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Health And Happiness Of The American Forces

( Originally Published 1918 )



SINCE the fateful day when 'Cain slew Abel, thereby setting a precedent for human warf are, no fighter has been so well protected from disease and discomfort of mind and body, so speedily cured of his wounds, as the American soldier and sailor during the World. War.

The basis of this remarkable achievement was sanitary education preached first by competent physicians and sociologists; then by newspapers to the civilian population; and ultimately by the soldiers and sailors themselves, each man acting as an evangel of personal and community health and sanitation. In 1914, before war was declared, the words "venereal diseases" were relegated to the advertisements of quacks and patent medicines. When the war ended, virtually every young and old man and woman knew the meaning of the words and the miseries that. come in their train. So it was with other details of the care of the human body, with sewage problems, with the grave community question of pure water, with the use of intoxicating beverages, and with other problems inter-woven with the health and happiness of humanity.

Among the leaders in this wide-flung campaign of education was the American Red Cross. Starting with a mere nominal member-ship before the war, its roster rose to the mighty total of more than 28,000,000 American men, women and children when the war ended. More than $300,000,000 was poured into the American Red Cross treasury. In adition to these contributions of money, came the free services of millions of Americans, mostly women. Red Cross workshops dotted the land, and from these came bandages, sweaters, comfort-kits, trench necessities, clothing for homeless refugees, and a vast quantity of material aid in every conceivable form.

American Red Cross workers during the war knitted 14,089,000 garments for the army and navy. In addition, the workers turned out 253,196,000 surgical dressings, 22,255,000 hospital garments and 1,464,000 refugee garments. Sewing chapters repaired old clothing and sent it overseas to the orphaned and the widowed, and millions of Americans learned the sublime lesson of sacrifice through the Red Cross--a lesson that left its imprint upon America for generations.

The work of the American Red Cross extended through many lands. It followed the flags of the Entente Allies into Palestine, Mesopotamia, India, South Africa, and other 'battle-grounds. Its work on the western front was a miracle of achievement. In Russia through the Red Terror of the Revolution the workers of the American Red Cross went serenely about their tasks of mercy, relieving the hungry, aiding the sick, and clothing the ragged peasants.

Henry P. Davidson left the firm of J. P. Morgan & Company to devote his administrative genius to the affairs of the American Red Cross. Other men and women of rare executive ability joined in the free tender of their services to the work of the Red Cross.

While the organization strove mightily against famines, wounds and disease overseas, it was suddenly confronted during the period from September 8th to November 9th, 1918, with the severest epidemic America had experienced in generations. Returning American troops brought the germs of the malady known as "Spanish influenza" into New York and Boston. Thence it spread throughout the country. During its brief career the epidemic claimed a total of 82,306 deaths in forty-six American cities, having a combined population of 23,000,000. Philadelphia, a great center of war industry, with the Philadelphia Navy Yard harboring thousands of sailors and marines, showed the highest mortality in pro-portion to population, 7.4 per 1,000; Baltimore with 6.7 per 1,000 showed the next greatest mortality.

The record of the Red Cross in this epidemic was one of instant service. Hundreds of thousands of masks were made in Red Cross workrooms, and these were worn by nurses and by members of families in afflicted homes.

On May 1, 1917, just before the appointment of the War Council, the American Red Cross had 486,194 members working through 562 chapters. On July 31, 1918, the organization numbered 20,648,103 annual members, besides 8,000,000 members of the Junior Red Cross—a total enrolment of over one-fourth the population of the United States. These members carried on their Red Cross work through 3,854 chapters, which again divided themselves into some 30,000 branches and auxiliaries.

The total actual collections from the first war fund amounted to more than $115,000,000. The subscriptions to the second war fund amounted to upward of $176,000,000. From membership dues the collections approximated $24,500,000.

The Home Service of the Red Cross with its more than 40,000 workers, extended its ministrations of sympathy and counsel each month to upward of 100,000 families left behind by soldiers at the front.

Supplementing, but not duplicating, the work of the American Red Cross, were the services of the Y. M. C. A., Y. W. C. A., Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Association, Salvation Army, American Library Association and other bodies.

These operated under the general super-vision of the War and Navy departments: Commissions on Training Camp Activities. Raymond B. Fosdick was the chairman of both these bodies. Concerning these commissions, President Wilson declared:

I do not believe it an exaggeration to say that no army ever before assembled has had more conscientious and painstaking thought given to the protection and stimulation f its mental, moral and physical manhood. Every endeavor has been made to surround the men, both here and abroad, with the kind of environment which a democracy owes. to those who fight in its behalf. In this work the Commissions on Training Camp Activities have represented the government and the government's solicitude that the moral and spiritual resources f the nation should be mobilized behind the troops. The country is to be congratulated upon the fine spirit with which organizations and groups of many kinds, some of them of national standing, have harnessed themselves together under the leadership of the government's agency in a common ministry to the men of the army and navy.

Afloat and ashore the organizations operating under the supervision of the two commissions gave to the men of the American forces home care, suitable recreation, and constant protection. The club life of the army and navy, both in the training camps and after the men went into the service, was most capably directed by the Y. M. C. A., Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Association. Non-sectarianism was the rule in all of the huts and clubs conducted by these organizations. Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains mingled with workers of the Salvation Army, with professional prize-fighters who became athletic instructors, with actors and actresses who contributed their talents freely to the entertainment of soldiers and sailors. Moving-picture shows, boxing contests, continuation schools, canteens where women workers served American-made dishes—these were some of the activities following the men. The Y. M. C. A. and Knights of Columbus bore the largest share of this work. More than $300,000,000 was contributed by the people of America to the maintenance of these activities.

The other organizations rounded out the work of the first two organizations and filled in with special attention to needs on which the others did not specialize.

The larger organization, the Y. M. C. A., was chosen by the government to carry out a portion of the government program--the conducting of the canteens.

The Knights of Columbus specialized in comforts less considered by other war relief' organizations.

Nothing gave greater relaxation to the fighting man, coming from the trenches, or the battle line caked with mud and blood and weary with long hours, than a shower bath, and generous facilities were provided close to the fighting front.

Back of the lines in the rest billets and concentration camps, provisions were less generous than at the front until the Knights of Columbus took up the task of seeing that the men who were temporarily away from the active fighting had these facilities for bathing. It was but one of the many activities of the Knights of Columbus, but one of the most appreciated.

One of the first requisitions made by Rev. John B. De Valles, one of the first chaplains sent over by the Knights of Columbus, was for a shower bath and he set it up in connection with his headquarters in a little French town and it was overworked from the first. From this spread the movement for establishing shower baths in club houses being opened be-hind the lines and in villages.

There was no preaching in a Knights of Columbus hall or club room, but there was clean moral environment and healthy recreation and amusement, for this was proven the thing to keep up the morale of fighting men.

The Y. M. C. A. built 1,500 huts in Europe costing from $2,000 to $20,000 each, equipped with canteen, reading and writing and recreational facilities to soldiers. It operated twenty-eight different leave areas with hotels that bad a total of 85,000 beds. In addition, in Paris, port towns, and several big centers in the war zone there were "Y" hotels for transient soldiers where one could get a clean bed and a good meal at about half the price charged by French hotels. Over 3,000 movie and theatrical shows a week were provided free, and 300 "Y" athletic directors bad charge of the sports in the American army, operating 836 athletic fields. Enormous quantities of cookies and chocolate and cigarettes were supplied.

A hundred of the best known educators from America directed educational work. The staff consisted of Professor Erskine of Columbia University, Professor Daly of Harvard, Professor Coleman of Chicago University, Professor Appleton of the University of Kansas and Frank Spaulding, superintendent of the Cleveland public schools.

Seconding the work of the Y. M. C. A., its sister organization, the Y. W. C. A., extended its activities from the training camps of America to the battlefields of Europe.

At the close of its first year of America's participation in the war, the Y. W. C. A. had six established lines of work in France: Hostess Houses, clubs for French working women and business girls, clubs for nurses with the American army, clubs for women of the signal corps, clubs for British women (Waac's ) working with the American army, and recreation work for all women employed in any way by the American Expeditionary Force. In one year its activities spread to twenty-five cities, and it had forty-three units.

The Hostess Houses were at Paris and Tours. ' The Hotel Petrograd, on the Rue Caumartin, was leased in Paris and turned out to be one of the most interesting centers of American life in France. It was run on the most liberal lines, in a thoroughly democratic way. The meals were good and in the big dining-room men were admitted on the same footing as women. There were two of these Hostess Houses at Tours.

For the girls of the signal corps twenty-two homes were opened and there were huts for the Waacs at Bourges and Tours. Y. W. C. A. secretaries were attached to twenty base hospital units and opened fourteen clubs for nurses.

The most interesting and unique work of the Y. W. C. A. was that of its foyers for French working women and business girls. There were thirteen of these in Lyons, Rouen, Bourges, Tours, Ste. Etienne, Paris and Mont Lucon.

The Salvation Army erected hotels at the various large training camps in America, and its workers made American doughnuts for the soldiers close to the battle-lines in France. The work done by the men and women of the Salvation Army aided materially in bringing the heart of America into France.

The Jewish Welfare Association not only performed notable service in following the men from training camps into actual service, but it also planned and executed a great reconstruction program under the direction of Felix M. Warburg, chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee.

The American Library Association solved the grave problem of providing the soldiers and sailors with suitable reading matter. Each of the cantonments had its special library building in charge of a trained librarian, and interesting literature followed the men into the field through the services of this organization.

Some idea of the work of these various organizations is gained by reading the following order received by Raymond B. Fosdick at his headquarters in Washington after the steam-ship Kansas carrying supplies for the various buts at American field quarters, was sunk:

Send 20 tons plain soap, 20 tons condensed milk, 10 tons chocolate, 5 tons cocoa, 2 tons tea, 5 tons coffee, 5 tons vanilla wafers, 50 tons sugar, 20 tons flour, 2 tons fruit essences, 2 tons lemonade powder, 120,000 Testaments, 120,000 hymn-books, tons of magazines and other literature, 30 tons writing-paper and envelopes, 50,000 folding chairs, 500 camp cots, 2,000 blankets, 20 type-writers, 60 tents, 75 moving-picture machines, 200 phonographs, 5,000 records, 1 ton ink blotters, $75,000 worth athletic goods, 30 automobiles and trucks.

The order was filled at once.

Besides the associations above enumerated, other volunteer organizations contributed to the health and happiness of American soldiers and sailors. The Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania established two clubs, one in Paris, the other in Tours, both of which performed notable services in feeding and restoring the spirits of American soldiers and sailors. The club in Paris was under the direction of the Rev. Frederick W. Beekman and that at Tours was directed by Amos Tuck French. Mrs. Barclay Warburton of Philadelphia was designated by Governor Brumbaugh as Commissioner-General of Overseas Work for the Emergency Aid. Other states had similar organizations looking after the comfort of the men.

But it was upon the professional doctors, nurses and sanitarians that the bulk of the task devolved. This task included the prevention as well as the cure of maladies menacing the American forces. It reached out into years after the war into the problems of re-education and rehabilitation of the shell-shocked and the wounded. Major-General William C. Gorgas, former Surgeon General of the Army, stated this concept when he said:

"The whole conception of governmental and national responsibility for caring for the wounded has undergone radical change during the months of study given the subject by experts serving with the Medical Officers' Reserve Corps and others consulting with them. Instead of the old idea that responsibility ended with the return of the soldier to private life with his wounds healed and such pension as he might be given, it is now considered that it is the duty of the government to equip and re-educate the wounded man, after healing his wounds, and to return him to civil life ready to be as useful to himself and his country as possible."

To carry out this idea reconstruction hospitals were established in large centers of population. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Paul, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Richmond, Atlanta and New. Orleans were sites of these institutions. Each was planned as a 500-bed hospital but with provision for enlargement to 1,000 beds if needed.

These hospitals were not the last step in the return of the wounded soldiers to civil life. When the soldiers were able to take up industrial training, further provision was ready.

Arrangements were made by the Department of Military Orthopedics to care for soldiers, so far as orthopedics (the prevention of deformity) was concerned, continuously until they were returned to civil life. Orthopedic surgeons were attached to the medical force near the firing line and to the different hospitals back to the base orthopedic hospital which was established within one hundred miles of the firing line. In this hospital, in addition to orthopedic surgical care, there was equipment for surgical reconstruction work and "curative workshops" in which men acquired ability to use injured members while doing work interesting and useful in itself. This method supplanted the old and tiresome one of prescribing a set of motions for a man to go through with no other purpose than to re-acquire use of his injured part.

Instructors and examiners for all the troops were furnished by the Department of Military Orthopedic Surgery. A number of older and more experienced surgeons acted as instructors and supervisors for each of the groups into which the army was divided.

A peculiar condition arising from the use of heavy artillery in the war was that called "shell-shock."

The most pathetic wrecks of war were soldiers suffering from shattered nerves. Paris had many of them. They appeared to be normal. But they were human wrecks.

Shell-shock or the aftermath of illness from wounds left them in weakened health, subject to violent heart attacks. Most of them lacked energy and perseverance. They became awkward, like big children. If employment was found for them—for many had large families to support—they quickly lost their jobs through apathy or collapse.

A society in Paris did everything possible to relieve the sufferings of these victims of the war. It operated with the authorization of the French Government under the name "L'Assistance aux Blessés Nerveux de la Guerre."

American hospitals after the war contained many of these cases. Some of the victims be came incurably insane.

Besides the noble work done by the great army of American physicians, surgeons and nurses, in caring for soldiers and sailors, a service of scarcely less magnitude was rendered to the civilian populations of France, Belgium and Italy. Tuberculosis in France was a real plague, taking a toll of 80,000 lives every year. American physicians and nurses preached the doctrine of fresh air, care of the teeth and proper food for children. Almost immediately this campaign of sanitation had its effect in a decreasing death-rate from tuberculosis.

European nations generally were benefited by the stay of the American army overseas.

The straightforward manner in which the social evil was attacked had direct benefits. The important detail of dental care also received an interest through the advent of the American soldier. The London Daily Mail made this comment on that question:

"One thing about the American soldiers and sailors must strike English people when they see these gallant fighters, and that is the soundness and general whiteness of their teeth. From childhood the `Yank' is taught to take care of his teeth. He has `tooth drill' thrice daily and visits his dentist at fixed periods, say, every three or four months. If by chance a tooth does decay, the rot is at once arrested by gold or platinum filling. American dentists never extract a tooth. No matter how badly decayed it may be, they save the molar by crowning it with gold.

"The United States soldiers have set us a splendid example in this matter. They fairly shame the ordinary `Tommy' by the brilliance of their molars.



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