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Army - Medical Corps (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-04-04 by rick wyatt
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Further to the issue of why the U.S. Army Medical Department uses a caduceus (winged staff with two snakes) instead of a staff of Aesculapius (ragged staff with one snake) as its branch insignia, I just ran across this while looking for something else:

"In 1902, even as the coat of arms of the U.S. Army Medical Corps continued to bear the staff of Aesculapius, the corps added the caduceus to its officers' uniforms - not to symbolize the medical profession but to indicate neutrality in combat. According to an article by Lieutenant Colonel F. H. Garrison, M.C., U.S. Army, that appeared in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association in 1919, "On the firing line, the medical officer, if the Geneva Convention is observed, is protected by his non-combatant status, just as the caduceus-bearing herald of ancient Rome was immune from attack."

This supports an explanation I have shared with the list before, but of which I had been skeptical. The source is the "Word Court" feature in the June 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, by Barbara Wallraff.

Joe McMillan, 15 August 2005