Book review: “Wounded”

“Wounded” by Emily Mayhew

Reviewed by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

In any war the term “casualty” includes many elements, e.g. killed, wounded, captured etc.  Too often war historians concentrate on the “killed” to summarize battles, final outcome and costs.  But in most modern wars, the wounded figure greater in number than killed.  They are often marginalized and ignored in the total picture.  Emily Mayhew, a British historian, found the neglected issue of the wounded not given enough focus by military or war historians.  She set about researching the treatment of the British wounded in World War 1.  This short, but fascinating study, enlightens a part of that war unseen nor
reported by the media and deliberately kept from the public.  Her research took considerable time as documentation was not often accessible, but her perseverance revealed a broad effort to provide medical care to a war whose massive and brutal  casualties overwhelmed the then medical capabilities.

Her approach was to take the whole medical spectrum through personal accounts and divides the book into chapters titled: Stretcher Bearers, Regimental Medical Officers, Surgeons etc.  As the war progressed and the wounded approached enormous numbers, innovations  such as mobile Xrays, proceeded accordingly but not always with the success perceived.

Frustrations, delays, lack of supplies, plagued all medical units and she carefully categorizes the response.  New and innovative procedures had to developed and some truly remarkable attempts to save lives were achieved. Mayhew has done a worthwhile investigation of a shadow element of the war.

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Book Review: “War’s Waste”

amputees blogOn Nov. 11, while the rest of the countries involved in WWI hold Remembrance events, the United Sates celebrates Veterans Day. Sometimes there are parades or ceremonies honoring the flag; sometimes the day passes only with the banks and post office being closed and kids getting  day off school.

Caring for veterans is a serious concern for any country. Here Len Shurtleff reviews Beth Linkner’s book about the aftermath of WWI.

War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America, by Beth Linker, University of Chicago, 304 pages, photos, tables, index, ISBN 978 0 2264 8253, $35.

Review by Len Shurtleff

In post-Civil War America, veterans’ pensions were the largest line item in federal budgets, taking up some 50% of that budget by 1900. By 1915, these pensions had cost $3 billion, more than the cost of the war itself. According to Linker, this created a virtual pork-barrel welfare state for Union veterans of about $3 million annually.

These pensions and an accompanying system of national soldiers’ homes had support from the politically powerful Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Union veterans’ organization upon whose patronage Republican politicians depended for votes and campaign funding. Progressive Era reformers saw this as wasteful of public funds and a disincentive to productive work and self-improvement among veterans.

The outbreak of World War I prompted progressive reformers to apply their social gospel and work ethic ideals to veterans’ benefits in an effort to reduce the drain on the public purse. The War Risk Insurance Act of 1914 created a new board to adjudicate claims for war damage or loss that was independent from the corrupt Treasury Pension Bureau.

The system grew in complexity with America’s entry into the war in 1917, adding provisions for mandatory allotments for dependents, life and disability insurance, and mandatory restorative rehabilitation for wounded troops.

The aim became one of rehabilitation; returning wounded men to productive civilian lives, teaching them new skills if necessary and providing amputees with serviceable prostheses.

As a result of this dramatic turnaround in treatment of wounded veterans, the Army Surgeon General’s Office constructed some 149 new hospitals with 100,000 beds with ample facilities for treatment and long-term rehabilitation. Amputee veterans were looked upon not as objects of pity, but as candidates for total rehabilitation and reintegration into civilian life as productive wage earners and husbands and fathers rather than swelling the welfare rolls.

Still, this new effort saved no money. By 1920, the federal government was spending as much on World War I veterans it was on Civil War survivors, and veterans benefits still took up half the federal budget.

By 1935, New Deal recovery programs had, of course, vastly reduced this share as federal budgets expanded mightily.

This system now is a complex mix of war risk insurance, physical rehabilitation and vocational training managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The several iterations of the post-World War II GI Bill have added both benefits and costs that dwarf any previous veteran pension scheme dating back to the War of 1812.

Blizzard in the Dardenelles

We woke up to heavy snow this morning — halfway through April. Clearing off the car was a challenge, and then there was ice to scrape off the windows. I saw a container garden of daffodils and snowdrops that were frozen solid.

But, to paraphrase another blogger (That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele). this snow is nothing compared to Gallipoli. The Dardanelles’ average temperature in November is a tolerable 54 — jacket weather, we would say. But on Nov. 28, 1915, the peninsula was hit with a blizzard.

The Australian, New Zealand and other British troops began landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 — with another monthly average in the 50s — but the summer months were extremely hot and many soldiers developed dysentery and typhoid fever, because of the flies flourishing on the unburied, decomposing dead.

But the weather was hot, then it was warm, then it was cool — and then there was a horrific thunderstorm with rain so heavy that many men drowned in their own trenches.  The next day, the blizzard hit.

Here is one New Zealander’s account, from the Poverty Bay Herald, posted by the National Library of New Zealand: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=PBH19160205.2.39

More accounts and discussions can be found at the Great War Forum: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=166263&page=2

Snow at Gallipoli

April 25 is a day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders, and it’s also commemorated by the Turks.  Ceremonies around the world are very moving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stb0asxF6bM

Put it on your calendar — and hope for better weather.

 

 

 

Filmmaker needs a hand — and a couple of legs

From Facebook friend Aaron Higgins:

Howdy all! I am inquiring for a friend on a job that is being filmed in California. I was curious if anyone had any idea where I might go about finding an authentic pair of World War I era prosthetic legs?

Any leads are appreciated! Thanks!

Aaron, here’s a possible lead:

https://www.facebook.com/DittrickMuseum?ref=ts

The Dittrick Medical History Center in Cleveland, Ohio, also has links on its website that might be helpful.

http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/dittrick/museum/links.html

Here’s a selection of prosthetic legs from the war era — unfortunately for your friend, this is a contemporaneous photo from the Imperial War Museum and not a source of limbs:

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And here’s a photo — one of the saddest photos I have ever seen — of a young fellow who needed a pair of WWI-ear prosthetic legs:

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Memorial Day 2013

More than any other modern war ’14-’18 lives in the memory as the ultimate example of a mismatch between what was at stake and the price that was paid. It is the war of the ‘lost generation’, sacrificed for a cause which, in hindsight, is difficult to pinpoint.”

Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Belgian historian and Associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University, quoted on http://messines1917.blogspot.be

ruins

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Over there, over there

The WW1HA is going to the battlefields again in May.

Come with me.

The tour will begin May 25 in Brussels and go to the fortress city of Liege, where brave little Belgium’s army held up the German advance for 12 days at the beginning of the war.

The group will move on to the Vosges Mountains in Alsace, to visit the Le Linge battlefield and museum, full of artifacts. More than 2 miles of trenches and fortifications are still in place. On to Hartmannswillerkopf and its incredible views — at nearly 1,000 meters above sea level — and memorials. The American Ambulance Services worked here.

Then to Verdun, the St. Mihiel Salient, Belleau Wood, Le Hamel — where American troops fought alongside Australians on July 4, 1918 — and a full day of exploring around Ypres, concluding with the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

To walk where they walked, to stand on the ground they fought so hard for is incredibly humbling.

To raise a glass to them while chomping frites — the best fries/chips you will ever eat — with the possibility of chocolate croissants for breakfast is incredibly fun.

Come on. I’ll meet you in Brussels and buy you a beer.

http://ww1ha.org/pdf/Battlefield-Tour-2013-Itinerary.pdf

http://www.examiner.com/article/french-world-war-i-trenches-of-le-linge-alsace

http://www.haute-alsacetourisme.com/en/sites-incontournables/hartmannswillerkopf-4.html

http://www.en.verdun-tourisme.com/

http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/stmihiel.htm

http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/b4/belleau_wood.htm

http://www.dva.gov.au/commems_oawg/OAWG/war_memorials/overseas_memorials/france/Documents/Battle_Le_Hamel.pdf

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/ypres-salient/battles-ypres-salient.htm

http://www.visitbelgium.com/?page=beer-lovers

 

Feet to Remember

Caroline Copland of London had a dream: She was walking from the  Passchendaele battlefield to Canary Wharf, one of London’s two financial districts — the Wall Street of London, perhaps.

After she woke up, she decided to make the 125-mile journey on foot in reverse: London to Ypres, from the Cenotaph to the Menin Gate.

Her walk is a fund-raiser for Combat Stress. According to its website, “Combat Stress is the leading UK charity specialising in the care of Veterans’ mental health. We are currently supporting just over 5,000 ex-Service men and women.”

The organization began in 1919 as the Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Society to rehabilitate veterans with shell shock.

Caroline expects to be in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, on Thursday in time for the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. She’s blogging — shin splints! — and collecting donations at http://www.justgiving.com/feettoremember

Fun fact: In 1927, the Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Society, to provide work for the men under its care, developed and manufactured one of the first electric blankets to be sold in the UK.

Here’s more about shell shock, which we now know as PTSD:

http://historyofptsd.wordpress.com/world-war-i/

 

 

 

 

 

A death in Romania, Part 2

WW1HA member John Snow has a link to the story of Edward Newell Ware, who died in 1919 Bucharest while serving the American Relief Administration. The post was written by genealogist Vicki Cheesman about her ancestor:

http://www.warefamilies.org/blog1/biography/edward-newell-ware-1892-1919/

Edward Ware was an ambulance driver with the American Field Service. Here are diaries, letters, photos and MAPS from another ambulance driver, Samuel Miller Keplinger Jr., also posted by a family member:

http://www.ourstory.info/library/2-ww1/Keplinger/kepTC.html

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Volunteers with the American Field Service at an aid station. (“Friends of France,” Houghton Mifflin, 1916)

Fractured femurs often led to death until the Thomas splint came along. Remembered Phinney in “A Separate Peace” dying after he broke his leg? (Fell out of a tree, yes?)

Daly History Blog

How many military historians – people for whom writing about death and injury is part of their vocation – actually have anything more than a rudimentary understanding of battlefield medicine? Nope, me neither. And for somebody who has been specialising in war casualties, that is something I really should remedy.

Therefore I was intrigued to receive this book looking at war surgery in the First World War. It is actually edited by a pair of medical professionals who also have an interest in military history, which for me is crucial. Medicine is such a specialist field, that to be honest I think only medical professionals can really do it justice. But this isn’t just a scientific, geeky look at things that the layman would never understand. It is structured very sensibly, beginning with a basic introduction to the First World War and the Western Front, and also…

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Accidents and illness in war time

When I scrambled across Hill 60 (or maybe it was 62), the ground is so uneven, I kept thinking about how easy it would be to blow out your knee or twist an ankle. I suppose then you’d get shot.

Daly History Blog

Something that I don’t think military history has ever quite convinced in portraying is the extent to which people are vulnerable to accidents and illness war time. In particular during the periods of mass mobilisation during both world wars. The National Roll of the Great War gives unparalleled information about how people died, which sheds new light on the experiences that affected the people of Portsmouth.

During war time, the usual health and safety and economy measures go out of the window. On a Dreadnought, or on the front line, for that matter, there are all manner of things that can go wrong. Several men were washed overboard warships. There were accidental explosions. Men fell into dry docks, or even Canals. One man drowned whilst attempting to rescue a man who fell overboard. One man was seriously injured when he fell under his horse. All manner of dangers could…

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