Medic! How I Fought World War II with Morphine, Sulfa, and Iodine Swabs

Medic! How I Fought World War II with Morphine, Sulfa, and Iodine Swabs

Medic! How I Fought World War II with Morphine, Sulfa, and Iodine Swabs

Medic! How I Fought World War II with Morphine, Sulfa, and Iodine Swabs


Lt. Gen. George S. Patton remarked that the "45th Infantry Division is one of the best, if not the best division that the American army has ever produced." Such praise came at a steep price, for the 45th saw some of the fiercest fighting in the European campaign- from Sicily to Anzio and from southern France into Germany- and racked up one of the highest casualty rates. Through it all, medic Robert "Doc Joe" Franklin- drafted in 1942 and thrust into combat with no specific training or knowledge for treating war wounds- soldiered on, fighting as hard to keep his men alive as the enemy fought to kill them. His medical story, one of the first of World War II, is told here with simplicity, unflinching honesty, and grit.

Studded with memorable vignettes- of a friend who "smells" the Germans long before they appear, the dog that acts as an artillery spotter, the lieutenant who can't see beyond a few hundred feet- Franklin's memoir documents the almost unbearable drama of ground gained and lives lost as well as the terrible human toll of battle on himself, his comrades, and civilians quite literally caught in the crossfire. A rare look at the fight for lives laid on the line, Medic! brings to life as never before the reality of war.


Almost invariably, the World War II combat veterans I have interviewed have said either “thank God for the medics” or “the medics were the unsung heroes.”

That being said, it seems strange that until now very little has been written by, or about, the combat medics of World War ii. But with the publication of this remarkable memoir by Robert “Doc Joe” Franklin, a medic who served from 1943 to 1945 with Company I, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, this oversight is well on its way to being corrected.

First a word about the 45th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Thunderbirds” after their southwestern heritage. the division originally was a National Guard outfit comprising primarily men from Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona— including thousands of Native Americans—although this regionality was diluted once the war began and enlistees and draftees began to join the unit.

National Guard units were generally disdained as the army’s poor stepchildren, their part-time soldiers having to make due with obsolescent equipment, outdated uniforms, and inadequate training schedules and facilities. But after the 45th was federalized and placed on active service in September 1940, then underwent over two years of extensive and intensive training, the Thunderbirds became the equal of any “regular” infantry division.

In the summer of 1943 the 45th was deployed overseas to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations to take part in the invasion of Sicily. So impressed was he with its ability to accomplish its very difficult missions that Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr., commanding the U.S. Seventh Army during the operation . . .

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