 tests

The following papers were prepared by personnel of the 3d Medical Laboratory for publication: “The Protective Effect of Penicillin and Human Convalescent Serum on Rickettsia Orientalis Infection in White Mice”, by Major Charles A. Armbrust, Jr., MC, O-400983, Captain Edwin N. Irons, MC, O-327693; and “Scrub Typhus in the New Guinea Archipelago” by Major Glen H. Kohls, SnC, Major Charles A. Armbrust, Jr., MC, O-400983, Captain Edwin N. Irons, MC, O-327693, and Lt. Colonel Cornelius B. Philip, SnC.

During the last quarter, the organization was over 4 Enlisted Men, and one Warrant Officer, with the latter performing the duties of a 1st Lieutenant of the Sanitary Corps. It even evolved to having one Medical Corps Officer in excess of T/O strength and short of 2 Sanitary Corps Officers. The 3d Med Lab started losing Enlisted personnel at the rate of minimum 2 per month, due to rotation to the Zone of Interior. Some untrained replacements were obtained and since they had college background, they were easy to train. It should be noted that weekly courses at the “School of Tropical Medicine” conducted by the Headquarters Section at Base ”B” were discontinued in November 1944 for lack of students.
Weekly clinical pathological conferences organized by the 249th General Hospital were actively followed by the MC Officers pertaining to the Laboratory. The organization at Headquarters Section gradually assumed the additional function of acting as the Theater Distribution Center of Biologicals maintaining the prescribed stock levels, and supplying al hospitals and laboratories with needed diagnostic biologicals. No further damage to optical instruments was recorded although microscopes had to be cleaned more often due to fungi growing on the lenses.

Type of Refrigerator unit used by some medical units to store items such as blood and penicillin. Because of the extreme climatic environment (heat and humidity) in the region it was essential to avoid deterioration of particular items in the field. Unfortunately refrigerators were not always available.

Following examinations were performed by the Laboratory:
Bacteriology > 3, 156 tests
Chemistry > 770 tests
Serology > 2,807 tests
Hematology > 1,221 tests
Pathology > 325 tests
Parasitology > 131 tests

New Guinea – USASOS Bases
Base “A” > Milne Bay
Base “B” > Oro Bay (Buna)
Base “C” > Goodenough Island
Base “D” > Port Moresby
Base “E” > Lae
Base “F” > Finschhafen
Base “G” > Hollandia
Base “H” > Biak Island

1945 >
By January 18, 1945, the 3d Medical Laboratory numbered 11 Officers, including 5 Medical Laboratory Officers (MOS 3303), 1 Pathologist (MOS 3325), 2 Bacteriologists (MOS 3307), 1 Biochemist (MOS 3309), 1 Serologist (MOS 3311), 1 Veterinary Laboratory Officer (MOS 3231), and 1 Administrative Officer (MOS 2120); and 42 Enlisted Men, among which 26 Medical Laboratory Technicians (MOS 858), 1 Administrative NCO (MOS 502), 1 Supply NCO (MOS 821), 1 Motor Sergeant (MOS 014), 1 Stenographer (MOS 213), 6 Truck Drivers, Light (MOS 345), 1 General Clerk (MOS 055), 1 Clerk Typist (MOS 405), 2 Orderlies (MOS 590), and 2 Basic Privates (MOS 657).

The Advance Section, 3d Medical Laboratory left Lae, New Guinea in March 1945 and was attached to X Army Corps of the Eighth United States Army. In April 1945 it moved to Mindanao Island, Philippines, with X Army Corps and functioned as Corps Laboratory until November when it was absorbed by the Headquarters Section. In April of 1945, Headquarters Section, 3d Medical Laboratory, moved to Hollandia, New Guinea, and in August the entire 3d Medical Laboratory was transferred to Manila, Philippine Islands (Base “X” and Philippine Base Section Headquarters) where it started operating in conjunction with the 19th Medical Laboratory. Pathological material was submitted direct to the US Army Museum. As the laboratories of Station, Evacuation, and Field Hospitals were not as completely equipped or staffed as the Medical Laboratory, the 3d Medical Laboratory did a large proportion of this specialized work. The CO acted as Laboratory Coordinator for the Theater, but after the 3d Med Lab moved to the Philippines, this function was taken over by the Commanding Officer of the 19th Medical Laboratory.

Recommendations:

The need for a Medical Laboratory this type varied with the number of troops in a given area and the other medical units present capable of performing a similar service. In general, if there were approximately 50,000 or more troops in a Base, there was adequate work to justify the presence of a Medical Laboratory. On the other hand should there be a number of General Hospitals with well equipped labs in the area, the need for a complete Medical Laboratory, Army, would be decreased accordingly.
It was further recommended that the Mobile Laboratory vehicles (T/O & E 8-500 dated 23 April 1944, authorized 3 ¼-ton trucks, 1 x ¾-ton weapons carrier truck, 3 x 2 ½-ton cargo trucks, 1 x 1-ton cargo trailer, 1 x 1-ton 250-gallon water tank trailer –ed) foreseen by T/O & E be made available to them. As far as could be determined, none ever reached the Theater. They were needed as these medical mobile units directly supported combat troops at a time when no other lab facilities were available.

Lingayen Gulf, Luzon Island, Philippines, 9 January 1945. Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel start for shore with part of the 68,000 men pertaining to Lt. General Walter Krueger’s Sixth United States Army. The LCVP landing craft belong to USS Jupiter (AK-43) and USS Leonard Wood (AP-12).

It was also recommended that Laboratory Technicians (MOS 858) be given adequate training in Technicians Schools in the Zone of Interior prior to moving overseas, as it was felt that such training was more comprehensive than any which could be given in the field, thus leading to greater efficiency.

Personnel Roster (1943-1944):

(incomplete)

Lt. Col. Francis E. Council, MC, O-169969 (CO > 13 Mar 42) (CO > 12 Aug 43)
Lt. Col. Willard V. King, SnC, O-426849 (on TD to Base Sec # 7, 19 Jan 44) (hospitalized to 118th Gen Hosp 12 Mar 44 until 17 Aug 44) (to 19th Med Lab 4th quarter 44)
Lt. Col. Cornelius B. Philip, SnC
Maj. Charles A. Armbrust, Jr. MC, O-400983 (CO > 14 Nov 43)
Maj. George T. Crout (CO > 30 Jan 43)
Maj. Glen H. Kohls, SnC
Maj. William S. Monlux, VC, O-366190
Maj. James H. Park, MC (CO > Ad Sec 20 Jul 42) (CO > 20 Jun 43) (CO > 5th Med Lab 14 Nov 43)
Capt. Austin J. Corbett, MC, O-369049 (to ZI 10 Sep 44)
Capt. Kenneth R. Cross, MC, O-381022 (joined 15 Apr 44)
Capt. Edwin H. Irons, MC, O-327693 (joined 25 Nov 43)
Capt. Herbert J. Levin, MC, O-1694208 (joined 4th quarter 44)
Capt. Alva E. Miller, MC (joined 17 Feb 41)
Capt. Frederick M. Offenkrantz, MC, O-376223
Capt. James B. O’Neill, MC, O-419911
Capt. Emmett D. Settle, MC, O-337753 (joined 12 Feb 43) (evac to ZI 4th quarter 44)
Capt. George P. Smith, MC
Capt. Thomas S. White, MC
1st Lt. Frederick B. Bang, MC, O-403295 (joined 7 Jan 44) (on TD to 35th Gen Hosp) (re-assigned 10 Sep 44)
1st Lt. Raymond C. Bushland, SnC, O-527962 (joined 13 Feb 44) (to US Typhus Commission 31 Jul 44)
1st Fred M. Davenport, MC, O-1689968 (joined 19 May 44) (on DS with Surgeon Base “G”) (to 51st Gen Hosp 10 Sep 44)
1st Lt. William J. Franke, MC, O-1693392 (joined 12 Feb 43) (evac to ZI 4th quarter 44)
1st Lt. Malcolm S. Ferguson, SnC (on TD to 42d Gen Hosp 5 Jul 43)
1st Lt. Samuel B. Goldwasser, SnC, O-373173 (to Ad Ech 5th AAF 4 Feb 44)
1st Lt. Sidney P. Gottfried, SnC, O-475806 (joined 1 Jul 43)
1st Lt. Owen H. Graham, SnC (to 5th Malaria Survey Unit 5 Sep 43)
1st Lt. Herbert Grayson, MAC, O-1533792 (joined 5 Mar 44) (to 735th Med Sn Co 4 Sep 44)
1st Lt. Dunham Kirkham, MC (to USAFFE 7 Jul 43)
1st Lt. Richard L. Lehner, MC, O-543092 (joined 18 Aug 44)
1st Lt. John Maier, MC, O-509670 (joined 18 Feb 44) (to 128th Sta Hosp 4th quarter 44)
1st Lt. Gordon V. Nelson, MAC (to ZI 26 May 43)
2d Lt. Nelson G. Hairston, SnC, O-512125 (on TD to 42d Gen Hosp 5 Jul 43) (re-joined 11 Jan 44)
2d Lt. Henry G. Henriot, MAC, O-1547650 (joined 10 Sep 44) (on SD with 148th Sta Hosp)
WO (jg) Karl R. Reinhard, MD, W-2114853 (joined 12 Feb 43)
WO (jg) Clarence M. Wilson (to 155th Sta Hosp 19 Jun 43)

M/Sgt Emmitt D. Moore (to 42d Gen Hosp 23 Feb 44)
T/Sgt James F. Kern, 18012225
T/Sgt Andrew N. Robertson, 32034166
S/Sgt Floyd J. Baker, 38021251
S/Sgt Joseph R. Beever (to 4th Gen Hosp 23 Feb 44)
S/Sgt Leo Stachnik
S/Sgt Lewis Valigura, 6271647
Tec 3 Wayne W. Goodin, 6952712
Sgt Edward J. Allen, 32031361
Sgt Glen E. Hibbard, 36237715
Sgt James A. Lemon, 17000588
Sgt Victor A. Walzel
Tec 4 Vernon B. English, 38021163
Tec 4 Troy D. Perkins, 38021632
Tec 5 Jackson S. Carson, 36021941
Tec 5 Abraham C. Levine, 39229615
Pfc Harold M. Acton, 36026411
Pfc Raymond E. Boland, 35275967
Pfc Cyril W. Strongman, 36035786


We are very much indebted to Cindy Entriken, great niece of First Lieutenant Ila M. Armsbury, ANC (N-732002) who served with the 155th Station Hospital in the Southwest Pacific Theater, for generously sharing a number of quarterly reports relating to the 3d Medical Laboratory with us. We are still looking for a complete Personnel Roster of this Laboratory as well as for data describing the unit’s last activities in the SWPA and its inactivation. All inputs appreciated.

 

This page was printed from the WW2 US Medical Research Centre on 23rd June 2018 at 19:54.
Read more: https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/3d-medical-laboratory/