“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster
Here’s an excerpt from the forthcoming article. It draws from a 2016 trauma medicine article by a decorated 24-year U.S. Navy veteran who served as a combat doctor in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this excerpt, the trauma surgeon and his colleagues explain why a high-velocity round from a rifle such as the AK47, M4, and AR15, does vastly more damage to the human body than Hollywood’s led us to believe.
“Allied airmen who were lucky enough to make it back to Britain often had combat injuries that current day civilians in much of the world never encounter. Injuries that we cannot imagine but which all the time send our warriors back to us broken in part or in whole. Injuries that far too often send the ones we love back to us in boxes draped in our nations’ colors.
“Modern warfare is a lazy Susan, overstuffed with both new and old ways to kill. Each turn of the wheel and selection of another weapon lengthens the types and severities of the combat wounds that stow away in returning service members and then refuse to leave once those warriors get home.
“Writing in a 2005 article in Techniques in Orthopaedics, Montreal-born Dr. Richard Gosselin explains that when it comes to combat injuries, things are seldom as good as they look. “War wounds are often worse than they appear. High-energy projectiles, deep penetration of foreign material, dirty field conditions, delayed evacuation, and/or ill-advised initial treatment such as prolonged use of tourniquet or primary wound closure may all contribute to wounds with extensive tissue damage and severe contamination. Unless evacuation time is short, which for civilians is usually the exception, life-threatening injuries will have already self-triaged”[i]
“Maybe a comparison of two injuries caused by two very different firearms can make it easier to imagine something of what those we send to fight for us often have to go through. Forensic surgeon Bill Smock explained in a recent interview that “If a bullet from a handgun strikes a liver, it injures the organ by poking a hole and causing tissue disruption around the path of the bullet. More specifically, a 9-millimeter handgun creates a hole that disrupts three-quarters of an inch around the bullet’s path, . . .”
“. . .But with a rifle round, you have massive tissue disruption,’ Smock said. ‘Rather than three quarters of an inch around the wound path, it is disrupted three to four inches around that same tissue.’”[ii]
“Peter M. Rhee, a decorated 24-year U.S. Navy veteran and a combat doctor in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his colleagues explain in a 2016 article in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery why there’s so much destruction to the human body when it’s entered by a high-velocity round from a rifle such as the AK47, M4, and AR15:
“Lacerating and Crushing
“. . . high energy rounds may begin to tumble as energy is dissipated upon travel through deeper tissue. The natural tendency is that the high-energy bullets will become unstable as they decelerate. These bullets may pitch and yaw, and the back end of the bullet may become the leading edge. During this distance, the energy of the projectile is absorbed by the surrounding tissue, causing stretching and tearing of tissue.”[iii]
“Illustrated by a color photograph of a surgeon’s hand sticking through a gunshot wound in someone’s neck, the former U.S. Navy combat doctor puts it this way: “A bullet with sufficient energy will have a cavitation effect in addition to the penetrating track injury. As the bullet passes through the tissue, initially crushing then lacerating, the space left by the tissue forms a cavity, and this is called the permanent cavity. Higher-velocity bullets create a pressure wave that forces the tissues away, creating not only a permanent cavity the size of the caliber of the bullet but also a temporary cavity or secondary cavity, which is often many times larger than the bullet itself.”[iv]
“Lest we forget: the rounds that German fighters used to down Allied bombers and then their airmen descending by parachute, those rounds were designed to kill airplanes.[v]”
[i] Richard A. Gosselin, M.D., M.P.H., F.R.C.S.(C). War Injuries, Trauma, and Disaster Relief. Techniques in Orthopaedics 20(2):97, 99. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2005.
[ii] “What a bullet does to a human body. PBS NewsHour. Feb. 17, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/what-a-bullet-does-to-a-human-body
[iii] Peter M. Rhee, MD, MPH, Ernest E. Moore, MD, Bellal Joseph, MD, Andrew Tang, MD, Viraj Pandit, MD, and Gary Vercruysse, MD. Gunshot wounds: A review of ballistics, bullets, weapons, and myths. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 80(6): 853, 863 and Figure 13 A, B. Wolters Kluwer Health 2016.
[iv] Id. at 863.
(END OF EXCERPT)
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(Photo: Wee Willie, Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, is going down after hit by antiaircraft artillery over Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, 8 April 1945. (U.S.A.F.); Accessed at thisdayinaviation.com March 12, 2018).
Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted, Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.