Unlike the US Fifth Army, Hutch crossed the Volturno River backward. While the Allies crossed under machine-gun fire eleven days earlier, Hutch rode in a jeep, turned in the front seat to face little Lucia. Her litter was strapped across the backseat, while two more litters were strapped on the hood.
|US medics administer plasma to a patient in a jeep ambulance|
Italy 1944 (US Army Medical Dept.)
A furrow raced up Lucia's forehead, and she clutched her doll even tighter.
Time for Hutch's treat. "I have a gift for you. For Lucia." (On Distant Shores, p. 194)
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. Earlier I
discussed the chain of evacuation, then I discussed mobile and fixed hospitals
in more detail, and today I’ll cover evacuation of the wounded.
On the battleground, medics or fellow
soldiers could manually carry a wounded man further to the rear for aid.
Methods included the supporting carry (walking side-by-side), the arms carry,
the saddleback carry (piggy-back), and the fireman’s carry.
|Litter-bearers in Italy's mountains|
American litters were made of canvas
stretched over aluminum or wood poles with stirrup-shaped feet to keep them off
the ground. A litter could be carried by two people, but a litter squad
consisted of four men, to rotate if traveling long distances and to assist over
obstacles. Ideally, litter transport was only used for short distances, but in
mountainous or forested or swampy terrain, litter transport was the only available
means. Mules were often used in the Mediterranean Theater to carry litters in
rocky, mountainous terrain.
|Dodge WC9 1/2 ton ambulance, 15 May 1941|
(US National Archives)
Ambulances were used to transport
patients, usually from an aid, clearing, or collecting station to a field
hospital, or for transport further to the rear. Ambulances could carry seven
seated patients or four patients on litters.
Jeeps were often used, both on the
battleground and to transport further to the rear. Rugged and maneuverable,
jeeps could cover terrain inaccessible to ambulances. With litter brackets, a
jeep could carry two or three patients. Armored divisions also used light tanks to
transport their wounded.
|Wounded American soldiers being evacuated by landing craft (LCVP)|
off Salerno, Italy, 9 September 1943. (US Army Medical Dept.)
During an amphibious landing, the best
way to handle the wounded was to send them back on departing landing craft,
which carried them to hospital ships off-shore. Patients could be removed from
danger and transported quickly to get needed care.
Hospital ships were used offshore after
an invasion to care for the wounded before field and evacuation hospitals could
be set up. They also transported patients who needed long-term care to general
hospitals further to the rear. Another use of hospital ships was to transport
to the US any patients who needed long-term convalescent care or those who
qualified for a medical discharge. They carried several hundred patients and
delivered full medical care, but transport took a long time and carried the
danger of enemy attack at sea, even when marked with the Red Cross.
|Hospital ship USS Tranquillity arriving at Guam with survivors|
of sinking of USS Indianapolis, 8 Aug 1945. (US National Archives)
|US 41st Hospital Train running from the Italian front |
to the Army hospital complex in Naples, February 1944
(US Army Medical Dept.)
Hospital trains were used within
theaters of operation to transport patients from one hospital to another. They
were used in the continental US, Britain, continental Europe, India, and North
Africa. They could carry several hundred patients with excellent medical care.
|Air Evacuation from Italy to North Africa in a C-47|
(US Army Medical Dept.)
Medical air evacuation was new and
revolutionary, but by the end of the war, it proved successful. Planes can
traverse inhospitable terrain or dangerous seas—and quickly. C-47 cargo planes
carried 18-24 litter patients or a higher number of ambulatory patients. A team consisting of a flight nurse and a surgical technician
cared for the patients in flight. The larger C-54 cargo plane was used for
trans-oceanic evacuation. Danger still existed, both from the inherent risks of
flight and also because the planes carried cargo, couldn’t be marked with
the Red Cross, and were legitimate military targets.
For more on air evacuation in World War II, please see my posts on air evacuation, one patient's flight experience, and flight nursing.
of the Surgeon General. Medical Field
Manual: Transportation of the Sick and Wounded. Washington, DC: US
Government Printing Office, Feb. 21, 1941 (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/ref/FM/index.html
). Please note the date—some of the material, especially about air evacuation,
became quickly outdated.
For better information on air evacuation,
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: air evacuation, evacuation of the wounded, hospitalization in WWII, World War II