tv Reel America Medical Service in the Invasion of Normandy - 1944 CSPAN June 2, 2019 4:22pm-4:38pm EDT
medical service in the invasion of normandy details the logistics involved in treating wounded soldiers in the field and in hospitals in england during and after the d-day invasion of france on june 6, 1944. from the national archives collections, the film was marked restricted because of its graphic scenes of the wounded and was originally intended for military audiences only. ♪ >> this is england. england before june 6, 1944. from these shores, the united nations was soon to launch the
greatest military expedition of its kind in history. the first channel invasion of europe against the nazi power. vast preparations were being made. huge quantities of material and supplies collected. guns. half tracks. bombs. ambulances. yes, ambulances. [explosion] for in the midst of all of this preparation and the training that went on, there went on other kinds of preparations. preparations for the business of saving life and preserving limb and easing pain. through the endless english months of wargames and maneuvers, the medical corpsman on the ground worked with the units and grew tough and ignored the conditions. they learned the prime importance of speed. as the day drew nearer and the grand strategy was mapped, medical corps drafted plans.
the disposition of hospital facilities in england would be as follows. in the north, scattered over a wide area, the general hospitals. large institutions, completely equipped for every type of medical service. a few miles inland from the south coast spotted near railroads, would be a series of hospitals for which would pass , all the casualties arriving in england. here they would be classified and routed to the various general hospitals in the north. along the coast, close to the beaches and ports and each receiving area, there would be holding hospitals. fully equipped for emergency surgery. here, serious cases could receive immediate attention, immediately on their arrival in england. these were the plans. this was the reality. the general hospital, the transit hospital and the holding hospital. better equipped than many
the medics have moved in and the work begins. stations are established on the spot. also an astounding record starts piling up. the check up later revealed 90% of the wounded received medical care within 10 minutes of being hit. immediately, the business of evacuation begins. worst wounds get first priority. right back they go to the boat that landed them a short time before. this is part of the plan. where the lft's are unable to come in close enough, the smaller craft are used to get the wounded to them. the ships received damaged human cargo for the trip back. all along the beach as they wait.
as the fighting develops, every means is used to hasten the removal of the wounded from the scene of the battle. the chief of all trades is pressed into service and proves itself again. and a duck sets out with its load of wounded. through it all, the slogan of speed remains the keynote. the lft's used in the normandy invasion were designed to become emergency hospital ships as soon as their fighting cargoes had been deposited onshore. in the holds, wall brackets were installed to accommodate tiers of litters. each could accommodate 200 or more patients. in the first days of the invasion, 90% were evacuated on the ships.
the smoke and a drink of water and trophies and rest. the dead rest of exhaustion. elsewhere on the ship, a life is being saved. some wounds can't wait. planning included an operating room on each lft. also an experienced army surgeon to augment the regular naval staff. ♪ soon it will be england again and rest and care and safety. the routing of the ships had been carefully planned to avoid congestion at any one landing point on the english coast. as each ship disembarked his wounded, those cases needing immediate surgery or other treatment were moved to the nearest holding hospital. then as soon as they were transportable again, they were moved inland to the transit hospital serving the area. all other cases, and these were in the great majority -- were moved directly to the landing point of the transit hospital and from there were routed by
special train to the north. every preparation for these moves had been made. ambulance companies strung out all along the coast were under the control of evacuation offices of each area. 5000 of these vehicles stood by, ready for immediate service. the ships start coming in. some port, some to piers in outlying areas. others pull up directly onto the beaches. ♪ no time is lost in moving out the wounded. specially trained sanitary companies take over the litter jobs and the business of unloading begins. evacuation officers supervise. the disposition of each litter case has been decided. ♪ and so man helps man.
and american teamwork proves itself once more, and the job is shortly done. the emergency cases move out first. often it's only a matter of minutes before a dangerous wound has been x-rayed. a decision made, and a patient readied for surgery. ♪ as soon after the operation as it's safe for him to travel, he's moved out, sent off to the transit hospital. in normandy, the fighting has
moved inland. in the last war when a soldier was wounded, you had to watch and wait. now the order is reversed. the aid man does the watching and waiting and is at the side of the casualty as soon as he becomes one. in addition, the american corpsman today, unlike his counterpart in previous wars, is qualified to administer morphine and plasma and to render numerous other services to the wounded. all this is making a vast difference in the saving of life. some of the wounded filter back to the aid station on foot. but evacuation by walking and hand litter bearing soon gives way to the faster method of evacuation by jeep. a battalion aid station operates just behind the lines. ♪ here the trained corpsman again demonstrates his value, taking over many jobs that the
physician would otherwise have to perform. this frees the doctor's time for more detailed attention to the serious cases. ♪ next, the wounded are brought to a collecting station a mile or so farther back. there are facilities here for further emergency treatment if needed. but the primary job is the transporting the wounded with all possible speed to the clearing station. this is located far enough to the rear to avoid exposure to direct enemy action.
here medical officers expert in judging the condition of casualties sort the patients and determine their disposition. surgeon cases needing certain specialized types of surgery are turned over to the field hospital, which is set up close by. a great majority of operations here are for perforating abdominal wounds and sucking wounds of the chest like this one. ♪ whole blood flown in from england consolidates the gains that have been made by life-saving plasma at the front. on d-day plus four, the first evacuation hospital goes up in france.
this is the largest and most elaborate type of installation used in the combat zone. nevertheless, it's ready to receive patients within 30 minutes, and operating starts in two hours, three of them going on at once. count them. skilled army nurses look after the patients, and there are such comforts as cots and mattresses and hot food. many of the less seriously wounded will make complete recoveries here and report to replacement depots in a matter of days. replacement depots in a matter of days. but cases requiring prolonged periods of convalescence are sent back to england. plane evacuation, expected to begin about d-day plus seven is actually begun on d-day plus three. within a fortnight, we're flying out more than a thousand wounded a day, and sea evacuation has been almost entirely supplanted. ♪
the air trip from france to england takes about an hour. speed has won another triumph, and it becomes a common occurrence for a soldier wounded in france in the morning to be resting in a general hospital in england by evening. ♪ from the landing field, the patients are shuttled to the transit hospital, and before long they're boarding the hospital trains that pull out daily from nearby railway spurs for the trip north. ♪ and the last leg of the journey begins. ♪
the general hospitals are telling some remarkable stories these days, like 16,000 casualties handled by one group and only 15 deaths. what is making such records possible, of course, is the fine condition in which patients are arriving due to the splendid work of units all along the line. in the first two months of the invasion, some 76,000 wounded were handled by the medical department. in world war i, 8% of these men would not have survived. today, less than 3% are being lost, and many who would have been invalided for life will be totally healed. so the careful planning of months bears fruit, and men who knew the battlefield but a few short hours back, knew the pain, the suffering, now know the
care, the comfort, and the hope that the best in modern medicine can bring. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] you can watch films on public affairs in their entirety on our weekly series real america, saturday at 10:00 a.m. and sunday at four eastern here on american history tv. >> up next, we visit the nevada historical society museum to look at items from their gaming archives. >> the history of gaming in nevada you can say begins primarily in reno. the northern part of the state was predominant to the 1950's. you have to remember that las s