October 01, 2015


 1935 - 1945

Posted Sept. 16, 2015

Similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his fireside chats, Dr. W. Horace Hoskins and, later, Dr. L.A. Merillat, dominated this decade with their influential editorials, which provided personal and direct communication with members on issues facing the profession.

In April 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, Dr. Hoskins wrote that “no one can be unconscious of the tremendous swing right now to a consideration of all those things which come under the head of social betterment,” with the prevailing concern that veterinary medicine would become socialized or turned into a single-payer system.  

Frequently, he railed against unscrupulous “self-made, state-made quacks” and advocated for quality education. Veterinary colleges adopted a minimum entrance requirement of one year of college work in 1937. Dr. Hoskins wrote a year later, “We rather lean to the belief that what we need is better trained veterinarians rather than more poorly supported veterinary colleges. It takes a lot of money to equip and run a veterinary college these days, and few states have shown any inclination to do the job the way it ought to be done.”

When Dr. Merillat took over as editor in 1939, the nation was gearing up for war again. In January 1940, he warned against veterinarians using their knowledge to spread “disease among domestic animals to hopple transportation and diminish the food supply of the enemy.” The AVMA started cutting back on expenses, including rent and payroll, and Army Veterinary Reserve officers were being placed on active duty.

A September 1944 photo spread shows mules and horses in the theater of World War II (clockwise from top left) from New Guinea to Australia to Burma to Italy.

Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the U.S. officially entered World War II. The January 1942 JAVMA was titled the National Defense Issue, and that year’s convention was the first “war session.” Programs centered on veterinary aspects of food conservation, the military, and civil defense problems.

The Journal reported that 2,000 Army Veterinary Corps members inspected more than 27 billion pounds of meat and dairy products from 1939-1946. The corps also was charged with overseeing sanitation conditions of producers; inspecting dogs for use as war dogs; providing veterinary care for birds of the signal corps; and training veterinary officers and enlisted personnel of the veterinary sections in veterinary administration, military food technology, animal sanitation, and disease control. The Journal listed who was taken prison of war and rescued in addition to transfers, promotions, and discharges.

JAVMA also encouraged civilian veterinarians to buy war bonds and to fill out a questionnaire sent by the Procurement and Assignment Service for Physicians, Dentists, and Veterinarians so they could voluntarily enroll with the service. The Journal’s pages were filled with arguments for and against enrolling. Dr. Merillat wrote, “everyone will be drafted to the work for whatever he/she is best fitted to do, and will have to keep their personal desires in the background, as all good soldiers do.” Nearly 11,200 veterinarians among 13,000 or so AVMA members completed the forms.

Later, it was reported that problems arose when reallocating some veterinarians and physicians, whether because the older ones didn’t want to move, issues developed with interstate licensing for those who relocated, or some weren’t fully accepted by their new communities. 

Photos taken of U.S. veterinary officers and technicians performing their duties in England show them inspecting food and training guard dogs, among other duties.

Veterinarians in the U.S. also oversaw an increase in meat production to satisfy demand by the troops while they saw shortages for civilians and animals. In February 1944, Dr. M.L. Morris wrote as a solution to the food shortage for pets that people “properly moisten dry or dehydrated food and supplement with meat products like lungs, tails, gullet meat, etc.”

Looking back at the war’s impact, Dr. Merillat wrote in October 1945 that some of the veterinary schools had been “swept clean” of students, and eventually curriculums were accelerated. He added that some “have expressed the feeling that the ‘professional skills’—surgery and medicine—of veterinarians were not largely used in this war” by the Army Veterinary Corps.

But, most important, he wrote, “the significant result (of the Selective Service) is that the civilian veterinary service was kept reasonably well-manned and made a splendid contribution to the war effort in spite of depleted ranks. For this accomplishment, great credit is due those thousands of veterinarians who worked to the limit to carry out their professional obligations.”  

Dr. Otto Stader and the Stader splint  

Many a contribution to the advancement of human medicine has been based on the pioneering work of veterinarians. This fact is emphasized by the honors paid to Dr. Otto Stader, a 1918 veterinary graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, for his development of the Stader reduction splint.

Originally used to stabilize long bone fractures in dogs, the technique was adapted by two human surgeons for use in people, and they published their findings with co-authorship by Dr. Stader in the Annals of Surgery in 1942. The splint won wide acclaim among the medical profession because it did not require an extension apparatus, a special frame or fracture table, or a plaster cast, according to a June 1944 JAVMA article. The United States Navy and the Canadian armed forces used the splint during World War II to set broken bones. It also became the prototype for other skeletal fixation devices, although Dr. Stader’s contribution to their development is often ignored.

When presented with the 12th International Veterinary Congress Award in 1934 for his achievement, he was quoted as saying: “No piece of work in human and veterinary medicine in recent years has been more noteworthy.”