ABOUT THIS BOOK
The inspiring story of the men and women who risked their lives alongside the soldiers fighting some of the most desperate actions in American history
Bataan, Anzio, Bastogne, Chosin, Khe Sanh: names that define the American spirit. They are synonymous with courage, resilience, and determination against great odds. At each of these battles American soldiers and Marines weathered desperation and fear to survive, advance, and triumph. Along with these heroes of the battlefield were no less determined and courageous providers of medical care. From the heat and disease-ridden jungles of Bataan, the precarious beachhead of Anzio, the encircled town of Bastogne, the frozen fields of Chosin, and the forsaken plateau of Khe Sanh, doctors and nurses worked under intense conditions with whatever means at hand, to staunch bleeding, repair damage, and resurrect the dying. In so doing they gave a glimmer of hope for the warriors facing possible death or capitulation. Often completely cut off from vital supplies and modern technology, and under the threat of enemy fire, these medical professionals—men and women—never lost sight of their passionate commitment to the sick and wounded. As noncombatants, this took extraordinary resolve to ignore the mortal threats of explosions and gunfire to focus on the mission of relieving pain, dragging from the brink of death damaged soldiers completely dependent on their resourcefulness. Some of these brave men and women would suffer the same fate as their fighting comrades, cut down by enemy fire in the prime of life, many times in the very task of rendering the bottomless compassion that was their hallmark and sometimes their only tonic.
In The Agony of Heroes: Medical Care for America’s Besieged Legions from Bataan to Khe Sanh, distinguished surgeon Thomas S. Helling relates the inspirational and compelling stories of the doctors, nurses, corpsmen, aides, and others who braved the most frightening conditions in order to save lives. Their experiences testify to the indomitable human grit that, when asked, transforms ordinary behavior into extraordinary achievements.