Edgar King Prepares for War
Topping out at 6'9", Edgar King was born in Arkansas in
1884. He graduated from the University
of Arkansas Medical School in 1906, and shortly
became a contract surgeon in the Medical Corps, receiving a commission the
following year upon completion of the Army Medical
A pioneer in military psychiatry, King specialized in mental
illness and disciplinary problems, and wrote numerous articles and reports such
as "Mental Capacity of Recruits" and "The Military
Delinquent," as well as the book Mental
Disease and Defect in United States Troops (Washington: GPO, 1914).
During his career, King played a role in the introduction of
so-called "intelligence tests" by the army, did extensive work in
criminal rehabilitation (reportedly while stationed at Fort Leavenworth,
he recruited his household staff from among the inmates at the military prison),
and labored to improve health conditions in the Canal Zone. In late 1939 then Colonel King was appointed
Army Chief Surgeon of the Hawaiian Department.
Promoted brigadier general in October of 1942, he continued in this
assignment, effectively serving as the chief military medical officer for the entire
Central Pacific. In mid-1944, King became
acting Chief Surgeon, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas. That November he was relieved from this
assignment and reported to the Office of the Surgeon General in the Pentagon,
where he directed treatment of mentally ill troops until the end of the
war. General King retired in January of 1946
with the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. In retirement he lived in Texas and later Nevada until his death in 1970.
So Edgar King had an honorable careeras a medical officer in
the U.S. Army.
But perhaps King's talents might have been better used had
he been in a different branch of the service.
For on the eve of World War II he proved to be one of the most forward
thinking and hard working officers in the Army
As Chief Surgeon of the Hawaiian Department, King, observing
the world scene, ordered military hospital facilities expanded to nearly 1,500
beds, developed an evacuation plan for non-infectious military patients, to
free space in an emergency, requested and received additional staff, organized
an ambulance corps, arranged for civilian personnel to supplement military
personnel in an emergency, provided first aid training to many Army civilian
employees and dependants, helped organize a blood bank, and took many other
similar measures, all prior to the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on which tragic occasion his preparations
So perhaps Edgar King might have been a better choice for
planning the defense of the islands than some other officers.
FootNote: For a picture of King and some
of his associates in the Hawaii Medical Department, look here. It was taken at the dinner given
on November 15, 1942,
in the Officers' Club at Fort
Shafter to celebrate his
promotion to brigadier general.
Interservice Rivalry, French Style
Inter-service rivalry has probably existed as long as
military services have existed. For the
most part such rivalry usually manifests itself in bragging and one-upmanship
or athletic rivalries (such as on the first Saturday in December), and
sometimes may present problems in the development of strategy and plans, as in
the case of the American armed forces on several occasions. And, of course, there have been instances
when inter-service rivalry can become so toxic as to seriously harm a nation's
war effort, such as in the case of the Imperial Japanese armed forces during
the 1930s and 1940s. But often the consequences are merely silly, at least in
peacetime, such as in the case of French coast defense policy in the late
Historically, most countries assigned coast defense to
either the army or the navy. But during
the 1890s many French coast artillery installations had some guns controlled by
the Army and some by the Navy.
Army coastal batteries were technically only permitted to
fire at targets offshore, while the Navy batteries were only permitted to fire
at hostile ships attempting to enter port.
Upon mobilization all coast defense batteries were to come under the
control of the local naval district commander.
But he in turn, would have to cede control of his torpedo boats to his
new subordinate, the local army coast defense commander.
Fortunately, the French never found their coasts and ports
under attack, at least from the sea.