Navy Medical Senior Historian Retires

HermanOn 1 June 2012, after 42 years of federal service, and 33 years as Historian for the Navy Medical Department, Jan K. Herman retired.

Since coming to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) in 1979, Mr. Herman has worked as Historian of the Navy Medical Department, curator of the old U.S. Naval Observatory, and, until 2009, Editor-in-Chief of Navy Medicine, the bimonthly journal of the Navy Medical Department. In 2009, he became Special Assistant to the Navy Surgeon General. In 2010, he was appointed Director of the Benjamin Rush Education and Conference Center of the Navy Medicine Institute.

In 2002, he was appointed to the adjunct faculty of the International Lincoln Center for American Studies of Louisiana State University, Shreveport. In 2008, he was a consultant for the Lincoln Center Rodgers and Hammerstein revival of “South Pacific.” With the Navy Medical Support Command, Bethesda, MD, Mr. Herman produced a six-part video series, “Navy Medicine at War,” (you can view one of the segments online, “Final Victory“) and has produced a documentary and is writing a companion volume about the rescue of the South Vietnamese navy during the closing days of the Vietnam War. The film is entitled “The Lucky Few: The Story of USS Kirk.” In August-September 2010, National Public Radio aired a three-part series about USS Kirk and her crew.

He has authored over 50 articles and several books, including A Hilltop in Foggy Bottom (1996), Battle Station Sick Bay: Navy Medicine in World War II (1997), Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War (2006), Navy Medicine in Vietnam: From Dien Bien Phu to the Fall of Saigon (2009), and Murray’s Ark and Other Stories (2010). His new book, The Lucky Few: Vietnam’s Tragedy Turned Triumph on USS Kirk, will be published in 2012.

In his retirement, Mr. Herman plans to continue studying history and make documentary films.

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  1. david fricker


    I met Jan Herman when I was a small boy in a village in Cape Breton Canada,We fished off a local wharf and had a wonderful time. He gave me a knife from his tacklebox,.which today I still have. I am now 53.I would just like to say hello and tell him it is now time to pass the knife on .

  2. Ron Fishman


    Mr. Herman-
    I have just finished your book Battle Station Sick Bay and it inspired a poem I will send you if you send me your email address.
    Ron Fishman, MD

    • Jan Herman


      Dr. Fishman,

      I know I’m three years late in responding but I just saw the message you sent. I’d be thrilled to receive the poem you wrote inspired by my book, Battle Station Sick Bay.

      Jan Herman

  3. Mary Gerrard


    I’ve just reread your interview with William J Gerrard in Nov. of 2004. He was a corpsman in the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines. He was on hill 881S for 77 days. He is my brother, and passed away today. It made me feel closer to him. Thank you.

  4. Jennifer Arellano


    I am looking to contact Jan Herman in regards to research in the Naval Medical Corps. My father was in the Naval Medical Corps and I am looking to fill in a few gaps. I would like to email Mr. Harman since this is his area of expertise and I look forward to filling in the answers to some questions.

  5. Sharon Alderete


    How can we contact Mr. Herman? Can we please get his email address?

    Thank you.

  6. Jan Herman



    I just happened upon your message today about our meeting so many years ago in Cape Breton. I vividly recall that day and the passing of my filet knife to you. I also remember asking you where I could find an authentic lobster trap and you took me to a relative’s house near the wharf. I still have that trap today, which I’ve made into a table that now graces our cabin in West Virginia, a long way from the sea. I trust you will pass “our” knife onto a deserving individual.


  7. Jan Herman


    Ms. Gerrard,

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother William. And I’m even more sorry that I just saw the posting you wrote three years ago. I vividly recall the time he and I spent on the phone, I asking the questions, and he freely telling me of his harrowing experiences in Vietnam. For what William and his fellow corpsmen and medics did there to save lives will always make them the true heroes of that horrible conflict.

    Jan Herman

  8. John M.Duffy


    On page 18 of chapter two in The Lucky Few, Jan Herman describes how the USS Kirk (FF-1087) departed San Diego en route Hawaii in company with USS Towers (DDG-9). The Kirk had to divert to medevac an ill crew member, lying about her position to deceive the Towers. Kirk ended up beating Towers into Pearl Harbor, to the delight of Kirk’s skipper. Mr. Herman fails to mention how a small boat crew from the Towers rowed over to where Kirk was berthed and painted out all of her hull numbers with the exception of the “0,” right under the eyes of Kirk’s in port quarterdeck watch on one mid watch! Heard our First Class Bostswains Mate took a photograph of the “0” and sent it to Kirk’s Captain! I was an Operations Specialist Seaman in OI Division on USS Towers (DDG-9) when this took place.

  9. Reply

    Jan: Sorry we have lost touch. I hope you are n good health. My old friend Naval Historian Bill Still wants to get in touch with your current successor, whoever that is. Can you give me name and email address so I can forward it? Bill is writing a book about the Navy in the 1920s and 1930s and needs some command histories of the period, if they exist. Bill Dudley

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