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Today In History

Today is June 6. Sixty-four years ago two large groups of men representing different countries got together and participated in a very, very big argument. This sounds flippant, but I figure something involving 155,000 troops, 6,900 vessels, including 4,100 landing craft and a total of 12,000 aircraft (just on the Allied side); four divisions of German infantry were directly involved, as they were stationed on the Normandy Peninsula. This doesn't count reserves nearby for either side of the belligerants, nor their armoured divisions involved, and I figure this constitutes a pretty big argument.

Quite a few words have been written about, and miles of film developed about the Normandy invasion. The most recent and possibly most widely known is Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. I'm referencing it primarily because it told the story, probably fictional, of some of the people who landed at Omaha Beach. These days, though, I usually think about one person. Contrary to my usual practices here I will mention his name because you can find him by doing a 'google' for his profession and other public information. Dr. Hal Bingham, Plastic Reconstructive Surgery was 18 years old when he set foot on Omaha Beach the morning of June 6, 1944.

I always enjoyed working with Dr. Bingham; one of the things he told me at one point is that he was an intern under Dr. Bookwalter, who invented a self-retaining retractor used in abdominala surgery. I also got to meet Dr. Bookwalter recently, and he remembered Dr. Bingham. Dr. B frequently told stories about 'being in the big one, Dubbayou Dubbayou Two' during longer surgeries. Some of them were frequently re-told. One, I heard only once when it came up in conversation that I'd been a Navy Corpsman during Vietnam. It concerned an event which took place a couple days after June 6 but still on the Normandy Peninsula. Even though I've mentioned him by name, it's not my story to tell here. We'll suffice it to say it involved white phosporous, an element, and its effects, with which he was previously unacquainted. Later, the residents present told me they'd never heard that particular story before.

'And you never will again. He just told you why he became a plastic-reconstructive surgeon specialising in burn injury treatment. And he told it to someone else who'd seen the Elephant, by the way. You just got to listen.'

Because Dr. Hal Bingham is the reason there's a Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit here at Hospital and University of Baja Jorja.

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