And if I die, book review

And If I Perish, by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee, tells the stories of the U.S. Army nurses stationed on the front lines in WWII since the start of the war in northern Africa to Italy and finally to his last days when the Allies were closing in on Berlin. The campaigns in North Africa and Italy gave the American military their baptism of fire, but inflicted relatively fewer casualties on the invasion troops compared to the possible consequences of an assault on Hitler’s Fortress in Europe. Although most readers believe that women did not serve on the front lines in World War II, closer examination shows that women did serve on the front lines providing life-saving care to wounded troops. Lastly, military medicine at the beginning of the war was woefully inept at handling the wounds inflicted by combat, but it eventually caught up to save most of the wounded troops.

The campaigns in North Africa and Italy are a testament to the courage and ingenuity of American troops, but they also revealed significant discrepancies in Allied planning. At the beginning of the war for the Americans, medical personnel quickly became adept at improvisation because the lack of medical supplies demanded it. At the start of Operation Torch in Arzew, Algeria, with supplies running low, Lt. Helen M. Molony of the 48th Surgical Hospital “… without suture material … took out a spool of white thread from her handbag and they sewed with that (p. 47) “. After exhausting all available thread, the 48 nurses began using their own alcohol-sterilized strands of hair to suture the wounds of the soldiers in their charge. Before entering the war, the War Department did not foresee the need for large amounts of basic medical equipment such as the Wangensteen apparatus used to treat abdominal and gastrointestinal wounds, or even supports to hold intravenous fluids for recovering patients. Although North Africa and Italy showed the allies their shortcomings, the lessons learned were included in the subsequent planning of military operations.

Subsequent operations, such as Overlord and Dragoon, were planned with the lessons learned from Operations Torch and Shingle. Forward-thinking nurses like 1st Lt. Marsha Nash required their staff to visit “… the experienced 128 Evacuation Hospital at Tortworth Castle to observe and learn the process of setting up and demolishing a tent hospital, and how to improvise in areas combat when the necessary medical and surgical equipment was not delivered with supplies as scheduled, “to gain so much information in training before learning the lessons the hard way during combat (p. 333). In preparation for the resulting D-Day casualties, military planners conducted Operation Neptune where “… the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions launched special boats of medical and surgical supplies at various locations in Normandy … soldiers landing at D – Day was carrying medical supplies and equipment along with her usual backpack and weapons … she dropped the medical supplies and equipment on the beachhead, for later pick-up … “, allowing the medics to set up stations improvised aid stations to tend to the wounded until hospitals could be brought ashore (p. 323-324). The lack of basic medical equipment will at least be addressed by military planners in a completely separate medical logistics operation on D-Day, but it will never be fully remedied, as the nature of the war will prevent it forever. Unfortunately, the new troops that invaded Normandy did not pay attention to all the lessons learned in the Mediterranean Theater where “5,700 combat soldiers had been victims of a trench foot … losing toes, a foot or even both feet”, and the D-Day troops eventually lose “… a grand total of 29,389 casualties in the European theater.” (P.425-426)

American women played a pivotal role in World War II. Army nurses saved countless lives and “… the survival rate of wounded soldiers arriving at a battalion aid station was a remarkable 95.86 percent; 85.71 percent were able to return to duty.” . (P.258)

Army nurses also served as a psychological stimulus for wounded soldiers who “measured how their own boyfriends, wives, and families might respond to them by the way these women reacted to their injuries (p. 106-107).” Army nurses, only a year or two apart, gave the wounded the confidence to write to their loved ones about their disfigurement. The volunteer nurses were expected to flee from combat, but they showed the same courage and commitment to duty as the men they cared for. For example, at the tip of Anzio beach, when the “… bombardment began, Roe and Rourke refused to leave their patients, although the latter kept urging them to go out and seek safety … not a single nurse who let this bombardment of hospitals chase her from the beach … “staying behind to tend to the wounded and sometimes sacrificing to protect her patients” (p. 271). Nurses gave their lives in the line of duty , “… the bombing of the 95th Evacuation Hospital caused 28 deaths; Twenty-two were hospital personnel: three nurses, two officers, sixteen enlisted men, and a Red Cross worker … “earning the respect and admiration of the men they served with (p. 261). Although they were primarily army nurses , “… spent hours working together in the operating room, coping with difficult living conditions and surviving the ever-present dangers of war, forging a strong bond of friendship,” treating each other as equals in the face of war ( p. 367-368) Nurses played an invaluable role in the invasions of North Africa and Italy, providing physical and psychological care to the troops who carried the hopes of the world.

Military medicine in WWII advanced by leaps and bounds to handle even the most devastating wounds inflicted on troops in battle. Private Berchard Lamar “Glant” suffered such terrible injuries that part of his right arm and half of his left leg were forcibly amputated. Glant was evacuated to a battalion aid station and “… saved due to the remarkably fast and effective medical protocols established and respected in North Africa and now being put to the test in Italy: first, immediate care to the wounded on the battlefield by medics and soldiers; then rapid transportation of the wounded to a battalion aid station where medical teams could work to further stabilize patients; then transportation to evacuation hospitals for treatment and more extensive surgeries, and finally, the return of a healed soldier to the front, or his transfer to a hospital further back for a longer recovery period. ” (P. 258)

Military hospitals and their planners developed an effective chain of care for wounded soldiers that ensured life-saving treatment for those who survived long enough to reach the battalion aid station. World War II also developed solutions to ancient problems that plagued both the Allied and Axis armies. Troops affected by malaria in North Africa refused to take Atabrine because the side effects were worse than the symptoms of the disease, but the medics of the Mediterranean campaign learned the right doses to nullify the debilitating side effects that the malaria released. troops for combat. As with any war, Allied troops suffered from sexually transmitted diseases from the locals serving, and military hospitals were “… loaded with sulfonamide-resistant venereal diseases …”, the number growing Increased number of affected troops forced the movement of penicillin production from England to the United States and increased production by billions to heal the troops (p. 215). In the case of troops who suffered facial injuries that resulted in the loss of an eye, they tended to be equipped with glass eyes prone to irritation and infection, but doctors began to turn to the alternative acrylic prosthetic eye that caused less irritation. and it only took three weeks to produce. to the production time of three months of a glass eye.

Operation Torch and Shingle provided American forces with their first full-scale combat experience in invaluable World War II learning lessons for the eventual invasion of Europe. The women provided life-saving care to injured troops and increased the military’s confidence in communicating with loved ones about their physical and psychological injuries. Army nurses also voluntarily placed themselves in the same danger that troops face to heal those same troops. Medicines and products advanced rapidly to deal with the multitude of troops who suffered almost every possible injury. And If I Perish is an all-encompassing story about the relatively unknown struggles of army nurses in WWII.

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