Submitted by: Mike Weedall
The popular conception of Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) comes from the hit movie and television series. One publicity photo for that long-running television program carried the caption “Almost four times longer than the war and twice as funny.” In reality, what transpired in those field hospitals during the Korean War was gallows humor. David Halberstam once quoted Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who said, “If the best minds in the world had set out to find us the worst possible location to fight this damnable war politically and militarily, the unanimous choice would have been Korea.”
In 1950, when the North Korean Army streamed across the 38th parallel and almost drove the overwhelmed South Korean and short-handed U.S. Army into the sea, military regulations prohibited men from serving as nurses. Many believe it was not until recently that women were allowed to be close to front-line combat. Given that MASH units needed to be near enough to treat the wounded in critical minutes that would save lives, those Army nurses served in harm’s way.
Once the U.S. moved sufficient troops and equipment to stop the North Koreans, the war turned into a three-year slog. For the first year and a half, combat was intense and casualties high. When wounded streamed in, it was not unusual for six surgical tables to work for up to 24 straight hours, with the average surgery lasting 20 minutes. Army nurses never flinched in the face of this challenge. Whether screening arriving wounded, prepping soldiers for emergency surgery, assisting surgeons during endless hours, serving as an anesthesiologist when none was available, providing follow-up care, giving blood when supplies were low or simply holding the hand of a soldier before they passed, the gifts of these amazing women cannot be overstated. Once relieved for precious off-duty hours, a nurse might return to her dirt-floor tent to wash herself and her clothes in her helmet to save precious water for patients.
The service of nurses in all military branches, past and present, should never be forgotten. Just as they did in 1950 Korea, nurses do what’s needed for their patients, no matter the challenge. For more information about the book and information on Army Nurses in Korea, visit MikeWeedallAuthor.com.
About the author:
Recently retired from a successful career in the energy field, Weedall is following his lifelong passion to paint historical events in an interesting way for readers. History is often thought of as dates and events we learned in classroom settings. For Weedall, compelling history is digging down and understanding the individuals and personalities that shape events. Why people made the choices they made is often some of the most interesting stories told. His new book is, "War Angel: Korea 1950." Written as historical fiction, it tells the story of a Reserve Army nurse called into service right after the surprise invasion by North Korea in 1950. During an era when Army regulations dictated only women could serve as nurses, the horror faced by these professionals and the bravery they exhibited right behind front-line troops has never been adequately told. He is currently writing a sequel that expands upon the stories of the nurses who served so bravely in Korea. "Iva: The True Story of Tokyo Rose" was Mike’s first book of historical fiction. He received strong reviews and recently optioned the book for a film adaptation.