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…U.S. severs diplomatic relations with Germany and on April 17th, declares war.
By the end of the year the U.S. States would deploy the American Expeditionary Forces to Frances under the Command of Black Jack Pershing. The tides of war would soon turn.
…James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic “I want you!” poster featuring Uncle Sam is first printed. Over four million were printed for the war effort and so popular was this image that it would later be used in World War II. Other recruiting posters include Howard Chandler Christy’s “I want you for the Navy” poster featuring an attractive "society woman" (Christy girl) dressed as a sailor.
…Dancer Double-spy Mata Hari is arrested for espionage by the French. She is executed in October of the year. Stateside the United States would enact its own policy against spying (Espionage Act).
…The Pulitzer Prize—an award for the best in journalism, literature and musical composition—is established.
…The moon-pie, Cheerwine, rubber-soled sneakers, and packaged cosmetic mascara each premiered in 1917.
In 1917, the Navy Medical Department consisted of 104 dentists, 1,700 Hospital Corpsmen, 485 nurses (225 Regular and 260 Reserve), 1,145 physicians (345 Regular and 800 Reserve). The Navy operated hospitals stateside and abroad in Annapolis, Md., Brooklyn, N.Y., Cañacao, P.I., Chelsea, Mass., Great Lakes, Guam, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Las Animas (Fort Lyon), Colo., Mare Island, Calif., Narragansett Bay, R.I., Norfolk, Va., Olongapo, P.I., Pensacola, Fl., Pearl Harbor, TH, Philadelphia, Pa., Port Royal, S.C., Portsmouth, N.H., Puget Sound, Wash., Quantico, Va., San Diego, Calif. (War Dispensary), St. Thomas, V.I., Tutuila (America Samoa), Washington, D.C. and Yokohama (Japan). Several temporary hospitals were built for the war effort in Cape May, N.J., Gulfport, Miss., Hampton Roads, Va., New London, Conn., New Orleans, La., Pelham Bay Park, N.Y., and Wards Island, N.Y. The Navy also began the process of establishing base hospitals in Europe.
In 1917, the leading cause of death in the Navy and Marine Corps were Pneumonia (200), Drowning (193) Cerebro-spinal fever (112) Tuberculosis (61) and Meningitis (52). The principle cause of rejection from entry into the Navy and Marine Corps in 1917 were: Being underweight (38,466), eyesight/errors of refraction (40,646), and defective teeth (18,751).
LCDR W.D. Owens, Medical Corps, a leading crusader against social disease, prepared a series of posters and booklets for the Navy in its campaign against venereal diseases. Many of these posters and booklets were distributed throughout the fleet and naval stations home and abroad. As Owens would remark, “During the war a man is dishonest to himself and to his country who contracts through self-indulgence a venereal disease. The individual who deliberately incapacitates himself for rendering that service to his country for which he enlisted is in the same category as the man who intentionally raises his hand above the trenches thus he may be shot and thus avoid further service.”
The Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. was established on May 14, 1917. Throughout World War I, thousands of Marines and Navy medical personnel were trained in Quantico before being deployed to France. One Navy medical officer attached to the base in August 1917, would later describe his experiences. “I was entering a new world when I reached Quantico….The station was in early stages of development. There was a great deal of mud on the roadways and the paths leading to various buildings, most of which were just wooden shacks. I was assigned first to have quarters in the dispensary, to approach which I had to climb over a lot of duckboards and improvised, it seemed, bridges. There were more khaki-clad men in one place than I had ever seen in my life before. It was heartwarming to see how many young men were responding to the colors and in training at this rapidly developing Marine Corps base. While there was a lot of dust at Quantico, it really was a quagmire in August 1917 with many duckboards laid indiscriminately over the reservation for foot transit."
The Handy-Book of the Hospital Corps, the “textbook” used aboard ship and at Hospital Corps School for instruction, is revised and expanded. The 1917 version runs 386 pages.
In April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called for a declaration of war against Germany, and American isolationism headed for temporary retirement. The United States was now committed to its first European conflict. In order to maintain the health of a rapidly growing wartime Navy and care for its sick and injured, the Navy Medical Department had to recruit and train hundreds of physicians, dentists, and nurses, as well as thousands of hospital corpsmen.
Even though the U.S. Navy never engaged a German fleet during its year and a half participation in World War I, Navy medical personnel served with Marine Corps units on the Western Front; aboard every man-of-war, troop transport, and supply ship; with submarine divisions, aviation groups; and with the United States Railway Battery in France. In 1917, the Navy deployed 38 physicians, 5 dentists, and 348 hospital corpsmen to France; nurses went as well. What they encountered were trench warfare’s frightful realities—trench foot, disease, rats, vermin, the complete absence of the most rudimentary hygiene, and the terrifying results of gas warfare—mustard, phosgene, and chlorine.
Those medical personnel with the Marine Brigade in France also had to deal with other war trauma—shrapnel, blast injury, high velocity projectile wounds, and psychiatric disorders, then collectively known as shell-shock. From that terrible conflict in Europe, medical personnel became skilled in trauma resuscitation, the treatment of wounds and infectious disease, and war’s psychological wounds. disease, and the psychological wounds of war.