Emergency War Surgery for the Combat Physician – a Book Review

I was contacted by a newly established publishing company that plans to cater their products to the prepping community. This is the same company that brought Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart to print.

I was asked if I’d like to review Emergency War Surgery. Why wouldn’t I? But the crux of this post is less about the content of the book and more about whether the “average” prepper needs a book like this, a question I’ll pose to you, but first – let’s discuss the contents.

This is a book that can be found in .pdf version, but I’ve always maintained that if it’s a SHTF preparedness book that’s worth having, there’s no way I’m going to have it in .pdf. Paperback for the win! Paperback books are grid down EMP-proof, and they’re FAR easier to read.

The book builds off the 1988 version, updates it with new information and practices. The book states:

This edition contains new material that updates the management of war wounds and is filled with over 150 specially drawn illustrations. Equally important is the use of an outline, bulleted format that is so much more concise than the verbosity of the previous editions. Our intent is that if given a choice of bringing a single book on a rapid or prolonged deployment, today’s military surgeon would choose this edition over any other trauma book.

It’s true, the book is very reader friendly. It’s written for a combat physician with medical language, but it’s not so foreign that it reads like Latin. Someone with a basic understanding of medical principles (or someone that had to come up to speed real fast) could understand the content with little difficulty. The convenient images also help.

Here are the book’s chapters: Weapons Effects, Levels of Medical Care, Triage, Aeromedical Evacuation, Airway/Breathing, Hemorrhage Control, Shock and Resuscitation, Vascular Access, Anesthesia, Infections, Critical Care, Damage Control Surgery, Face and Neck Injuries, Ocular Injuries, Head Injuries, Thoracic Injuries, Abdominal Injuries, Genitourinary Tract Injuries, Gynecological Trauma and Emergencies, Wounds and Injuries of the Spinal Column and Cord, Pelvic Injuries, Soft-Tissue Injuries, Extremity Fractures, Open-Joint Injuries, Amputations, Injuries to the Hand and Feet, Vascular Injuries, Burns, Environmental Injuries, Radiological Injuries, Biological Warfare, Chemical Injuries, Pediatric Care, and Care of Enemy Prisoners of War/Internees (and 3 appendices).

Now the crux of this post – does the average prepper even need a book like this?

Clearly there will be no easy answer as it depends on how you define “average prepper” and what he/she anticipates as legitimate threats. My view is – sure, why not? Knowledge is power! It always has been, it always will be. If SHTF and I suddenly find myself throwing lead at zombie biker gangs that fire back, am I just going to whoop this book out and suddenly be able to perform surgery on the guy next to me? Hell no (though I did buy a military medical surgical kit – seemed like a logical purchase to supplement the book).

What this book does provide is a resource. Maybe I don’t or won’t have the skill set needed to perform all of the procedures outlined in the book WTSHTF, but maybe the person next to me is a general practitioner with no surgical experience. Think the book would help him/her? Obviously. Maybe the person next to me is a veterinarian. In the absence of anyone else, that veterinarian is suddenly doctor for all. Think the book would help him or her? You bet.

Besides, think of absolute worst case scenario, my homeboy had his arm blown off by human cockroaches moving north to Maine to escape the mayhem in the south. Would I rather help him with the information in this book – or without?

What do you think? Are books like this worth the purchase?

– Ranger Man

18 comments… add one
  • gat31 August 10, 2011, 9:18 am

    Ranger, my brother in law took an EMT/firefighter course. Since he is in my group, l made sure to get blood pressure kit, gloves, bandages,and looking for a field suture kit. l think a book like this would be awesome.
    If the SHTF situation is like London right now and it’s not really safe to travel out but you got hurt trying to get home or in an explosion, this (book) might keep you alive and safe until it is safe to get to a hospital.
    If the SHTF situation is like “The Book of Eli” Where there’s nothing out there to get to, this book would be golden. Or, what if you’re out in your BOL and you trip in a hole and fall , maybe on your axe or, like my ex husband, with a chainsaw running, and nick your leg and a hospital is 21 miles away in town. This might mean the difference of losing the leg or not. (He got lucky and nicked his leg but is fine) So should a modern prepper have this book? I would say yes any knowledge source is good to have.

  • Spook45 August 10, 2011, 9:46 am

    These books are absolutly worth your while. I have on MULTIPLE occasions sewd myself up and tended to various injuries that I had no choice but to deal with. MY favorite books are the Ditch Medicine series. They have books and video and very comprehensive in nature. An FYI, there are also some pretty extensive training videos on Youtube from the Army’s distance learning training systems that one can learn a lot from . For example, Tension Pneumothorax(sucking chest wound) how to insert a chest needle for ventalation of the tesion so one can breath again. THe videos are sometimes put out by the companies that make the products as it is in this case. The companie that makes the chest needles puts out a training video for them and it is on youtube. Its very simple if one can assess the situation and focus, not panic and do the right things. This is very often the difference in who survives and who becomes a casualty. While cool headedness can not be taught, it becomes more natural when one has the skills to know what to do. This inspires confidence and helps to calm under stress. The books are a valuable resource.

  • Templar August 10, 2011, 10:11 am

    In the not-too-distant future, in a truly post-SHTF world, ANY book teaching ANY skill that you don’t know is worth it. Think: no internet, no libraries, no one to call & no way to do it anyway. Accumulate the books now, and remember, electronic records are fragile.

  • millenniumfly August 10, 2011, 10:12 am

    I would venture to say that not only does the average prepper NOT need a book like this, they are more likely to do more harm than good with it. The ONLY reason I would consider this book as a library addition is if I expected to have a doctor around or someone potentially qualified (with the equipment) to use it. IMO, the average prepper should stick to that which he can competently do.

    • irishdutchuncle August 10, 2011, 11:00 am

      if you do nothing, one of your loved ones may die. OTOH, concepts which you can learn from a book, may help you save her life, eventhough you weren’t “competent” to do anything.

      you will never gain competency without some effort, and practice.

      i’m not “qualified” to repair my own car. would you suggest i never try to fix anything? i’ve been working on my own cars for thirty-six years, because otherwise i’d have to stand and wait for the bus. (the bus/the doctor aren’t coming)

    • Ragnar Tampan August 10, 2011, 2:04 pm

      Millenniumfly – think back to the 19th century. Our ancestors had to deal with gunshot wounds, stone tipped arrow wounds, gorings by Texas longhorns, etc. WTSHTF there will be millions of neophites swinging axes, trying to run chainsaws and a whole bunch of trigger happy home defenders and first time hunters. I think we’d be better off with a modern day veterinary assistant with this book and a modern med kit than with an 1840’s barber surgeon that didn’t even know of the existence of microbes. IMO, all true preppers need to think out of the box because the box is being shredded to bits. Tomorrow is not going to be like yesterday.

  • GoneWithTheWind August 10, 2011, 11:16 am

    Yes and no. In a post SHTF situation you may well have to be your own doctor and any qualified advice and experience will be a big help. But it is likely that if you have to “operate” that the patient is already in big trouble and you the surgeon are in way over your head. But as I said, you may have no other choice but don’t assume having this book means you will succeed or that your odds are better. Good surgeons are like fighter pilots; bold, self confident, intelligent and highly trained. You don’t become a good surgeon or even a passable surgeon by reading a book. I would prefer a good nurse; someone dedicated and willing to take care of a sick or injured person and do the grunt work necessary to allow the body to recover. Yes I know if you are shot and bleeding to death you need surgery but what I’m saying is in that situation without a modern hospital you are probably a casuality. It is more likely that someone in your family will need nursing then surgery and far more likely that nursing will be successful when that is what is required then surgery by amateurs.

  • Jarhead Survivor August 10, 2011, 11:20 am

    I’d say this would be a good addition to the survivalist’s library. I already have, “Where there is no Doctor.” Maybe this one could be called, “When there’s no Surgeon.”

    I agree with Irish in the above comment. If there’s no doctor around and you’ve got someone with a bullet in them that is certainly going to die if you don’t intervene, will you just sit there scared or will you crack open the book and see if there’s something you can do to help?

    If it was me with the bullet I hope someone would take a stab at it at least. A 2% chance is better than nothing at all.

    Thanks for the link to the kit too. I bought one.

    • irishdutchuncle August 10, 2011, 12:03 pm

      i’m not going to crack open the book, after someone already has a “sucking chest wound”. i will have skimmed it a few times, so i have an idea where to look.

      i’m not “qualified” with my firearms either. i know enough to pick one up, and use it for its intended purpose. there are those who would deny me self defense, because i don’t go to the range frequently, and practice. (when seconds count, the police are only minutes away)

  • Steelhart August 10, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I’d say to add this to your library but don’t make it a first line priority on your medical list (maybe not even a second line). I’m going to add it to my Amazon Wish List and will probably add it to an order at some point. I also added Ditch Medicine to my list as that looks good.

    Personally I’m comfortable with basic first aid but do know my limits. However, take this book and put it into the hands of someone with medical training (like my buddy who was an Army medic and is currently an experienced nurse) and it becomes very useful. Especially if it’s combined with some basic surgical tools.


  • mountainspirit August 10, 2011, 1:13 pm

    I work in the lower end of the medical field, and I’ll tell you straight up any book that will build your knowledge is worth having. I am not a nurse or a doctor, but I have oodles of nursing, assesment, medical books. One book that I hold dearly is my Taber’s dictionary. When I first started in the medical field I knew absolutely nothing, within 6 months I had a very good understanding of medical knowledge and now several years later, doctors and nurses come to me and ask my of my view points when it comes to medical matters with my patients. Do I know everything, absolutely not. I learn something new on a daily basis, but I would have never had a clue if I would have never picked up my first medical book and started reading. All knowledge is good knowledge whether you ever have to actually use it or not. So ya, I’m all for Emergency War Surgery book.

  • YukonBry August 10, 2011, 2:31 pm

    I printed the thing off years agao and put it in a three-ring binder. It’s there in case I really really need it — just like the surgery kit I have. I consider both a bit too advanced for a layman like myself. But they are just what you need to turn ANY doctor you might find into an emergency field surgeon. When shtf, you may not have a qualified surgeon show up among the hordes. But there’s liable to be a wandering podiatrist, psychiatrist, pediatrician, etc. nearby. Give them the book and the scalpels and tell them they are now the camp physician.

    For the layman, I much prefer The Ship Captain’s Medical guide; also free for download. It’s written for British maritime officers who might find themselves having to do emergency procedures at sea. The writer presumes a certain degree of education in the reader, but it’s nothing that a person with intelligence and some manual dexterity can’t utilize.

  • JohnDoe1999 August 10, 2011, 6:14 pm

    Save your money folks, you can get the pdf for free, and if you want a hard copy, do what I do: have it printed and binded. I’ve had this book for a while. It’s an excellent resource and is obviously far more informative than the Army First Aid Field Manual, it doesn’t just tell you what to do but WHY and it has a wealth of information from studies regarding combat injury. I don’t remember where I downloaded this, but be advised everybody, nearly all of my collection was downloaded off http://www.scribd.com It’s linked to Facebook so if you have a facebook account you can log in with it. You get 1 free document, then it has a trade option to avoid subscription; just upload the document you downloaded for free and voila, you get another. Also, I published this 19 June 2011 so it’s on there for sure.

    • T.R August 11, 2011, 12:04 am

      Only problem with this is that like so many sites , they require you to have a Facebook account .For those of us that refuse to get involved with ( intrusive , and fluffy ) social media sites , this is of no value .

      • JohnDoe1999 August 11, 2011, 12:35 pm

        Generally one would conclude that the advice wasn’t directed to those unsubscribed from social media. Frankly, having a Facebook account with false information solely for the purpose of accessing other sites with a wealth of free information probably isn’t going to compromise one’s anonymity more than internet transactions and blog comments. If anything, social networking sites are a valuable disinformation tool.

  • T.R August 10, 2011, 11:50 pm

    Any information you dont have , whether it be about medicine , Homesteading , farming , etc . is worth getting . I bought a book about the edible and medicinal properties of native plants in my region of the country . It was on the expensive side , but was very detailed and in depth .

  • Michael August 11, 2011, 1:59 am

    Where There Is No Doctor and Medicine For Mountaineering (even if you’re not going to be doing any mountaineering) are great books.

    It’s up to you to decide what’s too much for you to handle. Books like EWS help you decide where that level of too much is and give you more info to work with, within you’re comfort zone. I’m all for them.

  • Chef Bear58 August 21, 2011, 2:03 pm

    I think that a book like this would be a good addition to any preppers library. If for nothing else that to give you an idea of what to expect of wounds which may be faced somewhere down the line. Personally, I am by no means a surgeon, and though when TSHTF we will have some family coming here that are medical professionals; I would feel better knowing that with an information resource such as this, the skills/training I have in first-aid and my field surgeon kit my loved ones would at least stand a better chance of surviving an injury/wound until the pro’s can get here.

    I’m gonna order a copy with my next paycheck!


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