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Life and Death in the War Zone

Program Overview


Note: This program contains graphic medical images and stories involving U.S. soldiers and Iraqi children that may be upsetting to students. Please preview it to determine its appropriateness for your classroom.

Sketch of medical helicopter in flight NOVA portrays life in two Combat Support Hospitals during the Iraq War.

The program:

  • reviews the series of events that led up to the crash of the McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 plane in the waters off Nova Scotia.

  • follows the 10th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) from its U.S. base in Colorado to its deployment in the Kuwaiti desert.

  • notes that coalition casualties are relatively light at the start of the war due to ceramic body armor worn by soldiers and air supremacy by allied forces.

  • portrays life at the 21st CSH posted in the northern Iraq cities of Balad and Mosul.

  • shows how a 44-bed CSH—equipped with everything found in a standard hospital—is set up within 72 hours.

  • reports the cases of U.S. and Iraqi patients who enter the facility.

  • details the 21st CSH treatment guidelines at the time of filming for caring for injured Iraqis—the only Iraqis eligible for care must be in immediate danger of losing life, limb, or eyesight; must be injured by American soldiers; or must be prisoners of war.

  • highlights the ethical dilemmas faced by medical personnel who evaluate and refuse care to some injured Iraqis, including small children.

  • notes that most American injuries are minor, including scorpion stings, cuts and bruises, and heat-related illnesses.

  • concludes with a story about the care provided for and ultimate death of an eight-year-old Iraqi girl who was apparently injured in a U.S. missile attack and was also suffering from malnutrition.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Life and Death in the War Zone

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