Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada
March 3rd 1890 – November 12th 1939
Norman was a physician and medical innovator who worked closely with medical units during the Spanish Civil War and the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. His devotion to the Spanish and Chinese was linked through his Communist political preference, but ultimately he was a humanitarian.
He developed the first ever mobile blood transfusion service in response to his experiences of deaths as a result of medical shock that can be caused by loss of blood. His work with mobile medical units inspired the formation of Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH units) in the United States. Bethune primarily performed emergency battlefield surgical operations facilitated by his mobile units. Importantly Bethune do not discriminate the wounded, he helped Chinese and Japanese alike despite his support for the Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong.
Bethune is one of the few Westerners that has dedicated statues in China. Mao Zedong’s essay “In Memory of Norman Bethune” gave him international recognition, but was already required reading in China’s elementary schools. The essay documented the last months of Bethune’s life. Mao Zedong concluded in his essay that: “We must all learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him. With this spirit everyone can be very helpful to each other. A person’s ability may be great or small, but if he/she has this spirit, he/she is already noble-minded and pure, a person of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a person who is of value to the people.”
Below is a personal quote from Bethune:
“Is it possible that a few rich men — a small class of men — have persuaded a million poor men to attack and attempt to destroy another million men as poor as they, so that the rich may be richer still?
They told them that this brutal war was the destiny of the race. It was for the glory of the emperor; it was for the honour of the state; it was for their king and country. False – false as hell! They make war to capture markets by murder, raw materials by rape. They find it cheaper to steal than to exchange, easier to butcher than to buy. This is the secret of war. It is the secret of all wars: profit.
Business. Profit. Blood money.
Threaten a reduction on the profit of their money, and the beast in them awakens with a snarl. They become as ruthless as savages, brutal as madmen, remorseless as executioners.”