Former chief medical historian visits NHCL

3 Apr 2014 | Lance Cpl. Mark Watola

Jan Herman, former chief medical his¬torian of the Navy, visited Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune to speak about naval medi-cal history and to promote his new book, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 28.

Herman spoke to patrons regarding his passion for naval medical history and read excerpts from his book, “The Lucky Few: The Fall of Saigon and the Rescue Mission of the USS Kirk.”

The book focuses on the USS Kirk’s role in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and rescuing members of the South Vietnamese fleet in the final days of the Viet¬nam War, said Herman.

“I wanted to be a historian from the time I was a kid,” said Herman. “I didn’t want to do anything else.”

Herman grew up in Babylon, N.Y., near the Great South Bay. His family built boats and he spent a lot of time in the water. This piqued Herman’s interest in naval history.

Herman earned a bachelor’s degree in history from University of New Hampshire in 1967. He later joined the Air Force as a dental technician and completed his master’s degree in history while in the military.

After a stint with the State Department, Herman was hired by the Surgeon General of the Navy as the editor of “Navy Medicine Magazine” in 1979. The surgeon general discovered Herman was a historian and asked him to also serve as the historian for the Navy’s medical department.

“When I became a naval medicine his¬torian, it opened doors to learn more about naval history,” said Herman.
Herman served as the naval medical se¬nior historian for 33 years and is now retired. During his career, he wrote several books and produced several documentaries on Navy medicine.

“I think everyone in the hospital walks a little taller now, after listening to his talks about what Navy medicine did under extremely arduous conditions to provide lifesaving care to sailors and Marines during the days of wooden ships up through the Vietnam era,” said Capt. David A. Lane, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune commanding officer.

Herman fulfilled his dream of learning and sharing naval history, and hopes to see today’s service members fulfill their own ambitions.

“If there’s something you really love to do, don’t let anything stop you and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” said Herman. “If you really love doing what you do, then do it.”

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