MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea

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The term Mobile Army Surgical Hospital MASH refers to a United States Army hospital capable of providing definitive surgery within a combat area of operations and yet mobile enough to keep up with advancing troops. The units were first established in August , and were deployed during the Korean War where they proved to be highly successful.

The U.

The REAL M*A*S*H Units in Korea

DeBakey and other Army surgical consultants as the "mobile auxiliary surgical hospital". It was an improvement to the system of portable surgical hospitals, field hospitals, and general hospitals used during World War II.

MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea>

The portable surgical hospitals had been too light and under-equipped, while the field hospitals were not mobile enough and therefore an advancing army found that casualties needed to be transported over great distances before they could get proper treatment. The MASH concept was designed to get experienced surgical personnel as close to the front as possible, a few miles behind the front, just outside of enemy artillery range.

Important features of these MASHes they were fully equipped with their own comprehensive truck transport and would work mainly out of tents.

What happened next…

Thus the MASHes could be packed and moved within 6 hours. They could keep up with an advancing army or quickly "bug out" in the face of an oncoming enemy threat. Note the key elements of mobility: fleet of trucks mainly on the lower left, chopper pad on the lower right, main road nearby. When a Korean came to stay at the th, word of her beauty spread so rapidly that they needed MPs just to direct traffic. Apel also recalls a North Korean aviator, nicknamed "Bedcheck Charlie," who would drop a phony grenade from an open-cockpit biplane, a story later filmed for the television series.

He also tells of the day the tent surrounding the women's shower was "accidentally" blown off by a passing helicopter. In addition to his own story, Apel details the operating conditions, workload, and patient care at the MASH units while revealing the remarkable advances made in emergency medical care. MASH units were the first hospitals designed for operations close to the front lines, and from this particularly difficult vantage, their medical staffs were responsible for innovations in the use of antibiotics and blood plasma and in arterial repair.


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On film and television, MASH doctors and nurses have been portrayed as irreverent and having little patience with standard military procedures. In this powerful memoir, Apel reveals just how realistic these portrayals were.

This is not an episode of the familiar television MASH show. By end of , 3 Mash units were up and running. They kept an unstaffed MASH in reserve.

In , there were 5 U. The requirements for a MASH were for it to be loaded on vehicles, ready to leave within 6 hours.

The Real MASH Combat Field Hospital 1952 Korean War

Inactive staffs from other hospitals were transferred to the MASH units. They had 5 surgery tables and equipment to treat patients in shock.

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They were supposed to be taken apart, and loaded on trucks along with the pertinent medical supplies within 6 hours. They began moving the units closer to each division so they could treat wounded within minutes from battle. Most MASH units moved once per month.