The "largest air evacuation of civilian disaster victims in the history of American aviation" — up to then — took place after a tornado hit Woodward, Okla., on April 9, 1947, injuring 900 of the town's residents. Seventy-four of the most seriously injured residents were flown by Army C-54 planes to Oklahoma City, 170 miles away. They were shuttled from the airfield to University Hospital via Army and civilian ambulances.
In its June 1947 issue, Hospitals magazine reported that while the transportation was being arranged and carried out, preparations for receiving the casualties got quickly underway at the hospital. Nurses and other staff set up more than 100 beds in two wards and in some cases end-to-end in the corridors so that patients could be handled promptly and efficiently.
Waiting in the three emergency rooms was a team of five staff physicians, three admission clerks and six nurses.
Most patients were unconscious on arrival at the hospital with bruises, head injuries, broken bones and multiple abrasions. "Many were covered with mud and their wounds were full of dirt," according to the Hospitals article. "Staff doctors reported they had never seen so many splinters of all sizes — from a small sliver to a two-by-four." Physicians examined the patients immediately upon arrival to determine the extent of their shock and nature of injuries. Admission clerks took each patient's name and address and placed a tag with the information on his or her left wrist. Unidentified patients were tagged and listed by consecutive numbers. All patients had been examined by emergency room staff and were in their beds or in the X-ray room within 10 minutes of their arrival.
Several other health care facilities also treated the injured, including Woodward Hospital in the town where the tornado struck.
While all of the health care professionals involved in the effort did heroic work, saving many lives, four of the 74 patients evacuated by plane died within a month of the disaster.