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Battlefield Surgeon

Battlefield Surgeon: Life and Death on the Front Lines of World War II

Paul A. Kennedy
Edited by Christopher B. Kennedy
Foreword by Rick Atkinson
Afterword by John T. Greenwood
Series editor: Roger Cirillo
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 310
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  • Book Info
    Battlefield Surgeon
    Book Description:

    In November 1942, Paul Andrew Kennedy (1912--1993) boarded theSt. Elenain New York Harbor and sailed for Casablanca as part of Operation Torch, the massive Allied invasion of North Africa. As a member of the US Army's 2nd Auxiliary Surgical Group, he spent the next thirty-four months working in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany, in close proximity to the front lines and often under air or artillery bombardment. He was uncomfortable, struck by the sorrows of war, and homesick for his wife, for whom he kept detailed diaries to ease his unrelenting loneliness.

    InBattlefield Surgeon,Kennedy's son Christopher has edited his father's journals and provided historical context to produce an invaluable personal chronicle. What emerges is a vivid record of the experiences of a medical officer in the European theater of operations in World War II. Kennedy participated in some of the fiercest action of the war, including Operation Avalanche, the attack on Anzio, and Operation Dragoon. He also arrived in Rome the day after the Allied troops, and entered the Dachau concentration camp two days after it was liberated.

    Despite the enormous success of the popularM*A*S*Hfranchise, there are still surprisingly few authentic accounts of military doctors and medical practice during wartime. As a young, inexperienced surgeon, Kennedy grappled with cases much more serious and complex than he had ever faced in civilian practice. Featuring a foreword by Pulitzer Prize--winning World War II historian Rick Atkinson and an afterword by U.S. Army medical historian John T. Greenwood, this remarkable firsthand account offers an essential perspective on the Second World War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6724-4
    Subjects: History, Health Sciences
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword (pp. ix-x)
    Rick Atkinson

    A good diary can bring back the dead with a power denied even the most gifted physician. Paul A. Kennedy was an exceptional surgeon, but it is his journal of three years at war in North Africa, Italy, and western Europe that resurrects an era now more than seventy years gone. The story he tells, day by day, is vivid, poignant, and often shocking. Kennedy is as committed to his comrades and to his country’s cause as any loyal soldier, yet the stark authenticity of his narrative makes this among the most compelling antiwar accounts of World War II.


  4. Preface (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Editor’s Note (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction: The Development of the Field Hospital in the Mediterranean Theater (pp. 1-10)

    World War II shouldn’t have surprised the United States—or the US Army—when it literally dropped out of the Hawaiian sky in December 1941. After all, it had been going on for two years by then. Nonetheless, if the arrival of war wasn’t precisely a surprise, it certainly caught the nation—and the military—unprepared. This was particularly true of the Medical Department of the US Army: “American Military Medicine faced the crisis in an unpromising state—two small bureaucratic agencies serving the peacetime needs of the least impressive armed forces of all the major powers on earth.” The...

  7. 1 Operation Torch and North Africa (pp. 11-56)

    Should have started this sooner but at least started before leaving this country. Left Marion yesterday at 8:45 a.m. Please, God, bring me home safely to her and the kids—no matter the time. No idea as to our destination. Drew East India in the pool today but that is not the spot—I hope. Had final physical today. Weather good. T 50. Southerners wearing overcoats.

    Heard rumor that restriction was to come off in a.m. Good news to sleep on.

    Restriction off at 6 this morning. Called Marion and she arrived at 2 p.m. Staying at Kimel’s—17 Graham...

  8. 2 Southern Italy and Monte Cassino (pp. 57-104)

    Water is turned on at 6:30 so Weiss bounces out, washes, fills all canteens, helmets, and draws a basin of water for me—before it’s turned off again at 7:00 a.m. We’re still in Oran—little bit of loading going on all day and now we’re all set to go. Rumor has it that we’ll sail sometime during the night. Saw minesweepers go out this evening, which suggested that we’re about to move. Little of anything to do—nice officers’ lounge but of course is very crowded. Played bridge most of this afternoon—think I’m improving. Radio reports much improved...

  9. 3 Anzio and Rome (pp. 105-128)

    Got our call at 10:30 this morning. We’re off to Anzio tomorrow—assigned to the 11th Evac. According to the boys who have returned from there, it’s a pretty good deal.

    I want to have this experience but as I desire it, it’s only that I want it behind me. I would never ask for such a mission. So much can happen. But like everyone else I feel that it can’t happen to me. It can’t really because I have too much to live for.

    Gordon, Kaplan, and the enlisted men left today on an L.S.T. for the beachhead. No...

  10. 4 Operation Dragoon and the Pursuit up the Valley of the Rhone (pp. 129-206)

    Mail would be scarce at a time like this! There are probably a thousand things I should say—should write—but better to be an optimist, I believe. (I’m sure everything will come out all right.) Repacked my stuff for the tenth time today, trying to fit too much into too little space. Rolled all my bulk film and fixed it in a waterproof package just in case we get dunked. Seems somebody in the outfit talked too much about this procedure to someone in an official capacity, so this evening we were all firmly warned about keeping our mouths...

  11. 5 Germany, the End of the War, and the Journey Home (pp. 207-236)

    No new cases—we change shifts today and we get the day shift, which is good. I can’t get any real sleep in the daytime. Walked down to the bridge over the Saar today and took some pictures, then went on over into Germany.

    The little town just on the other side of the river is badly torn up. Talked with a C.I.C. [Counter Intelligence Corps] officer today who was in Sarrbrucken when it fell—or just after—and he said the G.I.s went wild—put people out of their homes, looted places, and destroyed property and just had a...

  12. Epilogue (pp. 237-238)

    Get out he did—and went on to a long and successful career in private practice, first on his own in Buffalo and then in partnership with his Second Aux colleague Gordon Madding in the San Francisco Bay Area. The move to California was precipitated in part by the fact that my father’s solo practice in Buffalo was too successful. He was no less dedicated to his private patients than he had been to soldiers on the battlefields of western Europe. Consequently, he was out of the house early and back late virtually every day. While satisfying, private practice also...

  13. Afterword (pp. 239-242)
    John T. Greenwood

    When Chris Kennedy asked me to read the manuscript of his father’s World War II diary and then to write an afterword for it, I was reminded of the many great contributions that surgeons like Dr. Paul A. Kennedy made to the US Army during World War II. Their almost unceasing and prodigious efforts in the often dangerous and usually harsh conditions at the army’s frontline medical facilities were crucial to saving the lives of thousands of seriously wounded and injured American and enemy soldiers and returning them to their families and useful lives.

    I was most impressed with Paul...

  14. Acknowledgments (pp. 243-244)
  15. Notes (pp. 245-248)
  16. Medical Glossary (pp. 249-254)
  17. Selected Bibliography (pp. 255-256)
  18. Index (pp. 257-270)