Shadows on the Track: Australia's Medical War in Papua 1942-1943

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Media: BOOK - hardcover, 396 pages
Author: J. McLeod
Year: 2019
ISBN: 9781925675900
Other: b&w photos, maps, appendixes, bibliog, index
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing

At Templeton’s Crossing in October 1942, Private Nick Kennedy paused to write in his diary: ‘One wonders why all this strife should be … these men in the prime of their life cut down like flowers’. As a young nursing orderly serving with the 2/4th Australian Field Ambulance, Kennedy was unenviably well-placed to reflect on the futility of war.

The Australian Army was woefully unprepared to fight a medical war in Papua and the soldiers paid the price. Almost 30,000 soldiers suffered from illness and tropical diseases, and an estimated 6000 were killed or wounded during the six-month campaign. These statistics have traditionally been represented as unavoidable consequences of fighting a war in a place such as Papua. This book disputes that narrative. Death and disease were inevitable outcomes, but the scale of the suffering was not. The medical challenges presented in Papua were extreme – they were not insurmountable.

'Shadows on the Track' considers a wide range of issues that impacted on the health of the Australian soldiers before, during and after the Papuan campaign was fought and won. The strengths, successes, shortcomings and failures of the medical campaign are identified, analysed and evaluated. The focus on the front-line medical personnel – the men of the field ambulance units – brings a new perspective to the battles of the Kokoda Track, Milne Bay and the Beachheads. Shining a light on these Australians who tended the sick, mended the wounded and buried the dead in Papua makes stepping out of the shadows a little easier.

Abreviations and Acronyms
A Note on Terminology
Introduction: 'A History of Problems'
1. Foundations, Explorations, Altercations
2. Leadership, Middle East, Lessons
3. Medical Arrangements in Papua
4. The Papuan Campaign Begins
5. Medical Care During the Australian Withdrawal
6. Milne Bay
7. Goodenough Island and Milne Bay
8. Medical Care during the Australian Advance
9. Ongoing Challenges on the Kokoda Track
10. Soputa
11. The Beachhead Battles and Victory
12. Year's End at Port Moresby
13. One wonders why all this strife should be'
Appendix 1. AIF and AAMC Field Ambulance Units
Appendix 2. CMF/Militia
Appendix 3. Casualties evacuated from Kokoda area by No. 2 Light Section 14th Field Ambulance in 24 hours to midnight 9 September 1942
Appendix 4. 2/6th Field Ambulance MDS Myola 2
Appendix 5. Overview of Medical Units and Facilities in Papuan Campaign 1942

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Shadows on the Track: Australia's Medical War in Papua 1942-1943


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