Bethesda Naval Hospital
The letters of this chapter tell about our seven-and-a-half-month experience in our first duty post—the Navy’s finest hospital, in Bethesda, Maryland. The doctors and nurses were the best the service could muster, and many of our patients were high-level military or political figures. As comfortable as we felt within the confines of the tour of duty at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, there was always an uneasiness about how long we would remain there. The military grapevine generally kept us informed about the status of things in Korea. We heard that the war had become positional— that is, our troops and the enemy’s troops were dug in, skirmishing with each other on a main line of resistance.
The Korean positional war was like a throwback to the western front of World War I rather than a successor to World War II, in the static quality of the battlefield, the defense in depth with its barbed wire and intricate series of trenches, the accent on artillery and mortar fire, and the everlasting patrols and raids. No matter how cautious the commanders were in risking lives, enemy artillery and mortar fire often found their targets, and enemy ambushes and probes caused the list of dead and wounded to mount. The fact that there was deadlock at the truce negotiations at Panmunjom and stalemate at the front was not encouraging.