August 23, 2019

Pictures - Iowa Medical and Dental

One aspect of the Iowa that I haven't discussed much is the medical and dental departments. These were not large groups,1 but they were vital to the functioning of the "city at sea". Everything from dealing with cavities and cuts to major surgery could be done aboard.

The door to the sickbay. Sickbay is just aft of Turret II on third deck, inside the citadel.

The medical waiting room. The green flip-up seats on the right are where men on sick call would wait. Usually, they were given Motrin and sent back to work. Naval medicine is not famous for being nurturing.

More medical spaces.

The operating room

The scrub room

The main ward in the sickbay, where the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders once stayed

The X-ray Darkroom

The medical storerooms

The head (bathroom) inside the sickbay

I believe this is the medical office, with the bunk for isolating contagious patients in an emergency. It's been a while since I was in this part of the ship, so I could be wrong on that.

The dental office is on the second deck, outside the armor and sort of shoehorned in the edge of the hull. It was probably one of the most hated spaces in the ship, as Navy dentistry is one of the few organizations more loathed by the average sailor than the medical department.2

One of the dental chairs

A set of dental instruments

The medical and dental facilities on Iowa are only a few of the dozens of specialized spaces required to support the hundreds of crewmen who ran the ship. I'll take a look at some of the others in upcoming photo posts.

1 The 1987 cruise book shows 3 officers and 20 enlisted in medical and 2 officers and 5 enlisted in dental for a crew of about 1500. The 1951-52 book shows 4 officers and 20 enlisted for medical and 3 officers and 4 men from dental for a crew of around 2100. New Jersey's WWII cruise book says 6 medical and 3 dental officers and 41 men (both groups) in WWII. These numbers may be slightly inflated by transfers on and off the ship, but I can't say for sure.

2 Navy dentists are famously callous, even to the point of sadism.


  1. August 23, 2019David W said...

    You could be too sick to get out of bed, and still be required to climb into a top bunk?

    Also, one single OR? What was the plan for combat casualties?

  2. August 23, 2019The Fatherly One said...

    Motrin, that didn't hit the US until 1974. So what did they use in those tours earlier than '74?

  3. August 23, 2019bean said...


    I assume they'd help you up. It's a warship, and particularly under the armored deck (which this is) space is at a premium.

    @The Fatherly One

    I have no idea. I'm lacking a good social history of the USN.

  4. August 24, 2019Neal said...


    I was think the same thing about what would be done when treating large numbers of casualties. One would imagine that there could potentially be hundreds of grievously wounded, and yet from the pictures it looks as if the the space allotted to treat them is no larger than a garden shed.

    I guess the Navy's approach really was a dram of rum, a small wooden block upon which to bite, and a limb saw...

  5. August 24, 2019Alexander said...

    Does anyone know what the wavy line going up the wall in the scrub room is?

  6. August 24, 2019bean said...


    The assumption was never that the sickbay would handle every casualty on the ship. There are battle dressing stations scattered throughout the ship, plus equipment in place to use a few other spaces as operating rooms. One of these is the officer's wardroom, which is why it's traditional to uncover (remove your hat) when you enter. It's a sign of respect to the men who have died on the table. But that's for crudely stitching you up to save your life. To a large extent, the sickbay is intended for use in less strenuous circumstances, when you might need to do better surgery, both on the ship's company and on men from smaller ships that don't have their own surgeon.


    It's a structural doubler at the joint between two plates. It's wavy to give more weld length and to reduce the risk of cracks. I can't remember for certain, but that space might back up to the barbette. (The whole sickbay is at the forward end of the armored box, and sort of wraps around the barbette for one of the turrets. Can't remember which one offhand. Why hasn't the Anatomy of the Ship for Iowa published yet?)

  7. August 24, 2019Neal said...

    Thanks for the reply Bean. Great explanation.

  8. August 25, 2019bean said...

    If I'd been more ambitious (or less busy), I would have included pictures of some of that stuff, but I have like 3000 pictures of Iowa from various trips, and it would take a while because I'm not sure where those would be. They'll turn up eventually.

  9. August 26, 2019Alexander said...

    That's cool - makes me want to see a whole series of cutaways of the same ship, one for armour, one for plumbing/cables, crew spaces etc, to see how it all fits together.

  10. August 26, 2019bean said...

    It's not quite what you're looking for, but the general plans booklets are free and have a lot of that stuff. Some of the Anatomy of the Ship volumes are also very good. Dreadnought is the best of the ones I have.

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