Nautilus

Catch Us If You Can

On a brisk autumn afternoon in 1952, 16 wounded soldiers were brought aboard the Canadian destroyer Cayuga patrolling the Yellow Sea off the coast of Inchon, South Korea. Casualties of the Korean War, the men were in bad shape. Several would not survive without surgery. Luckily, the ship’s doctor had told the crew he was a trauma surgeon. Now, the portly, middle-aged man donned scrubs and ordered nurses to prepare the patients. Then he stepped into his cabin, opened a textbook on surgery and gave himself a crash course. Twenty minutes later, high school dropout Ferdinand Demara, aka Jefferson Baird Thorne, Martin Godgart, Dr. Robert Linton French, Anthony Ingolia, Ben W. Jones, and on this afternoon, Dr. Joseph Cyr, strode into the operating room.

“Scalpel!”

With a deep breath, the faux surgeon sliced into bare flesh. He kept one basic principle in mind. “The less cutting you do,” he told himself, “the less patching up you have to do afterward.” Finding a splintered rib, Demara removed it and extracted a bullet near the soldier’s heart. He was afraid the soldier would hemorrhage, so he slipped some Gelfoam, a coagulating agent, into the wound and it clotted almost immediately. Demara put the rib back in place, sewed the man up, and administered a huge dose of penicillin. Onlookers cheered.

YOUR PILOT SPEAKING: Serial impostors like Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, beguile us because they take crazy risks to catapult themselves into romantic worlds denied to us.Photofest Digital Library

Working all afternoon, Demara operated on all 16 wounded men. All 16 survived. Soon, word of Demara’s heroic feat was leaked to

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