Additional Information On The Korean War & MASH Units

Armed conflict ended in the Korean War on July 27, 1953, with an armistice agreement that created the Korean Demilitarized Zone and returned the border between the two countries to the 38th Parallel. A formal peace agreement has never been signed. Officially, those two countries remain in a state of war.

Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) were pioneered towards the end of World War II and became the primary emergency treatment strategy in the Korean Conflict. Technological developments and the evolution of fighting strategies led to the current configuration by the military of the Combat Support Hospital (CSH). The concept and learnings pioneered by MASH units remain central to current operations of the CSH. The US Army deactivated the last MASH unit on February 16, 2006.

The novel MASH was written by Richard Hooker (the pen name of Richard Hornberger). He served as a surgeon in the 8055 MASH in Korea. Hornberger started writing his war experiences in 1956, with publication in 1968. A series of sequels followed that have been credited to Hooker but were actually written by William Butterworth. Generally recognized as the real-life Hawkeye Pierce in the movie and television show, Hornberger had a tent in Korea that did carry a sign: “The Swamp.”

Besides the American MASH units, the Norwegian Parliament authorized a NORMASH on March 2, 1951. Personnel were dispatched in May of that year establishing a surgery of four operating tables. With the signing of the Armistice, the Norwegians transitioned from receiving wounded soldiers to general medical support. On October 17, 1954, NORMASH personnel received orders to return to Norway.

The 100th MASH is a fictional name I used for this book, similar to the MASH entertainment series with its fictional 4077 MASH. The numbering for actual MASH units was tied to the Army Unit identifications they supported. 

Airlift of patients from Korea eventually carried over 300,000 patients. During various stages of the three-year war, air transport of patients within Korea became a significant activity.  

Today, physician’s assistants are an important element of US domestic medical service. In response to increasing workloads for physicians, the increased responsibilities assumed by nurses and medical corpsmen in Korea and Vietnam served as a model to develop that field of medical care.

Author David Halberstam quoted former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who said. “If the best minds in the world had set out to find us the worst possible location to fight this damnable war politically and militarily, the unanimous choice would have been Korea.” I am certain the nurses who served there would agree.