Korean War Images Gift
The REAL MASH Doctor! With John Mumford
Dr. Bill Shope, Korean War Battalion Aid Doctor and a 1944
Juniata graduate, talked to me on the phone right after visiting his great,
great grandson. He mentioned his Juniata roots, his affection for the college,
and his experiences as a Korean War doctor in the front lines. Following
in September of 2005, Dr. Shope donated his slide collection taken during
the Korean War that depicts his experiences.
At Battalion Aid, they patched up soldiers and stabilized them, and got the wounded out of shock, to be sent to the MASH units. The tools of the trade according to Bill were frozen plasma, and morphine to take the guys out of shock. Often times they sent the wounded out in helicopters. If only one patient needed a ride and went in the side compartment of the helicopter, a volunteer had to lie on the other side of the copter to balance it. Then the volunteer had to miraculously find his way back to the Station each time.
Bill's group was usually a half mile or so from the front, and followed the war front, planning routes carefully to evacuate casualties, and putting materials such as stretchers in likely collection areas. Coming up against rivers was often a big obstacle in this endeavor. Those at Battalion Aid were close enough to the action to see jets and artillery at work on the enemy, napalm and gasoline jelly were horribly effective on massed Chinese troops. Snipers were a problem and one learned to keep low. Bill also got to know a few of our advanced artillery scouts setting up artillery barrages. Battalion Aid treated enemy injured troops as well as their own, and the enemy was appreciative of the friendliness shown them.
Trench foot - swollen, infected feet from not washing enough was common. Bill stated that some guys purposely used this to get sent behind lines, or would shoot themselves and have self inflicted wounds in the foot. Some soldiers would claim that they were cleaning their gun when the accident happened.
It was at times 20 below zero, and the wood burning smudge pots they used in the tents to keep warm caused many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. So, the tents had to be aired out often. It was hard to stay warm outside, everything had to be kept close to the body to keep from freezing, including tooth paste. One of Dr. Shope's lasting memories of the war is the cold.
And what does Dr. Shope think of the TV MASH? Bill is not an Alan Alda fan at all, finds him to often seem silly. He realizes it is a comedy but it goes too far in looking for a joke, and lacks the reality and tragedy you find in combat. Other than that, he really did not know what went on at a MASH because he was not in one, being instead in the forward lines. Bill seems to be happily enjoying his family in his later years. Juniata admires Dr. Shope's service and is happy to have a gift from him that shows his life as a real doctor on the Korean War front saving lives.