Feb 16 2011

On This Day in History February 16

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 16 is the 47th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 318 days remaining until the end of the year (319 in leap years).

On this day in 2006, the last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is decommissioned by the United States Army. The Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) refers to a United States Army medical unit serving as a fully functional hospital in a combat area of operations. The units were first established in August 1945, and were deployed during the Korean War and later conflicts.

The MASH unit was conceived by Michael E. DeBakey and other surgical consultants as the “mobile army surgical hospital.” Col. Harry A. Ferguson, the executive officer of the Tokyo Army Hospital, also aided in the establishment of the MASH program. It was an alternative to the system of portable surgical hospitals, field hospitals, and general hospitals used during World War II. It was designed to get experienced personnel closer to the front, so that the wounded could be treated sooner and with greater success. Casualties were first treated at the point of injury through buddy aid, then routed through a battalion aid station for emergency stabilizing surgery, and finally routed to the MASH for the most extensive treatment. This proved to be highly successful; it was noted that during the Korean War, a seriously wounded soldier that made it to a MASH unit alive had a 97% chance of survival once he received treatment.

The MASH unit made its way into popular culture through the 1968 novel M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker, the 1970 feature film based on the novel, and the long-running television sitcom (1972-1983) based on the movie. A 1953 film, Battle Circus, also took place at a MASH.

MASH units continued to serve in various conflicts including the Vietnam War. In October 1990 the 5th MASH, 44th Medical Brigade, XVIIIth AirBorne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, deployed to Saudi Arabia and was the first fully functional Army Hospital in country. This unit moved forward six times, always as the first up hospital for the region. In March 1991 the 5th MASH was operationally attached to the 24th Infantry Division to provide forward surgical care (often right on the front battle lines) to the combat units that attacked the western flank of Iraqi Army. In March 1991, the 159th MASH of the Louisiana Army National Guard operated in Iraq in support of the 3rd Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

In 1997, the last MASH unit in South Korea was deactivated. A deactivating ceremony was held in South Korea, which was attended by several members of the cast of the M*A*S*H television series, including Larry Linville (who played Frank Burns), and David Ogden Stiers, (who played Charles Winchester). MASH units have since been replaced by the U.S. Army’s Combat Support Hospitals.

Worldwide, the last MASH unit was deactivated on October 16, 2006. The 212th MASH – based in Miesau Ammo Depot, Germany – was the first U.S. Army hospital established in Iraq in 2003, supporting coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was the most decorated combat hospital in the U.S. Army, with 28 Campaign streamers on the organizational colors. The 212th MASH’s last deployment was to Pakistan to support the 2005 Kashmir earthquake relief operations. The U.S. State Department bought the MASH’s tents and medical equipment, owned by the DoD, and donated the entire hospital to the Pakistani military, a donation worth $4.5 million.

The 212th MASH’s unit sign now resides at the Army Medical Department’s Museum in San Antonio, Texas.


Out of necessity, the “4077th MASH” unit depicted in the television series was considerably smaller than many of the MASH units deployed by the United States in the Korean War. In the series, about four surgeons depicted as being assigned to the unit, the administrative staff consists of the C.O. and his assistant, and few soldiers were shown to be present. By comparison, the 8063rd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital had personnel including twelve nurses, eighty-nine enlisted soldiers of assorted medical and non-medical specialties, one Medical Service Corps (MSC) officer, one Warrant Officer and ten other commissioned officers of assorted specialties. On one occasion, the unit handled over 600 casualties in a 24 hour period.

 116 – Emperor Trajan sends laureatae to the Roman Senate at Rome on account of his victories and being conqueror of Parthia.

1249 – Andrew of Longjumeau is dispatched by Louis IX of France as his ambassador to meet with Mongol Khagan of the Mongol Empire.

1646 – Battle of Torrington, Devon – the last major battle of the first English Civil War.

1742 – Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, becomes British Prime Minister.

1804 – First Barbary War: Stephen Decatur leads a raid to burn the pirate-held frigate USS Philadelphia.

1852 – Studebaker Brothers wagon company, precursor of the automobile manufacturer, is established.

1859 – The French Government passes a law to set the A-note above middle C to a frequency of 435 Hz, in an attempt to standardize the pitch.

1862 – American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant captures Fort Donelson, Tennessee.

1866 – Spencer Compton Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington becomes British Secretary of State for War.

1868 – In New York City the Jolly Corks organization is renamed the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

1899 – President of France Felix Faure dies in office.

1899 – Knattspyrnufelag Reykjavikur Iceland’s first football club is founded.

1918 – The Council of Lithuania unanimously adopts the Act of Independence, declaring Lithuania an independent state.

1923 – Howard Carter unseals the burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

1934 – The Austrian Civil War ends with the defeat of the Social Democrats and the Republican Schutzbund.

1934 – Commission of Government is sworn in as form of direct rule for the Dominion of Newfoundland.

1936 – Elections bring the Popular Front to power in Spain.

1937 – Wallace H. Carothers receives a United States patent for nylon.

1940 – World War II: Altmark Incident: The German tanker Altmark is boarded by sailors from the British destroyer HMS Cossack. 299 British prisoners are freed.

1943 – World War II: Red Army troops re-enter Kharkov.

1945 – World War II: American forces land on Corregidor Island in the Philippines.

1957 – The “Toddlers’ Truce”, a controversial television close down between 6.00pm and 7.00pm is abolished in the United Kingdom.

1959 – Fidel Castro becomes Premier of Cuba after dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown on January 1.

1960 – The U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton begins Operation Sandblast, setting sail from New London, Connecticut, to begin the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe.

1961 – Explorer program: Explorer 9 (S-56a) is launched.

1961 – The DuSable Museum of African American History is chartered.

1962 – Flooding in the coastal areas of West Germany kills 315 and destroys the homes of about 60,000 people.

1968 – In Haleyville, Alabama, the first 9-1-1 emergency telephone system goes into service.

1978 – The first computer bulletin board system is created (CBBS in Chicago, Illinois).

1983 – The Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria and South Australia kill 75.

1985 – Hezbollah is founded.

1986 – The Soviet liner MS Mikhail Lermontov runs aground in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand.

1987 – The trial of John Demjanjuk, accused of being a Nazi guard dubbed “Ivan the Terrible” in Treblinka extermination camp, starts in Jerusalem.

1991 – Nicaraguan Contras leader Enrique Bermúdez is assassinated in Managua.

1993 – Western Australia’s and Australia’s first female Premier, Carmen Lawrence, is voted out of office.

1998 – China Airlines Flight 676 crashes into a road and residential area near Chiang Kai-shek International Airport in Taiwan, killing all 196 aboard and six more on the ground.

1999 – In Uzbekistan, a bomb explodes and gunfire is heard at the government headquarters in an apparent assassination attempt against President Islom Karimov.

1999 – Across Europe, Kurdish rebels take over embassies and hold hostages after Turkey arrests one of their rebel leaders, Abdullah Ocalan.

2005 – The Kyoto Protocol comes into force, following its ratification by Russia.

2005 – The National Hockey League cancels the entire 2004-2005 regular season and playoffs, becoming the first major sports league in North America to do so over a labor dispute.

2006 – The last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is decommissioned by the United States Army.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day:

         o Abda of Edessa

         o Elias and companions

         o Gilbert of Sempringham

         o Juliana of Nicomedia(Catholic Church)

         o Onesimus

         o February 16 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Kim Jong-il’s Birthday (North Korea)

   * Restoration of Lithuania’s Statehood Day, celebrate the independence of Lithuania from Russia and Germany in 1918 (Lithuania)


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  1. TMC

    We continue to repeat it.

    Through early morning fog I see

    visions of the things to be

    the pains that are withheld for me

    I realize and I can see…


    That suicide is painless

    It brings on many changes

    and I can take or leave it if I please.

    I try to find a way to make

    all our little joys relate

    without that ever-present hate

    but now I know that it’s too late, and…


    The game of life is hard to play

    I’m gonna lose it anyway

    The losing card I’ll someday lay

    so this is all I have to say.


    The only way to win is cheat

    And lay it down before I’m beat

    and to another give my seat

    for that’s the only painless feat.



    The sword of time will pierce our skins

    It doesn’t hurt when it begins

    But as it works its way on in

    The pain grows stronger…watch it grin, but…


    A brave man once requested me

    to answer questions that are key

    ‘is it to be or not to be’

    and I replied ‘oh why ask me?’

    ‘Cause suicide is painless

    it brings on many changes

    and I can take or leave it if I please.

    …and you can do the same thing if you choose.

  2. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    the MASH units are now superseded by what is called CP DEPMEDS (I forget the exact origin of the acronym, but part of it has to do with deployable medical structures).  These are essentially semi trailer sized shipping containers preloaded with most supplies that are not perishable, and are available for prepo (prepositioning) near the theatres wherein they might be needed.  Generally, seven containers comprise a standard hospital, but fewer can be deployed for lesser needs, and more for greater capacity.  

    How do I know this?  Well, in a former life I used to “own” them, in that I ran chemical, biological, and nuclear defense operations at a major Army facility after I graduated from the pyrotechnics job.  We stored and maintained several of these assemblies, ready to send them at any time.  The nice thing about them is that they are modular, have dedicated generators and HEPA air filters to assist with sterile fields, and are of standard size so that they can be loaded onto large transport aircraft (our facility was less than an hour away from a large Air Force base) and moved within only a day or two to anywhere they were needed.

    The shipping containers are actually part of the erected structures, acting a fixtures for the HEPA filters and air handling units.  Once they are deployed, all that is needed are a crew to configure them, medical personnel to staff them, and perishable items like drugs and IV fluids to be added.  Pretty neat, and from the ground in the USA to the field just about anywhere, depending on the logistics of configuring them and staffing them, can be ready to go in just a few days.  Conversely, they break down quickly and can be moved much faster than the traditional MASH units.

    Warmest regards,


  3. TMC

    They were used in the Pakistan/Kashmir earthquake and ther is a 12 bed unit still working in Haiti

    The one in Haiti has two operating rooms, pro-op, post-op, ICU, pharmacy, sterilization unit and 200 med/surgical beds  

  4. TMC

    we had converted several shipping container to OR’s. We do it all the time. 😉

  5. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    They are designed to be driven to the field and set up as sort of an ambulance that expands into an emergency operating room.  I used to tour the public through them.  How far I have fallen!

    The difference, acutally differences, are that CP DEPMEDS is intended to be a permanent, for months or more of use, and the other one is intended to be used on site for only days, or at most, weeks.  The inflatable one fits onto the back of a HUMVEE, so it is by design to be more emergency triage and treatment, but the other one is meant to be used as a proper hospital.

    Both of these are extremely expensive, for several reasons.  First, if you are selling things to the government, bump up your price by double.  If it is for the military, triple it!  They are slow to pay, but they ALWAYS pay.

    The inflatable one is fine for a few days, and if nothing better is forthcoming, is still good.  But if you need a proper hospital, SP DEPMEDS is a much better choice.

    Finally, try maintaining them!  Since they are sort of vacuumed packed, you have to have a full crew of around 10 folks for CP DEPMEDS, and three or so for the other one.  It takes over a week to maintain one set of CP DEPMEDS, and that has to be done annually at a minimum.  Since the blowers keep the other one erect, we are looking at at least every six months for it.  When I “owned” then, my crews were paid by other military entities by the use of what is called a PRON, so my folks were always paid properly, and it did not go into my overhead budget.

    As a matter of fact, as long as I worked for the Army, years and years, I do not remember a single hour that I charged to overhead whislt I was in the development process, except for special requests for my time by management.  Both my group and myself were just about completely self supporting.

    Warmest regards,


  6. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    that indicated Pine Bluff Arsenal?  That is where many of them are stored.

    Warmest regards,


  7. TMC

    These were shipping containers that were in Haiti being used for storage.  

  8. TMC

    specifically for MSF. The hospital has been up now for a year, no problems.

    I work in disaster ares like Haiti were everything has been destroyed. It’s usually me, a logistician/physician assistant and if I’m real lucky a nurse practioner and thousands of patients. The US military has come to MSF for advice in Pakistan and in Haiti.

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