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Foreword

Contents

Foreword

With the publication of this volume, the first of two which tell the story of thoracic surgery in World War II, there has been completed one more phase of the historical project in which is being told the total story of the U.S. Army Medical Department in World War II. One of my predecessors, the late Maj. Gen. Merritte W. Ireland, considered the completion of the World War I medical history perhaps the most important achievement of his tour of duty in this office. It gives me great satisfaction that some of the volumes of the far more ambitious World War II medical history are being completed during my own tour of duty.

It is with particular pleasure that I observe the publication of the volumes on thoracic surgery. As commanding officer of the 160th General Hospital in the United Kingdom Base during World War II, I had the responsibility for the thoracic surgery center established there. At this center, rehabilitation of the thoracic casualty, based on British concept, was carried out with an attention to detail not, I believe, achieved at any other installation during the war. At this same center, as is related in detail in the second of the volumes on thoracic surgery, there was also carried out a series of almost fantastically successful operations for the removal of retained foreign bodies from the heart and great vessels.

The story of thoracic surgery in World War II is told so fully in this volume and the volume that follows that little additional comment is needed in this foreword. Three special points, however, might be mentioned.

The first concerns the material collected on 2,267 thoracic casualties by the thoracic surgical teams of the 2d Auxiliary Surgical Group. These data, unique in respect to both number of cases and details concerning them, are evidence of what careful planning and systematic endeavor can accomplish even under the stress of battle. Nothing like them exists in the previous medicomilitary literature. They will serve as a point of departure for all future studies of thoracic wounds.

The second point I would comment on is the system of chest centers, established with the practical purpose of assembling all casualties with the same kinds of injuries under the same roof, so to speak. This system permitted the most efficient use of thoracic surgeons, who were always in short supply, and it resulted in an excellence of care which could not have been achieved had these casualties been scattered through various nonspecialized hospitals under the care of surgeons who, however competent they might be, were, most of them, not thoracic surgeons.

Finally, I would point out that the thoracic surgery volumes, like all volumes in the historical series, are written with candor and frankness. The 


primary objective of this entire history is to relate events as they occurred. I believe this objective has been fully achieved. It has certainly been achieved in the thoracic surgery volumes. For example: The results of the management of thoracic wounds in 1944 and 1945 were far better than they had been in any previous war. Frequently they were brilliant. But these good results followed some very poor results in the early months of the war, before policies and practices in this field had become standardized and when surgical procedures were often unnecessarily radical. Those early results, as well as the reasons for them, are described in detail. Such instances of the frank statement of errors could be multiplied. A careful reading of this volume and of the second thoracic surgery volume should mean that such mistakes will not be made again in any future war.

As The Surgeon General, I am responsible for the preparation and publication of the volumes of the historical series. My grateful thanks go to the authors and editors who have worked on them so devotedly and have produced volumes of such outstanding merit.

Particular appreciation is due Dr. Frank B. Berry, Editor for Thoracic Surgery, who came to the rescue of these volumes when the entire thoracic surgery project had bogged down in delays and frustrations. That the task has been carried to a successful conclusion is largely attributable to Dr. Berry's personal enthusiasm, endless patience, and wise guidance.

LEONARD D. HEATON,
Lieutenant General,
The Surgeon General.

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