Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mississippi MASH Hero

"When the sun goes down, the tide goes out,
The people gather 'round and they all begin to shout,
'Hey! Hey! Uncle Dud,
It's a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud.'"

During his formative years, the Colonel was a fan of the movie M*A*S*H and the television series of the same name.  Both were adaptations of a book written by H. Richard Hornberger and published under the nom de plume, Richard Hooker.  Hornberger's book was based on his own Korean War experience as a surgeon in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital -- the 8055th.

Ironically, as wildly successful as the movie and television series were, Hornberger profited little from their popularity, having sold the film rights to the story for a pittance.  And, as the left-leaning writers of the TV show increasingly used their medium as a thinly-veiled message against the Vietnam War, Hornsberger is reported to have refused to watch the show. 

The Colonel takes pride in the fact that there is a strong Mississippi connection to the M*A*S*H story -- beyond the above-quoted lyrics to the song sung by the crazy general in the first episode of Season 3, "The General Flipped at Dawn."

The commanding officer of the real MASH unit that was the inspiration for Hornberger's book, was a Mississippian by the name of Dr. Jeremiah Henry Holleman. 

Born in Hattiesburg in 1916, Dr. Holleman recieved his undergraduate degree from Millsaps College in 1939 and his medical degree from the Universities of Mississippi and Tennessee in 1943.  After surgical training at Carraway Methodist in Birmingham and The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Dr. Holleman joined the U.S. Army's 89th Infantry Division in time to participate in their assault across the Rhine in the early Spring of 1945 and the first liberation of a concentration camp.

After serving as a battlefield surgeon and witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, Dr. Holleman would have been entirely justified to have decided to sit out the next war in the civilian surgical practice he had opened in Columbus, Mississippi.  

Only he didn't.

In 1951, as the war on the Korean peninsula settled into a meat grinding impasse, Dr. Holleman rejoined the U.S. Army and was assigned as the commanding officer of the 8055th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.  Pioneering the mass casualty concept of triage, and developing new vascular surgery techniques, the 8055th was credited with saving the lives and limbs of over 5000 soldiers, with an amazing 97% survival rate. 

With the signing of the Korean Armistice in 1953, Dr. Holleman returned home to his surgical practice in Columbus, Mississippi where he served as a leading citizen and benefactor for the next half century.

Dr. Holleman, a real American Hero, died earlier this month.  He was 94.  Dr. Holleman was buried on Veterans Day in Columbus' Friendship Cemetery -- the site of the first Decoration Day (later Memorial Day) ceremony.

Entirely fitting.
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