For several weeks following the identification of Captain John Mclntyre as Trapper John things settled down into an orderly routine. The work during the twelve-hour shifts was often intense, sometimes lacking, and usually somewhere in between.
Although many of the casualties were brought in from the Battalion Aid Stations by ambulance and might arrive at any hour, the most seriously wounded were flown in by helicopter. This meant that daylight was the frequent arrival time because the choppers did not fly at night. When the night shift had worked steadily from 9:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. and finally had everything cleaned up, some of its members could usually be seen as the first light of day seeped into the wide valley, peering north beyond the mine field and the river with its railroad bridge, hoping against hope that no choppers would materialize out of the mist.
When casualties were heavy, the regular schedule was ignored and every man worked as long as he could stay on his feet, think and still function. Finally, overcome by fatigue, he would grab a few hours of sleep and then go back to it again. When things were under control, however, there was leisure time and, particularly in winter and early spring, very little to do with it.
Tent Number Six, the home of Forrest, Pierce and Mclntyre, became a center of social activity. It also became known as The Swamp, partly because it looked like the kind of haunt one might come across in a bog and partly because Hawkeye Pierce, while in college and unable to afford a dormitory room, had lived just off the campus in a shanty that his classmates had called The Swamp. The words, in big capital letters—THE SWAMP—were painted in red on the door of Number Six.
Cocktail hour at The Swamp began at 4:00 p.m., the hour at which the night shift normally awakened and had a few before supper, and the hour at which the day shift, if unemployed, could begin to relax. Cocktails consisted of better booze than most of the crew had ever had at home, and martinis were a favorite, served in water glasses filled to the brim.
A frequent visitor to The Swamp parties was the Catholic chaplain of the area, Father John Patrick Mulcahy, a native of San Diego and former Maryknoll missionary. He was lean, hungry-looking, hook-nosed, red-haired, and, in the eyes of the Swampmen, one of a kind.
The occupants of The Swamp had loose religious affiliations. Hawkeye claimed he had been brought up to be an all-over Baptist but that he had lost his nerve at the last minute. Duke was a foot-washing Baptist, and Trapper John was a former mackerel-snapper who had turned in his knee pads. It was the Duke who hung the name of Dago Red on the Father, and the Father accepted it with good humor.
Prior to being in the Army, Dago Red had spent five years in China and seven years on the top of a mountain in Bolivia. His contacts had been limited. With Duke and Hawkeye and Trapper John he found stimulation in conversation that included politics, surgery, sin, baseball, literature and religion. Dago Red combined the dignity of his profession and the wisdom, understanding and compassion of an honest missionary with the ability to tolerate the Swampmen. He became one of them.
At two o’clock one morning, Hawkeye and Trapper John were fighting what seemed to be a losing battle in the OR with a kid who had been shot through both chest and belly. Despite control of hemorrhage and administration of blood, the patient, whose peritoneum had been contaminated for ten hours by spillage from his lacerated colon, went deeper and deeper into shock.
“Maybe we’d better get Dago Red,” said Hawkeye.
“Call Dago,” ordered Trapper John.
A corpsman went for him. Within minutes he appeared.
“What can I do for you fellows?” asked the Father.
“Put in a fix,” said Hawkeye. “This kid looks like a loser.”
Father Mulcahy administered the last rites. Shortly thereafter, the patient’s blood pressure rose from nowhere to 100, his pulse slowed to 90, and he went on to recover.
From then on Dago Red put in many a fix. With the Swampmen it was mostly a gag, but one they could not quite bring themselves to forgo when things were rough. As far as Red was concerned, of course, it was no joke. He spent many sleepless nights applying fixes and feeding beer, whiskey, coffee or consolation to distraught surgeons whose patients had not responded to the fix or who were waiting for the fix to take.
This was all to the good, except that Duke Forrest became somewhat bothered. Protestantism was strong in him, and close association with an accredited representative of the opposition caused occasional qualms.
“Y’all seem to be a mighty effective bead-jiggler, Dago,” he said one night, “but how do I know one of my boys couldn’t do as well?”
“I’m sure he could,” Red answered calmly.
“Tell y’all what I’m gonna do,” Duke said. “I’m gonna get Shaking Sammy to put in a fix the next time I need one,”
Shaking Sammy was the Protestant chaplain. His headquarters were in an engineering outfit down the road. He was called Shaking Sammy because he so dearly loved to shake hands. Whenever he hit the hospital, Shaking Sammy started shaking hands as soon as he came in and kept right on shaking. On one great morning, people whose hands were shaken by Sammy as soon as he entered the compound maneuvered into his path again and again as he made his rounds and shook his eager hand again and again. It took Sammy two hours to make the circle, and he had shaken hands three hundred times with fifty people.
Despite repeated warnings, Shaking Sammy also had the bad habit of writing letters home for wounded soldiers without inquiring into the nature of their wounds. One day, before Duke had a chance to invite him in for a fix, Sammy wrote a letter for a boy who died two hours later. The letter told his mother that all was well and that he’d be home soon. It had been written with no investigation of his surgical situation. The nurse had managed to see the letter, and she told Duke and Hawkeye. They escorted Shaking Sammy out of the hospital and, as he left, they shot all four tires of his jeep with their .45’s. That was the last of Shaking Sammy for a while.
“Guess I’ll have to stick with the bead-jiggler,” said the Duke that afternoon. “Do you suppose we could convert him?”
Discussion of conversion was cut short by the arrival of a chopper with two seriously wounded soldiers. One of them, it seemed clear from the wound of entrance, the distended abdomen, and the severe degree of shock, had a hole in his inferior vena cava or possibly in the abdominal aorta. Since the inferior vena cava and the abdominal aorta drain blood from and supply blood to the lower half of the body, he was not long for this world.
Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper John went to work. They got blood going, and they gave him Levophed to raise his blood pressure. Ordinarily they would have waited for things to stabilize, but now there was no time.
Ugly John Black, the anesthesiologist, placed the tube in the trachea, through which he gave and controlled the anesthesia. Hawkeye Pierce was at the knife, and in they went. They tied off the vena cava faster than would have been considered proper in civilian surgery. Hawkeye jammed a large bore needle into the aorta so that they could pump blood through the real main line.
“Get Dago Red quick,” yelled Hawkeye at the first lull.
Father Mulcahy was already entering the OR.
“What will it be, boys?” he said.
“All the Cross Action you got, plain or fancy, but make it good,” said Hawkeye.
With continued blood replacement and with Levophed, hope began to emerge from what had been desperation and chaos. The patient’s youth and vigor, plus rapid surgery and the remarkably effective Cross Action from Dago Red, added up to a virtual miracle.
Duke and Hawkeye were off duty the following Saturday night, and they had, perhaps, a few more than were necessary.
“We got to do something for Dago Red,” said Duke. “I mean to show our appreciation for all the good fixes, bead jiggling, and skillful Cross Action.”
“There’s no doubt about it,” replied Hawkeye. “Did you have anything in mind?”
“Ain’t nothing jelled exactly, but it’s gotta be something impressive.”
“How about a human sacrifice?”
“Hawkeye,” said the Duke, “y’all are purely a genius. Let’s get Shaking Sammy.”
“A wise choice,” replied the Hawk. “You get a jeep, and I’ll round up Trapper John.”
Within minutes they were streaking through the darkness down the road toward the engineer outfit where Shaking Sammy made his home. Sammy was taken in his sleep, bound, gagged and tossed into the back of the jeep.
At six o’clock on Sunday morning, as Dago Red appeared at the chaplain’s tent to conduct early Mass, a frightening sight confronted him. He saw a cross. Lashed to it was his Protestant colleague, Shaking Sammy. Surrounding him on the ground was a pile of hay, assorted flammable junk and a couple of old mattresses. Lying on the mattresses were Captains Pierce, Forrest, and Mclntyre.
“What’s going on here?” asked Father John Patrick Mulcahy.
“It’s something we gotta do,” answered Trapper John.
“You guys are drunk!” the Father bellowed.
“We had a drink or two,” the Duke said.
“Break this up before you get in trouble,” the Father said, and then he saw the fifth ’in Duke’s hand. “Give me that bottle, Duke.”
“This ain’t no bottle, Red,” said Duke, showing him the rag stuffed in the neck of the bottle. “I’m chairman of the Fiery Cross Committee, and this here’s a Molotov cocktail.”
“This is in your honor, Red,” said Hawkeye. “Step back and enjoy it. The time has come.”
He lifted a gasoline can and poured the contention the debris surrounding Shaking Sammy and some on Sammy himself. By now a crowd had gathered, sleepy, perplexed, but beginning to take interest.
“Dr. John Francis Xavier Mclntyre will say grace,” announced Hawkeye Pierce, “or whatever the hell you call it.”
“I don’t care if it rains or freezes,” intoned Trapper John, “Sammy’ll be safe in the arms of Jesus.”
Although several people lunged at the Duke, he lit the wick of the Molotov cocktail and hurled it into Shaking Sammy’s funeral pyre. Sammy screamed, and the Swampmen took off for The Swamp. As the crowd surged forward the Molotov sizzled and went out.
Pouring three shots, Hawkeye said, “You know, the silly bastard really thought it was gasoline we poured on him. After that letter and God only knows how many others he’s written, I’m kinda sorry it wasn’t.”
“This is going to mean trouble,” said Trapper John. “Nobody will put up with that kind of crap.”
“Not ordinarily,” said Hawkeye, “but we’ll get away with it.”
“Why?” asked Duke.
“Because at seven o’clock tonight three companies of Canadians are going for Hill 55. When they do, this place will be flooded with casualties. Personally, I don’t plan to work if I’m under arrest.”
“Who says?” said Trapper.
“The Canadian colonel told me last night.”
“Well, we’ll see,” said Trapper. “Barricade that door, and let’s go to bed.”
When they awakened at four o’clock in the afternoon, all was quiet. Duke peeked out the door and closed it quickly.
“What do the initials M.P. stand for?” he inquired.
“Shore Patrol,” answered Trapper John.
Hawkeye peeked through the rear of the tent and saw that the back was unguarded. He washed, combed his hair, put on clean clothes, a hat, captain’s bars and all the appurtenances of military costume he had hardly ever worn. He went under the rear tent flap, and his tentmates quickly tied things back in place. A few moments later, a smiling Captain Pierce approached the two M.P’s and returned their salutes.
“Colonel Blake says you can go back to your outfit, boys,” he told them. “It’s all blown over. You’d better get going before it’s too dark.”
The day was cold, and they took off gratefully. An hour later, after one leisurely martini apiece, the men of The Swamp strolled into the mess hall and sat down. The Colonel stared at them, spluttered, and pounded his fist on the table.
“Where are those M.P.’s?” he screamed. “You guys are confined to your tent until they come for you from Seoul.”
“Y’all mean the Shore Patrol?” asked Duke innocently.
Henry shook. His mouth moved but no words came.
“What M.P.’s, Henry?” inquired Hawkeye. “Somebody screw up? We been in bed all day. Bring us up to date.”
“Grab them!” yelled Henry, forgetting in his frenzy that no one else was present at the moment except nurses.
“Y’all heard your Cuhnnel,” said Duke to the nurses. “Grab us.”
“I’ll try anything once,” said Trapper John.
“I’m hornier than a three-balled tom cat,” agreed Hawk-eye. “Clear the tables for action.”
At this point Dago Red walked in.
“Come with me,” he ordered, pushing and shoving them out of the mess hall and herding them back to The Swamp. There, disillusioned and disappointed, he scolded, pleaded and insisted that they apologize to Shaking Sammy.
“Red,” said Hawkeye, “I’m perfectly serious now. I’m not going to apologize to Shaking Sammy. I despise quack doctors, and for the same good reasons I despise quack sky pilots and all the screwballs on the fringe of the do-gooding business. So forget it.”
Before the discussion got any further, the rumor of Canadians attacking 55 was borne out. Ambulances and helicopters disgorged dozens of wounded. The Swampmen forgot the problems arising from human sacrificial ceremonies and went to the OR. To no one’s surprise, no one tried to stop them. For the next four days they worked with little letup, and no mention was made of the sacrificial ceremony of the previous Sunday.
After five days the worst was over, the preop ward was cleaned out, and no new casualties were coming. The Swampmen had a drink at nine-thirty on a bright warm morning and put on their cleanest clothes. They borrowed handcuffs from the supply sergeant. They got three of their enlisted men friends to cuff them together and guard them with rifles. They sat huddled on the ground in front of Colonel Blake’s tent, passed a bottle back and forth, and chanted their version of “The Prisoner’s Song.”
If we had the wings of a Colonel, We’d fly to the high Pyrenees, And open an open air laundry, Specializing in Blake’s B.V.D.’s.
Colonel Blake came out to see what was going on.
“Hey, Henry!” yelled Hawkeye. “Can officers get broads into Leavenworth?”
In times of stress Colonel Blake sometimes stuttered.
“You c-c-crazy bastards, get the h-h-hell out of here. They don’t have any replacements for you, but if you don’t get out of my sight so h-h-help me C-C-Christ I’ll have you s-s-shot.”