The History of First Aid in the Army

Wars in Korea and Vietnam

While medical advances continued throughout the years, it was a transportation advance that helped reduce the number of wounded soldiers who died in the Korean War by 48 percent: the helicopter. For the first time, men could be whisked off the field -- two at a time -- and transported by air to a hospital at a safe location.

The Korean War also gave birth to another major advancement in care on the battlefield: the MASH unit, which stands "mobile Army surgical hospital." These portable medical centers were able to travel with the fight, ensuring that frontline soldiers were never far from care -- whether they need life-saving surgery or the simple setting of a broken bone.

However, approximately a decade after the end of the conflict in Korea, the United States would join another war -- one without a front line. Because so much of the Vietnam War was fought in jungles without any real front line, MASH units were not as practical as they had been in Korea. Instead, the Army relied more heavily than ever on air transport, employing a fleet of UH-1 "Huey" helicopters that could each transport up to nine men at a time to any of the 28 hospitals the Army had set up throughout the country. A medial crew could load a Huey and get the wounded passengers to safety in an average of 35 minutes -- with care beginning in flight. The system resulted in an impressive 98 percent survival rate of airlifted men [source: History Channel].

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