Memphis Reads- MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea by Otto F. Apel and Pat Apel

MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea by Otto F. Apel, MD and Pat Apel, Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1998, Reviewed by Marilyn U.

In 1972, the television series M*A*S*H* premiered.  The series  was set in the Korean War that occurred 20  years earlier and is based on a novel by Richard Hooker. The novel and the TV series are based on fact. During the Korean War 1950-1953, MASH units (Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals) operated and saved lives near the front lines. This historical account, MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea is about Dr. Otto Apel’s personal and professional experiences. Dr. Apel served in the 8076th MASH unit from the summer of 1951 to the following summer.

This particular account is a revealing look at the operation of a MASH unit. Even though the group was portrayed on TV as a small group, an actual unit was much larger and during the height of the Korean War. The staff saved critically wounded soldiers for days. Many times, the staff went without sleep because of the amount of causalities.  Dr. Apel himself did not sleep for eighty hours when he first arrived at MASH 8076!  Unlike the TV series, socializing was kept to a bare minimum because of all the soldiers’ requiring surgery. MASH: An Army Surgeon in Korea draws from personal memories and army documents to recreate the 8076th MASH. Dr. Apel also reveals that some of the incidents in the TV series were based on actual events in 8076.  Dr. Apel served as consultant on the TV series. If anyone who has interest in the Korean War, this book is a solid and interesting read.