WW II Litters

The Corpsman's medical suspenders were employed to help support the weight of a litter when carried by two men, one at each end.  As seen in this WW II photo, special litter straps were available to loop over the litter pole ends and attach to the suspenders
The Corpsman's medical suspenders were employed to help support the weight of a litter when carried by two men, one at each end. As seen in this WW II photo, special litter straps were available to loop over the litter pole ends and attach to the suspenders.

Today in WW II: 8 Jul 1940 Tea rationing begins in Britain.  More 
8 Jul 1941 Jews living under German occupation in Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania ordered to wear a Jewish Star.
8 Jul 1942 US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Chester Nimitz orders invasion of Guadalcanal, Solomon islands, to seize a strategic Japanese airfield.
8 Jul 1944 US forces on Saipan mop up after surviving a 15-hour banzai charge, one of the largest ever, defesting over 3000 Japanese soldiers plus wounded and civilians who participated.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

World War II Litters and Litter Bearers

Wounded soldier, Pfc. Robison, lies on stretcher after receiving blood plasma, Guam, July 1944
Wounded soldier, Pfc. Robison, lies on stretcher after receiving blood plasma, Guam, July 1944.

The common stretcher for carrying casualties, called a "litter" in Army nomenclature, was one of the essential tools for World War II medical personnel.

The backbone of the Echelon I evacuation system during WW II was the litter bearer, assigned to the medical detachments manning first echelon facilities such as the battalion aid station. Litter bearers often worked 72-hour shifts, with trips over wooded and rugged country from 1000 yards to four miles. For example, in Sicily, evacuation over mountainous terrain was accomplished by relay teams of litter bearers which ran continuously for 12 to 15 hours just to cover a few miles. Many litter bearers were injured or killed by enemy mines and fire or suffered emotional breakdowns from stress and exhaustion. When needed, units employed cooks, musicians, and company clerks as replacement litter bearers.

Evacuation to the rear, from the aid station, used the same litter (or stretcher). If possible, an ambulance would receive the litter-borne patient who would be inserted into a rack in the rear of the vehicle designed to hold six or eight litters. Often ambulances were not available and the litter bearers had to hand carry the casualty to the next link in the evacuation chain.

When aeromedical evacuation was employed, the patients were retained in their litters which were carried in racks on the plane designed to receive the litter and hold it securely.

The litter itself not only provided a means to carry the casualty to the aid station, but often the litters on which the patients were brought in served as operating tables.

Types of Litters Used in World War II

Litter, Folding, Aluminum. Medical Department Item No. 9938000
Litter, Folding, Aluminum. Medical Department Item No. 9938000.

During World War II many different types of litters were supplied to the field, a few examples listed here:

Med. Dept. Item No. Nomenclature
9935000 Litter, straight, aluminum
9936000 Litter, canvas, semi-rigid
9936200 Litter, wood, folding
9936600 Litter, straight, wood, M-1943
9937600 Litter, straight, steel
9938000 Litter, folding, aluminum (photo above)
9938500 Litter, metal, Stokes: Airplane

This table, which is not exhaustive, is compiled from Army Service Forces Catalog MED 3, 1 March 1944. Earlier in the war, Medical Department Item Numbers did not have the final "00", i.e. "99380" instead of "9938000".

Material on this page adapted from Chapter 3 of "Military Medicine during the Twentieth Century" an anonymous publication of the USAF Air University, 2002, and other military references.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: stretcher bearer ww ii. Then click the Search button.