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Doctors and medics in the Vietnam War
Carol Acton and Jane Potter

6 Crying silently : doctors and medics in the Vietnam War In his Second World War memoir, The Other Side of Time, American battalion surgeon Brendan Phibbs writes: ‘We were lucky in 1942. We didn’t have to shrink from pictures of screaming Vietnamese about to be raped and murdered by American soldiers at My Lai. There were no dead students scattered across the grass at Kent State. Where we stood in 1942 the air was charged, clean, dangerous, honest.’1 While our discussion of the Second World War, and Phibbs’s own book, shows that the air was not as ‘clean

in Working in a world of hurt
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Women in the Vietnam War
Carol Acton and Jane Potter

5 Claiming trauma: women in the Vietnam War The Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC is an isolated island of suffering (Figure  5.1). Placed at a distance from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – the Wall– and the ‘Three Soldiers’ statue, it exists outside these more traditionally masculine commemorative narratives of war: the warrior and the dead (see Figures 5.2 and 5.3). Instead, it depicts the women’s war story, particularly that of the nurse. She is locked forever in the moment of holding the dying soldier – a pietà in which there is no redemption

in Working in a world of hurt
Trauma and resilience in the narratives of medical personnel in warzones
Authors: Carol Acton and Jane Potter

Working in a World of Hurt uncovers and analyses the range of responses to psychological trauma by male and female medical personnel in wartime in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Until now, academic and popular studies have focused on the trauma experienced by soldiers and civilians, saying very little about the mental strain endured by their healers. Acton & Potter seek to understand the subjective experiences of British, American and Canadian doctors, nurses, and other medical workers by studying personal accounts contained in letters, diaries and memoirs, both published and unpublished, and in weblogs. Offering an interdisciplinary understanding across a large chronological sweep of both the medical experience and the literary history of war, Working a World of Hurt demonstrates that while these narratives are testaments to the suffering of combatants, they also bear witness to the trauma of the healers themselves whose responses range from psychological and physical breakdown to stoical resilience and pride in their efforts to assuage the wounds of war.

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‘Shared experiences and meanings’
Carol Acton and Jane Potter

experiences of one war overlap and merge with those from another, so that they can be said to be in dialogue. This dialogue allows what Stanton et al. call ‘shared experiences and meanings’1 across time and culture. When we set the medical personnel accounts discussed throughout this book side by side, in the same way that Stanton et  al. bring together nursing experiences from the Vietnam War with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can move beyond the traditional historical treatment of each war experience as separate. In Angel Walk, similarly, collecting experiences of

in Working in a world of hurt
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Carol Acton and Jane Potter

that is a form of avoidance or disowning of injury. The process of repatriation during the Iraq War, where the flag-draped coffin and the elaborate military protocol and ritual surrounding the body’s return home are presented as honouring the dead, at the same time works to erase the knowledge of the injured body and thus the physical horror of what death in war often means, as noted in Lifton’s comments on the return of bodies from the Vietnam War.6 The individual thus becomes ‘grievable’ only in terms of the prescription imposed by the state and the military

in Working in a world of hurt
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Carol Acton and Jane Potter

a litter so he could be evacuated to the rear’.14 It was not until after the Vietnam War, when former nurses such as Lynda Van Devanter, whose memoir, Home before Morning, will be discussed in Chapter 5, recognised the description of post-war symptoms in what was being diagnosed as post-Vietnam syndrome and then post-traumatic stress syndrome or disorder in combatant veterans, that members of this medical personnel community came to understand that caring for the wounded, and watching them die, and at times being under attack themselves, could result in a

in Working in a world of hurt
The ethical use of historical medical documentation
Jessica Meyer and Alexia Moncrieff

The importance of this naming practice – of making the dead visible as historic actors – can be seen in the proliferation of lists of names on war memorials around the world. In the United States, the practice arguably reached its apotheosis in Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial where ‘the names act as surrogates for the bodies of the Vietnam War dead’. 26 As Jay Winter points out, the memorial ‘brought the American dead of the Vietnam war back into American history’. 27

in Patient voices in Britain, 1840–1948
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The practice of nursing and the exigencies of war
Jane Brooks and Christine E. Hallett

all three.14 This book demonstrates that war became an arena in which the value of female nurses and nursing work came to be recognised; within war, nurses could foster new roles and opportunities. Nursing, power and humanity In her exploration of the US Army Nurse Corps’ involvement in the Vietnam War, Kara Dixon Vuic, exposed the tensions and contradictions inherent in the position of the wartime nurse: the only female actor permitted to play a role close to the front lines, yet absorbed in 4 Introduction humanitarian work.15 Dixon Vuic argued that ‘wartime

in One hundred years of wartime nursing practices, 1854–1953
Open Access (free)
Jane Brooks

Kara Dixon Vuic, Officer, Nurse, Woman: The Army Nurse Corps in the Vietnam War (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, Kindle edition), loc. 146; Charlotte Dale, ‘The social exploits and behaviour of nurses during the Anglo-­Boer War, 1899–1902’, in Helen Sweet and Sue Hawkins (eds), Colonial Caring: A History of Colonial and Post-Colonial Nursing (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015). 19 H.E. Whittingham, ‘D.G.M.S. suggests the following reply to Dr Henderson’s criticisms’, MED/HIST/16: Items of historical interest, years 1940–41. Princess

in Negotiating nursing
Jane Brooks

Challenging nursing spaces of trench and other forms of warfare. Many nurses recognised that ‘this sense of safety promoted physical and emotional healing’.29 Men needed to believe in home and have a space to heal after the horrors of war, and the female nurses believed that it was their role to provide it.30 This gendered home-­creation work was prevalent even into the latter half of the twentieth century. In the Vietnam war nurses argued that it was important for ‘an American soldier to wake from surgery and see an American woman who symbolised home, safety and, an

in Negotiating nursing