NAVY CORPSMEN AT MONTFORD POINT MARINE CAMP
ROBERT STANLEY HAMMOND
UNITED STATES NAVY CORPSMAN FIRST CLASS SERVICE DATES: 12-13-1943 to 6-27-1946
At the outbreak of World War II in 1941, The United States Armed Forces had hardly any African Americans. They were restricted to Labor, Messman and Service duties and at were called Negroes and Colored. This was because of great opposition, it was the official policy of the United States Navy and the Marine Corps to barr Negroes from enlistment, except the U.S. Navy permitted selected Negroes to enlist as Mess Stewards or laborers only.
In 1943 Robert age 17 enlisted in the United States Navy and was sent to a segregated Naval Training Camp at Great Lakes Illinois. He was among 22 Negroes to attend Hospital Corps School. Robert was not aware at the time that this advanced school never enrolled African Americans and he was among the first to be enrolled. Some of the training courses he received were:
Anatomy and Physiology Fundamentals of Patient Care, First Aide Supplies, Rescue, and Transportation, Emergency Medical Care Procedures Base and Field, Poisoning, Drug Abuse, Pharmacy and Toxicology, Clinical Laboratory, Diet and nutrition, Emergency Medical Care, Physical Examinations, Health Records Supply, Decedent Affairs Programs,
He was graduated from this school in March 1944 as a Hospital Corpsman and received further training at the Brooklyn Naval Hospital in New York as a Medical Technician. Upon arrival at the Naval Hospital, Negro Corpsmen were assigned to duties as mess men at the hospital commissary. A liberal White Officer reassigned the Black Corpsmen to Medical duties on the wards and other areas of the hospital. Later Robert was assigned to Montford Point Camp, New River North Carolina
Other Corpsmen at Montford Point were:
Medical and Health Services for Negro Sailors and Marines were poor. It was a policy for White Health Care personnel to provide minimum services to African Americans. They did no want to touch a Black person. It was a law in the South at the time; a White person could only care for a Black person if they were being born or dying. All Hospitals and Health Services were segregated in the South.
During the course of World War II as a result of a Presidential Directive the United States Marine Corps had to accept African American at Camp Lejune, North Carolina. They were sent to Montford Point at New River a hidden away camp, as the numbers grew, there were assigned to all African American Companies organized by their areas of specialization.
The medical facilities at Camp Lejune had no African American medical personnel and the Black Marines received little or very poor medical attention by the white medical personnel assigned to Montford Point. Marines received APC capsules (All Purpose Capsules) and Brown’s mixture (Mineral oil, Castor oil and a Brown Syrup) for all illness except cuts or fractures and other injuries.
This was later brought to the attention of the Navy Department and African American Corpsman who were in training at the Brooklyn, New York Naval Hospital were assigned to the medical duties at Montford Point. Robert was among this group. The Marine recruits for the first time in 1944, began to receive adequate medical attention and care for illnesses or injuries. Brown’s mixture and APC’s were no longer dispensed unless a person was constipated.
This beginning experience was one of strict segregation and separatism. Robert thought he had enough of that kind of experience when living in Charleston, South Carolina.
Strict separation and segregation was the rule. Whole Blood was segregated by X’s on the bottles. X for white blood, XX for Black Blood, XXX for others. This policy continued until blood plasma (solid crystallized blood) invented by Dr. Charles Drew was used.
Later on a Jewish Doctor was assigned to treat the Black Marines most white doctors did not want to touch a Black Marine. Most Marines from the South never had a small pox vaccination. They had all kinds of aliments. Some had hook worms in their bodies from going barefooted. Many had venereal disease. Body lice and bed bugs were on their clothes and bodies. Dental, auditory and vision care was poor. Some had fevers caused by mosquitoes. The environmental conditions at Montford were poor. The swamps were infested with mosquitoes and snakes. Latrines were not constructed properly, they smelled bad and were a harborage for snakes, and garbage and solid waste were not properly disposed of.
There was no food safety conducted in the mess kitchens, cross contamination's were all over the place, staphylococcus and salmonella outbreaks were high. The Black Marines suffered badly.
The Black Corpsman had their work count out for them. They clean up the base, swamps were cleared and mosquito controls were initiated. The vegetation was cut back and snakes eliminated. Latrines and privies were constructed properly. Safe food services were in acted in the mess kitchens and the kitchens were periodically inspected.
Each Marine was physically examined for illness and defects and medical records were documented for each Marine. Sick call was held on a daily basis at the dispensary. Short Arms inspection was held at reasonable hours and better VD controls were initiated. Beds were set aside for Black Marines at the base infirmary, even though they were segregated. Individual health care was greatly improved. The Corpsmen were responsible, because no Black Nursing Staff were available at the time.
The Navy Corpsmen were highly respected by the Montford Point Marines. They were called “Doc”. And were as tough as any Marine and were always there and displayed a kind of indiscriminate compassion and bravery in time of need. They patched up the Marines when they were hurt, tended them when they were sick and suffering. The Hospital Corpsman took his medical duty seriously, he never got rattled and never hesitated to come too a Marines aid on base, on the battle field or on board ship.
Robert S. Hammond was born in Philadelphia, Pa, April 28, 1926. Upon the
death of his father in 1933, he went to live with his Uncle and Aunt in
Charleston S.C., while his mother completed her education. It was there he
learned the sea, his Uncle often took him aboard his shrimp boat and Robert
visited places like Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea. At an early
age he had a great fascination for boats, the sea and the earth’s environment.
In Charleston, he attended segregated schools, Morris Street Elementary School and John E. Burke Industrial School. The Burk School was a brand new school and the white school board placed conditions for the 1100 Black students who attend the school in 1938. All students must receive averages of C grades or the school would revert to attendance by white students only. None of the students made” C” grades. They all made A and B grades. Robert received an Academic Achievement Award for his abilities February 3, 1939. Afric23 April, 2011e of their high academic intelligence. Robert learned to read and write at the early age of 6 and read books like the Bible, Shakespeare and “Gone With The Wind”.
Because of the south’s strict segregation laws, Robert returned to Philadelphia in 1940 to be with his brothers, sisters and mother, who has completed her education and went on to becoming a successful Physic Psychologist.
Robert was visiting relatives inn New York, while on leave, he became ill and went to the Brooklyn Naval Hospital where he as operated on for appendicitis. Upon his recovery Robert was sent to Guam in the Marina’s. He arrived there in September 1944 and caught up with his buddies in the 2nd and 4th Ammunition Companies.
Robert missed the fighting that took place there in July 1944. African American Marines took very light casualties during the Guam campaign. April 1945 Robert was assigned to Base 18 Hospital and was later assigned to the Medical Dispensary at Camp Wise Naval Base and the Marine Corps dispensary at Barracuda Village. He worked under the supervision of the first African American Medical Officers (Doctor’s) in the United States Navy. Dr’s C.J. Jones and Alvin Lawrence. Robert distinguished himself in providing his medical technology and care for wounded Marines as the result of ammunition dump blowing up after a fire fight by the Japanese.
Robert’s medical care and services were well known among the Montford Point Marines. It was through some of his efforts, wounds healed and illnesses were abated and cured.
Robert was Honorably discharged from the United States Navy June 1946. He finished his high school education at Boy’s High School in Brooklyn, New York with academic honors. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute of Culinary Arts and Science and later opened a restaurant. He became part owner of a Night Club in Brooklyn at which he was Master of Ceremony. From 1947 to 1951, Robert attended Shaw University at Raleigh, N.C. There he became a member of Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Honorary Society and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Psi Chapter. He graduated with honors and received a Bachelor of Science Degree. After graduation Robert went to work as a Physical Scientist at the Philadelphia U.S. Army Quartermaster Testing Laboratories. There he distinguished himself by inventing a physical testing procedure for barrier materials. He was granted an award for invention of a multiple testing platform.
In 1953, he went to work in the Field of Environmental Health with the City of Philadelphia, Pa. As a Public Health Inspector. In 1957 Robert married Joan Mason of Philadelphia. They had one son, Robert Jr. In 1957, Robert was selected from a nationwide group of Ten Public Health Inspectors, by the Surgeon General’s Office of the United States for a scholarship to attend the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan for a Master of Public Health Degree. Robert graduated with this degree in 1959.
During the fall of 1959, Robert moved to Los Angeles, California and went to work with the Los Angeles City Department of Health as a Registered Environmental Health Inspector.
In 1965, Robert with other Montford Point Marine Veterans founded and established the Los Angeles Chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association, which is an organization of the first African Americans who went into the United States Marine Corps during World War II. Hammond was President of the Los Angeles Chapter for more than twelve years..
During 1964 to 1968 Robert worked as a Public Health Inspector for the County of Los Angeles. He was among the first non--white Americans to enter Los Angeles County Environmental Health Services. In the fall of 1968 Robert went to Dayton, Ohio and became the Director of Environmental Health for the City of Dayton, Ohio. There he was responsible for making that City the cleanest City in the United States.
In 1972, Hammond was appointed the Director of the Charles R. Drew Comprehensive Medical Center in the City of Dayton, Ohio. He distinguished himself in providing. Medical care to over 45,000 African Americans in Dayton, Ohio.
In 1973, Robert returned to Los Angeles to become Senior Public Health Specialist for the County of Los Angeles. He also attended Southwestern University School of Law. During that year he directed the Childhood Lead Program for the County of Los Angeles. This program resulted in saving the health and many lives of African American and Mexican American children in Los Angeles County.
He was promoted to Chief Environmental Health Specialist in 1984 and was responsible for the training off food service operators during the 1984 Olympics for which he received a bronze medal for his efforts. Robert soon became a college Instructor at Cerritos College, in Norwalk California, where he taught Microbiology of Foods in the Health Occupational Science Department.
Hammond worked as Chief of Environmental Health in the West Los Angeles area, where he remained until his retirement January 1993. He received many certificates and awards of recognition and commendation for his Public Health Services.
Robert has now established the H&H Environmental Consultant Firm, which has established business with major food and beverage production companies.
During Robert’s retirement a Cardiologist placed a battery (Pace Maker) in Robert’s heart which helps keep him going. In December 1994 he received a Unit citation from the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper for his extraordinary courage and devotion while fighting racism at home and oppression abroad during World War II. In February 1996 Robert received the Dorie Miller Memorial award for his inspirational leadership and recognition of his endeavors to advance the overall readiness and competence of the naval service through outstanding personal contribution and a keen sense of loyalty and dedication from the Phoenix 96 Committee.
Robert is also doing research for a history book on the effects of early
America and the Caribbean on African American Life.
In searching for his roots he found, that his Grandfather, Wade Hammond, was a Buffalo Soldier and a famous Band Master for the United States Army 9th Calvary. One of his grandmothers was among the Native Americans on the Tail of Tears during 1890.