The 5 Most Badass Medics in the History of War
If you could throw G.I. Joe and Dr. House in a blender together, the military medic is the delicious human smoothie you'd get as a result. While most of us require headphones to block out the slightest distractions during work, combat medics heal fellow humans while bullets and bombs try to kill them. So at the very baseline of the profession, we're talking about men and women with proverbial balls so big that their fatigues are shaped like Hammer pants.
And when we look at the ones who go above and beyond, well, we get crazy stories like ...
The Medic Who Delivered Plasma (While Delivering Bullets)
You might be picturing these combat medics pulling off the very basics while on the battlefield -- applying bandages, giving CPR, the stuff you've seen in movies. But way back in 1945, 18-year-old medic Robert Bush wasn't just giving basic care at the Battle of Okinawa, he was doing the tough stuff -- like administering blood transfusions on the battlefield. If you have a hard time imagining what a blood transfusion looks like outside a sterile hospital setting, start with this picture of another World War II medic delivering plasma to a wounded private:
Civilian entertainment was notoriously difficult to come by during World War II.
But instead of barefoot Sicilian peasants, imagine the medic is surrounded by screaming Marines fighting off Japanese combatants. And picture a gaping chest and shoulder wound in the victim, one that required an immediate plasma delivery to aid in blood coagulation. Go ahead and just picture the fiery pits of the deepest hell while you're at it, because that's the scene we're trying to paint Bush in here.
Now, if you were a Japanese soldier fighting for the empire, maybe you'd give pause when coming upon a guy so almost-dead that he's getting a blood transfusion. Maybe you'd step over him and move on to the next American. If so, good for you, but that's not how things worked at Okinawa. Hospital Apprentice First Class Bush held his blood bag with one hand, drew his pistol with the other, and, after presumably snapping off some cool one-liner like, "The doctor will see you NOW, BITCHES!" began mowing down the charging Japanese.
Rarely do things ever work out for soldiers who fight for any "empire."
Bush maintained his position, emptying his pistol into the horde before scooping up the wounded officer's rifle to continue fighting against the onslaught. He continued protecting his "patient" even after a grenade blew up near him, destroying his right eye with shrapnel.
In his own words:
"They got me. The first grenade took my eye out, and I put my arm up to hold it off, and got some fragments in the other eye. Got a lot in my eye and shoulders. They hit me with three hand grenades in a matter of seconds. I was firing on them with carbine. Every time I saw a Japanese head pop up, I could see the star on their helmets, I'd fire one round a foot below where I saw that head come up, because I knew I couldn't miss, I'd get 'em on the way down."
When in doubt, aim for the dick.
In the most badass display of bedside manner ever, Bush stayed right at the wounded man's side until the man was finally evacuated. Then he calmly made his way back to the battle aid station, where he promptly passed out.
The Medic Who Hulked Out on the Enemy
For 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound Idaho farm boy David Bleak, the U.S. intervention in the Korean War wasn't just a chance to get off the potato farm and see the world, it was an opportunity to demonstrate the fact that he was secretly goddamned Captain America (or Sergeant America, whatever).
In 1952, Bleak volunteered to be a part of a 20-member reconnaissance team with the mission of capturing a Chinese prisoner of war for interrogation. Little did anyone in the group know that they were walking into Ambush Mountain, which would have been really helpful information in retrospect. After the patrol's first ambush, Bleak did his job as a medic -- tending wounds, tying tourniquets, casting healing spells, all that. His team pressed on, only to find a second ambush waiting in the trenches. And it was during that second ambush when something snapped. It was almost like he said, "Ambush us once, I'll tend wounds and do my job. Ambush us twice, I'll FUCKING RIP YOUR THROATS OUT THROUGH YOUR EAR HOLES."
That's the sort of realistic nuance you just don't get from reruns of M*A*S*H.
Bleak went full berserker mode. The enemy troops watched the American medic jump into the trench and go on a rampage with his bare hands, breaking the neck of one guy and crushing the windpipe of another. Then he fully secured his place in the nightmares of any enemy onlookers by plunging his one weapon, a trench knife, in the chest of a third. And he wasn't done.
After sending three enemies to that great trench in the sky, Bleak's Spidey senses told him a grenade was on its way. Did he run? No. Did he attempt to meet it in the air so he could throw it into outer space? Probably. But when that didn't work, he simply used his own hulking monster truck of a body to shield his closest comrade.
Bleak, seen here taking a break from deflecting grenades by flexing his abs.
Still alive, somehow, his blood-rage temporarily satisfied, Bleak transformed back into a medic and continued patching up the wounded, even ignoring his own bullet wound while taking care of buddies. And for him, "caring for the wounded" meant shoulder-hauling a fellow soldier who was too injured to walk. Remember, this was an Idaho boy who was not only high on adrenaline but probably excited about carrying something that felt a little like a sack of potatoes.
It was at this point that two dumbasses attacked Bleak with fixed bayonets. Bleak grabbed them both and smacked their heads together, Three Stooges-style. Hey, we weren't there -- this is what witnesses swear happened, and we won't doubt them. Mainly because we don't want this guy's ghost to come back and beat the shit out of us.
The Medic Who Didn't Let Paralysis Get Him Down
When Gary Beikirch joined the Green Berets in the mid-'60s, he knew exactly what he was getting into. Joining the military in 1967 was like walking into a Porta-Potty on the second day of a music festival -- you know you're going to see some shit.
Beikirch was part of a special forces team paired with indigenous Vietnamese allies called the Montagnards, and on April 1, 1970, Beikirch's camp came under a massive assault from the North Vietnamese. After first checking to make sure this wasn't a tasteless April Fool's Day prank, Beikirch got straight to work, only his work commute required crossing a live battlefield to reach fallen soldiers. Before he could even get to the first injured Green Beret, Beikirch's back was hit with a sliver of shrapnel and he was partially paralyzed.
Which finally relieved that itch in his boot.
Soooo, game over, right? If the medic needs a medic, it's time to go home. At the very least, wait out the battle and hope backup arrives before another bomb kills you altogether. But not if you're Sgt. Gary Beikirch.
He was partially paralyzed, yes, but helpless, no. Beikirch rounded up a few Montagnard assistants to carry him around on a litter so he could give medical attention to the other wounded men. And please remember they were still under fire this whole time -- he got shot in the side while giving mouth to mouth and took another bullet in the stomach later. And he kept doing his job, from a stretcher, with two bullets and a hunk of shrapnel in his body.
Merely a flesh wound.
For his heroism, Beikirch earned the Medal of Honor from President Nixon and the lifelong respect of anyone who's called in sick over a sniffly nose. The best news of all is that after six months of recovery in Japan, Beikirch was not only able to walk again but went on to spend 20 years on a completely different battleground -- serving as a counselor at a middle school.
The 21-Year-Old Air Rescue Superman
William Pitsenbarger wasn't just a medic and an airman, he was a member of the Air Force's Pararescue team, the guys who fly down from the sky to save military asses. By age 21, Bill, or "Pits" as he was known to his friends, had flown almost 300 rescue missions in Vietnam. Just compare that to the one thing you'd done at least 300 times by age 21 (yes, "masturbating" is the answer).
We also would have accepted "posting racist comments on YouTube."
On April 11, 1966, Pits and his crew were dispatched to an area just east of Saigon where a small platoon of American troops had just been ambushed. His mission was to extract wounded infantry and provide medical assistance to the 20 or so who were left fighting. Since the fighting was taking place in the jungle, there was no place for the helicopters to land, so Pits lowered himself down into the bullet storm via a casualty basket and began getting shit done. He quickly tended to the nine wounded, patching them up the best he could, chucking them in the basket, and raising them up into the chopper. When it came time for him to go up himself, Pits refused to hop in, deciding that the extra space in the helicopter could be better used to cram in more wounded.
When the choppers came back to get him, one of them was damaged by small-arms fire as it was lowering a cable down. The engine immediately began losing power, and Pits, after presumably weighing the risks of dangling from a rope under a several-ton, sputtering, rotary-winged bullet magnet, decided to take his chances in the middle of the raging battle and, for the second time, waved the chopper away.
"If I wanted a vehicle that was full of holes, I'd go see After Earth again!"
Over the next couple of hours, Pits tended to the wounded, and when medical supplies began to run short, he got creative. Did a soldier have a broken arm? Pits splinted him up with some snarled vines. Did somebody need a stretcher? Pits hacked up saplings and used them to spirit the incapacitated men to safety.
Unfortunately, he was killed in action by sniper fire in the night. When his body was found the next morning, he was clutching a rifle in one hand and a medical kit in the other.
The Medic Who Walked into Hell
Louis Richard Rocco, like everyone else on this list, was used to doing his job under conditions that would reduce the rest of us to a puddle of tears and urine. And when he volunteered to help evacuate wounded Vietnamese allies by helicopter, he knew the mission wouldn't be all sunshine and cupcakes. He probably also knew there was a chance his helicopter would come under fire from the enemy, which it did. Rocco, drawing on all his years of medical training and experience, hopped on the chopper's machine gun and began laying down accurate, deadly fire around the landing zone. But it was too late, the aircraft was destined for a crash landing. Thank God there was a medic on board!
After the crash, Rocco looked around. The pilot was shot in the leg, the co-pilot's arm was hanging off, the other survivors were unconscious, and the helicopter was on fire. Oh, and Rocco himself had a fractured wrist, broken hip, and fucked-up back. And they had crash landed within range of enemy fire. These are the kinds of challenges most of us do not have to overcome during an average work day.
So Rocco got to work. He figured providing medical attention would be pretty impossible post cremation, so the first order of business was getting everyone out of the flaming helicopter. Rocco snatched up the pilot and dragged him to the relative safety of a fallen tree about 20 yards away. Then the Forrest Gump inside of him flared up and he ran back through the hail of enemy gunfire to the helicopter, picked up the co-pilot, and carried him to the tree as well. The call of Bubba echoing in his soul, he made the hellacious trip two more times, despite suffering severe burns on his hands and face from the burning chopper, carrying the crew chief and the other medic across open ground to safety before they burned alive.
After every member of the crew was out of immediate danger, Rocco finally gave his body permission to pass out from the burns, broken bones, and sheer heroin-like high of his own adrenaline. He not only lived through the nightmare, but was awarded a Medal of Honor for his trouble.
If you thought the ladies loved the Medal of Honor and wartime heroics, just wait till they find out you're in a Cracked article.
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