Essays

Medical Team 19

The Quaker aid group in China that the West forgot – Christopher Magoon

When the Friends Ambulance Unit Medical Team 19 – a Quaker-organized aid group – left China, memory of their humanitarian mission was nearly erased. Like many Western aid organisations, they traveled thousands of miles and saved countless lives during the Chinese Civil War. Yet unlike the others, they served Mao Zedong’s Communist forces.

The seven-member pacifist group, called Medical Team 19 or MT19 for short, built mobile hospitals in caves, completely cut off from news of the outside world, often traveling at night to avoid detection. While serving, the volunteers were widely praised by Western powers and the Chinese Communist Party alike. But as post-World War II tensions congealed into the Cold War, there was little room for humanitarian overtures. They were unceremoniously forced out of China, and became a political liability on both sides of the Pacific.