20 Gnarly Old School War Wounds

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War isn’t pretty, but sometimes you need to see the ravages of battle close up to appreciate the impact. These photos from over 100 years of war illustrate not only the grisly nature of armed conflict, but also the challenges faced by medical personnel charged with patching up soldiers and innocent bystanders caught in the line of fire — especially in the eras before advances in anesthesia, plastic surgery, amputation and modern medicine.

WARNING: not for the squeamish!

US Civil War:

Union soldier Private Benjamin Franklin of the Minnesota Cavalry, who lost all four limbs to frostbite (1865).

Union soldier Private Benjamin Franklin of the Minnesota Cavalry, who lost all four limbs to frostbite (1865).

 

Left femur of a Confederate soldier with a gunshot fracture (photo taken 1938).

Left femur of a Confederate soldier with a gunshot fracture (photo taken 1938).

 

Union soldier Carlton Burgan of Maryland's Purnell Legion, whose upper maxilla bones were destroyed by mercury poisoning from a cold drug called calomel (1862).

Union soldier Carlton Burgan of Maryland’s Purnell Legion, whose upper maxilla bones were destroyed by mercury poisoning from a cold drug called calomel (1862).

 

Amputated limbs of soldiers.

Amputated limbs of soldiers.

 

World War I:

French refugee with hand multilated by a German bomb (1918).

French refugee with hand multilated by a German bomb (1918).

 

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

 

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

The first person to receive plastic surgery, sailor Walter Yeo lost both sets of eyelids during the Battle of Jutland (1916) and was treated by Doctor Harold Gillies, the "father of plastic surgery," who became the first man to use skin grafts from undamaged areas on the body.

The first person to receive plastic surgery, sailor Walter Yeo lost both sets of eyelids during the Battle of Jutland (1916) and was treated by Doctor Harold Gillies, the “father of plastic surgery,” who became the first man to use skin grafts from undamaged areas on the body.

 

Willie Vicarage, suffering facial wounds in the Battle of Jutland, was one of the first men to receive facial reconstruction using plastic surgery.

Willie Vicarage, suffering facial wounds in the Battle of Jutland, was one of the first men to receive facial reconstruction using plastic surgery.

Side-Note: Doctor Harold Gillies created the “tubed pedicle” technique that used a flap of skin from the chest or forehead and swung it into place over the face. The flap remained attached but was stitched into a tube, keeping the original blood supply intact and dramatically reducing the infection rate.

 

Neck wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

Neck wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

 

Soldier with mustard gas burns on his back and arm.

Soldier with mustard gas burns on his back and arm.

 

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital.

 

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital (1916).

Facial wound patient of US Army dental surgeon Colonel Seibert D. Boak in a French hospital (1916).

 

World War II:

Gas gangrene patient at US military base Fort Pepperell in Canada (1943).

Gas gangrene patient at US military base Fort Pepperell in Canada (1943).

 

Left eye lost to shotgun wound. Tissue was replaced by a flap of skin from forehead or scalp.

Left eye lost to shotgun wound. Tissue was replaced by a flap of skin from forehead or scalp.

 

Sulfuric acid scars on arm of a patient at US-run 20th General Hospital in India.

Sulfuric acid scars on arm of a patient at US-run 20th General Hospital in India.

 

Patient with gunshot wound to the cranial cavity and cerebral fungus in the US-run 20th General Hospital in India.

Patient with gunshot wound to the cranial cavity and cerebral fungus in the US-run 20th General Hospital in India.

 

Korean War:

Amputated arm (1950).

Amputated arm (1950).

 

Patient suffering from hemorrhage of the eyes associated with hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), formerly Korean hemorrhagic fever.

Patient suffering from hemorrhage of the eyes associated with hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), formerly Korean hemorrhagic fever.

 

Vietnam War:

X-ray of soldier with grenade embedded in his forehead.

X-ray of soldier with grenade embedded in his forehead.

 

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