48th PORTABLE SURGICAL HOSPITAL



Source:  Support Hospital Unfurls Its Colors

by Denny Cox
Fort Meade SOUNDOFF!

"The television series MASH often has been criticized as being an unreal depiction of that part of the Korean War," said Korean War veteran Norm Chupp.  "While that is no doubt true, the opening scenes of a chopper bringing in patients, and the medical personnel rushing out to retrieve the patients strapped to the outside of the helicopter, appeared quite realistic to me."

Chupp was one of three veterans of the Korean War who participated in a ceremony Sunday at Fort Meade for the reactivation of the 48th Combat Support Hospital.

During Sunday's ceremony on Meade's McGlachlin Field, the 48th unfurled its colors for the first time since it was inactivated May 1, 1964 in Korea.

The hospital is now based at Meade and includes troops from the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, commanded by Maj. Gen. Harold L. Timboe, who also commands Walter Reed Army Medical Center and was the ceremony's guest speaker.

"The 48th CSH is a result of a re-engineering effort in the Medical Corps.  This effort is best expressed by the 48th's motto, 'One Army, One Mission,'" Timboe said.

Col. Jane I. McCullough formally took command of the 48th CSH, which is the first of its kind in Army medicine with its reactivation.  The hospital's unique because it incorporates both active and reserve resources.

"This unit will set the standard for all multicomponent units in the Army," said reviewing officer and ceremony host Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Ruddock, commander of the 99th Regional Support Command.

The hospital is authorized nearly 600 personnel -- 316 active-duty soldiers and 282 reserve component soldiers, all tasked with providing resuscitative surgery and Level III hospitalization to all classes of patients within a corps area of responsibility.  Active component soldiers include 296 "professional filler" troops, or PROFIS soldiers, from the NARMC.  Twenty full-time active-duty support soldiers are also part of the 48th.

When activated, the 48th can provide hospitalization for nearly 300 patients.  The hospital would occupy 18 acres of open flat land for full setup and include four operating rooms with eight operating tables for a surgical capacity of 144 operating table hours per day; eight intensive care wards; seven intermediate care wards; and one neuro-psychiatric care ward.

Ancillary services the hospital can provide include a pharmacy, clinical laboratory, blood banking, radiology, physical therapy, nutrition care services, dental treatment, medical administration and logistical services.

The Korean War veterans who participated in the 48th's reactivation ceremony attached campaign streamers won by the unit to its colors.  The 48th CSH traces its organizational history to May 1943 when it was the 48th Portable Surgical Hospital.  On June 7, 1943, it was activated at Camp Forrest, Tenn., and shortly after departed to the China-Burma-India theater where it was charged with providing medical training to Chinese Army medical personnel.

On Jan. 1, 1945, the 48th split into two elements, one going to the 2nd Army and the other going to the 53d Army, 35th Division.  Between Jan. 1-26, 1945, the 48th provided forward surgical treatment to more than 320 combat casualities.  On Oct. 7, 1945, the 48th transferred from China to India.  The 48th returned to the United States on Dec. 19, 1945 and was inactivated the next day.

The 48th was called to duty again during the Korean War when on Nov. 24, 1952, the 8228th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital was redesignated the 48th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

Mary T. Burley began serving with the 48th as a nurse in April 1953 just northwest of Seoul.  She served with the unit for 15 months, treating mostly soldiers suffering from hemorrhagic fever.  She participated in Sunday's reactivation ceremony.

"The first patient I saw who went on the artificial kidney was near death," Burley recalled.  "The next morning he sat up in bed and read a magazine!"

Stan McCluskey was also part of the 48th in Korea.  He began serving with the unit in June 1953.  "I was sent to the 48th MASH as the only person in the pharmacy.  This was already a large hospital, qualifying for evac hospital status.  But processing was slow, and we were only staffed as a MASH unit -- at least the pharmacy.  I was on duty or on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The 48th MASH was considred a very elite unit with top quality personnel," McCluskey recalled.  "There was a lot of concern working with patients who had a disease of unknown origin or cure [hemorrhagic fever].  Everyone took their responsibilities very seriously and there were no complaints about the long hours."

Hemorrahagic fever is now often referred to as "Korean hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome." It is classed as one of the hantaviruses.  The virus is carried by field mice and passed to humans via the mice's dried excreta.  The disease produces a wide range of symptoms including headache, nausea, sore throat, blood seepage from weakened vascular walls, delirium, kidney failure and fluid accumulation in the lungs.


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