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

by Paul A. Kennedy edited by Christopher B. Kennedy foreword by Rick Atkinson and afterword by John T. Greenwood

Availablecloth$39.95s 978-0-8131-6723-7
Availableepub$39.95s 978-0-8131-6725-1
Availableweb pdf$39.95s 978-0-8131-6724-4
American Warriors Series
288 pages  Pubdate: 05/20/2016  6 x 9  74 b&w photos

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In November 1942, Paul Andrew Kennedy (1912–1993) boarded the St. Elena in 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.

In Battlefield 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 popular M*A*S*H franchise, 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.

Christopher B. Kennedy is senior deputy director of athletics and adjunct assistant professor of English at Duke University. He also teaches in Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics.

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 anti-war accounts of World War II. -- from the foreword by Rick Atkinson

Thanks to Dr. Paul A. Kennedy and to Christopher Kennedy’s careful editing, we now have an intimate and dramatic view into the experiences, thoughts, and emotions of an Army surgeon who not only saved hundreds of wounded soldiers during the war but whose labors and achievements also helped to pioneer an organization that saved many thousands more in later years. -- John T. Greenwood, Former Chief Historian, Office of The Surgeon General, U.S. Army/U.S. Army Medical Command

In Battlefield 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.

[This] remarkable firsthand account offers an essential perspective on the Second World War. -- Historiens de la sante'

[A]s you read this informative, educational and entertaining book, you find yourself validating the axioms of current battlefield medicine: flexibility, agility, mobility and modularity. You gain an immediate appreciation for the necessity of early, far-forward surgical intervention, stabilization and evacuation.

Through his photographs and case illustrations, one gains insights into the character and quality of Kennedy as a man, a soldier and a surgeon. One cannot help but appreciate his innate skills at documenting each patient who crossed his operating table. He is the consummate professional as he learns and applies new surgical techniques right up to the end of the war. -- AUSA

For those who are interested in the medical support that was provided to American forces during World War II, this is a must-have volume. Dr. Kennedy never spoke to his family about his wartime experiences, but in this book, his son has ensured that his voice can finally be heard. -- Journal of America's Military Past