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"American Angels of Mercy" and the Russo-Japanese War

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Journal Article - Open Access

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U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Silver Spring United States

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The Russo-Japanese War was a clash between two expanding empires. In some ways, it was a very 20th century war, with large armies using automatic weapons in other ways, it reflected the values of the 19th century, with Russian citizens donating money to the Japanese Red Cross in appreciation for the care of their soldiers. It was onto this battlefield that Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee brought an American mission to observe military medical practices of the conflict. McGee received her medical degree from Columbian College now The George Washington University in 1892 and at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898, McGee organized volunteer nurses for the Daughters of the American Revolution. McGees organizing ability led to her appointment as the only woman Acting Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Army, in charge of the Armys nurses. After this brief war ended, McGee pursued the establishment of a permanent nurse corps, and is known now as the founder of the Army Nurse Corps. With the threat of war between Russia and Japan looming, McGee led a group of nine volunteer nurses to Japan in 1904. She returned the following year as an official U.S. Army observer and later lectured and wrote on her experiences in the war. McGee observed Japanese military medical practices that reflected medical discoveries and advances of the time. Field hospitals included laboratories to aid in the diagnosis of diseases caused by bacteria. Surgical wards were stocked with aseptic steel surgical instruments and supplies Fig. 1. The Japanese emphasized sanitation, consistent with the traditional stress on cleanliness, and as a result, the infection rate among Japanese troops was considerably less than in other wars of the era.

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