When people think of MASH, they think of the television series that dominated the airwaves from the 1970s until the early 1980s. While this is a comedic version of a MASH facility, this is just a small peek into what a MASH or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital does.
Behind the Term MASH
The term MASH was made famous because of the movie and following television series MAS*H, which depicted life at the fictional 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, which was based on the 1968 book titled MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, written by Richard Hooker.
The term MASH stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. MASH also refers to a United States Army medical unit serving as a fully functional, life-saving hospital in a combat area of operations.
MASH units were established shortly before the Korean war and saw the light in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. Since being established then they have been in every conflict the United States was involved in, until 2006 when the Army replaced them with the Combat Support Hospital.
How was MASH used?
The idea behind the MASH unit was to treat a wounded soldier as quickly as possible, which meant they often were located near to the frontlines. The MASH unit depicted in the book and film were usually smaller than the real MASH units. The 4077th had four medical officers, around ten nurses, and 50-70 enlisted men. The 8076th, an actual MASH unit, consisted of 10 medical officers, 12 nursing officers, and 89 enlisted soldiers of different medical and non-medical specialties.
MASH units in Korea were cited for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in Korea in support of combat operations, and functioned in close support of front line units, rendering exceptional medical services.
The MASH units’ primary mission was to perform as a surgical hospital; however, the unit additionally acted as an evacuation hospital while maintaining operational efficiency. The MASH unit also functioned as the forward hospital support for front line troops and once admitted 5,674 patients and handled 244 surgical procedures all in one twenty-four hour period.
On another occasion, MASH units cared for a total of 15,000 patients during the nine months of operations, as well as rendered top-notch medical service to the United Nations Forces. Although the MASH hospital was required to operate in no less than thirteen different areas in close medical support of front line units, its effectiveness and efficiency have excelled the high standards set by the Army Medical Service.
MASH units displayed such outstanding devotion and superior performance of challenging tasks that they vastly succeeded in quality above other units with similar missions. The efficiency, effectiveness, and versatility shown by the members of the unit in the performance of their assigned tasks reflect great credit on themselves, the Army Medical Service, and the military service of the United States.
With the need for high quality, life-saving surgeons and medical teams, a MASH unit was an effective unit that put the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals on the front lines to save lives that may have otherwise perished.