Society Founding Member Honored

We’ve learned that the Naval Historical Foundation has named Society member Professor Harold D Langley one of its 2014 Commodore Dudley W Knox Naval History Lifetime Achievement Awards. We are very proud and happy for Harry on his receiving this prestigious and very well deserved recognition.

Professor Langley was a prime moving force behind the founding of this Society; and from its inception, he has served on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine.





Professor Finley-Croswhite Takes the Helm

Today, 6 September, Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite, officially assumes directorship of the Society for the History of Navy Medicine. Dr. Finley-Croswhite is Professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia where she has held many positions since 1991 including Chair of History and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. She thus brings deep experience in directing operations of academic institutions. The Mission of the Society, with its worldwide membership of 170 academics, practitioners and supporters, is to promote research, scholarship and publication in the history of maritime and naval medicine.
Professor Finley-Croswhite says that she is looking forward to energizing and expanding the Society’s programs. These include:
• Sponsoring papers panels at academic meetings
• The Society’s Graduate / Professional Student Travel Grant program, which pays a stipend for students whose papers are accepted for presentation at Society panels
• The Society’s Graduate / Professional Student Research Grant program, which pays up to $1,500 to support original historical research in the area of maritime / navy medicine
• The Society’s ebook subvention program

Professor Finley-Croswhite also plans to institute a new program, the Society for the History of Navy Medicine Book Prize, a biennial award to the author of a notable book on the history of navy / maritime medicine.

The Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, receives tax deductible gifts and Society dues-donations for the benefit of the Society’s programs.

Our new Executive Director says:

I take over today as your Executive Director of the Society

Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite

Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite

for the History of Navy Medicine. I’m pleased to be able to serve in this office and want to grow the Society over the next few years. Tom Snyder has already mentioned some of the programs I hope to re-energize or develop.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I grew up mostly in Virginia (outside Washington, D.C.) and earned a BA from the University of Richmond and a PhD from Emory University. I have been at Old Dominion University in the port-town of Norfolk, Virginia since 1991 where I am a full Professor of History. My specialization as an historian is in the area of religious violence, particularly in France in the sixteenth century. For the past several years I’ve been working on Holocaust history and have been fortunate to work quite a bit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. But how does that connect me to Navy Medicine? One of my teaching fields is the History of Medicine and some years ago as Chair of my Department of History, I led the faculty to develop a maritime focus for the Department and we hired our first maritime historian. From there I became interested in sailors’ health in the early modern context, and this led me to Tom Snyder. I was one of the very early members of the Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine and have held the post of Vice-President of the Foundation since 2008.
I look forward to an exciting year. We need to soon identify a conference in which we can participate and present papers. As a scholar I am most interested in advancing our research focus.
It is an honor to be named your Executive Director. What makes this society significant is its interdisciplinarity. We are an integrative organization linking scholars and researchers in the field of history with medical professionals in the U.S. Navy, uniting historians focused on STEM research with doctors and nurses interested in the humanities. I look forward to working with you.
Annette Finley-Croswhite, Ph.D.

Society Announces a New Executive Director

The Society for the History of Navy Medicine is pleased to announce that Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite will be our new Executive Director.

Professor Finley-Croswhite provided this short bio:

Annette Finley-Croswhite, Ph.D. Annette Finley is an award-winning Professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia where she

Annette Finley-Croswhite, PhD

Annette Finley-Croswhite, PhD

has also served as Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies (2001-06) and Chair of History (2006-10). A few of her awards at ODU include the Stern Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1994, the Most Inspiration Faculty Award, 2012, the Burgess Award for Research and Creativity, 2012, and the Broderick Award for Educational Accessibility, 2014. Dr. Finley’s scholarly work is focused on the history of religious violence.  Her first book, Henry IV and the Towns: The Pursuit of Legitimacy in French Urban Society, 1589-1610 (Cambridge University Press, 1999, 2006) explored the French Wars of Religion and is considered as essential text for any scholar working in the field.  She next published with Gayle K. Brunelle, Murder in the Métro: Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France (Louisiana State University Press, 2010, 2012) focused on right-wing terrorism in the 1930s.  The work received rave reviews, especially for its well-crafted prose and was voted by History Today one of the top 15 history books published in 2010.  Dr. Finley’s current research is tied to the French Holocaust/Shoah. She has received two grants (2011, 2012) from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies to develop coursework and research on the Holocaust, and she has developed study abroad courses to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  She is also working on a book entitled Betrayal: Bombing Synagogues on the Streets of Paris, Igniting the French Holocaust.  Dr. Finley also maintains a strong interest in maritime history.  As Chair of the Department of History at ODU she created a “maritime focus” for her department and hired the department’s first maritime historian.  In 2011, she organized and hosted the annual conference of the North American Society for Oceanic History.  She maintains keen interest in French sailors in the Atlantic world, especially French medical experiments conducted in the 17th century in the Caribbean to improve the lot of men aboard ship.  She has been involved with the Foundation and Society for the History of Navy Medicine almost since its beginning and welcomes the opportunity to serve as Executive Director.

She will officially take up the post at the beginning of the 2014-2015 Academic Year. Founding Executive Director Tom Snyder will assist in the transition of leadership from the recently resigned Jim Dolbow.

Society Executive Director Departs

Jim Dolbow, the Society’s volunteer Executive Director since April 2013, in an email entitled “Going Ashore”, announced his resignation yesterday (27 June), due to the time demands of his day job as a Congressional staffer.

Members of the Board of Directors of the Society’s Foundation are consulting on steps necessary to assure the Society’s vitality going forward.

Back Issues of Proceedings Wanted by Navy Department Library

Per our friends at the Naval Historical Foundation, the Navy Department Library needs the following back issues of Proceedings Magazine for their collection:

April 2004

July 2005

December 2005

July 2008

December 2008

February 2009

January 2011

2 of all 2012 issues.

If you have any back issues you would like to donate, please contact our Executive Director Jim Dolbow at to make arrangements to gift them to the Library or feel free to leave a comment.

Please remember all gifts of back issues are tax deductible.  Thank you.

New Partnership with Navy Department Library Announced

Recently donated cruise books to the Navy Department Library by The Society for the History of Navy Medicine.
Recently donated cruise books to the Navy Department Library by The Society for the History of Navy Medicine.

As part of your Society’s efforts to preserve and protect navy medicine history, we recently donated 3 navy hospital ship cruise books and 1 non-fiction book to the Navy Department Library.

Founded in 1800 by direction of President John Adams, the Navy Department Library is one of the oldest federal government libraries. Its 150,000 volumes are the nation’s most highly concentrated and accessible collections of literature on the United States Navy.

The SANCTUARY’S and COMFORT’s cruise books filled holes in the Navy Department Library’s cruise book collection.

Thanks to our generous donors that made these gifts possible.  If you would like to support our program to acquire navy hospital ship books and epherma like Christmas dinner menus for the Navy Department Library, please click here.

Help bring Navy Medicine History into the Digital Age!

The Society for the History Of Navy Medicine is pleased to announce that it has partnered with the Naval Institute Press to underwrite the conversion of the following Navy Medicine History books (many out of print) into eBooks:

Battle Station Sick Bay: Navy Medicine in World War II by Jan K. Herman

Navy Medicine Under Sail by Zachary B. Friedenberg

Ruff’s War: A Navy Nurse on the Frontline in Iraq by CDR Cheryl Lynne Ruff, USN (Ret.) and CDR K. Sue Rope, USN (Ret.)

Ship’s Doctor by CAPT Terrence Riley, Medical Corps, USN

Station Hospital Saigon: A Navy Nurse in Vietnam 1963-1964 by LCDR Bobbi Hovis, NC, USN (Ret.)

What a Way to Spend the War: Navy Nurse POWs in the Philippines by Dorothy Still Danner

The good news is that we have the money to convert these books into eBooks to reach a new generations of readers. The BAD news is that it is in your pockets!

Please consider a gift today to our Society in order to convert these fabulous books into eBooks.  All gifts to our Society are 100% tax deductible.  Not a penny will be spent on overhead either!

Once you and I have reached our goal of $3,000, our Society will issue a check to the Naval Institute to begin converting these titles into eBooks.  This is a win win for both our Society and the Naval Institute! Be sure to forward this post to friends of navy medicine history.  Thank you!

“Captain, U S Navy, Departing”

Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder

With a shrill call of the bos’n’s pipe, a Naval officer is “piped over the side” – and departs.

Thus, it’s “Captain, U S Navy, departing” the Society for the History of Navy Medicine. I leave the Society in good hands. I look forward to its growing and flourishing under Jim Dolbow’s leadership. 

“I am ready to be relieved”

relieving the watch“I am ready to be relieved” – thus a Navy Officer of the Deck transfers authority, after his successor has intoned “I relieve you, sir.”

Six years ago, I launched the Society for the History of Navy Medicine at the prompting of Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery historian André Sobocinski. André’s enthusiastic support and guidance helped make the early navigation sure.

Three years later, in February 2010, I floated this blog as a means of promoting the Society and garnering it attention in a larger world. Given the narrow confines of our little corner of the world of history, I think the blog has done well: 155 posts, more than 31,575 views, and 12 –>18 –> 40+ average views a day. In fact, when you consider that the typical academic journal article – I read somewhere – gets an average of 3 readers total, we’ve done very well indeed!

But, come 25 April, the conn and the helm of this enterprise will pass to a new, young, energetic Executive Director, Jim Dolbow. Jim will introduce himself here and on the Society website in the near future.

It’s been a wonderful cruise!

The Society has grown to around 170 members from around the world. We’ve mounted academic panels – thanks both to enthusiastic writers and a wonderful panel of academics who’ve served as our Papers Selection Board* – at annual meetings of the American Association for the History of Medicine (of which the Society is a “Constituent Society”), the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS) and the biennial Naval Academy McMullen History Symposium. We founded a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity to receive our members’ voluntary dues. We use this money to fund a Graduate / Professional Student Travel Grant Program that pays students $750 to give papers that are accepted at our panels. Last year, we initiated a Graduate Student Research Grant Program† that will annually provide up to $1500 in support for research in the area of the history of navy or maritime medicine.

As for the blog, when I go back over those 155 postings, I think some of them are actually pretty darned good! One interesting thing, though: my “opinion pieces”, which are simply that – opinion – typically have gotten twice to thrice the readership of the “historical” ones – those that I really labored over, performing decent research and providing proper footnoting. I don’t know if this says more about our readership, or about my historical writing! In any case, I come away from the blogging endeavor  with a high respect for those professional writers who have to meet weekly – or worse, daily – deadlines. I felt the weekly demand quite literally sucking whatever waning creativity I had right out of my brain! I will be glad to knock these exertions down several notches!

So what does the future hold for a semi-salty old (I’ll be 70 on 25 April) doc?

A sprint, that’s what!

First, I’ll take my blogging – at a much more leisurely pace – to my personal website, What I really want to do is complete writing my history of the Naval Hospital at Mare Island. Other historical projects include the Navy’s World War II V-12 Medical Program of accelerated medical (degree in 3 years vice 4) training; and of the roughly 75 hospitals the Navy created “for the purpose” during World War II, most of which virtually instantly disappeared soon after the war’s end; and my personal favorite, a creative surgical solution for a naval person destined for great fame.

But there’s more! In April 2014, I will assume the mantle of President of the Albany Medical College Alumni Association for two years. I am the first from west of the Hudson River (conceptually, anyway!) so selected. This is my medical alma mater’s recognition that it now has a national reach, with roughly 40% of its graduates living and practicing in the west. First among my presidential projects will be to create a robust network of class liaisons in order to develop a tighter bond between our alumni and the medical school. Here’s my motivation: medical education is immensely expensive and medical schools need large endowments to fund scholarships, professorships, research and capital investment. True, Albany Med’s endowment has recently grown – due in large part to efforts of the marvelously gregarious but very quality-serious Dean Vince Verdile – to around $140 million. But contrast that with Stanford Med, for example, which draws on an endowment of ~$1.4 billion. A reasonable goal for Albany Med, I’m told, is in the range of $400 -500 million. From an Alumni Association point of view, that’s a big challenge. But in collaboration with Maura Mack-Hisgen and her crew in the Alumni Office, Dean Verdile, and Terri Cerveny and her Office of Development outfit, we shall continue to build by steps – with purpose…

Then, I’m queued to take – late in 2015 – a two-year assignment as the national leader of an ancient (by U. S. standards, anyway) naval historical establishment which shall remain nameless until my appointment is made official. Here, if confirmed, I aim to be “the historical leader”, promoting “public history”, or “historical outreach” to the larger community by members of this much smaller, focused, organization.

So, come 2018, after this extended but no doubt exciting deployment, I’ll be – well and truly – ready to settle down to read and write history!

One key point: I could not have done any of this without the completely selfless,  inspired, and even genius support of my sweetheart, the mother of my two fine sons, the love of my life, my very best friend and the center of my world – Gina Snyder.


* Our Papers Selection Board, since its inception, has benefited from the dedicated expertise of  Professor Annette Finley-Croswhite (Old Dominion University), Jan Herman (now-Emeritus Historian of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery), and Professor Harry Langley (Emeritus, Catholic University; Emeritus Docent of the Navy Collection, Smithsonian Institution).

† Our Research Grant Selection Board members are Professors John Beeler (University of Alabama), Chris McKee (Emeritus, Grinnell) and Jennifer Telford (University of Connecticut)

©2013 Thomas L Snyder

New Society Executive Director Named; More on History of Navy Medicine

Last April, the Society Executive Director (and your blogger-in-chief) announced that he would step down from these posts as of his 70th birthday, on 25 April 2013. In subsequent months, a few interested individuals held their collective breaths as we made a search for my successor. Then, happily, Jim Dolbow stepped forward to take on the task. Jim has a long and abiding love of Navy history. He’s worked as a contractor for the Naval History and Heritage Command, where he built readership of their social media into the “tens of millions”, according to his former boss there. Jim is very well connected with the Naval historical establishment throughout Washington DC. He will bring new ideas and new energy – “new directions” (same former boss) – to the Society. Jim will officially take the Conn on 25 April 2013. Welcome aboard, Jim!


This week, I had the great good fortune to attend a lecture by Navy Surgeon General VADM Matthew Nathan at the Marines Memorial Club in San Francisco. When questioned about the effect of the prospective sequester on Navy medicine, he opined that combat casualty care and post-combat care will not be affected. What concerned him, he said, was that as we withdraw troops from Afghanistan, we risk forgetting the lessons that have made our efforts to save life and limb there so remarkably successful.

Somehow, I don’t think our combat surgeons and corpsmen will forget these lessons: trauma surgeons will continue to train in big city hospitals, where Friday and Saturday night “rod and gun club” (as we called it in Chicago when I trained there) activities will continue to simulate combat conditions for years to come. Navy Corpsmen, the “first responders” in the field of combat – the ones who are present in the “platinum fifteen minutes” and are so responsible for saving lives after combat injuries – will soon be trained as Emergency Medical Technicians. If the Navy is wise, it will arrange to have its trauma surgeons return regularly to big city hospitals for refresher training, and its corpsmen, if they are not actively practicing their EMT arts, to also refresh their skills, in our larger cities.

What I would worry about more, however, is that the Navy bureaucracy will forget these lessons of history, and through the passage of time in peace, navy medical doctrine – and logistics – will fall out of date. Budget cuts may mean archaic or non-functional CT scanners and outdated materials in those Medlog lockers. I submit that it should remain a high priority that a dedicated team of medical logisticians annually review our forward positioned medical supplies to make certain that they contain state-of-the-art equipment and supplies, and that trauma care doctrine is regularly updated to reflect the latest best practices in combat casualty care.

©2013 Thomas L Snyder