Wheeler Lipes was an interesting fellow who at the ripe old age of 22 found himself a pharmacist’s mate onboard the USS Seadragon in 1942 during WWII.

It is worth first noting that at the time Wheeler was a high school dropout.

What makes Wheeler Lipes such an interesting fellow is the actions he took while 120 feet below the surface of the South China Sea. He performed an emergency appendectomy.

Wheeler had witnessed an appendectomy before and was able to diagnose the sailors ailment properly.

He improvised tools like bent spoons for retractors and a strainer with cloth soaked in ether for anesthesia. He also sterilized with alcohol that was used as the propellant of the torpedoes. Under orders by his captain he and an assistant setup a operating table in the galley but the patient Darrel Dean Rector was too tall so they had to put his feet into cabinet drawers. They soaked pajamas in alcohol to use as operating gowns and as surgical dressings.

Physicians in the Naval Medical Corps and the U.S. Surgeon General considered court-martialing Wheeler for his actions.

Lipes retired as a lieutenant commander from the Navy and went on to work as a hospital administrator.

He passed away on May 1st 2005 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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