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…After four years and loss of 16 million lives the First World War I came to a close at 1100 on November 11th. It has been said that the war ended with more of a sneeze than a bang. The Great Influenza Pandemic of fall 1918 would cause more deaths than the war itself (estimated up to 50 million). In the United States, the average life expectancy dropped 12 years in 1918.
… the fortune cookie, French dip sandwiches, and in St. Paul, Minn., plastic bags with handles (or the first grocery bags) all made their first appearances.
…the first National Hockey League championship was won. The series played between the Toronto Arenas of the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Although Lord Stanley’s cup was awarded to the victorious Arenas, this was not the first appearance of this legendary trophy. It had originally been commissioned for a long defunct amateur hockey league in 1892.
…the patriotic standard "God Bless America” was first played. Composed by Irving Berlin while serving with the Army at Camp Upton, the song would go on to achieve greater popularity in World War II and become a popular tradition at many sporting events .
… John Barton Gruelle releases the first Raggedy Ann stories. After Gruelle’s daughter Marcella died of a small pox inoculation, Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls would become synonymous with the "anti-vaccination movement.”
In 1918, the Navy Medical Department had expanded to the largest size ever to that point. Those serving in Navy Medicine included 287 dentists (including 131 Regulars, three temporary, and 156 Reserves), 14,718 hospital corpsmen, 1,713 nurses, and 3,000 physicians (including 1,523 USNRF). 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 operated Base Hospitals in Brest, France (No. 1 and No. 5), Strathpeffer, Scotland (No. 2) Leith, Scotland (No.3 ), Queenstown, Ireland (No. 4). The Navy also operated three hospital ships, USS Solace, USS Comfort and USS Mercy.
There were 9,307 deaths in the Navy and Marine Corps in 1918. Disease was the leading cause of death (5,938) followed by casualties of war (2,211) and finally accidents and injuries (1,158). Of disease deaths, 85 percent was due to some form pneumonia (influenzal, lobar, and broncho-pneumonia). Venereal diseases hit an all-time high in the Navy in 1918 accounting for 456,538 sick days and 35,360 admissions (21,404 gonorrhea, 7,996 chancroid and 5,960 syphilis); 543 were invalided from service or died as a result of the disease.
Thirteen members of the Medical Department (One dentist and 12 enlisted) were killed in action in World War I. An additional 109 members (eight medical officers and 101 enlisted) were wounded (included gas warfare).
Navy Medical personnel investigated field sanitation, gas warfare, illumination of midshipman quarters, physical and psychological requirements for aviators, ventilation of submarines, and types of rations best served aboard submarines.
In 1918, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) relocates from the State, War and Navy Building (later the Eisenhower Executive Building) to the new "Main Navy” headquarters at B Street, NW (now Constitution Avenue) in Washington, D.C. BUMED shared the 90,000 square foot, three-story concrete structure with the other Departments of the Navy. At the start of the year, BUMED consisted of: 10 physicians (nine Navy and one Public Health), seven Temporary Medical Corps Officers (typically Pharmacists assigned as medical officers during the war), six civilians, four Pharmacists, two temporarily assigned Pharmacists (Hospital Corpsmen), two nurses and one dentist.
On June 6, 1918, while serving with the 6th Marine Regiment at Chateau Thierry, France, Lt.(junior grade) Weedon Osborne ran into a hail of machine-gun fire to help carry a wounded Marine to a place of safety. His brave act would become the dentist's ultimate sacrifice; Osborne was killed by a shell becoming the first U.S. Navy officer to die in World War I. For his extraordinary valor in the face of death, Osborne was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. On 20 February 1920, the USS Osborne (DD 295) was named in his honor.
In 1918 the Navy operated Hospital Corps Schools in Boston, Mass. (Boston City Hospital—Hospital Apprentices, USNR), Great Lakes, Ill (Class A), Hampton Roads, Va. (forerunner of IDC school), Newport, R.I. (Class A), New York, N.Y. (Columbia University—Short and Intense Course), Philadelphia, Penn. (Philadelphia College of Pharmacy—USNR Corpsman Short Course), Yerba Linda, Calif. (Class A).
Lena Sutcliffe Higbee was one of the first nurses selected in 1908 ("Sacred Twenty) and the only second person to be appointed Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps (1911). During her tenure as Superintendent she helped pioneer a new training program to augment the number of nurses being deployed to France during World War I when trained nurses were in short supply. The "Vassar Training Camp” served as a "finishing” school for many of these nurses. Under her watch, the Navy Nurse Corps grew from 160 in April 1917 to 1,386 by the Armistice in November 1918. Higbee would write: The Nurse whose recent occupation has not required this ability is given an opportunity to develop this desirable qualification but such development means that the nurse must have an open mind, must encourage deep interest in the Naval Service and must possess the common sense to realize that a adaptability necessary for success must be in the individual since a Military Service cannot adapt itself to a person or persons.”
In the heyday of their St. Louis Browns baseball team, St. Louis was often referred to as being "First in booze, first in shoes and last in the American League.” From 1901 to 1953, St. Louis was home to the lowly American league ball club the St. Louis Browns (later the Baltimore Orioles). Unfortunately, this team had a long history of coming in last place. One distinction that set this team apart was its shortstop who happened to also be an actual physician. From 1913 to 1917, John "Doc” Lavan played for the Browns. In 1918, Dr. Lavan would enter the Navy as a Medical Corps Officer. He would serve in the Naval Reserves through World War II.
The large influx of new recruits in the Navy lead to an increase population of prisoners at the Naval Prison in Portsmouth, N.H. (Between 1 April 1917 and 1 February 1918, the number of court-martial prisoners at the prison increased 650 percent to 1,646). Psychiatric examinations for naval prisoners was instituted on November 1, 1917 to determine or mental disorder in general court-martial prisoners and determine a method for reducing the "economic loss” occasioned by military delinquency. In his review of prisoners Passed Assistant Surgeon A.L. Jacoby, USNRF determined that most (31.0 percent) were imprisoned on account of desertion. This was followed by "absence over leave” (22.2 percent) and then "scandalous conduct tending to the destruction of good morals” (.6 percent). Fifty six percent of the cases are of military character and would not bring the individual to civil court. Thirty three point three percent did not have a psychiatric condition (drunkenness or temperamental difficulties) , followed by 22.6 percent of those deemed "subnormal” and 12 percent diagnosed with "hysteria.”
One might say that the war ended with a cough, not a bang. In 1918, the year of the Armistice more people died from Spanish Influenza than from combat. Of course, the Spanish flu pandemic that wreaked havoc across the world was a misnomer. It is believed that the disease began at a Kansas Army Training facility in 1917, spreading throughout North America, and was brought to the European front by American troops. Somewhere along the lines, as a result of increasing human antibodies, it mutated. When it reappeared in the United States in the fall of 1918, influenza had brought on the added complication of pneumonia. Health providers could only treat symptoms of the virus. By 1919, after a reign of terror that killed between 22 and 40 million people worldwide and over 675,000 Americans, the virulent form of flu simply vanished. Today’s virologists are still unlocking the mysteries of the virus.
Spanish Flu victims suffered massive pneumonia and fatal pulmonary complications: they literally drowned in their own body fluids. Lungs filled with fluid and their skin became markedly discolored from the lack of oxygen. Mysteriously, it killed more young than old. The death rate was greatest among ages 15-40.
Navy medical professionals were among those who were overwhelmed trying to fight this virus. Treatment was essentially non-existent. The U.S. Navy was forced to rely on quarantine or infectious disease stations as brave doctors, Hospital Corpsmen, and nurses care for the daily needs of the patients.
Navy nurse Josie Brown, serving at Naval Hospital in Great Lakes, Ill., in 1918, later described what happened there and in many hospitals around the country. "The morgues were packed almost to the ceiling with bodies stacked one on top of another. The morticians worked day and night. You could never turn around without seeing a big red truck loaded with caskets for the train station so bodies could be sent home. We didn’t have the time to treat them. We didn’t take temperatures; we didn’t even have time to take blood pressure. We would give them a little hot whisky toddy; that’s about all we had time to do. They would have terrific nosebleeds with it. Sometimes the blood would just shoot across the room. You had to get out of the way or someone’s nose would bleed all over you."