GliderRiderMedic
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Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Mon Sep 06, 2010 04:07

I am working on a "class" for medical reenactors to improve impressions and provide basic first aid knowledge. One of the things I would like to touch on is common myths and misunderstandings about medicine during WWII, the role of medics, their equipment, capabilities, etc. Beyond the obvious "Medics were never allowed to touch guns or fight back in any way" and "If you put a tourniquet on, you have to remember to take it off otherwise you'll cost the person their leg!" myths, which ones do you commonly hear or see repeated?

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Mon Sep 06, 2010 09:47

if you put a tourniquet on and leave it on it will cost the person his bodypart... it's not a myth...

Bob M

Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Mon Sep 06, 2010 10:12

By Geneva Convention Medics indeed were not allowed to were weapons. Think that myth is also busted.. But maybe indeed in some cases Medics did touched a weapon for self defence.

Bob

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:39

docburges wrote:if you put a tourniquet on and leave it on it will cost the person his bodypart... it's not a myth...


Yes, but within reason (<6-8 hours) there is a minimal risk of limb loss. It's one of those myths that is, like most, based around a small kernel of truth and extrapolated to the point of absurdity. Please see the attached PDF.

By Geneva Convention Medics indeed were not allowed to were weapons. Think that myth is also busted.. But maybe indeed in some cases Medics did touched a weapon for self defence.


It has always been included in the Geneva Conventions that medics have a right to defend themselves. Traditionally, they were not issued weapons in the ETO but there are a few well documented cases (and I am aware of a lot more, especially in areas where the SS was operating, not so well documented cases) of medics "obtaining" weapons and defending themselves.
Attachments
Richey Tourniquets for the control of traumatic hemorrhage.pdf
(309.96 KiB) Downloaded 350 times

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Wed Sep 08, 2010 01:22

Medics carrying weapons never happened? Medics in the 82nd Airborne were ordered to carry M1911A1s and many used the M1A1 carbine. The rest of the ETO, I'd say 99% probably didn't. In the Pacific theater the corpsmen routinely used M1911A1s and M1 carbines.

Navy Corpsman in training in Hawaii, note the M1 carbine on his Unit 3.
http://www.ww2gyrene.org/assets/thomas_01.jpg

Navy Corpsman carrying a stretcher on Iwo...
http://denverpost.slideshowpro.com/albu ... 1282546611

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Ben
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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Wed Sep 08, 2010 08:42

Welcome to the Forum, Bowers!

What's your source for the claim that Medics of the 307th Airborne Medical Company were "ordered" to carry M1911A1s? Close scrutiny of the period photographs (particularly from the Normandy campaign) do not reveal much in the way of Medics arming themselves with the M1A1 Carbine. I'd certainly be interested to see the Order that you have stating Medical personnel are to carry weapons...

Also, in the last photograph you've posted up, could it be that the M1 Carbine being held by the Corpsman actually belongs to the Marine on the Litter?

Thanks,
Ben :)
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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Wed Sep 08, 2010 14:59

The Corpsman could very well be holding the Marine's carbine. Not doubting that possibility. However it is well known and common for Docs to carry carbines in the Pacific.

Now we come to the 82nd. I have two sources from vets showing evidence of them carrying weapons.

Example A shows them being ordered to carry the M1911A1 on the Italy Jump. Source: Combat Jump by Ed Ruggero. This selection comes from page 168 and is based on an in interview with 505th medic Fred Morgan:

"As Sayre and his A Company troopers consolidated their gains and prepard to assault the winery, Morgan and his fellow medic prepped a strectcher for their wounded man. Sayre could not spare any riflemen to escort them. Although the Geneva Convention allowed them to carry pistols for self-defence, Morgan and his comrades did not. Instead, they wore white armbands ith a red cross that was supposed to keep them safe as noncombatants. (By the time of the Italy jump, in September 1943, the command ordered the medics to carry pistols. A Crate of .45-caliber automatics arrived at the departure airfield as Morgan was loading up, the weapons still thick with the cosmoline grease used for packing. Morgan traded his weapon with the Air Corps crew for cans of fruit. By the time of the fighting in Normandy, in 1944, a Morgan removed the white armband, which attracted attention, but he did not carry a sidearm during the war.)"
The next selection comes from B/508th vet Paul Demciak who jumped with the 508th Pathfinder team as the team medic. This is from the 508th Association website.


I was a pathfinder with the 508th P.I.R. 82nd Airborne Division. I jumped out of our C.47 Dakota Airplane before midnight on June 5th, 1044.

The mission of the pathfinders was to set up the Eureka panels. These were a canvas reflecting material and to light the beacons to mark the jump zones of the main force of paratroopers to follow in a few hours.

I and the others in the plane jumped west of Ste Mere Eglise and came under fire from German forces. Tracer rounds could be seen in the night sky and I prayed my parachute would not catch fire.

I did not have to worry because I jumped from a height of about 300 feet. It takes about 100 feet for a parachute to open. I looked up at my chute, and when I looked down I hit the ground.

I landed with a group of 9 men and officers under steady small arms fire.

While setting up the drop zone, the Germans threw grenades at our group. I was hit in the leg by shrapnel from a grenade while fighting off the enemy.

We were surrounded and I threw my carbine and trench knife in the woods and was taken prisoner. I was placed in a German truck with other P.O.W.'s north east of the River Douve, west of Ste Mere Eglise. The Germans were moving east in a convoy filled with American P.O.W.'s.

Just then, American fighter planes attacked the convoy. The convoy stopped, and the planes continued to shoot up the trucks. As the attack continued, everyone began to hurry out of the trucks. I was the last one out of my truck, and when I got near the tailgate, I was hit in the right shoulder. I fell to the ground and sustained a head injury.

After the attack ceased, the Germans marched us to Stalag 321 in Rennes, France where my wounds were treated.

After a few weeks we were forced marched 20 – 30 miles and placed in railroad boxcars.

For a week or two they were trying to get us to Germany.

Again American fighter planes attacked the boxcars, and I was hit in my right forearm. The wounded, including myself, were taken to a German hospital in Tours, France.

While there, the Germans wanted to amputate my arm. I jumped of the operating table and told the German doctor, "NO, NO, NO." The attending physician then made a wire ladder splint and wrapped my arm in white crepe paper.

After a few days we were marched south for about 600 miles to Touloise, France.

On September 2nd, 1944, I was in a German Hospital and on September 3rd, I and two other American P.O.W.'s heard gunshots in the hallway outside of the hospital room we were in. When we opened the door, we saw the French underground movement had shot the German Guards and threw [them] down the elevator shaft.

The P.O.W.'s all from different countrys were taken to the hospital basement and placed in 3 separate ambulances for transport to a warehouse outside of Toulouse.

On September 4th we met MI-5, English and American intelligence agents and officers in the French underground.

They informed us that 9 P.O.W.'s on the morning of 5-6 September will be sent by plane and taken to safety.

On September 6th, we were awakened at 4.am and taken to a grass field where the French underground had secured the area from the Germans. They had parked vehicles with small lights to guide the plane in.

The British Dakota plane was flown by a British crew. The plane landed safely.

We took off and I could hear the plane being hit by small arms fire.

A few hours later we landed in Naples, Italy.

While in the 118th Station Hospital, I was treated with a fluid diet and vitamins. I weighed 160 pounds when I jumped on D-Day, now 60 days later I weighed only 98 pounds.

On the forced march, we were not given any food and little water for 5-6 days. We were fed black bread, turnips and sugar beets whenever we got it.

The trench knife that I threw away in the woods was sent to my mother in 1946.

A French citizen found it with my name etched on the scabbard.

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Thu Sep 09, 2010 00:06

there are stories of airborne medic's carrying anything from a 1911 to a BAR on jumps, but the inividuals concerned are exeption and NOT the rule .I have spoken to a number of medic's both Airborne and leg's none of witch carried a firearm, the nearest to a weapeon was a medic from the 505 PIR who carried ammo in the Ardennes
I would sugest that the 1911's were made avilible to any medic from the 82nd that wanted to carry one rather than an order to do so.
you own piece states that he traded his 1911 for a can of fruit!

I have not seen a picture of any medic in the ETO with a firearm.

I have however seen pictures of medic's carrying edged weapeons fighting knives, bayonets hunting knives etc.

What is needed are facts not stories ie:

a copy of the order (written by Ridgeway I assume)

photographic evedence of medic's in the ETO Airborne or Leg carrying a firearm in a combat area


loz.

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Thu Sep 09, 2010 05:45

Jan Herman, the Naval Medical Historian, has made a series of films on Navy Medicine, from Pearl Harbor onward, some of which can be viewed online. One about the Navy Beach Battalions at Normandy can be seen here,
http://www.navytv.org/media.cfm?c=139&m=891&

Check out the Normandy Chapter I sequence. Towards the end of the segment, the Navy medical vets have something to say about their arms training, and what they carried on D-Day.

The DVD series can be ordered, will look for the instructions.

Lois

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Thu Sep 09, 2010 18:42

you own piece states that he traded his 1911 for a can of fruit!

The medic who was interviewed specifically traded his for a can of fruit. That doesn't mean every medic did. Do you really honestly believe that every medic of the 505th traded it because one of them decided to?

What is needed are facts not stories

So you mean to tell me veteren's testimonies don't count for anything...? I posted information provided by two vets of two seperate regiments of the 82nd and it's nothing more than a story to you.

Now why is it we don't "see" medics carrying carbines? Multiple reasons. Not all medics, as we can see by Mr. Morgan's testimony, wore the white armbands as they drew attention. Therefore it may be hard to determine if someone is a medic or not looking at a photograph.

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Fri Sep 10, 2010 00:12

your evidence shows that neither medic carried a firearm into combat, I am sure that individual medic's aquired a 1911 but again they were the exeption and not the rule. If the order was given how many of the200 officers and men of the 307th were court marshalled for disobaying that order!

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Fri Sep 10, 2010 00:26

This first example shows that he was issued one (As were the other medics. Note: A crate of 45s were brought to the airfield.) and traded it. The second example shows that the guy carried a carbine and trench knife into Normandy but ditched them when he knew he was surrounded and about to be captured.

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Fri Sep 10, 2010 03:58

Remember that "in combat" the rules may have gone out the window, but even in most rest camps the rules applied. The rules did not include weapons for medics, and the NCOs in a medical sectio who were armed were usually charged with defense of the area, while the medics were charged with treatment of the wounded. The TO&E didn't allocate weapons for medical personnel, so drawing a weapon would involve breaking the rules.

The medics I've interviewed didn't carry a weapon as a normal thing, because they didn't want to attract any more fire than they already did, and didn't want to carry anything they weren't going to use. A couple picked up captured pieces as souveniers, but not to carry or use.

A medic wouldn't be shot for having a weapon (under the GC), but could be if using a weapon in an offensive action - as a combatant. The weapon - in combat - would have attracted the return fire that the Red Cross was supposed to avoid. Why risk it? A bladed weapon is a tool, so a trench knife would be a legit adaptation, but the M1911 or Thompson or Carbine seems to be a reach except in the PTO - and then it appears mainly with Navy Corpsmen assigned to Marine units. (That should get some Army pictures posted!)
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LOZ
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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:19

question WERE MEDIC'S ARMED IN THE ETO , answer NO!

question DID INDIVIDUAL MEDIC'S AQUIRE FIRE ARMS FOR WHAT EVER REASON answer YES.

Again these Indivduals are the exeption and not the rule!

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Re: Myths about WWII Medicine, Medics, etc

Sun Sep 12, 2010 16:53

For one of those exceptions, see story of Medal of Honor winner, Robert E. Bush.
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/pers ... r-bush.htm

The citation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Eug ... r_citation

Lois

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