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Book Review of

"U.S. Army Ambulances & Medical Vehicles

in World War II"

 

By Major (Retired) Don Allen - Orleans, Ontario Canada

 

 

Basic Item Information

Title

U.S. Army Ambulances & Medical Vehicles in World War II

Author

Didier Andres

Publisher

Casemate Publishers (Sponsor of WarWheels.Net)

ISBN

978-1-61200-8653

Media

Hard Cover

Number of Pages

160 Pages
Number/Type of Photos and/or Illustrations Approximately 400 Black/White Photos; A dozen (12) Color Photographs; Five (5) Vehicle Tables; and Seven (7) Color Vehicle Marking Illustrations.

Text Language

English

Retail Price

$37.95 USD

Reviewer

Major (Retired) Don Allen - Orleans, Ontario Canada

Review Date

September 6, 2020

Review Summary

Review Type

Full Read 

Basic Positive Features Comprehensive & detailed coverage of a complex subject, yet easily understood. Hundreds of clear photos, illustrations and color plates are provided to explore the subject. 
Basic Negative Features None

Recommendation

A Definite "Must Have"

Photos

                             

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Detailed Review

To be clear, Casemate Publishers is a sponsor of WarWheels.net.  With that being said, we can start the book review.

This review is of the new book released by Casemate titled, “U.S. Army Ambulances & Medical Vehicles in World War II”, authored by Didier Andres.  The book is the English version of the French reference, “Ambulances & Vehicules Medicaux de l’U.S. Army”, which was originally released by Histoire & Collections in 2019.  The translation is flawless.

The intent of this book is to provide a detailed reference covering the ambulances, both metropolitan and field ambulances and dedicated medical vehicles of the U.S. Army in all theaters of the war.

The book is divided into chapters as follows:

1.   Introduction

2.   Metropolitan Ambulances

3.   Multipatient Ambulances

4.   Field Litter Carriers

5.   Front-line Ambulances

6.   Medic Jeeps

7.   Rescue Teams

8.   Medical Trucks

9.   Reverse Lend-Lease

10.  Field Ambulances

11.  Ambulance Markings

12.  Field Ambulances on the Front

13.  Different Missions, Different Uses

14.  The American Red Cross

15.  The Ambulance Field Service

16.  Enigmas

Photograph/Illustration Quality and Selection

The book contains over 400 mostly black/white photographs but with a generous selection of period color photographs.  This is complimented by several vehicle characteristics charts, and seven (7)  color plates illustrating the markings of various unit vehicles.  The quality of the selected photographs is excellent.  They are uniformly crisp and clear throughout for both the B&W and color examples.  These will be an excellent resource for history buffs, vehicle restorers and model makers.  Modelers will also benefit from the many diorama ideas from the chosen scenes. 

The tables are informative and give the basic characteristics of many of the vehicles presented.  The seven images of color vehicle marking plates are of actual unit vehicles dating from 1936 to 1945 and provide a representative picture of Dodge ambulance equipped units. These illustrations are augmented by about a dozen clear color period photographs which will attract the attention of enthusiasts.

Book Quality

This edition is a sturdy 8” x 10” hard cover, well bound volume, that we have come to expect from Casemate Publishing. The construction of the book facilitates frequent use, which you are surely going to do with this reference.

Chapter Review

Introduction.  One of the Principles of War is the maintenance of morale and welfare.  A key element of this goal is an effective and efficient medical system.  To create an exemplary medical system, it is necessary to have casualties rapidly removed from the battlefield to a primary medical unit and on through to a full hospital organization.  The United States, during World War II, had the national means (based on the automotive industry), the qualified personnel, the technology (both mechanical and medical) and the national ethos to provide its soldiers and Allies with the best medical service to date.  The term “ambulance” in the context of World War II, and for this volume, means a vehicle to convey the wounded from one location to another usually without medical intervention, unlike today’s ambulances which are manned by paramedics. 

Chapter 1.  The first chapter details the early ambulances available to the US Forces from the late 1930s until the outbreak of war.  There were many experiments and trials of vehicles and procedures and each in turn were studied and evaluated.  Keep in mind during the years prior to the war, few resources and little funding were available to the military so it was remarkable that so much was achieved.  By 1937, with the world an unsettled place, it was determined that a 4x4 true field ambulance would be needed in any future conflict. As a quick aside, there are a series of fabulous photographs, circa 1940, of mule and horse drawn ambulances in support of the US Horse Cavalry.  The era of the Horse Cavalry was rapidly ending, and this type of medical support vehicle would soon be replaced by a different manner of horsepower.

Chapters 2 & 3.  Although the Dodge family of ambulances is the most well-known in the US Forces, other ambulance types are also covered.  The author includes two chapters on State-Side vehicles.  The first group are known as metropolitan ambulances which were considered luxury vehicles and were produced by Cadillac, Packard, Chevrolet, and LaSalle and would not be out of place in a civilian setting.  Neither practical nor cost-effective for front line use, they are nonetheless a fascinating glimpse of what was available at the time.  The second group were unique large-scale medical vehicles based on the commercial bus chassis and would include mobile surgical vehicles as well as 12-litter ambulances.  They would their worth in the transport of wounded personnel arriving from overseas from the airfields and ports to the military hospitals.

Chapter 4.  Obviously for field use buses would not do, this chapter is devoted to other vehicles highly modified for use in the field, to accommodate multiple evacuations. The ingenuity of the front-line soldier is always wondrous and is well covered and, as in all chapters, is profusely illustrated.  The often oddball vehicles include the jeep, the amphibious DUKW, the 2.5 ton truck and the tracked M-29 Weasel.

Chapters 5 & 6.  These chapters deal with the concept of front-line ambulances in general and begin with a survey of those vehicles, both wheeled and tracked, with some lesser known vehicles featured as well.  The follow-on chapter deals exclusively with the ubiquitous American jeep and its’ many combinations and permutations as a medical evacuation vehicle.  There are dozens of fascinating ideas for restorers and model builders – some that would not be believed until seen.

Chapter 7.  This brief chapter deals with ambulances as unique rescue vehicles on land, sea, and difficult terrain in all weather.  The featured vehicles include the wheeled amphibious DUKW, and the tracked Weasel and the lesser known M-7 Snow Tractor. 

Chapter 8.  This sizeable chapter details the clever use of the GMC CCKW-353 basic frame with six distinct medical-use bodies. The applications range from dental van to blood collection, medical laboratories and even a mobile optical repair truck.  Even soldiers occasionally break their eyeglasses.  Standardization is essential in the military as it facilitates maintenance, fuel use and vehicle provision.  The US had the industry to ensure this happened while the Germans suffered with a dizzying multitude (albeit interesting) of varying vehicle makes creating a logistical nightmare.

Chapter 9.  The author provides a short but important chapter on reverse Lend-Lease vehicles. This situation occurred in England where presumably it was cheaper and safer to use local “right-hand drive” medical vehicles to support the US Army Air Force.

Chapter 10.  One of the larger chapters is justly devoted the venerated Dodge Field Ambulance, that work horse of the US and some Allied nations.  After some trial and error, the obvious solution to the field ambulance quandary was the Dodge family of cross-country 4 x 4 light trucks.  The text and the photographs give an excellent account of this iconic US vehicle and its’ evolution from pre-war to post-war.  Thousands of these sturdy and reliable vehicles were used by many nations for many years.

Chapter 11.  This chapter is a logical follow-on to the Dodge Field Ambulance and delves into the national medical service and the unit markings and will answer many questions of vehicle collectors and model builders.  It is loaded with period photographs and a great selection of color photographs most of which I have never seen before.  In addition, there are several colored graphics illustrating the markings of specific unit Dodge ambulances.

Chapter 12.  This is another chapter devoted to the Dodge ambulances with many front-line photographs.  Always informative with terrific diorama ideas and many with poignant photographs to remind the reader of the reason for these important vehicles and crews.

Chapters 13 & 14.   These chapters examine some of the many other practical uses and varied missions of primary-use and converted medical vehicles.   The uses of these vehicles vary considerably and include psychological operations (converted to specialized broadcast vehicles), mobile libraries for the troops and locals alike and mobile health care units for the local population post-battle.  The follow-on chapter is a look at the well know American Red Cross and a selection of its’ service vehicles.

Chapter 15.   This is a short chapter which deals with a fascinating subject hitherto unknown to me, The American Field Service (AFS).  A predominantly US organization of volunteers that began their ambulance service to support the French Army in 1914-17.  This section deals with their voluntary service in World War II, initially intended for the French, until their defeat in 1940 ended that idea before the volunteers’ deployment.  The AFS then offered its’ ambulances and crews to the British in North Africa and eventually in 1944 back to the Free French Forces during the invasion of Southern France and on to Germany.

Chapter 16.  This final chapter entitled “Enigmas” is a bit of fun and delves briefly into the personalization of the ambulance by their crews and some mysterious and inexplicable markings or lack thereof on specific vehicles.  Some markings were as simple as a signature or as elaborate as a work of art, while other vehicles carried only partial or incomplete markings.

CONCLUSION

All up, this is an excellent addition to any personal library whether it belongs to a historian, vehicle restorer, or a builder of military miniatures.  It is also a fine tribute to the many men and women of the US Medical Services and the vehicles they operated.  This volume is highly recommended without reservation.

 

A Definite "Must Have".

 

Thanks to Casemate Publishers for the Review Sample.

 
Copyright: Don Allen -September 2020