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… The hopes of a short war in Europe crushed by further entrenchment, weaponization of poison gas and Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. Although the United States would remain neutral throughout the year, the loss of the Cunard liner Lusitania along with 124 American lives in May would help change that.
… The year saw the first long-distance (transcontinental) telephone call made between New York and San Francisco (January); in Mississippi, public health researcher Dr. Joseph Goldberger would unlock the mystery of the nutritional disease Pellagra (February).
…The year also was marked by the release of Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp and D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, two films that would further elevate the still young medium into a reputable art form.
…In sports, the Boston Red Sox would beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the Fall Classic four games to one; this sporting event would mark the only time in history that two home run record holders (Gavvy McGrath and Babe Ruth) would play against each other.
…Literature was marked by birth of its newest genre World War I poetry; one of the most famous trench poems, In Flanders Field would be published that year. Other notable works of literature that year include Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage.
In 1915, the Navy Medical Department remained a small peacetime organization consisting of 31active duty dentists, 1,584 hospital corpsmen, 24 pharmacists, 148 nurses, and 327 physicians; the medical reserve force (not yet opened to nurses, or Corpsmen) included 150 physicians. The Navy operated 19 hospitals stateside and abroad in Annapolis, Md., Brooklyn, N.Y., Cañacao, P.I., Chelsea, Mass., Great Lakes, Ill., Guam, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Las Animas, Colo., Mare Island, Calif., Narragansett Bay, R.I., Norfolk, Va., Olongapo, P.I., Philadelphia, Pa., Port Royal, S.C., Portsmouth, N.H., Puget Sound, Wash., Tutuila (America Samoa), Washington, D.C. and Yokohama (Japan). The 20-year old USS Solace was the only hospital ship still in commission.
In 1915, the leading causes of death for Navy and Marine Corps personnel were:
Drowning (42), Tuberculosis (36), Pneumonia (22), Burns (16) and Gunshot wounds (13). Sixty eight percent of the deaths by burns were the result of boiler explosions aboard USS San Diego (ACR-6) and USS Decatur (DD-5). Tuberculosis and syphilis would account for the greatest number of sick days for Navy and Marine personnel in 1915, 71, 360 and 65, 682, respectively.
The combine civil unrest and fear of German occupation lead to the beginning of the U.S. military police action on the island of Hispaniola. The Navy and Marine Corps would remain for the next 19 years in a period often referred to as the U.S. Occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). The Marine Corps Expeditionary Force supported by the Navy Medical Department would be responsible for restoring and preserving order. During these years U.S. Navy medical personnel would help establish the National d’Hygiene Publique and oversee sanitation and disease prevention by supervising the control of the mosquito population through drainage of the low lying areas, establishing quarantine facilities, and providing frontline medical care.
On March 25, 1915, during a routine dive off Honolulu, the submarine USS F-4 sank in 51 fathoms of water, with the loss of her 21 crewmembers. Naval medical personnel stationed at Naval Hospital Pearl Harbor would help oversee the recovery effort as well as the identification and disposition of the remains. In his report of the recovery effort, Surgeon William Seaman, USN, would recommend that all naval personnel (especially those serving aboard submarines) wear aluminum identifications (i.e., “dog tags”) around their ankles and that the heels of all Sailors’ shoes be marked with their initials.
In 1915, Navy Surgeon Luther von Wedekind asserts that Ponce De Leon’s Spring of Eternal Youth “lies not hidden in Florida, but bubbles always from aseptic nozzle of the chilled scuttle butt of an American battle ship.” Von Wedekind claimed that the use of distilled water for drinking has helped to eradicate the disease and increased the life-expectancy of humans. According to von Wedekind “overdrinking of water” is a habit that will lead to “agreeable, constant and productive” results.
In 1915, Rear Adm. Cary Grayson, MC, USN whose tenure in the White House extended back to the Theodore Roosevelt Administration 1907, introduced the wealthy socialite Edith Galt to the President Woodrow Wilson. The recently widower-president, who was still grieving the loss of his first wife, immediately to the vivacious Edith and their relationship blossomed. At year’s end Wilson and Galt married, marking the second time that a sitting president married in office. After Wilson suffered his massive stroke in October 1919, it has been claimed by many historians that Grayson and Galt (not Vice President Thomas Marshall) were making decisions in the president’s stead.