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WW II Hospital Trains
World War II Hospital Trains
In the 1940s, during World War II, rail was still the most important mode of transportation for longer distances on land. Although Army aircraft were being used for aeromedical evacuation, capacity was quite limited and trains were heavily used for evacuation from Echelon II to and between higher echelons of medical care.
When evacuation was indicated from Collecting Stations or Clearing Stations (Echelon II) to Mobile Hospitals (Echelon III) or rearward to static hospitals (Echelon IV), the patients were brought to the nearest railhead for transfer by hospital train. Transfers between hospitals or from ships returning to CONUS with transoceanic evacuees were also accomplished by these trains. Transfers from interior combat zones, and their Echelon III Evacuation Hospitals, involved using trains to take patients to a coastal port where hospital ships took them onward.
Hospital trains were ultimately replaced by modern air transportation as higher capacity aircraft became capable of handling the load. The greater speed of air evacuation, beginning to be realized in WW II, and the gradual decline of rail transport in general, made the hospital train obsolete.
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