426 - The Surgical Legacy of World War II - Part 3: Blood and Valor

+2, following the first waves of the landings, and the physi- cal and emotional stress on the members of the 4th ASG was recorded in letters sent home by surgeons and enlisted men alike. In a letter written to his wife on June 15, 1944, Dr. Henry K. Swan said: “It was a hot spot then, as we are only about 1/2 mile from the flank. The details I’ll tell you some day, but all I know is that I never want to look up from the operating table again and see a neat little row of holes appear in the tent! The first morning, we hit the dirt in the O.R. when they came over, but when I saw the patient lying on the table with his hands over his face just sweat- ing it out, I resolved that never again would I duck and leave the patient with the feeling of helplessness and desertion. Nor have I since.” Dr. Swan was a vascu- lar surgery pioneer and prominent pediatric car- diac surgeon from Boston. During his time with the 4th ASG, he treated 1,400 non-transportable patients with penetrating wounds, all of those were adjacent to the front lines. (These patients’ wounds were so severe and their condition so unstable, they would not have survived the journey to better-equipped, safer hospitals.) Dr. Swan quickly rose through the ranks to become chief surgeon of the 5th ASG. C ol. Henry Knowles Beecher, MD, was an anesthesiologist in the US Army Medical Corps in Italy in 1944. During the US evacuation at Anzio the medics were running out of morphine and had to improvise a solution to the shortage. Dr. Beech- er noticed that the medics could successfully reduce the necessary dose of morphine by offering cigarettes to wounded Marines. Smoking helped the morphine work at lower doses in many patients. This experience impacted him greatly, and it began his informal, wartime observation of pain control in the wounded and would eventually become a formative scientific body of work on the placebo effect. Dr. Beecher dedicated much of his early post-war career to the development of the dou- ble-blind, randomized research method that revolutionized the validation of drugs and procedures. Dr. Beecher is also heralded as a great humanitarian and prolific author. He was among the first to investigate the Nazi surgical experiments in the concentration camps at Buchenwald and came to be a whistleblower and advocate for informed consent and sensible research methods. Dr. Beecher is known as the father of medical ethics, and a prestigious medical ethics award at Harvard Medical School is named after him. SNAP SHO T: DI SCOV ERY OF T HE P L ACEBO EF FEC T Soldiers move onto Omaha Beach during the Allied Invasion of Europe on D-Day. Photo credit:USMilitary | The Surgical Technologist | JUNE 2019 258