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"We didn’t know what Okinawa was…" (Video interview, 17:26)

   Burchall Liles
Collection image
Burchall Liles at time of interview
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Navy
Unit: Naval Hospital Bremerton; USS Hart (DD 594)
Service Location: Pacific Theater; Philippines; Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Seattle, Washington; New Orleans, Louisiana
Rank: Lieutenant
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The son of a British medical officer, Navy Lieutenant Burchall Liles was born in Nevis, West Indies, and immigrated to the United States when he was six years old. When World War II broke out, he was a medical student at Louisiana State University. Following the President’s instructions to continue his studies, he was eventually commissioned as an officer following his graduation from medical school. As the only doctor aboard the USS Hart, he was responsible for treating minor shipboard injuries and performing emergency surgeries such as appendectomies. Assisted by three Pharmacist’s Mates, he often had to improvise in order to carry out medical procedures; at one point, he enlisted engineers and machinists aboard ship to jury-rig surgical retractors and a suction apparatus.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (38 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
In medical school when war declared; worked hard to get through school as quickly as possible; made a midshipman; commissioned as Lieutenant Junior Grade; sent to the Naval Hospital in Seattle, Washington, the day after graduation. (01:26) Funny incident involving a visit from Eleanor Roosevelt. (02:58) Duties as only doctor aboard ship; duties of Pharmacist Mates assigned to him; firefighting school; seeing carnage outside Manila; escort duty; Ulithi; seeing the armada of US battleships; different hospital ships; transferring patients. (05:44)
Heading to Okinawa; volunteering for radio coding duty; hearing Tokyo Rose single him out by name; importance of securing Okinawa; USS Hart serving as screen around ships attacking island; made it through battle unscathed. (03:15) Not responsible for treating combat injuries; treated minor shipboard injuries; training Pharmacist Mates to handle surgeries; having machinist make retractors; chief engineer constructed portable suction apparatus; appendectomy. (03:05) 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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