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Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

Sources
Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

Additional Literature Information:
November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

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a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Publications [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/273 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2111] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Graphic Novel [#href] => node/1525 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2111 [plid] => 363 [link_path] => node/1525 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Graphic Novel [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -35 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 363 [p2] => 2111 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Graphic Novel [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1525 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 363 [plid] => 0 [link_path] => node/261 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => History [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -47 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 363 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => History [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => 1 [access] => 1 [href] => node/261 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => active-trail ) ) ) ) [#children] =>
  • History
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  • Testimonials
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[to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Events [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/435 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [1297] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Events Map [#href] => node/952 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Events Map ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 1297 [plid] => 426 [link_path] => node/952 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Events Map [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Events Map ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -49 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 1297 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Events Map [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/952 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Events Map ) ) ) ) [2105] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => expanded ) ) [#title] => Heroes Remembered, July 27 Commemoration [#href] => node/1500 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( [2110] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => first [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Heroes Remembered [#href] => node/1500 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2110 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1500 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Heroes Remembered [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -20 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2110 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Heroes Remembered [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1500 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2107] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Letters from Korea [#href] => node/1511 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2107 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1511 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Letters from Korea [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => 0 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 0 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2107 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Letters from Korea [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1511 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2106] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Twilight Tattoo [#href] => node/1513 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2106 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1513 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Twilight Tattoo [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 0 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2106 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Twilight Tattoo [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1513 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2108] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Marine Corps Parade [#href] => node/1510 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2108 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1510 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Marine Corps Parade [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 20 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2108 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Marine Corps Parade [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1510 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2109] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Operation Reckless [#href] => node/1501 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2109 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1501 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Operation Reckless [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 30 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2109 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Operation Reckless [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1501 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2105 [plid] => 426 [link_path] => node/1500 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Heroes Remembered, July 27 Commemoration [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 0 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Heroes Remembered, July 27 Commemoration [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1500 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [1885] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [#href] => node/1486 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 1885 [plid] => 426 [link_path] => node/1486 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => 30 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 1885 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1486 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 426 [plid] => 0 [link_path] => node/435 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => KW60 Events [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -45 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => KW60 Events [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/435 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) [#children] =>
  • KW60 Events
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  • Media & Press
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  • Resources for Scholars
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  • Apps
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  • Virtual Tours
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  • Contact Us
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    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    [collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    With a rugged, inhospitable terrain and climate that seesawed between very hot and extremely cold, Korea was also a very bad place to fight a war.  Late fall and winter of 1950 in North Korea was the coldest in memory.  In late November temperatures began plummeting.  During the fighting at the Chosin Reservoir, improperly clothed troops had to fight their way out of Chinese encirclement in temperatures as low as 35 degrees below zero.  Keeping alive, must less functioning, became anything but routine.  For Marines fighting off hordes of Chinese, everything appeared hopeless.  Weapons ceased to function.  C-rations froze in their cans as did canteen water.  Unable to drink, men sucked snow to relieve their thirst, further lowering body temperature and making them more susceptible to hypothermia.  With inadequate clothing and the harsh conditions, frostbite downed more men than Chinese bullets.  In fact, removing clothing to treat a wound was impossible.  LTJG Henry Litvin, attached to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, described just how difficult practicing medicine in such an environment could be.

    “If you were treating a wound, you’d cut through the clothing to where the wound was, or you’d put a battle dressing over the clothes and make sure the wound wasn’t leaking blood.  It seemed that the intense cold inhibited bleeding. The wounds we saw had already been wrapped by corpsmen in the companies.  If the battle dressing was in place, even over their clothing, and there was no leaking blood, we just checked the battle dressing and left the wounds alone.”

    As an exotic and underdeveloped nation, Korea presented a host of diseases many American doctors had only read about in medical school.  Smallpox was endemic, as was typhus, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and Japanese B encephalitis.  Poor sanitation and polluted water accounted for the more common maladies such as dysentery and other diarrheal diseases.

    Despite these overwhelming challenges, by the second year of the war, Navy physicians, dentists, nurses, Medical Service Corps officers, hospital corpsmen, and dental technicians held their own in Korea practicing their professions in four medical companies, aboard three Navy hospital ships, and in sick bays of aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and other vessels patrolling offshore.  Unlike Army nurses who staffed the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASHs) in Korea, Navy nurses were assigned only to hospital ships, aeromedical evacuation squadrons, and Naval Hospital Yokosuka in Japan.

    The five years that separated Korea from World War II represented a modest leap in the practice of military medicine.  New so-called “miracle” antibiotics such as Aureomycin, chloramphenicol, Streptomycin, and Terramycin were now available; penicillin and the sulfas had been used since World War II.  Other drugs that advanced the healing art included the anti-malarials, such as chloroquine and primaquine, the sedative, sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal), the anticoagulant, heparin, and serum albumin and whole blood to treat shock.

    During World War II, some surgeons experimented with repairing severed blood vessels as a means of restoring damaged limbs that routinely required amputation.  In Korea, surgeons advanced this art of vascular repair, which restored circulation, and thereby saved many limbs.

    Army mobile surgical hospitals and Navy medical companies deployed near the front enabled rapid surgical intervention.  Getting the sick and wounded to MASH units or to hospital ships offshore by helicopter, often within an hour after they were wounded, resulted in mortality rates dropping well below those of World War II.  In that war, 4.5 percent of the wounded reaching hospitals did not survive.  In Korea, the proportion of patients surviving evacuation during the Inchon landing alone reached the remarkably high rate of 99.5 percent!

    During World War II, amphibious landings in the Pacific required a fleet of hospital ships, which were often employed as ambulances to evacuate the wounded back to hospitals at island bases for more definitive treatment.  In Korea, well-staffed and fully supplied hospital ships, as modern as the most advanced back in the states, provided definitive treatment.  Rather than being evacuated to the naval hospital at Yokosuka, Japan or to stateside hospitals, many Marines, sailors, and UN troops were returned to duty.  By 1951, Consolation, Haven, and Repose were either on station as base hospitals pierside in Pusan, anchored offshore, or cruising within range of UN operations ashore.  And before long, all had been retrofitted with helicopter landing decks so patients could be flown aboard by helicopter.  The marriage of hospital ship and helicopter truly revolutionized wartime health care.

    When the Korean War began in June 1950, few could have predicted that it would drag on for three years or that Communist Chinese troops would change the dynamics of the conflict.  Certainly, few anticipated the brutal conditions soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen would find themselves fighting in?  Navy medicine had adapted quickly to crisis during World War II.  Likewise in Korea, its practitioners were put to the test and, through innovation and skill, performed heroically.

    Sources

    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED. 2006 Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War. Booklocker.com. 2006

     

    Army MASH: Evacuation

    By Jan K. Herman and André B. Sobocinski

    While helicopters were the most famous method of evacuating casualties in the Korean War (drawing breathless newspaper headlines about “eggbeater fleets”), most casualties were evacuated by ground. Typically they were moved by litter and/or wheeled ambulance to the battalion aid station; urgent patients might be picked up by a helicopter there, but again many were not. Helicopters moved the urgent patients, and were both quicker and smoother so patients suffered less and could be moved sooner after an operation. Hospital trains were used once the railroads were repaired and could quickly handle large numbers of patients; ships and aircraft carried the wounded back to Japan and the United States. In fact, rapid evacuation from Korea allowed the Army to minimize the number of hospitals in Korea and reduce the number of medical personnel needed.

    "Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals were created in late 1945 but first saw action in the Korean War. They quickly garnered headlines for the drama of their work, saving lives close to the battlefront."

    The MASH

    Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals were created in late 1945 but first saw action in the Korean War. They quickly garnered headlines for the drama of their work, saving lives close to the battlefront. In the highly mobile operations of 1950-51 their ability to pack and move quickly was very useful. MASHs certainly treated surgical patients (the 8076th MASH did 244 surgeries in one day) but also handled most other patients because there were few other forward hospitals. The MASHs had a high public profile, and the Army helped MGM make “Battle Circus” with Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson, featuring the new unit.

    Advances in Care

    Several advances in medicine were quickly fielded in Korea, and careful research was done to further improve medical and surgical care.  Kidney dialysis was quite new, and the Army’s first dialysis machine was flown to Korea to help with both Korean Hemorrhagic Fever patients and trauma patients. A surgical advance was vascular surgery, especially grafting a section of vein to replace a damaged artery. Through careful work it was possible to avoid many amputations and save limbs. Research teams also deployed to Korea, working on a range of topics including surgery, anesthesia, wound ballistics, cold injury, malaria, dysentery, and hepatitis.

    Psychiatry

    Combat fatigue was a huge problem in 1950. In the hastily-filled units, soldiers lacked bonds of trust to support them in combat. The shortage of hospitals also meant patients were quickly evacuated to Japan, separating them from buddies and changing the expectation away from returning to duty. Col. (Dr.) Albert Glass, the theater psychiatrist, not only obtained more mental health personnel, he pushed them further forward so they would understand the soldiers’ stress but also have credibility with the combat troops. Unit bonds were also emphasized, and Rest & Recuperation were instituted, lessons that have continued to this day.

    Care in the US

    The Army had occupational and physical therapists in Japan to help convalescent patients recover limb function, but only for patients who were going to recover in a moderate period of time, generally 60 or 120 days. The seriously wounded and ill were evacuated to the US for long-term care. Budget cuts before the Korean War meant several Army hospitals had just been closed; some were re-opened to provide rehabilitation. The military also worked closely with the Veterans’ Administration to care for seriously wounded patients, especially those that would not return to duty, especially blind or paralyzed patients.

    Building the ROKA

    Before the fighting, the Army was helping build up the Republic of Korea’s Army, including providing spaces at the Medical Field Service School. There was also a Korean Army Medical School established , with courses for doctors, nurses, administrators, and medics. During the war, medical assistance increased, always with the goal of helping the Koreans to stand on their own. Korean soldiers were assigned to US units as Korean Augmentation To U.S. Army (KATUSA), and KATUSAs received on-the-job training as medics and worked in hospitals. As the ROKA was expanded, it created units to mirror US Army units, including MASH hospitals for urgent surgery for Korean soldiers.

    Preventive Medicine

    As American forces removed the Japanese from Korea they discovered that the country was faced with a cholera epidemic. Similarly, there were numerous outbreaks of typhus, tuberculosis, and small pox. Even before the Korean War US Army preventive medicine personnel working with the Koreans were able to curb the epidemics through assistance in vaccinations and improving sanitary practices.  After the war began preventive medicine detachments monitored disease vectors and succeeded in ensuring health for United Nations’ troops from small pox and typhus. Preventive medicine detachments also worked toward discovering the cause of a “new” mysterious disease, hemorrhagic fever.

    Combat Medics

    Known as aid men or medics, they bravely served on the frontlines providing the first medical care at the point of injury. Medics were embedded into the lowest levels of Army units and shared daily life with their fellow Soldiers. Korean War medics often entered the fray to save a comrade or give lifesaving assistance. Stopping the bleeding and moving the wounded to places of safety or to aid stations were the first concern, but there were other more complicated situations as well. Within the unit, medics served as the medical authority and ensured the administration of morphine and plasma in the field. 

    Heroic Medic

    On October 20, 1950 the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (RCT) made successful combat parachute assaults on the towns of Sukch’on and Sunch’on, just north of Pyongyang, North Korea. The 3rd Battalion of the 187th moved south to the town of Op’ari and encountered the North Korean 239th Regiment.The North Korean 239th Regiment fought from defensive positions and then broke out through the 187th, inflicting heavy casualties on Headquarters, I, and L Companies. 

    PFC Richard G. Wilson was a medic attached to I Company for a reconnaissance mission. When his unit came under intense enemy fire, he exposed himself to immediate danger to treat the wounded. After his unit was ordered to withdraw, Wilson discovered a comrade was still on the battlefield and returned to rescue him. He was killed in action during the attempted rescue. When discovered a couple of days later, it was found that PFC Wilson had also shielded his fellow Soldier from additional fire while attempting to administer aid. For his bravery and selfless service PFC Richard G. Wilson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. 

    POW Care

    Medical personnel encountered another challenge during the Korean War, caring for captured enemy combatants. Differing from Prisoners of War from World War II, captured North Koreans maintained belligerence throughout their confinement. Their refusal of care was largely made for perceived political gains. Despite the challenge, medical support was provided ensuring the health of the prisoners through improved sanitation, surgery when needed, dental care, nutritional monitoring, and other medical support.

     

    [/collapsed] Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

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    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    [collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    With a rugged, inhospitable terrain and climate that seesawed between very hot and extremely cold, Korea was also a very bad place to fight a war.  Late fall and winter of 1950 in North Korea was the coldest in memory.  In late November temperatures began plummeting.  During the fighting at the Chosin Reservoir, improperly clothed troops had to fight their way out of Chinese encirclement in temperatures as low as 35 degrees below zero.  Keeping alive, must less functioning, became anything but routine.  For Marines fighting off hordes of Chinese, everything appeared hopeless.  Weapons ceased to function.  C-rations froze in their cans as did canteen water.  Unable to drink, men sucked snow to relieve their thirst, further lowering body temperature and making them more susceptible to hypothermia.  With inadequate clothing and the harsh conditions, frostbite downed more men than Chinese bullets.  In fact, removing clothing to treat a wound was impossible.  LTJG Henry Litvin, attached to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, described just how difficult practicing medicine in such an environment could be.

    “If you were treating a wound, you’d cut through the clothing to where the wound was, or you’d put a battle dressing over the clothes and make sure the wound wasn’t leaking blood.  It seemed that the intense cold inhibited bleeding. The wounds we saw had already been wrapped by corpsmen in the companies.  If the battle dressing was in place, even over their clothing, and there was no leaking blood, we just checked the battle dressing and left the wounds alone.”

    As an exotic and underdeveloped nation, Korea presented a host of diseases many American doctors had only read about in medical school.  Smallpox was endemic, as was typhus, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and Japanese B encephalitis.  Poor sanitation and polluted water accounted for the more common maladies such as dysentery and other diarrheal diseases.

    Despite these overwhelming challenges, by the second year of the war, Navy physicians, dentists, nurses, Medical Service Corps officers, hospital corpsmen, and dental technicians held their own in Korea practicing their professions in four medical companies, aboard three Navy hospital ships, and in sick bays of aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and other vessels patrolling offshore.  Unlike Army nurses who staffed the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASHs) in Korea, Navy nurses were assigned only to hospital ships, aeromedical evacuation squadrons, and Naval Hospital Yokosuka in Japan.

    The five years that separated Korea from World War II represented a modest leap in the practice of military medicine.  New so-called “miracle” antibiotics such as Aureomycin, chloramphenicol, Streptomycin, and Terramycin were now available; penicillin and the sulfas had been used since World War II.  Other drugs that advanced the healing art included the anti-malarials, such as chloroquine and primaquine, the sedative, sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal), the anticoagulant, heparin, and serum albumin and whole blood to treat shock.

    During World War II, some surgeons experimented with repairing severed blood vessels as a means of restoring damaged limbs that routinely required amputation.  In Korea, surgeons advanced this art of vascular repair, which restored circulation, and thereby saved many limbs.

    Army mobile surgical hospitals and Navy medical companies deployed near the front enabled rapid surgical intervention.  Getting the sick and wounded to MASH units or to hospital ships offshore by helicopter, often within an hour after they were wounded, resulted in mortality rates dropping well below those of World War II.  In that war, 4.5 percent of the wounded reaching hospitals did not survive.  In Korea, the proportion of patients surviving evacuation during the Inchon landing alone reached the remarkably high rate of 99.5 percent!

    During World War II, amphibious landings in the Pacific required a fleet of hospital ships, which were often employed as ambulances to evacuate the wounded back to hospitals at island bases for more definitive treatment.  In Korea, well-staffed and fully supplied hospital ships, as modern as the most advanced back in the states, provided definitive treatment.  Rather than being evacuated to the naval hospital at Yokosuka, Japan or to stateside hospitals, many Marines, sailors, and UN troops were returned to duty.  By 1951, Consolation, Haven, and Repose were either on station as base hospitals pierside in Pusan, anchored offshore, or cruising within range of UN operations ashore.  And before long, all had been retrofitted with helicopter landing decks so patients could be flown aboard by helicopter.  The marriage of hospital ship and helicopter truly revolutionized wartime health care.

    When the Korean War began in June 1950, few could have predicted that it would drag on for three years or that Communist Chinese troops would change the dynamics of the conflict.  Certainly, few anticipated the brutal conditions soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen would find themselves fighting in?  Navy medicine had adapted quickly to crisis during World War II.  Likewise in Korea, its practitioners were put to the test and, through innovation and skill, performed heroically.

    Sources

    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED. 2006 Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War. Booklocker.com. 2006

     

    Army MASH: Evacuation

    By Jan K. Herman and André B. Sobocinski

    While helicopters were the most famous method of evacuating casualties in the Korean War (drawing breathless newspaper headlines about “eggbeater fleets”), most casualties were evacuated by ground. Typically they were moved by litter and/or wheeled ambulance to the battalion aid station; urgent patients might be picked up by a helicopter there, but again many were not. Helicopters moved the urgent patients, and were both quicker and smoother so patients suffered less and could be moved sooner after an operation. Hospital trains were used once the railroads were repaired and could quickly handle large numbers of patients; ships and aircraft carried the wounded back to Japan and the United States. In fact, rapid evacuation from Korea allowed the Army to minimize the number of hospitals in Korea and reduce the number of medical personnel needed.

    "Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals were created in late 1945 but first saw action in the Korean War. They quickly garnered headlines for the drama of their work, saving lives close to the battlefront."

    The MASH

    Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals were created in late 1945 but first saw action in the Korean War. They quickly garnered headlines for the drama of their work, saving lives close to the battlefront. In the highly mobile operations of 1950-51 their ability to pack and move quickly was very useful. MASHs certainly treated surgical patients (the 8076th MASH did 244 surgeries in one day) but also handled most other patients because there were few other forward hospitals. The MASHs had a high public profile, and the Army helped MGM make “Battle Circus” with Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson, featuring the new unit.

    Advances in Care

    Several advances in medicine were quickly fielded in Korea, and careful research was done to further improve medical and surgical care.  Kidney dialysis was quite new, and the Army’s first dialysis machine was flown to Korea to help with both Korean Hemorrhagic Fever patients and trauma patients. A surgical advance was vascular surgery, especially grafting a section of vein to replace a damaged artery. Through careful work it was possible to avoid many amputations and save limbs. Research teams also deployed to Korea, working on a range of topics including surgery, anesthesia, wound ballistics, cold injury, malaria, dysentery, and hepatitis.

    Psychiatry

    Combat fatigue was a huge problem in 1950. In the hastily-filled units, soldiers lacked bonds of trust to support them in combat. The shortage of hospitals also meant patients were quickly evacuated to Japan, separating them from buddies and changing the expectation away from returning to duty. Col. (Dr.) Albert Glass, the theater psychiatrist, not only obtained more mental health personnel, he pushed them further forward so they would understand the soldiers’ stress but also have credibility with the combat troops. Unit bonds were also emphasized, and Rest & Recuperation were instituted, lessons that have continued to this day.

    Care in the US

    The Army had occupational and physical therapists in Japan to help convalescent patients recover limb function, but only for patients who were going to recover in a moderate period of time, generally 60 or 120 days. The seriously wounded and ill were evacuated to the US for long-term care. Budget cuts before the Korean War meant several Army hospitals had just been closed; some were re-opened to provide rehabilitation. The military also worked closely with the Veterans’ Administration to care for seriously wounded patients, especially those that would not return to duty, especially blind or paralyzed patients.

    Building the ROKA

    Before the fighting, the Army was helping build up the Republic of Korea’s Army, including providing spaces at the Medical Field Service School. There was also a Korean Army Medical School established , with courses for doctors, nurses, administrators, and medics. During the war, medical assistance increased, always with the goal of helping the Koreans to stand on their own. Korean soldiers were assigned to US units as Korean Augmentation To U.S. Army (KATUSA), and KATUSAs received on-the-job training as medics and worked in hospitals. As the ROKA was expanded, it created units to mirror US Army units, including MASH hospitals for urgent surgery for Korean soldiers.

    Preventive Medicine

    As American forces removed the Japanese from Korea they discovered that the country was faced with a cholera epidemic. Similarly, there were numerous outbreaks of typhus, tuberculosis, and small pox. Even before the Korean War US Army preventive medicine personnel working with the Koreans were able to curb the epidemics through assistance in vaccinations and improving sanitary practices.  After the war began preventive medicine detachments monitored disease vectors and succeeded in ensuring health for United Nations’ troops from small pox and typhus. Preventive medicine detachments also worked toward discovering the cause of a “new” mysterious disease, hemorrhagic fever.

    Combat Medics

    Known as aid men or medics, they bravely served on the frontlines providing the first medical care at the point of injury. Medics were embedded into the lowest levels of Army units and shared daily life with their fellow Soldiers. Korean War medics often entered the fray to save a comrade or give lifesaving assistance. Stopping the bleeding and moving the wounded to places of safety or to aid stations were the first concern, but there were other more complicated situations as well. Within the unit, medics served as the medical authority and ensured the administration of morphine and plasma in the field. 

    Heroic Medic

    On October 20, 1950 the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (RCT) made successful combat parachute assaults on the towns of Sukch’on and Sunch’on, just north of Pyongyang, North Korea. The 3rd Battalion of the 187th moved south to the town of Op’ari and encountered the North Korean 239th Regiment.The North Korean 239th Regiment fought from defensive positions and then broke out through the 187th, inflicting heavy casualties on Headquarters, I, and L Companies. 

    PFC Richard G. Wilson was a medic attached to I Company for a reconnaissance mission. When his unit came under intense enemy fire, he exposed himself to immediate danger to treat the wounded. After his unit was ordered to withdraw, Wilson discovered a comrade was still on the battlefield and returned to rescue him. He was killed in action during the attempted rescue. When discovered a couple of days later, it was found that PFC Wilson had also shielded his fellow Soldier from additional fire while attempting to administer aid. For his bravery and selfless service PFC Richard G. Wilson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. 

    POW Care

    Medical personnel encountered another challenge during the Korean War, caring for captured enemy combatants. Differing from Prisoners of War from World War II, captured North Koreans maintained belligerence throughout their confinement. Their refusal of care was largely made for perceived political gains. Despite the challenge, medical support was provided ensuring the health of the prisoners through improved sanitation, surgery when needed, dental care, nutritional monitoring, and other medical support.

     

    [/collapsed] Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

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    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    [collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    With a rugged, inhospitable terrain and climate that seesawed between very hot and extremely cold, Korea was also a very bad place to fight a war.  Late fall and winter of 1950 in North Korea was the coldest in memory.  In late November temperatures began plummeting.  During the fighting at the Chosin Reservoir, improperly clothed troops had to fight their way out of Chinese encirclement in temperatures as low as 35 degrees below zero.  Keeping alive, must less functioning, became anything but routine.  For Marines fighting off hordes of Chinese, everything appeared hopeless.  Weapons ceased to function.  C-rations froze in their cans as did canteen water.  Unable to drink, men sucked snow to relieve their thirst, further lowering body temperature and making them more susceptible to hypothermia.  With inadequate clothing and the harsh conditions, frostbite downed more men than Chinese bullets.  In fact, removing clothing to treat a wound was impossible.  LTJG Henry Litvin, attached to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, described just how difficult practicing medicine in such an environment could be.

    “If you were treating a wound, you’d cut through the clothing to where the wound was, or you’d put a battle dressing over the clothes and make sure the wound wasn’t leaking blood.  It seemed that the intense cold inhibited bleeding. The wounds we saw had already been wrapped by corpsmen in the companies.  If the battle dressing was in place, even over their clothing, and there was no leaking blood, we just checked the battle dressing and left the wounds alone.”

    As an exotic and underdeveloped nation, Korea presented a host of diseases many American doctors had only read about in medical school.  Smallpox was endemic, as was typhus, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and Japanese B encephalitis.  Poor sanitation and polluted water accounted for the more common maladies such as dysentery and other diarrheal diseases.

    Despite these overwhelming challenges, by the second year of the war, Navy physicians, dentists, nurses, Medical Service Corps officers, hospital corpsmen, and dental technicians held their own in Korea practicing their professions in four medical companies, aboard three Navy hospital ships, and in sick bays of aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and other vessels patrolling offshore.  Unlike Army nurses who staffed the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASHs) in Korea, Navy nurses were assigned only to hospital ships, aeromedical evacuation squadrons, and Naval Hospital Yokosuka in Japan.

    The five years that separated Korea from World War II represented a modest leap in the practice of military medicine.  New so-called “miracle” antibiotics such as Aureomycin, chloramphenicol, Streptomycin, and Terramycin were now available; penicillin and the sulfas had been used since World War II.  Other drugs that advanced the healing art included the anti-malarials, such as chloroquine and primaquine, the sedative, sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal), the anticoagulant, heparin, and serum albumin and whole blood to treat shock.

    During World War II, some surgeons experimented with repairing severed blood vessels as a means of restoring damaged limbs that routinely required amputation.  In Korea, surgeons advanced this art of vascular repair, which restored circulation, and thereby saved many limbs.

    Army mobile surgical hospitals and Navy medical companies deployed near the front enabled rapid surgical intervention.  Getting the sick and wounded to MASH units or to hospital ships offshore by helicopter, often within an hour after they were wounded, resulted in mortality rates dropping well below those of World War II.  In that war, 4.5 percent of the wounded reaching hospitals did not survive.  In Korea, the proportion of patients surviving evacuation during the Inchon landing alone reached the remarkably high rate of 99.5 percent!

    During World War II, amphibious landings in the Pacific required a fleet of hospital ships, which were often employed as ambulances to evacuate the wounded back to hospitals at island bases for more definitive treatment.  In Korea, well-staffed and fully supplied hospital ships, as modern as the most advanced back in the states, provided definitive treatment.  Rather than being evacuated to the naval hospital at Yokosuka, Japan or to stateside hospitals, many Marines, sailors, and UN troops were returned to duty.  By 1951, Consolation, Haven, and Repose were either on station as base hospitals pierside in Pusan, anchored offshore, or cruising within range of UN operations ashore.  And before long, all had been retrofitted with helicopter landing decks so patients could be flown aboard by helicopter.  The marriage of hospital ship and helicopter truly revolutionized wartime health care.

    When the Korean War began in June 1950, few could have predicted that it would drag on for three years or that Communist Chinese troops would change the dynamics of the conflict.  Certainly, few anticipated the brutal conditions soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen would find themselves fighting in?  Navy medicine had adapted quickly to crisis during World War II.  Likewise in Korea, its practitioners were put to the test and, through innovation and skill, performed heroically.

    Sources

    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED. 2006 Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War. Booklocker.com. 2006

     

    Army MASH: Evacuation

    By Jan K. Herman and André B. Sobocinski

    While helicopters were the most famous method of evacuating casualties in the Korean War (drawing breathless newspaper headlines about “eggbeater fleets”), most casualties were evacuated by ground. Typically they were moved by litter and/or wheeled ambulance to the battalion aid station; urgent patients might be picked up by a helicopter there, but again many were not. Helicopters moved the urgent patients, and were both quicker and smoother so patients suffered less and could be moved sooner after an operation. Hospital trains were used once the railroads were repaired and could quickly handle large numbers of patients; ships and aircraft carried the wounded back to Japan and the United States. In fact, rapid evacuation from Korea allowed the Army to minimize the number of hospitals in Korea and reduce the number of medical personnel needed.

    "Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals were created in late 1945 but first saw action in the Korean War. They quickly garnered headlines for the drama of their work, saving lives close to the battlefront."

    The MASH

    Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals were created in late 1945 but first saw action in the Korean War. They quickly garnered headlines for the drama of their work, saving lives close to the battlefront. In the highly mobile operations of 1950-51 their ability to pack and move quickly was very useful. MASHs certainly treated surgical patients (the 8076th MASH did 244 surgeries in one day) but also handled most other patients because there were few other forward hospitals. The MASHs had a high public profile, and the Army helped MGM make “Battle Circus” with Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson, featuring the new unit.

    Advances in Care

    Several advances in medicine were quickly fielded in Korea, and careful research was done to further improve medical and surgical care.  Kidney dialysis was quite new, and the Army’s first dialysis machine was flown to Korea to help with both Korean Hemorrhagic Fever patients and trauma patients. A surgical advance was vascular surgery, especially grafting a section of vein to replace a damaged artery. Through careful work it was possible to avoid many amputations and save limbs. Research teams also deployed to Korea, working on a range of topics including surgery, anesthesia, wound ballistics, cold injury, malaria, dysentery, and hepatitis.

    Psychiatry

    Combat fatigue was a huge problem in 1950. In the hastily-filled units, soldiers lacked bonds of trust to support them in combat. The shortage of hospitals also meant patients were quickly evacuated to Japan, separating them from buddies and changing the expectation away from returning to duty. Col. (Dr.) Albert Glass, the theater psychiatrist, not only obtained more mental health personnel, he pushed them further forward so they would understand the soldiers’ stress but also have credibility with the combat troops. Unit bonds were also emphasized, and Rest & Recuperation were instituted, lessons that have continued to this day.

    Care in the US

    The Army had occupational and physical therapists in Japan to help convalescent patients recover limb function, but only for patients who were going to recover in a moderate period of time, generally 60 or 120 days. The seriously wounded and ill were evacuated to the US for long-term care. Budget cuts before the Korean War meant several Army hospitals had just been closed; some were re-opened to provide rehabilitation. The military also worked closely with the Veterans’ Administration to care for seriously wounded patients, especially those that would not return to duty, especially blind or paralyzed patients.

    Building the ROKA

    Before the fighting, the Army was helping build up the Republic of Korea’s Army, including providing spaces at the Medical Field Service School. There was also a Korean Army Medical School established , with courses for doctors, nurses, administrators, and medics. During the war, medical assistance increased, always with the goal of helping the Koreans to stand on their own. Korean soldiers were assigned to US units as Korean Augmentation To U.S. Army (KATUSA), and KATUSAs received on-the-job training as medics and worked in hospitals. As the ROKA was expanded, it created units to mirror US Army units, including MASH hospitals for urgent surgery for Korean soldiers.

    Preventive Medicine

    As American forces removed the Japanese from Korea they discovered that the country was faced with a cholera epidemic. Similarly, there were numerous outbreaks of typhus, tuberculosis, and small pox. Even before the Korean War US Army preventive medicine personnel working with the Koreans were able to curb the epidemics through assistance in vaccinations and improving sanitary practices.  After the war began preventive medicine detachments monitored disease vectors and succeeded in ensuring health for United Nations’ troops from small pox and typhus. Preventive medicine detachments also worked toward discovering the cause of a “new” mysterious disease, hemorrhagic fever.

    Combat Medics

    Known as aid men or medics, they bravely served on the frontlines providing the first medical care at the point of injury. Medics were embedded into the lowest levels of Army units and shared daily life with their fellow Soldiers. Korean War medics often entered the fray to save a comrade or give lifesaving assistance. Stopping the bleeding and moving the wounded to places of safety or to aid stations were the first concern, but there were other more complicated situations as well. Within the unit, medics served as the medical authority and ensured the administration of morphine and plasma in the field. 

    Heroic Medic

    On October 20, 1950 the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (RCT) made successful combat parachute assaults on the towns of Sukch’on and Sunch’on, just north of Pyongyang, North Korea. The 3rd Battalion of the 187th moved south to the town of Op’ari and encountered the North Korean 239th Regiment.The North Korean 239th Regiment fought from defensive positions and then broke out through the 187th, inflicting heavy casualties on Headquarters, I, and L Companies. 

    PFC Richard G. Wilson was a medic attached to I Company for a reconnaissance mission. When his unit came under intense enemy fire, he exposed himself to immediate danger to treat the wounded. After his unit was ordered to withdraw, Wilson discovered a comrade was still on the battlefield and returned to rescue him. He was killed in action during the attempted rescue. When discovered a couple of days later, it was found that PFC Wilson had also shielded his fellow Soldier from additional fire while attempting to administer aid. For his bravery and selfless service PFC Richard G. Wilson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. 

    POW Care

    Medical personnel encountered another challenge during the Korean War, caring for captured enemy combatants. Differing from Prisoners of War from World War II, captured North Koreans maintained belligerence throughout their confinement. Their refusal of care was largely made for perceived political gains. Despite the challenge, medical support was provided ensuring the health of the prisoners through improved sanitation, surgery when needed, dental care, nutritional monitoring, and other medical support.

     

    [/collapsed] Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    [safe_summary] => ) ) [#formatter] => text_default [0] => Array ( [#markup] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#block] => stdClass Object ( [bid] => 92 [module] => system [delta] => main [theme] => kw60_inq [status] => 1 [weight] => -52 [region] => content [custom] => 0 [visibility] => 0 [pages] => [title] => [cache] => -1 [subject] => ) [#weight] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => block ) [#children] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => region ) [#region] => content [#printed] => 1 [#children] =>
    Pentagon Panel Project: Navy Medicine in the Korean War

    When North Korean troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, only five years had elapsed since the end of World War II.  Nevertheless, the condition of the U.S. Armed forces had so deteriorated in numbers and training that those troops who were dispatched to Korea to stem the tide, were easily overwhelmed by the Communists.

    Medical Unit. MASHThe military medical services charged with caring for these troops equally were not up to the task.  The Navy Medical Department was a shadow of its former self.  Whereas the number of naval hospitals had reached 83 during World War II, by 1950 this number had decreased to 26.  Bed capacity had plummeted from 138,000 beds to just under 23,000. There was an equivalent decrease in medical personnel from 170,000 at the end of 1945 to 21,000 in early the summer of 1950.  There was such a critical shortage of physicians that Congress passed Public Law 779, known as the Doctor Draft Law, in September 1950.  This legislation provided for the drafting of physicians who had gone to medical school at government expense during World War II but who graduated after the war was over and whose services were no longer needed.  Now they were required and many physicians were recalled to active duty.  The physicians who had served as reservists during World War II, many of whom had combat experience, were not high on the priority list and would not see action in the new war.

    Few if any of the new doctor draftees had any experience in combat medicine.  The most seasoned may have had three years of residency.  As a result, those with the least training and background ended up in Korea.  More often than not pediatricians, gynecologists, and even dermatologists became surgeons once they reported to their units.  With but the briefest exposure to surgery during their internships, many of these doctors found themselves debriding frostbitten tissue, amputating shattered limbs, suturing lacerated kidneys and perforated intestines, and extracting shrapnel and bullets from every part of the human body.  Ending up in a field hospital as the first patient was a scenario few troops joked about. Yet despite the inexperience and shortages of medical equipment and supplies during the early months of the war, many of these neophytes quickly learned the skills they needed to save lives and return many Marines and sailors back to their units.

    Sources
    Herman, Jan K. and André B. Sobocinski. Brief History of Navy Medicine. Washington, DC: BUMED, (2006)
    Herman, Jan K. Frozen in Memory: U.S. Navy Medicine in the Korean War, (2006)

    Additional Literature Information:
    November 17, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Article
    November 16, 2011: Wounded Warrior Experience invited talk by Charles Norman Shay Indian Island, Penobscot Indian Nation
    November 4, 2011: Psychiatry in the Korean War; Perils, PIES, and POWs Powerpoint

    Back to Top

     

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