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May 1998

James Cameron, a special-effects action director and the grand wizard of the latest Titanic movie, has been doing the media rounds, proclaiming the utter accuracy of his fabrication: five years in the creation; painstaking research for the "proper level of reality" even as far as having carpets made by the same British company that wove the originals; a slew of Titanic historians (read "buffs") consulted and paid off.

A special excerpt, by Stephen E. Ambrose, from the newly-published AMERICAN HERITAGE® New History of World War II.

It wasn't any different getting killed in World War II from how it had been in the Civil War or World War I, but if the shrapnel, bullet, or tree limb wounded a GI without killing him, his experience as a casualty was infinitely better than Johnny Reb's or Billy Yank's or a doughboy's, beginning with his survival chances. In 1864, 50 percent or more of men admitted to hospitals died; in 1918, it was 8 percent; in 1944, 4 percent.

Wonder drugs, especially sulfa and penicillin, and advanced surgical techniques helped make the improvements possible, but the first reason for such success was the speed with which wounded men were treated. It began with the medics. In training camps they had been mildly despised because most of them were conscientious objectors, and often ridiculed, called "Pill Pushers" or worse. But in combat they were loved and admired without stint. "Overseas," medic Buddy Gianelloni recalled, "it became different. They called you medic and before you knew it, it was Doc. I was 19 at the time."

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