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Artifact Friday: Portable Surgical Suction Apparatus

Updated: Dec 1, 2023



Did you know that the phrase, “Bugging out” was first used with the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals?

Why? Because they had to pick up and move out or “bug out” so fast due to tense combat situations.

Thus as a result the title of our Artifact Friday reflects this phrase, and this blog will give you a peek into one of the museum’s MASH artifacts.

Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals became more well known after the famous 1970s television series titled M*A*S*H which is based loosely around MASH unit 8055.

This unit was stationed close to the enemy lines, in fact on the 38th Parallel between North and South Korea.

When the MASH units first started, they were limited to sixty beds per unit, and in Korea, there were seven MASH units in total. Do the math. With the number of casualties coming in every day, the bed count increased from sixty to two hundred shortly.

MASH units were some of the first to evaluate new theories in combat medical care including artificial kidneys, cold weather treatment, and even vascular repair.

The MASH units themselves were so effective that the casualty rate dropped from 4.5 % in World War Two to 2.5 % in Korea.

One of the tools that made MASH units so effective was the portable surgical suction apparatus. It could be run off of military generators or batteries and was easily operated in fast-paced environments.

This item was used during surgeries to suck out fluid such as mucus or blood from the airways or even from the wound area clearing the way for the surgeon to work.

Our museum happens to be home to a working Korea/Vietnam area MASH surgical suction apparatus which has been in our collection for about five years.

While we are not willing to test it on any of our employees, we are planning to have a better exhibit in which to display it sometime shortly!


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