May 27th, 2013 / posted by paularath

Jerry Mayfield (then a Colonel) with General Omar Bradley, whom he saw as a patient.

In every war, there are some dedicated, courageous, extremely hard working warriors who go unsung: physicians in the medical corps.

My husband, Jerry Mayfield, is one of those unsung heroes. He was an orthopaedic surgeon for one year in Korea and subsequently three years in Japan during the Vietnam War.

Every war fought by U.S. military forces has a book written about it; it becomes a sort of textbook for the next generation of military doctors to use during future wars. In the book that chronicles medical care during the Vietnam war, Jerry wrote the chapter on amputations. Sadly, he performed many amputations during that long, treacherous conflict.

There were days when Jerry had to perform as many as 15 surgeries. He worked on shoulders, arms, hips, knees, even feet. He was faced with many traumatic injuries such as amputations and  major bone fractures with open wounds.  He made tough decisions every day. Imagine having to make a decision whether or not to send a soldier back to combat, knowing he had shot himself in the foot to get out of the field.

One man who deeply appreciated what Army doctors were doing during the Vietnam War was comedian Bob Hope. Hope came to Camp Zama to entertain the troops (with Ann Margret, no less – Jerry has never forgotten her either) and he asked Jerry, who was a major at the time, to sit and talk with him about what the war as like for the doctors. Jerry said he listened with sincere attention and appreciation.

After the war, Jerry continued to take care of wounded vets in Colorado. While a surgeon at Fitzimmons Army Hospital, he supervised an amputee ski program that got many young men onto the slopes and active again. It was a physical and mental lifesaver for many who were learning to live with the loss of a limb.

Jerry also served in South Korea. In an unusual event there, he tells me, the North Koreans came across the border and blew up one of the Army barracks in South Korea, just across from the DMZ. It happened two weeks in a row and there were, of course, casualties. Jerry learned to hate the sound of Huey helicopters arriving at his hospital. Once he and his colleagues were watching “Doctor Zhivago” on a quiet evening and suddenly the sound of Hueys interrupted the film. They went to work in the operating room, taking care of the casualties from the explosion. The next week they tried to see the film again but there was another explosion and Jerry never got to see the end of the film.

When thinking of the many war heroes we honor this weekend, please think of Jerry Mayfield. He’s my hero.

– Paula Rath

Jerry, in his New Mexico “uniform,” at his 80th birthday party last year. Photo courtesy of Ginger Waters.


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laurel mayfield-shwarz
May 28th, 2013 at 4:13 pm

You are an unsung hero who has endured through traumatic times…and luckily you are also my father and MY hero. I love you dad.

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