Lessons from the Korean War for modern military medicine

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


This presentation will review developments in military medicine during the Korean War and places them in the context of military medical lessons from the Second World War and the subsequent development of military medicine through the Vietnam War to the present day. Whilst there were incremental developments in military medicine in all these areas, several innovations are specifically attributed to the Korean War. The introduction of helicopters to the battlefield led to the establishment of dedicated medical evacuation helicopters with medical personnel and the evolution into the DUSTOFF system during the Vietnam War. Helicopter evacuation was the primary medical evacuation system in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The establishment of the MASH during the Korean War mirrors the US Auxiliary Surgical Groups or the UK Casualty Clearing Stations of World War 2. The requirement for resuscitation and surgical teams close to the battlefield has endured through the development of mobile hospitals of varying sizes from Field Surgical Teams to the current ‘modular’ Hospital Centre and other international equivalents. There were many innovations in the clinical care of battle casualties covering wound shock, surgical techniques, preventive medicine, and acute psychiatric care. This was enabled through the establishment of medical research programs that were managed within the theatre of operations. Further advances in all these clinical topics can be observed through to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – all of which were underpinned by institutional directed research programs. Finally, collaboration between international military medical services and the developing Korean military medical services is a major theme of this review. This ‘military-to-military’ and ‘civil-military’ medical engagement was also a major activity during the Vietnam War and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Overall, the topics and themes in military medicine that were important during the Korean War have been replicated in many subsequent wars.
Period14 Nov 2023
Event titleDiMiMed 2023: Disaster and Military Medicine 2023
Event typeConference
LocationDusseldorf, GermanyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational