Hospital at War: The 95th Evacuation Hospital in World War II

Hospital at War: The 95th Evacuation Hospital in World War II

Hospital at War: The 95th Evacuation Hospital in World War II

Hospital at War: The 95th Evacuation Hospital in World War II

Synopsis

During World War II, the army established 107 evacuation hospitals to care for the wounded and sick in theaters around the world. An evacuation hospital was a forward hospital accepting patients from the battlefield. It was where the wounded first received definitive care.

Formed at Camp Breckenridge, the 95th Evac arrived in Casablanca in April 1943, with seven thousand troops, thirty doctors, and forty nurses. First pitching their tents at Oujda, they moved eastward toward Algeria before making a D-day landing on the beaches of Salerno, Italy, on September 9, 1939. Shortly thereafter, they entered Naples, then set up shop at Anzio before moving on to become the first American hospital to penetrate Nazi-occupied Europe. After the guns were silent, records show that these doctors and nurses had treated over 42,000 Americans in almost all the critical battles of the European theater: Salerno, Monetcassino, Anzio, southern France, the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland, and finally, the invasion into Germany.

Hospital at War is the story of the 95th Evac Hospital as told by Zachary Friedenberg, a young surgeon at the time, fresh out of his internship. He tells the story of how the men and women of the 95th survived the war. He describes how they solved problems and learned to treat the war-wounded in the extreme heat of North Africa and during the frigid winters of the Rhineland. He tells how they endured shelling and a bombing of the hospital and how they adjusted to the people and the countries in which they worked.

By the end of their two-year tour of duty, the men and women of the 95th Evac were superbly efficient. A casualty who made it to their facilities had a 99 percent chance of surviving. For anyone who wants to know how so many of our boys made it home despite horrific injuries, this book provides part of the answer.

Excerpt

When World War II ended, I hurriedly distanced myself from anything military and once again entered civilian life. My interrupted surgical training was resumed, and my time and energies were devoted in the years following to a career in teaching, research, and the practice of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. However, in time the pace of life slackened, and the events of my war participation gradually returned to my thoughts as a story waiting to be told.

I realized that a record of the part played by the 95th Evacuation Hospital and the many other hospitals working in the combat zone must not be put off any longer, as by now there are fewer left to tell the story, and their ranks are thinning with each passing year. It became my obligation to pay homage to the spirit, energy, and heroism of the members of the 95th Evacuation Hospital and the thousands of wounded soldiers it treated. I assumed the mantle of historian and chronicler, reliving those years and recording their achievements. The narrative of the 95th Evac is the subject of this book, but this hospital is merely representative of all the evacuation and field hospitals in theaters of combat during World War II.

Those years of world upheaval were unique in the history of humanity. World War II was the most cataclysmic event of the twentieth century. The entire United States, with little dissent, plunged into the task of rescuing the world from Satan. The central theme of the war effort was to give people in all countries freedom and dignity. For this ideal, millions enlisted, and many thousands sacrificed their lives.

When the doctors, nurses, administrative, and enlisted personnel of the 95th Evac reported in Kentucky in early 1943, they were disparate groups, unrelated to each other, individuals required to satisfy the numbers and ranks of the tables of organization provided for an evacuation hospital. By its participation in the invasion of the Italian mainland at Salerno, the siege of Anzio, and the wintry retreat during the Battle of the Bulge, the hospital was welded into an inseparable whole, working selflessly with a single objective—to provide help for the casualties from the battlefield. Those of us who worked in the hospital during those trying . . .

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