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In the hours before warring nations signed the armistice that would end the Korean War, the doctors and Marines at the Easy Med hospital were keeping vigil over a wounded comrade. The medics had seen countless Marines die under their care, but this one was different. He would be the last. LIFE described the somber mood:
The unidentified Marine had been wounded by a Chinese mortar shell and carried through the darkness to the ambulance that took him to Easy Med. Upon his arrival, medics quickly got to work, taking every measure imaginable to keep him alive. They gave him 20 pints of blood and an injection of albumin when his body went into shock. Three doctors spent five hours bent over his hospital bed, draining his chest and removing a blood clot from his wounded right leg.
His comrades, feeling helpless, cried over his bed and rubbed alcohol on his hands in an attempt to lower his fever, until finally, “the corpsmen stepped back to watch, for there was nothing more they could do but pray.”
At 3:20 in the morning, a mere seven hours before the signing of the armistice, the Marine took his final breath. “A white Navy blanket was pulled over the corporal’s face,” LIFE’s editors wrote, “and the last of Easy Med’s patients to die lay alone under a solitary light bulb.”
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.