Battlefield Angels by Scott McGaugh

From the battlefields of the American Revolution to the mountains of Afghanistan, America’s servicemen and women always have had dedicated battlefield medical personnel: medics, corpsmen, nurses, doctors, surgeons, and medical technicians. Scott McGaugh’s Battlefield Angels: Saving Lives Under Enemy Fire from Valley Forge to Afghanistan (Osprey Publishing, 272 pp., $24.95, hardcover) pays tribute to the men and women who, for generations, have fought to save the lives of American troops on battlefields across the nation and the world.

A longtime journalist, McGaugh—who is the marketing director of the USS Midway Museum—uses interviews and written first-hand accounts to present individual stories of military medical personnel from all of America’s major wars. While his main goal is to showcase their courage and honor of, McGaugh also sets out chronological accounts of the wars to demonstrate how battlefield care has evolved and greatly improved over the centuries.

Battlefield Angels features two chapters on the Vietnam War, including the story of Medical Officer Gary Kirchner’s effort to save the lives of hundreds of USS Forrestal sailors after a massive fire broke out due to the misfire of a rocket in 1967.

—Dale Sprusansky