“The night air chilled Caspar Wistar as he walked alongside a wagon filled with medical supplies, part of an eleven-thousand-man army creeping toward a small Pennsylvania hamlet. He wondered if General George Washington’s medical corps would again run short of wound dressings when battle met the sunrise.”
Thus opens the magisterial new book from Scott McGaugh, author of Midway Magic. In Battlefield Angels, McGaugh pays homage to the cadre of medics, corpsmen, nurses, doctors, surgeons, and medical technicians who have provided succor and healing to the more than 40 million warriors who have served in America’s armed forces since the nation’s founding.
Scott McGaugh tells the story of Jonathan Letterman, a Union surgeon during the Civil War who is considered the father of American combat medicine. Letterman designed the first battlefield evacuation system after an unprepared medical corps at Bull Run left thousands of soldiers to die in the place where they were wounded. We also learn about Wheeler Lipes, a young navy corpsman and submariner with minimal medical training who on September 11, 1942, conducted the first-ever appendectomy at sea. And, we hear the story of Pfc. Monica Brown, the young army medic who was awarded the Silver Star for rescuing fellow soldiers from a disabled Humvee during an ambush in the Paktika province of Eastern Afghanistan in 2007. Brown is only the second woman in sixty years to receive the prestigious award. Through these stories and many others, McGaugh traces the captivating evolution of battlefield care, from the Revolutionary War to today's battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Battlefield Angels, McGaugh captures the in-the-trenches moments during which medics and corpsmen fought to save the lives of their comrades. Along the way, readers will learn the fascinating history of battlefield medicine and how it has benefited both military and civilian medical practice throughout American history. McGaugh also looks ahead to the future, where telemedicine and robotic surgery promise to transform the battlefield once again. In the end, Battlefield Angels both chronicles and pays homage to the men and women in arms who fight every day to save the lives of their fellow soldiers, sailors, and Marines.
From the Hardcover edition.