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Mendelson, Joseph Aaron

Date of birth:
January 1st, 1891 (New York City/New York, United States)
Date of death:
September 29th, 1986
Buried on:
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
Plot: 6. Grave: 1351-E.
Nationality:
American (1776 - present, Republic)

Biography

Father: Aaron Mendelson
Mother: Elizabeth Mendelson (nee Regierer)
Grammar, High and Prep School - New York City
Medical School - Temple University, Medical College, June 1915
Residency - Temple University Hospital (Samaritan), Philadelphia
Wife: Anne L. Cash of Long Island, NY

Assisted during 1916 Polio epidemic.

Passed District of Columbia Medical Board, licenced to Practice.

Member of D.C. Medical Society.

WWI:

1917 - Commissioned and detailed to Army Medical School

Detailed British Army.

Assigned to Northern Command.

Stationed at Military Hospital, Ripon, Yorkshire. (Surgery)

Recalled by A.E.F and assigned Based Hospital, St. Nazaire, Communicable Disease Service.

Transferred at own request to Combat Zone.

Attached 102nd Sanitary Train.

Transferred to Surgeon, 2nd Battalion, 305th Infantry, 77th Divsion.

Fought Defensive Sector, Vesle, Aisne-Marne and Argonne.

1919 - U.S. Public Health Service

1920 - Walter Reed General Hospital - Surgery Lecturer, Army School of Nursing.

1921 - Graduated Medical Field Service School

1922 - Graduated Army Medical School

1923-24 - Surgeon, 7th U.S. Cavalry, Post Surgeon, Camp Furlong, Columbus, New Mexico.

Disposed of Medical Property remaining after Pershing’s Punitive Expedition in Mexico.

Consultant to Border Service. Arrested epidemic of Diphtheria in Palomas, Mexico on

Request for aid by Mexican officials.

1925-27 - Walter Reed General Hospital. Surgical and Medical Services. In charge of operating

Rooms. Lecturer on Anesthesia at Army Medical School.

1927-1929 - Holabird Quartermaster Depot, Post Surgeon. (Baltimore, MD). Assisted Attending Surgeon, 3rd Corps Area. Lecturer on Sanitation and Hygiene, Motor Transport School.

1929-1932 - 15th U.S. Infantry, Tientsin, China. Urologist, Eye, Ear, Nose Throat Service. Laboratory Service. Physician to American School. Sanitary Survey of North China, G-2 Reports 1931.

1931- Observer Sino-Japanese hostilities Shanghai, China. Prepared Scarlet Fever toxoid during emergency and immunized military and civilian personnel. First medical officer to complete courses in spoken Chinese and Chinese Medical terminology. Was offered detail to reorganize medical department of Chinese Army. Was recommended for detail at Chinese Language School in Peking. Elected life member Royal Asiatic Society.

1932-1934 - Fort F.E. Warren, Wyoming, Post Sanitary Inspector. Detachment Commander. Urologist. In charge of medical service. Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Services. X-Ray and Physiotherapy. Elected Associate American College of Physicians.

1934-1937 - Retired. Returned to Tientsin, China. Licenced by China National and Tientsin Municipal Governments to practice medicine and surgery in China. Consultant to American Consulate. Elected Fellow, American College of Physicians. Elected President, Tientsin Medical Society.

1937 - Fled China as Japan invaded. Returned to Washington DC to serve as medical officer of the United States Soldier’s Home.


WWII -

Detailed as Medical Member of the U.S. Military Mission to China (later became CBI Theatre). Headed by Gen. Magruder (later helped found CIA).

Head of Medical Team AMMISCA. Team consisted of Mendelson, a surgeon (Grindlay) and two technicians.

Job was to provide medical support to the mission, help set up equipment and conduct laboratory work.

Stationed in Chungking.

Arrived October 12, 1941 in Chungking on flight from Hong Kong.

Each member of AMMISCA was paired with a their equivalent in the Chinese government. Mendelson was paired with Dr. Robert Lim, Chinese Surgeon General and head of the Red Cross.

Inactivity at the mission caused flagging morale. Mendelson claimed, "There is such an interesting problem here that I fail to see why the "can’t take it" fellows do not find something constructive to do." (He was busy gathering Chinese medical texts.)

Mendelson lived in a house in Chungking with Dr. Grindlay and Major Frank Merrill (Merrill’s Mauraders) among other officers. He jerry-rigged a water system to bring it into the house from the Chialing River.

November 28th - Submitted report to Magruder about state of Chinese medical service and suggestions for improvement.

Had an argument with Major Aldrich that led to a meeting with Magruder where he agreed to support Magruder and Magruder two days later sent a letter to Washington about situation in Chungking, hoping for clarification of their mission.

Stilwell arrived March 4, 1942. Magruder reassigned to Division of General Affairs (with no real authority).

Colonel Robert L. Williams took over all medical operations, relegating Mendelson to Station Surgeon, Chungking.

Williams would soon move on to New Dehli (Stilwell’s rear-echelon HQ), leaving Mendelson alone at Foward-Echelon HQ, Chungking.

Mendelson was noted for his "facility for being in hot-water".

Served as personal physician for General Stilwell in Chungking. Treated him with sugar for jaundice in the form of hard candies left behind by a Japanese officer.

A neighbor, coworker and friend of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and Madame Chiang.

"Next to my wife, I admire Madame Chiang more than any woman I have ever seen." "She has a charming personality, a keen and penetrating mind, unlimited courage and is a shrewd judge of human nature."

He traveled by plane, auto, jeep and sampan, surveying and mapping medical facilities available and developing new equipment and methods of distributing American medical supplies.

Doctor Mendelson was Instrumental in rescuing the survivor of Lt. Gen. James Doolittle's air attack on Japan. . . He sent aid to them through Dr. P. Z. King. Later he attended them personally in Chungking. Among high profile patients was Ted Lawson, author of "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo."

Developed Mobile 2 bed hospitals for Chinese Army (precursor of MASH units). This was manned by himself and Major Grindlay. The traveling hospital, which also is widely used now in the Eastern war theaters, is fully equipped for major operations and contains its own power and heating apparatus, lighting system, mechanical refrigerator and water and food supplies.

Developed system to parachute drop medical supplies (like plasma, syringes, sulfanilamides (anti-bacterial) and dressings) in milk cans.

Organized medical supplies for Chinese New 6th Army in Burma and for Americans working on the Burma Road. Set up 8 medical stations on the Burma Road.

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Period:
First World War (1914-1918)
Rank:
1st Lieutenant
Unit:
Sanitary Detachment, 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), U.S. Army
Awarded on:
May 8th, 1919
Citation:

"For extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 305th Infantry Regiment (Attached), 77th Division, A.E.F., near Ville Savoye, France, 15 - 16 August 1918. During a heavy enemy bombardment with gas and high explosive shells, Lieutenant Mendelson worked for more than three hours, picking up wounded and gassed men and securing their evacuation, being forced to remove his gas mask in order to accomplish this work. Though he was almost exhausted from fatigue, he then proceeded to the aid station of another battalion and assisted in treating hundreds of men. Though he was himself suffering from the effects of gas, he refused to go to the hospital upon the completion of this work, as all the other medical officers had been evacuated."

Recommendation:

"For extraordinary heroism in action. During the relief of the 2nd Bn., 305th Inf., on the night of August 15-16, 1918, the enemy put over a heavy concentration of gas and high explosive shells. Lieut. Mendelson and three enlisted men were the last to leave the town, and proceeding slowly along the road they searched all the dug-outs and funk holes, picking up wounded and gassed men. Finding it impossible to see with gas masks adjusted, they removed the masks from their eyes, and with only mouth pieces and nose-clips adjusted, continued their work, evacuated 12 men, wounded and gassed, who would otherwise have remained there the entire night, some of whom certainly would have been killed by shells or overcome by gas before that time. Only one ambulance being available, it took over three hours to finish the work of evacuating these men. Though exhausted from work and lack of sleep, Lieut. Mendelssohn then proceeded to the first aid station of the 3rd Bn., 305th Inf., and assisted in evacuating and treating hundreds of men who had been gassed at Ville Savoye the night before. After this work was over, he persisted in refusing hospital treatment, as he was temporarily the only medical officer with this battalion, the regular detachment of medical officers and troops attached to the 3rd Bn. having been gassed and evacuated to the hospital. Lieutenant Mendelson was especially affected by the gas of the previous night, due to an eye ailment which necessitated his wearing spectacles. His calmness and heroism were a source of inspiration to his men and to the troops with whom he came in contact."

War Department, General Orders 95, Amended by Supplement 1.

It was one of the first DSCs of the War for 305th Inf. His DSC is currently under review by a government commission to be possibly upgraded to a Medal of Honor. He was Jewish and an investigation is happening to see if minority soldiers were unfairly denied the MOH in WWI.
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
Period:
First World War (1914-1918)
Rank:
1st Lieutenant
Unit:
Northern Command, British Army
British War Medal 1914-1920
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)

Foreign Star bar
American Defence Service Medal
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Lieutenant Colonel
Unit:
American Military Mission to China, U.S. Army

1 campaign star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

Sources

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