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The Agony of Heroes (Hardback)

Medical Care for America’s Besieged Legions from Bataan to Khe Sanh

WWII Westholme Korean War Vietnam Military

By Thomas S Helling
Imprint: Westholme
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9781594163203
Published: 31st July 2019

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• The author, a veteran, is professor and chief of general surgery for the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

• Details the struggles at five iconic American battles: Bataan, Anzio, Bastogne (World War II); Chosin (Korea); Khe Sanh (Vietnam).

• Most readers do not think about what happens to wounded soldiers; this book is as gripping and moving as any great military history, yet it revolves around the immediate care of soldiers who have suffered in combat. All of the medical personnel discussed are often within in yards of the fighting. In many ways, this book provides a much better sense of actual combat than any fighting soldier’s memoir. Here, often in little to no light, often crawling on the ground, doctors try to assess who can be saved amidst the carnage. In some cases, they must attempt to provide medical care with no supplies.

• Nurses, doctors, and corpsmen are all discussed in each battle and how they worked together, living and dying alongside the soldiers they were charged with healing.

• As technology advanced, soldiers who would have died in previous wars were now saved, but as the author reveals through the recollection of doctors, the medical staff were as scarred as the men they had kept alive—were they really doing the soldiers a service? Soldiers who would have to carry on with a disfigured face, without an arm, leg, pissing in a bag, or more?

This is a very powerful book, well written, passionate, and provides the balance—what the actual sacrifices are—to traditional military histories.

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