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Artists' Masks Hid Wounds of World War I Soldiers

Technology and trench warfare made World War II soldiers especially susceptible to facial injuries and shattered limbs. This posed significant problems for physicians, who had never encountered disfigurement on such a scale.

They struggled to save patients who streamed in by the thousands. There was little time to think of aesthetics.

Then a group of artists — sculptors, in particular — became pioneers in plastic surgery by learning the art of skin grafting and the creation of masks to cover soldiers' wounds.

Caroline Alexander, author of an article in Smithsonian magazine that examines the medical advancements, tells Rebecca Roberts about the history of the mask-making unit.

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