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AS THE United Nations Security Council's January 15 deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait approaches, military medical preparations in the Persian Gulf are intensifying under the direction of US Air Force, Army, and Navy physicians participating in the Desert Shield operation. The surgeons general of the US Navy and Army visited in recent days.
In case of war, plans call for some patients, after initial care, to be flown 75 miles or more from the frontline area to the hospital ships Comfort and Mercy aboard helicopters (top photo).
Two different surgical procedures can be performed on a patient simultaneously in each ship's 12 operating rooms (center). Each ship is identified, under the Geneva Convention rules for noncombatants, with red cross symbols that are 27 feet wide (bottom).
From the hospital ship, patients could be transferred to rear-area hospitals and perhaps eventually to medical facilities in the United States. (US Navy
Gunby P. Desert Shield. JAMA. 1991;265(2):181. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460020031008