• Groups of men in the 1st Marine Division aid wounded comrades in a 1966 battle near the Demilitarized Zone. ( Larry Burrows/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)
  • First aid rendered in the field was a crucial step to survival, demonstrated above in 1967 near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo)
  • Two wounded soldiers near Phu Cat in 1966 were rescued after taking shelter from enemy forces. (Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • Lt. Col. George Eyster of the 1st Infantry Division, right, is bandaged after being shot by a sniper in 1966 at Trung Lap, near Saigon. He was evacuated to a hospital and later died. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)
  • Helicopters lifted the wounded from jungle locations using cables, shown above in 1966. (AP Photo, Alfred Batungbacal/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)
  • Members of the 4th Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade load wounded on a UH-1D Huey for evacuation. (Terry Fincher/Getty Images)
  • Helicopters lifted the wounded from jungle locations using cables, shown above in 1966. (AP Photo, Alfred Batungbacal/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)
  • Injured are stabilized and evaluated in a helicopter ambulance. (DPA/AP Photos)
  • Surgical suites were available on ships, including USS Tripoli anchored off the Vietnam coast. (Getty Images)
  • Field hospitals such as the one at Lai Khe. (Getty Images)
  • Nurses, like 2nd Lt. Roberta Steele in 1966, were vital caregivers in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams )
  • The most gravely injured soldiers were transferred to more sophisticated medical facilities or home to the United States. (U.S. Air Force)
  • Patients were flown on litters loaded into transport planes, such as the C-130 Hercules, and the C-124, and monitored by medical personnel. (U.S. Air Force)
From the battlefield to the flight home, medical teams saved life and limb with quick responses 

Improvements in medical care from World War II and Korea allowed for better outcomes during the Vietnam War. One of the main advances was the use of helicopters for evacuation of wounded troops, known as a dustoff. In 1968 at the height of the conflict, 116 air ambulances evacuated more than 200,000 troops. This rapid movement resulted in an average time from battlefield wound to hospital admission of just 2.8 hours.

Once stabilized and evaluated in the air, the incapacitated were taken to a mobile army surgical hospital, made famous in the TV program M.A.S.H., set in Korea. A MASH facility, typically 60 beds in tents, could be expanded to 200 beds using easily moved inflatable shelters designated as “medical unit, self-contained, transportable,” or MUST.

Small arms, grenades and booby traps frequently caused multiple wounds, often in dirty and wet conditions. Pioneering methods to reduce infection, transfuse whole blood, and operate on patients reduced the mortality rate in Vietnam. Army Col. Norman Rich originated vascular repair for military trauma, allowing badly damaged limbs to be saved.

The most severely wounded were flown in transport planes equipped with litters to larger hospitals and trauma centers in the Philippines, Japan or the United States. Thanks to advances in field care and evacuation procedures, 98 percent of wounded soldiers who made it to the hospital survived.