Planes thundered overhead, artillery rumbled in the distance, and cries of wounded soldiers pierced Georgie's ears.
|Medic Pfc. Harvey White administers blood plasma to |
wounded Private Roy Humphrey, 9 August 1943,
Sant' Agata, Sicily, 1943 (US Army Medical Dept)
"Coming through." Two medics rushed past with a litter. A man writhed on top, a shock of red on his gray-green field jacket.
Another medic assisted a soldier who clutched his twisted, bloodstained arm to his chest.
Georgie took a deep breath. Compared to the ravages of battle, her concerns were nitpicky. (On Distant Shores, p. 118)
In my new novel On Distant Shores, the hero serves as a pharmacist in an evacuation hospital and the heroine serves as a flight nurse. To celebrate the book’s release, I’m running a series on hospitalization in World War II. Today I’ll discuss the chain of
I’ll discuss mobile and fixed hospitals in more detail, and then I’ll cover
evacuation of the wounded.
The Chain of Evacuation
Wartime medical treatment occurred on muddy
battlefields under fire, in tent hospitals only miles from the front, and in sterile
A complex chain moved patients to where
they could best be treated. At all points along this chain, decisions were made
regarding when to treat, when to return to duty, and when to evacuate further
to the rear.
Organic Medical Units
|Forward aid station in Sant'Elia, Italy, 1943|
These units were attached to combat
units and followed them into battle.
Medics performed first aid and moved the wounded to the aid station, often
Battalion aid station:
About one mile from front. Physicians and medics adjusted splints and
dressings, administered plasma and morphine. Soldiers also reported to the aid
station for treatment of minor illnesses or mild combat fatigue.
About two miles from the front, near the regiment command post. Further adjustment of
splints and dressings, administration of plasma, treatment of shock.
About four to ten miles from front. Here they treated shock and minor wounds, and grouped
patients in ambulance loads for transport to field hospitals.
|Forward surgical unit, US 11th Field Hospital|
near Nicosia, Sicily, 1943
These hospitals were assigned to a theater
of operations and could be packed and moved quickly to follow the battle lines. They were complete hospitals with nursing care, surgical and medical wards, X-ray, laboratory, and pharmacy.
Within thirty miles of clearing station. Ideally, the wounded arrived
within one hour of injury. Surgery was performed for the most severe cases.
Treated illnesses and less urgent surgical cases. Patients could be
reconditioned here to return to the front.
|500-bed ward of US 6th General Hospital|
Casablanca, French Morocco, 1943.
These hospitals were set up a safe
distance from the front, either in the theater of operations or stateside, and they tended to remain in one location for longer periods of time.
Usually attached to a military base, designed to treat illnesses and injuries
among personnel stationed at that base.
Large facilities where patients received long-term treatment, sometimes grouped in large complexes. Some of the general hospitals were specialized for certain types of wounds or illnesses, such as for craniocerebral, spine, eye, chest, or neuropsychiatric care.
Designed for rehabilitation of the severely wounded soldier who would receive a medical discharge. This type of hospital was a World War II innovation.
Cosmas, Graham A. & Cowdrey, Albert
E. The Medical Department: Medical
Service in the European Theater of Operations. Washington, D.C.: United
States Army Center of Medical History, 1992. http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/010/10-23/index.html
Wiltse, Charles M. The Medical Department: Medical Services in the Mediterranean and Minor
Theaters. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History,
Department of the Army, 1965. http://history.amedd.army.mil/books.html
MaryEllen & Cowdrey, Albert E. The
Medical Department: Medical Service in the War Against Japan. Washington,
D.C.: United States Army Center of Medical History, 1998. http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/010/10-24/index.html
Links, Mae Mills & Coleman, Hubert
A. Medical Support of the Army Air Forces
in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Surgeon General, USAF,
Labels: hospitalization in WWII, World War II, World War II hospitals