Combat surgery is almost as old as battle itself. The Iliad contains many an example of surgical intervention to heal wounds--and in the modern era, the surgeon has become an almost saintly figure in the public imagination, especially in a context where human beings are actively engaged in killing one another. Myth is not far removed from fact, and there is no doubt as to the dedication of these men (women did not enter the field until very recently), but that still begs a few questions: how did they operate (in both the military and medical senses of the word) and how successful were they? This account traces the challenges Canadian surgeons faced in the Second World War and Korea as they sought solutions to problems medical (such as shock) and tactical (operating within range of enemy fire). It is, in effect, a story of civilians attempting to apply their knowledge under the severe stress of battle.