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War has always been a dangerous business, bringing injury, wounds, and death, and—until recently—often disease. What has changed over time, most dramatically in the last 150 or so years, is the care these casualties receive and who provides it. Medical services have become highly organized and are state sponsored. Diseases are now prevented through vaccination and good sanitation. Sedation now ameliorates pain, and antibiotics combat infection. Wounds that once meant amputation or death no longer do so. Transfers from the field to more-capable hospitals are now as swift as aircraft can make them. The mental consequences of war are now seen as genuine illnesses and treated accordingly, rather than punished to the extreme. Likewise, treatment of those disabled by war and of veterans generally has changed markedly—along with who supplies these and other benefits. The first book in this set looked at the history of how humanity has cared for its war casualties, from ancient times through the aftermath of World War II. This book takes up where the first left off, starting just before the Korean War and continuing through to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. For each historical period, the author examines the care the sick and wounded received in the field and in hospitals, the care given to disabled veterans and their dependents, and who provided that care and how. He shows how the lessons of history have informed the American experience over time. Finally, the author sums up this history thematically, focusing on changes in the nature and treatment of injuries, organization of services on and off the battlefield, the role of the state in providing care, and the invisible wounds of war.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

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