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The Eyes of War
In honor of the 60th Anniversary of VE Day, May 8, 1945, we explore the sacrifices of ophthalmologists as found in the museum's Academy Archives as well as wartime innovations in ophthalmology.
World War II spanned 6 years and involved over 25 countries. Within this complex history is the story of ophthalmology. Like so many professions, the war shaped ophthalmology by creating the need for innovations in industry, altering the course of institutions and interrupting the lives of individuals.
It is still difficult to definitively capture the number of deaths and casualties, or to quantify the destruction of property from the war. However, it is estimated that 2.5% of all battle casualties suffered eye injuries and 15,000 soldiers were blinded. During battles, it took an average of 36-48 hours for an injured soldier to be seen by an ophthalmologist. This led to the advocacy of having ophthalmologists on the front lines, in forward hospitals or, at the least, to improving support services to evacuate soldiers faster.