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Air Force Medical Service - History & Heritage

Black History Month

WAC Corporal Lena Derriecott served as a nurse assistant in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II

During World War II, Cpl. Lena Derriecott learned a hard lesson about segregation in the U.S. military. Derriecott, an African-American woman, volunteered in 1943 for the U.S. Army Air Corps Women’s Army Corps. She reported for duty at Douglas Army Air Field in southern Arizona where she served as a nurse assistant at the base hospital.


The Iranian hostages arrive in Wiesbaden, 38 years ago

On Jan. 20, 1981, two Air Force C-9 Nightingale aerovac aircraft touched down at Rhein-Main Air Base, West Germany, to cheering crowds. Inside were 52 Americans, just released after 444 days of captivity in Iran, an event commonly referred to as the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

Creation of the Air Force Medical Service

In September 1947 the combat elements of the Army Air Forces separated from the U.S. Army, forming the United States Air Force. But a few Air Force support functions, such as medical care, remained U.S. Army responsibilities for the next two years. Starting in 1948, the Air Force and the Air Surgeon, Maj. Gen. Malcolm C. Grow (1887-1960), began to convince the U.S. Army and the administration of President Truman that the Air Force needed its own medical service. In the summer of 1949, Air Force General Order No. 35 established a medical service with the following officer personnel components: Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Veterinary Corps, Medical Service Corps, Air Force Nurse Corps, and Women's Medical Specialist Corps.

The order stated, "The above listed corps shall consist of those personnel transferred from corresponding corps of the Department of the Army, and personnel subsequently commissioned in the respective corps of the Medical Service, United States Air Force. Personnel appointed in the above corps will be carried on separate promotion lists." Each officer corps also received a contingent of enlisted medics. The effective date of the creation of the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) was 1 July 1949.

In later years, the Air Force Women's Medical Specialist Corps evolved into the Biomedical Sciences Corps, which was established in 1965 and still forms a part of the AFMS. The Air Force Veterinary Corps was disestablished in April 1980 and its animal care duties transferred to the U.S. Army Medical Department.

The AFMS issued its first officer corps badges in 1955. As a symbol for these badges, designers chose the sign of Aesculapius, the ancient Greek god of healing-a single snake entwined around a staff. The new symbol distinguished the AFMS from the Army Medical Department, which uses two snakes and staff of the Greek god Hermes. When an AFMS emblem was designed in 1968, it also carried the staff of Aesculapius. (The Navy Medical Department uses the standard U.S eagle and shield as its symbol.)

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