Military Medicine

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Military Medicine


a system of scientific knowledge and practical activity with the goal of strengthening the health of military personnel and preventing and treating combat injuries and diseases. The theoretical basis of military medicine is military medical science, which is a branch of knowledge based on the scientific data of general medicine and military science. The practical aspect of military medicine is represented by the system and methods of the medical support of the armed forces applied to peacetime and wartime conditions. One of the main elements of military medicine is military medical education, which is the system of primary training and subsequent advanced instruction of military medical personnel and systematic replenishment by physicians, doctors’ assistants and other medical personnel trained for military service. The status of military medicine and the concrete forms of its development are determined by the economic system and the political structure of the society and especially by the organization of the armed forces, the state of the art of war, and the level of development of medical science.

In ancient India according to the books of the Ayur-Veda, the wounded were carried from the battlefield and were cared for in special tents. In the ancient Greek city-states physicians served as soldiers, but during a battle they would per-form their professional duties. The development of an elementary military medical organization in ancient Greece dates back to the fourth and third centuries B.C., when citizen volunteers began to be replaced by a standing mercenary army. Military medicine reached a stage of comparatively high development in the Roman Empire; among the regular troops were army and navy physicians belonging to the order of Roman horsemen. In the period of feudal fragmentation in Europe, wounded soldiers—farmers who were enslaved and deprived of their rights—were left without any medical care. Wounded knights usually found shelter in castles where the female population had been taught from childhood the rudiments of treating and caring for the wounded. Owing to the cost of maintaining a hired army, the difficulty of obtaining recruits, and the advances in medical science in the 15th and 16th centuries, military medicine also made fresh advances. A scientific literature appeared and elementary surgical schools were established. Thus, military medicine arose as an independent branch of knowledge and practical activity with the advent of the centralized state, which had at its disposal a standing army. Military medicine developed from the need to maintain the combat efficiency of the personnel and, consequently, provide medical care in peacetime and especially in wartime. This made it necessary to set up in the armed forces a specialized organization to provide systematic medical support for the troops—the military medical service—and to work out a definite procedure and the methods most suitable under conditions of troop combat activity. Before any other branch of the public health service, military medicine took shape as an element of the state apparatus. As a result, it could obtain the supply of technical equipment it needed to carry out preventive and therapeutic measures among the troops.

In the period of capitalism the rapid improvement of weapons and the formation of mass armies resulted in enormous numbers of casualties. Restoration of combat efficiency of the wounded became an important state task. The medical service began to play a significant role in returning many soldiers to duty. A radical reorganization of the service was needed and accomplished in the 20th century.

Military medical support in the armed forces of the USSR and the other socialist countries is the totality of measures intended to protect the health of the personnel of the armed forces to the maximum, provide timely care for the wounded and sick, restore their combat efficiency, and return them to duty as quickly as possible. In peacetime the main emphasis is placed on treatment, prevention, sanitation and hygiene, and measures to prevent epidemics when there are indications that one is impending. Plans for medical support are worked out by the chief of the medical service of a troop unit or military district (fleet) and are approved by the command. Medical support of troop combat operations consists of a complex set of measures concerning medical evacuation, sanitation and hygiene, the control of epidemics by the medical service, and medical supplies (drugs, instruments, equipment, and so on). Medical support is also organized in accordance with plans worked out by the medical chiefs of the army in the field in conjunction with a forthcoming combat operation or for certain periods of time not related to the carrying out of a combat mission by troops. Restoration of army manpower remains one of the most important tasks of military medicine. The genuine and thoroughgoing concern for man shown by the socialist state plays the first and foremost role in military medicine. Military medicine in the armies of the socialist states is guided by the uniform principles of the socialist public health service.

The nature of medical support depends on the combat situation, the complicated and varied conditions under which the medical service has to work, and the peculiarities of military pathology. From this arises a need for the creative restructuring of medical science and practice to adapt them to the conditions of the military medical service, for investigating organizational forms of medical support, and for developing prophylactic and therapeutic methods that are completely consistent with the principles of the organizational development of the armed forces and that are most effective under different combat conditions.

Military medicine in its development is tending to differentiate into branches dealing with specific aspects of the theory and practice of medical support. This differentiation is due both to the growth of knowledge in the natural sciences, which has led to the progress of medicine, and to the complication of the organization of the armed forces and their technical supply; as a result of the latter, independent branches and combat arms of the armed forces have originated. The appearance of new types of weapons and means of destruction has altered the nature of military pathology and necessitated a more detailed study of it.

Military medicine is a highly complex and ramified body of military medical knowledge that includes medical service organization and tactics, military field surgery, military field therapeutics, military hygiene (including military epidemiology), the physiology of military work with specific reference to work of personnel in different branches and combat arms of the armed forces, aviation medicine, space medicine, medical protection against weapons of mass destruction, military medical administration, military medical supply, the history of military medicine, and military medical geography. The practical tasks of medical support of the armed forces relating to study of peculiarities of the pathology, clinical symptoms, and treatment of combat injuries and diseases in the troops gave rise to military medical branches in almost all fields of theoretical and clinical medicine, including pathological physiology, pathological anatomy, psychiatry, ophthalmology, and stomatology.


Solov’ev, Z. P. Voprosy voennoi meditsiny: Izbr. stat’i i rechi. Leningrad, 1955.
Ocherki istorii sovetskoi voennoi meditsiny. Leningrad, 1968.


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