North Vietnamese Battlefield Hospitals during the Vietnam War.

North Vietnamese Battlefield Hospitals during the Vietnam War.

Above Photo: Presumably OK for leeches – Nurses in a makeshift Viet Cong operating theatre, set up in a swamp (National Archives).

When you look at incredible images like the one above you can more easily understand how the US could never have beaten the North Vietnamese, much like the French had failed to do before them. The NVA’s sheer tenacity and resourcefulness virtually guaranteed a result against the-then most powerful army in the world.

In this photo, Vietnamese orderlies bring a wounded fighter to be operated on by nurses in a makeshift hospital theatre hidden in a swamp. This would have presented all kinds of  ‘operating’ challenges, such as an increased risk of infection and the unwelcome and distinctly non-medical attention of leeches.

I also recently saw some screenshots of a North Vietnamese battlefield hospital set up in a trench during the Vietnam War.

A North Vietnamese battlefield hospital, set up in an open trench complex.

A North Vietnamese battlefield hospital, set up in an open trench complex.

As with their weapons, the North Vietnamese received most medical equipment from Russia and China, with medical supplies donated by neutral countries for civilian use also being diverted their way. The NVA then supplied the Viet Cong to use in their more rudimentary field hospitals like the one in the swamp above.

I recently visited another wartime Vietnamese hospital in Laos, tucked away deep inside a cave, the floor still littered with medical equipment, medicine bottles, human bones and medical gowns, which I will write about separately. It seemed to have been very well stocked with morphine.

Morphine amopoules litter the ground in a North Vietnamese cave hospital near Phonsavan in northern Laos.

Morphine amopoules litter the ground in a North Vietnamese cave hospital near Phonsavan in northern Laos.

The Vietnamese also had more practical, ‘hands-on’ medical assistance.  In another hospital cave I visited in remote Vieng Xai, a wartime cave city in Houaphan Province, in northern Laos, I was told that Cuban volunteer doctors had operated on civilian bombing victims and wounded Vietnamese fighters throughout the war.

Standing in the Hospital Cave in Vieng Xai, Laos, where Cuban doctors treated civlians and soldiers injured during the bombing raids during the Secret War in Laos.

Standing in the Hospital Cave in Vieng Xai, Laos, where Cuban doctors treated civlians and soldiers injured during the bombing raids during the Secret War in Laos.

See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.

And for POWs left behind in Laos:

© Peter Alan Lloyd

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