Then we were able to make our way to the phones for our first contact with families back home in 18 days!
This bank of phones was seven miles away, the line stretching 3 to 4 hours, yet we willingly waited this time for the chance to make a ten minute call. A small PX sprouted here, as had of all things, a hamburger stand!
The Wolfburger was the brain child of Chief Warrant Officer Wesley Wolf, who thought this would be a great way to raise morale. It really did, too. The soldiers flocked to get burgers, chips and cold sodas.
All the burgers were made by volunteers from various 3rd Armor Division units. McDonald's never tasted as good as these! While you waited in line, you had plenty of time to visit with folks from all kinds of units, swap war stories and learn that there were units who lived a lot worse than we did!
9 March 1991
Today we had the showers set up again and, glory of glories, we received our first hot shower in 18 days! This was a real morale booster. We relaxed and enjoyed visits from surrounding units. R and R, Kuwaiti style.
10 March 1991
The 1st Armored Division's DISCOM Surgeon, LTC Fitzharris, came to the unit today and presented us with a plaque. He expressed the appreciation of the entire division for the fine support they received from our unit. The doctor received tumultuous applause and cheers from our unit. We were happy that we were appreciated. As if this was not enough excitement for one day, we received two five-ton truckloads of mail.
The volume of packages and letters was so great that it took two and a half hours to distribute it all. Someone joked that we must be getting ready to move. In the past a receipt of boxes had always been inexplicably linked with this particular omen. We soon saw just how accurate this statement was!
12 March 1991
A minor error had been made (not the first one, as we know all too well) and the people from the division were debating whether we were or were not in Kuwait. Apparently, the "were nots" won this debate, as we were told to pack up and prepare to move 5 miles west towards Kuwait.
Here, at the new location, we reopened the hospital and prepared to take more patients. This was our tenth move, but the good news was that we were now within walking distance of the telephones. This turned out to be a day to remember, because as we were setting up the hospital darkness suddenly filled the sky.
We discovered the darkness came from the smoke belching from burning oil wells. The temperature plummeted into the 60's, and soon all the vehicles had their headlights on. It was dusk at 1300.
A depressing pall hung over our new home. We had the hospital set up by 1200, and received patients almost immediately, admitting the first three by 1400.
Our orders were to set up "minimal" hospital facilities, a couple of wards, the EMT, one operating room and one CMS section. We were not scheduled to receive many patients, just the occasional emergency and the usual sick call.
13 March 1991
However, patients were, not surprisingly, starting to show up in greater numbers. We were here in the middle of nowhere, but we were still being found by Iraqis, Kuwaitis and Bedouins from everywhere. We began to add to the size of the hospital. New beds filled up as quickly as we could add them. Suddenly, we saw three critically injured patients from an automobile accident. The operating room staff once more head back into the fray, battling to save lives
14 March 1991
Major General Yates, the Commander of the 3rd Armored Division, visited today. He commended us for the fine job we were doing in support of his troops. Many of us didn't get to see him because the influx of Iraqi refugees grew heavier, requiring more and more staff for longer periods of time. The wards were rapidly filled to capacity with the sick and injured victims of a wild man's regime.
15 March 1991
A Blackhawk unit from the rear (airfield near Al Qaysumah) joined our merry band in our new compound. Their mission was a long range medical evacuation by both day and night, so we began our mission in earnest stabilizing and transporting patients to more advanced facilities.
It looked as though we were going to be here awhile and the Iraqi's knew it. We had seen 95 patients since we'd set up. Judging from the news on the BBC [British Broadcasting Corp.], we were going to see a lot more. Civil unrest in southern Iraq was provoking a veritable flood of refugees across the trackless Kuwaiti border. They were looking for help and we were the help they needed.
17 March 1991
We added more wards to our tiny hospital, which expanded us to our near maximum of 60 beds. We had also set up GP medium and GP large holding tents for our overflow of family and friends who had accompanied the sick and injured.
MRE's remained popular with the Iraqi's, especially the fruit. We had to be especially careful that we didn't give them anything with pork and ham, since they were predominantly Shiite Muslims with strict dietary laws. Our census showed that we'd treated 158 people here during the past 4 days. It was quite a demanding pace.
19 March 1991
The first civilian cluster bomb victim died today. It was a child. These insidious bombs were sprinkled all over the desert. Despite numerous warnings to the contrary, people could not leave them alone. They seemed to be drawn to them, almost mystically.
The devastation they caused on explosion was unbelievable. Shrapnel flew everywhere. Limbs were severed by the force of detonation. Massive abdominal bleeding and pulmonary pressure wounds occurred.
Even innocent bystanders far from the point of the blast ended up with shrapnel injuries. All these patients needed surgery, whether to halt internal bleeding and complete partial amputations in the severe cases, or just to clean and debride the wounds in the case of those less severely injured.
The number of patients exceeded our modest abilities, so we improvised and moved some of the less seriously ill and injured into the medical supply tent. Fifty patients were treated and more continued to arrive, along with their families. Three children were admitted with flash burns, and again our need for a pediatric specialist showed. Civilian casualties from unexploded ordnance and ammunition continued to arrive daily.
22 March 1991
Brigadier General Strong visited today. We received our first newborn baby as well, born to a young mother just twenty minutes before her arrival at our hospital. We improvised a hasty post-partum ward, and again lamented the lack of a pediatrician here.
This somewhat healthy newborn was followed by our first infant with Kwashiorkor, a malnutrition disease seen in young children in the Third World. The little girl was typical of the syndrome: tiny, listless, and bloated belly. She looked pitiful, and many members of the unit, medical and non-medical alike, were touched by her helplessness.
After stabilizing her for two days, she suddenly and unexpectedly died. The staff was hard hit by this loss, particularly some of the young medics who spent hours watching, playing and coaxing nourishment into this tiny victim of war and poverty.
At 2130 we were told to prepare to receive 20 to 30 casualties in less than 2 hours. The staff gathered in the emergency room. We set up a triage area and 10 treatment beds, each with its own physician and nurse. Rain poured down. Oil well smoke obscured the sky to ground our helicopters until daybreak. The staff returned to their tents to try to sleep during this brief respite.
23 March 1991
This morning we had our first true mass casualty. We were fortunate we were warned last night that the wounded were coming. While the Republican Guard doesn't stand up well against American soldiers, they seemed to have no compunctions about gunning down helpless women and children. The innocents descended on us in 5 to 8 "huey" helicopters, but we were prepared.
The first child off the bird was severely wounded with shrapnel and gunshots. She died in the operating room within the first two hours. We opened three beds for surgery; two in the operating room and one in the EMT for less serious surgery. The EMT was filled with crying and screaming children, sobbing mothers, and the occasional worried father.
One woman sat by the operating room isohut while her nephew underwent the operation. Her four children were already dead. She cried as she sat in the open, wrapped in a woolen blanket that was soaked by a pouring rain. An OR nurse and mother comforted the grieving woman.
Shrapnel, debridements, partial and complete amputations the list seemed endless. When the dust finally settled we'd performed 36 operations in 24 hours. U.S. GI's also continued to arrive during all of this and they received care as well.
The injured arrived with their families. Suddenly we were inundated with over 100 Iraqi's who needed to be fed and housed.
Supply and motor pool personnel had their hands full keeping up with the demands being made on food and water supplies. All non-medical personnel continued to assist in many ways. The cooks brought food to the hospital, for patients as well as staff, that couldn't leave their post to go to the mess tent.
With just an interpreter Sergeant Nayef, we ran into one language barrier after another. However Nayef, educated in America at Bradley University in Illinois, did an outstanding job in communicating for both sides.
U.S. GIs who had minor illnesses volunteered to help take care of patients, many giving up their own beds to these poor unfortunates.
Even after the mass casualty, Iraqis continued to arrive. It seemed that for every one person we evacuated, three others showed up.
Cluster bombs were everywhere on the battlefield. They were slowly taking their toll. It seemed as though each day, between 1600 and 1700, another "huey" descended with 3 or 4 rag wrapped little bodies, usually children, and victims of the shrapnel of warfare. The operating room was open late every evening. The staff started to tire.
24 March 1991
We were visited by Brigadier General McFarland, the Corps Support Command Commander. Despite our hard work, he seemed more interested in the First Sergeant's twisted chinstrap on his Kevlar helmet. We were told that we would move to Kuwait City to set up our hospital yet another time.
After seeing the needs of the refugees, some 1st Armored Division soldiers donated and delivered food, clothing, and candy for our new civilian refugees. The G.I. was the same in every war: ready to forgive, ready to be a friend, even to those who were denouncing him just a short time ago.
After seeing the results of their generosity, the soldiers agreed to return with more donations as possible. The Pony Express which had been responsible for log trains and convoys of fuel, rations, and water to units in the North, now added food, clothing, and candy to their loads. These fine soldiers also secured much needed medical equipment and supplies that seemed to be unattainable through the system.
26 March 1991
The 807th is in the headlines. Cable News Network arrived to look around and conduct some interviews. Yesterday we evacuated almost 40 Iraqi patients, leaving the wards relatively empty. CNN interviewed the Commander, the chief nurse, and several of the doctors and enlisted personnel.
In the middle of their visit, 4 more children arrived with the usual cluster bomb injuries. There were 5 victims, but one died at the site of explosion. Again, the operating room was running at full tilt and CNN, to their credit, recorded all our activities.
The opinion of the staff was nearly unanimous at this point. The Iraqi victims needed care, but our unit was not the best suited to provide it. We'd never deny them care, but we certainly could use some relief from a Red Cross hospital, or even an active duty Evacuation or Combat Support Hospital. We all felt we'd done our mission and more. It was time to go home. Or so we thought.
27 March 1991
We received an additional five Iraqi civilians from a bus accident today. Two weeks ago, we probably would have treated this as a mass casualty, but we became used to this type of admission. Crises were a way of life for us.
28 March 1991
Two soldiers from the 3rd Armored Division received severe shrapnel injuries from a cluster bomb today and were brought to us. They were truly innocent victims. Both men had stepped on the bomb outside their own tent. It was in an area they thought was cleared. There really doesn't seem to be any safe place for anyone. We took special precautions after this accident to watch where we walk a little more closely.
29 March 1991
More children arrived with the usual cluster bomb injuries. It seemed as though the children were always in a group when one of them stepped on a bomb. The results were always horrible. We increased the number of pediatric supplies that we ordered from the medsom despite their initial arguments that we weren't authorized to have these items.
BG McFarland visited again today and all chin straps were personally checked by the First Sergeant before his arrival. No new information or decisions came from his visit.
30 March 1991
Another typical day at the 807th MASH, as more Iraqi children showed up, torn into pieces after playing with yet another cluster bomb. Our pediatric supplies were being put to use. However, we all wished they would lie in a drawer.
31 March 1991
Today we received a severely injured patient who had shrapnel that penetrated his heart. Though already critically ill, we took him to the operating room. Open heart surgery in a MASH was not an every day procedure, but we had the expertise to do it when necessary.
In this case it was necessary. Surgery revealed several holes in one of the chambers of the patient's heart. These were repaired and he was taken to the recovery room after a massive effort by the operating room staff.
However, it was to no avail. The patient died later from his injuries. It was our eighth death, but six of of which were refugee children.
The 912th MASH announced they were open for business twenty miles from here, just off a main blacktop road. The 475th MASH moved into southern Iraq and set up. Relief was starting to arrive and we were all grateful for it!
1 April 1991
Lt. General Frederick Franks, the VII Corps Commander, stopped by for a visit. He handed out coins specially made for this campaign. He delighted the members of our unit by handing them out freely, stopping and chatting with nearly everyone. His aide confided that he rarely handed the coins out, so we should feel honored.
2 April 1991
Five U.S. soldiers ran over a land mine. Two of them died immediately; one was shipped to the 12th Evacuation Hospital, near Al Qaysumah in Saudi Arabia. We took the other two to the operating room.
The more severely injured soldier had a fractured jawbone, along with internal injuries. His surgery was extensive, requiring a team of four surgeons over six hours to complete his case. The second soldier was less critically injured, but still required surgery.
This accident occurred at the same time the biggest part of our workload slowed down. It was obvious to us that the other two MASH's were now taking patients. Things got a bit quieter in the hospital.
By 6 April 1991, we had admitted 631 patients, 449 U.S. soldiers, 170 civilians (either Iraqi, Kuwaiti, or Bedouins), and 12 EPW's*. We had seen four births and, unfortunately, eight deaths. If we included the number of out patients that were treated, our total exceeded 750 patients in 25 days. This was a tremendous number for a facility that never had more than 70 beds set up at any given time.
7 April 1991
We received orders to close the hospital in 48 hours, to pack it up and to prepare to move back to the Brigade rear area. We were all full of hope that this would be the beginning of the end of our long assignment in the Persian Gulf. At the same time, we were wary and cynical, because orders here often changed with lightning-like rapidity. We were ready to leave this part of our lives behind, but there was much work immediately ahead of us.
10 April 1991
Temper tents were disassembled and packed, and isohuts were cleaned, packed, and sealed. We ceased taking patients at 0001 hours in the morning, and awaited helicopter evacuation of our few remaining patients. This evacuation was supposed to have taken place yesterday, but severe thunderstorms and sand storms prevented it.
Repackaging our hospital for movement was an incredible amount of work, but it was speeded by the anticipation of our departure from this desolate land. We were curious how much of our hospital would return to America with us. We were told that there was a possibility either the Kuwaitis or Saudis would buy it from us.
Each piece of equipment had to be cleaned before it was packed. The desert made this job extremely difficult. No one was quite sure how we were supposed to keep sand out of our equipment and tents. Helicopters flew in and out like bees from a hive, landing empty and leaving with their human cargo strapped safely in place, constantly stirring up sand.
At 1655 hours, the 807th Surgical Hospital (Mobile Army) closed its doors for the last time. As the Chinook CH-47 helicopter took off with our last patients, a cheer went up from the staff. We had done it! Our patient care mission was complete. We totaled our figures and were stunned at the enormity of the task we had completed:
1007 patients were seen, (785 U.S. military personnel; 209 civilians - Iraqi, Kuwaiti, or Bedouins)
13 enemy prisoners of war
8 deaths at the hospital (6 children and 2 U.S. military) 4 live births (three males and one female)
Performed 122 operations, during 30 days of operation
In all, we felt this resulted in an outstanding performance under circumstances that were generously described as austere.
Without the motor pool, we wouldn't have gone anywhere. Without Med supply we couldn't have treated patients. Without the cooks, admin, general supply and all sections of the unit, we would not have been able to complete our mission.
11 April 1991
The hospital was now completely dismantled, and our advance party headed for Saudi Arabia and the 332nd Medical Brigade headquarters. Our excess medical supplies were trucked to the refugee hospital near Safwan. More than 4000 civilians were living in tents outside this war ravaged city. Physicians and nurses of the 807th voluntarily entered this area to render care in a sparse and hazardous environment, during the past three and a half weeks.
A cookout and impromptu celebration celebrated our last evening in Kuwait. Tired, but satisfied with our performance, we drifted off to our tents and a night of sleep before facing a long day in the morning.
POST-WAR PART II "People, we're this close to going home."
12 April 1991
At 1045 hours we completed our tear down, and, at long last, were headed in a convoy towards Saudi Arabia and home. We had waited for this day since the ground war ended so the mood was festive.
Emptying our twenty thousand gallon water bladder turned into a trampoline and mud wrestling contest. Flags festooned our trucks, as we waved and honked at every passing truck and humm-vee.
The most exuberant waves and most prolonged toots on the horns were saved for our sister unit, the 912th MASH, as we roared by their compound.
We arrived at the brigade compound at 2200, after 10 hours in convoy through yet another sandstorm. Some soldiers slept in tents set up by the advanced party, the rest in trucks or in the open on cots. It had been an exhausting day.
13 April 1991
We now had a new home in the desert. This was our 11th move, and we were within miles of TAA Thompson where our adventure started a lifetime ago. The best looking camp in the compound was set up, and we felt it was appropriate for the best MASH in the compound. Riders in the Storm (one of the crazy tent names that everyone seemed to have adopted) flew "Old Glory" on a long tent pole. They spotlighted it at night with a lamp that ran through the stove-hole of their GP medium tent. Ingenuity remained the byword of our existence. Even cold showers didn't dampen our spirits.
14 April 1991
Formation was at 0645. We were on the final leg of our preparations for our trip home. The milvans were opened for inspection by customs service. They were scraped, swept, and mopped to remove excess dirt and mud. Officers and the enlisted alike joined in this assault on filth.
Vehicles were scrubbed and brushed and finally washed down with high pressure hoses. The hospital equipment was inspected by the Saudi government before they purchased it. Staff members assisted with this inventory and inspection. A sigh of relief was heard as the inspection achieved passing marks. The milvans were sealed. Another step toward the journey homes was made.
15, 16, 17 April 1991
We prepared to go home. The days were filled with daily dust storms and increasing heat. Boxes became scarce. We were told the weight limit would be strictly observed on the flight home so we had to carefully pack what we wanted to take or ship it home.
20 April 1991
A red letter day. We discovered an ice house in the near by town of Hafra Al Batin. Our truck brought back 47 blocks for distribution to all the tired, hot personnel. This became a daily event. We would gladly hand over six Riyals for each block of ice. Just to have a cold Perrier was heaven!
The Perrier had been left behind by the French and was available in abundance. To see people sitting under the camo nets, with their feet in cold water, became a familiar sight. Temperatures were in the 100's.
21-25 April 1991
Members of the 807th discovered they were as good at shopping as they were operating a MASH. The towns of AL Qaysumah, Hafra and Al Batin were invaded frequently by bored soldiers with money.
This shopping exercise was attacked with equal vigor by males and females alike. Even with total disregard to a large sign posted outside the city limits that read "off limits to all military personnel." The Commander again took the hits for our misconduct, but even he was seen checking out the gold gook. For the first time in months the end was in sight. Each of us thought of loved ones as we picked and chose items to take home.
26 April 1991
Our nurse anesthetist organized the first and last run to Iraq and back 5K Fun Run. Approximately 25 runners participated. Only three females "ran" and were also included in the water fight that took place after crossing the finish line. It was a fun day and a T-shirt was designed to commemorate this auspicious event. The temperature reached 112 (F). on this day as in several preceding days. No wonder our water consumption was many liters per person per day.
27 April 1991
In spite of our desire to all return together as a unit, this was not to be. Plane schedules and space available became important. The first echelon left their last desert site for King Kalid Military City (KKMC) on the final journey home. Approximately 60 officers dismantled the tents for the last time.
After a 4-hour wait for buses that never came, we got into our own 5-ton trucks for the 3 hour trip. We left the compound for the last time happy that we were going home, but concerned for those who were staying behind. Many of those remaining were out in the black night giving us an unforgettable send off.
Soldiers lined the road, standing with their flashlights, waving a red, white and blue farewell. Again the innovative medical people came through for their fellow soldiers. This group ultimately touched U.S. land in New York in the predawn hours of April 29.
8 May 1991
The trail party (so named because they were to be the last group) left the port of Damman after delivering our trucks and equipment for shipment home. They arrived at Ft. Campbell May 9.
13,14,15 May 1991
Subsequent groups arrived at Ft. Campbell with no rhyme or reason. But at long last the 807th MASH was home. These groups entered the states by way of Philadelphia, Ft. Bragg, NC, and Ft. Hood, TX. The trip home was a unique experience for each group.
As planes touched the runways in various cities the cheers were heard from grateful and happy soldiers. We were HOME!! Our mission was complete. We were proud.
We did our job and were grateful for all this attention. The tears of welcome, the red, white and blue streamers, the flag, the yellow ribbons were outward signs of thanks for a job well done. We appreciated this out pouring of patriotism and gave thanks for the place where we lived, our families and our communities.
29 June 1991
Members of the 807th MASH assembled at the 17th street unit drill hall in Paducah, Kentucky. There were enthusiastic greetings as members saw each other. This marked the first time since April 26 that the entire unit had been together. Today was the official celebration given by the city of Paducah to welcome home the 807th MASH. But more than that "After the Storm A Celebration of the American Spirit" honored all service people from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, as well as those from previous wars.
Proudly wearing our like-new desert camo uniforms, with the American flag patch visible on the right sleeve, we stayed in formation for the dedication of the Desert Storm Memorial. This living memorial on Walter Jetton Boulevard represented the seven months we spent in the Persian Gulf.
A parade through the down town streets was reminiscent of the one months before when we left for the unknown. This time the feelings were different.
All branches of the service were represented. One of the most poignant moments occurred near the end of the parade route. Members of the 807th noticed several veterans of the Vietnam war standing at attention and saluted as the unit passed by. The honor was ours in returning the salute.
The welcome home program at Paducah Tilghman Stadium was filled with family and friends who joined all the dignitaries in saying Thank You to the troops.
Music and words of patriotism filled the air. This day was the culmination of events beginning August 2, 1990 when an aggressor crossed into a neighboring country for reasons of oppression and greed. America has always stood for freedom. Once again, we took that stand. We were there. We stood with the rest of the world, but we won't forget those who gave the greatest gift of all.
This history is dedicated to the men and women of the coalition forces who lost their lives in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.