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Saturday, August 6, 2016

My research in France for #WWI #nurses, invitation to send info re: your relatives, friends who served!

My husband and I pose in Chateau-Thierry, France
along River Marne during one of our research trips
for background to my novel, HEROIC MEASURES.
For many decades, I have researched the lives and experiences of the 22,000+ American women who volunteered to join the American Armed Forces as nurses after Congress declared war in April 1917.

Beginning in the 1980s, I went to the Library of Congress and the National Archives to look at diaries, letters and photographs by and about these valiant ladies.
Many of those records were presented to me in boxes, uncategorized, unannotated. Most of the photographs, torn and faded, came to me redacted. The logic there, presented by the War Department, was that no one wanted to see a wounded soldier, nor one who had experienced an amputation, not even if he sat next to a nurse in white. National moral and interest in the war had to be kept high and pictures of wounded soldiers would detract from that.

American WWICentennial Commission logo


I also went to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. They too gave me unidentified pictures, old black photo albums, the contents spilling out into cardboard box containers.

Years later, I went to France. Often. Not only obtaining a background in period French and English medical procedures and challenges, I visited all the American cemeteries where our deceased men and women lie under the Linden trees in peace. I also went to Cantigny, Illinois to the First Division Museum and had extensive help from the director and the curators to further my knowledge. And as the 100th Anniversary of the USA's entry into WWI approached, I decided to finally sit down and write the novel about these women who had always inspired me.

In 2014, my husband and I went to Washington to join the Centennial Commission and I am happy to announce that next week, I will launch as editor the section of the American World War One Centennial Commission devoted to the Army Nurse Corps. Please visit this site:
http://www.worldwar1centennial.org

I invite those of you who have friends, acquaintances and loved ones who served in this "war to end all wars" to send me their pictures, their biographies, their stories. For many of you, your knowledge of these people may be very limited. Those who served were modest, humble Americans who tended not to boast of their experiences. Most returned home after the Armistice, disavowing the might of cannons and guns to solve any problems. Even in our own family, we only recently discovered a great uncle who was a priest who volunteered to comfort the wounded and the dying. We now know he walked No Man's Land at night as all priests and chaplains did to give solace to those unable to leave the place where they had fallen.

I will happily relate the stories of your family and friends who served. Here on this blog, I will post anything you send me about men who served in any capacity, soldier, YMCA, Salvation Army, veterinarian, doctor, dentist, independent volunteer or any other. And if you like, I can refer you to the WWI Centennial person who will post your information about your loved one on the national site. The Library of Congress and the National Archives will keep the site up in perpetuity for all Americans to use in the centuries to come.

For those of you who have stories, pictures, letters or memorabilia of women who served as nurses during this conflict, I will post that information (with your consent) on the national site.
Please send an email to me, tell me what you have in what format and we can discuss how I can post it. My email address is: wjpower@ymail.com

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Famous HARLEM HELL FIGHTERS, 369th Infantry Regiment, Commemoration by Black Caucus; Era of "Separate but Equal"

US Archives: public domain photograph
Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919.
Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Storms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor
     "Some of the colored men of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action." 1998 print. Records of the War Department General and Special. Staffs. (165-WW-127-8)






In the era of "Separate but equal" law in the United States, those black men and women who volunteered to serve in the US Army were trained, slept, ate and fought in separate units from Caucasians.

One of the most famous of those Army units was the 369th Infantry Regiment from New York City, or as they came to be known for their gallantry and for their extreme heroism in World War I, the Harlem Hellfighters.

The subject of many historical books and now of a best-selling graphic novel and soon to be a movie starring Will Smith, members of this infantry group distinguished themselves in France fighting with the French and alongside other US Army units. They were a significant force during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, uniquely never losing one foot of ground they gained and never losing a man as a prisoner of war.


369th Band aboard ship!
When they first landed in France, they were designated (as other African-American units were) as laborers. Most black American Doughboys worked the docks, unloading supplies from ships in the ports of St. Nazaire and Bordeaux. (Please read HEROIC MEASURES for a fuller description of their work.) But at that time the French experienced a number of mutinies in their ranks and French General Staff asked our American General Pershing to help shore up their very thin front line. Pershing, never interested in weaving in any American soldiers into any foreign military force, assigned the 369th to the French command. The French, who had given their colonists in Africa French citizenship in the 1880s, readily accepted the black Americans alongside their fighting forces. The 369th fought "like hell" and they were noted among the French as fearless fighters. Weeks later, once French General Command thought their lines more secure, Pershing took the 369th back and put them on the front lines with other Doughboys in the Meuse-Argonne area.
369th Band Marching in NYC Parade, Feb 17, 1919

In the 369th were many musicians.This group played often in camp and became renowned among the French for playing a new kind of music. This is, of course, jazz.

One monument to them stands in the Meuse-Argonne and another, a replica, in Harlem itself. The 369th has fought in other wars, including World War II and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently, the Congressional Black Caucus honored the descendants of these heroic men at the opening of their recent conference.

     US Archives: Harlem Hellfighters return home to parade in New York City February 17, 1919.  School children got the day off and if you examine this picture closely you will see a wonderful mix of black and white Americans applauding the 369th.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Emotional memories of war, PTSD, war wounds, facial wounds, plastic surgery, front line procedures and what we "learned" in WWI

Americans today associate PTSD with our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Truly, post-war trauma must have always been with us. We are, after all, human and violence of any kind offends us, especially when life and limb are violated. But in the Great War, more men survived the realities of bullets, shrapnel, gas and chemical attacks as well as disease than in any other war. The reason is, of course, that we had organized medical teams behind the lines at the ready.
True that those teams had little in the way of medicines or technology to aid them in rapid response to aiding wounded. But the process of getting aid to a wounded soldier had begun.
What do we know of that process?
1. Speed
We learned that the sooner a medical team sees a man, they can not only bandage him and/or administer first aid, but ease his pain.
The need for speed meant armies developed the concept of stretcher bearers who carried wounded from the line backward to a first aid station. This may have been a TRIAGE station where wounded were assessed for survivability. Triage posts were often served by ambulances, either horse drawn or mechanized. These vehicles ran over rough terrain at slow speeds and men inside often had no morphine or other to ease their pain.

Analysis of wounded men immediately behind
fighting line was often called TRIAGE, or separation
of wounded in to 3 groups. This was: 1. those who
would not live no matter the medical attention; 2. those who needed
immediate attention; 3. those who could wait a reasonable time for attention.


2. Efficiencies
We learned that a proper supply of emergency materials was necessary the closer to the front a medical team operated. This included not only scissors, bandages, splints, gauze, but also fresh sterile water, iodine and other similar sterilizing ointments.
This picture in a church in a Field Hospital shows either
primary or secondary line treatment. This is June 1918 and could
be primary treatment, if behind a rapidly advancing or retreating
front line.
3. Understanding of infection
The Great War occurred during a period when medical researchers were first beginning to understand the process of bacterial infection and how to limit its virulence.  No antibiotics were yet available. So cleansing a wound was a laborious process. Furthermore, the forensics of bullet trajectories and the erratic intrusions of shrapnel made removal of such foreign objects more of a guessing process than a logical one.
X-rays were available but limited in their scope. Furthermore, not every medical team had use of one.


4. Psychological effects of exposure to elements
Not only was a soldier exposed to bombs, bullets, shrapnel, gas and chemicals, he was exposed to the actions and reactions of his comrades to these elements. Add to that the primitive conditions of living and working in knee deep mud, poor hygiene, poor diet and constant pressure to perform menial tasks, and the average soldier suffered physical and social challenges which few current-day non-combatants can identify with.

5. Secondary surgery and recuperative treatments

Often a wounded man required one or more secondary surgeries. Operations performed by medical teams close to the fighting lines were under their own pressures to work quickly. This could mean the wounded had received life-saving treatment but required advanced surgeries to enhance the primary surgery.
To ensure continued care in a more secure area, the US Army (like other armies in this conflict) established hospitals well behind the lines. Americans established a base hospital system, staffed by entire teams from hospitals in the continental US and complemented by others from other area who joined those teams. These base hospitals were approximately 50 to 100 miles behind any front. So indeed a wounded man was transported even farther back of the line to a stationary base from which he could recuperate for an extended period. He was either certified completely recovered and returned to the front lines to fight again or sent on down the line to return home. In the US, he could be treated at another hospital or returned to his civilian home.
No such entity as our current Veterans Administration existed at that time. A man was left to recuperate on his own. The VA was a post World War II entity created by the Congress.

Facsimilie of facial wound prosthetic
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux, FR
Jo-Ann Power photo
6. Rehabilitative services which were new
Torso back brace and amputee of leg prosthetic.
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux, Fr
Jo-Ann Power photo
Physical therapy as a professional service was a new technique offered to amputees and those who had suffered physical incapacities. Much of this kind of therapy included training for new professions, such as weaving and metallurgy.  For those men who were amputees, many were offered prosthetic devices for arms and legs.
For those men who suffered facial deformities, plastic surgery was in its primary stages of development. And while many of these men opted to go into "retirement homes" because they did not wish to re-enter society, many of them volunteered to receive prosthetic masks. Many volunteered to be patients in novel procedures which today form the bedrock of our knowledge about efficacies in plastic surgery.

Arm-shoulder prosthesis
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux, FR
Jo-Ann Power Photo

For more on plastic surgery, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zxw42hv
For more on emotional trauma, shell shock and PTSD, visit: http://armsandthemedicalman.wordpress.com

Frontispiece of Pickerill's text on facial surgery, produced on the basis of his M.S. thesis to the University of Birmingham



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Battle of the Marne, September 1914, surprise attack on Paris and rallying of French

   
Taxis save Paris!
 After Germany invaded Belgium in early August 1914 and France and Britain declared war on Germany and her allies, the Germans saw that to win the war they should attack France quickly and decisively. They hoped to win the war within days and thus end what might be their biggest nightmare—a two-front war. As they swarmed toward Paris, the French were surprised. And their troops, their 7th Division, had to be repositioned from their railhead to quickly stop the German advance.

     In a valiant maneuver, the Army asked approximately 600 taxi drivers of Paris to aid them by carrying 10,000 French troops to the front lines. The taxi drivers were to meet their so-called passengers in the drive in front of the Les Invalides.
Les Invalides, Jo-Ann Power picture
Troops climbing into the taxis!
The farthest the Germans advanced was within 30 miles of Paris. At Meaux, they were stopped, thanks in part to these taxi drivers! (Do see the map here!)
Dotted line: Sept. 5 positions. Solid line: New front, post Sept. 9
Musee de La Grande Guerre in Meaux
Jo-Ann Power, picture


   
And in Meaux today, you can and should take the train from Gare de L'Est for a 30 minute ride to this quiet little town to visit the most marvelous museum, Musee de La Grande Guerre! (Do see my other posts about it!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Anti-German hatred among Americans as WWI begins; lynchings, riots, prejudice abounded

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, many in the USA exhibited anti-German attitudes. Newspapers ran cartoons that vilified the Kaiser and his soldiers and allies. Yet more than 1/3 of Americans were of German descent.
If cartoons in magazines and newspapers were the most visible, other actions showed American fear and bias toward the British and French.


Riots broke out in many cities. In Chicago, one man was hanged on suspicion of being a German sympathizer.
In my own German-American family where my father's family were 3rd generation Americans and where they spoke German, my grandfather warned his children to speak only English outside the house. My father remembers clearly that among his friends who were German-Americans, they had this warning, too.


While much of this editorializing might be understood as an effort by the government to propagandize the war effort—and gain support financially from the citizens, it is also a representation of what happens to people's emotional predisposition when attacked or when war seems to be the most viable solution to a political problem.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 4 "the lamps go out all over Europe" as we begin Commemorations of Start of The Great War

Sir Edward Grey
    Tomorrow night, August 4, in the United Kingdom at 10 p.m., all there will be asked to turn off their lights for one hour in commemoration of the official notice by British Prime Minister that the Cabinet had declared war on Germany August 4, 1914. The Lights Out project symbolizes the statement by then  British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey who said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."
   
     Read more about this event here on the BBC site: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-26767807

     And to read more about Grey's famous speech, do visit: http://www.1914-1918.net/greys_speech.htm

     The world today has been shaped by that war in countless ways. One of them is a constant questioning by many of the necessity and value of spending blood, tears and treasure to kill others.
On the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the event that ignited the conflict, leaders of those countries who went to war months later in 1914, gathered in Belgium. They promised each other then to work toward peace. Among them here you see the leaders of France, Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium.

      http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2014/06/26/11425191/



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

HEROIC MEASURES, digital, $1.99 only for Centennial of Declarations of War August 3-4

BUY LINK: http://amzn.to/1dWojVz

In commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Declarations of War by various countries, the publisher has reduced the price of digital version of HEROIC MEASURES for the next few days. (The price of the print version remains the same.) Buy Link: http://amzn.to/1dWojVz

August 3-4, 1914 are dates considered the official start date of the hostilities given that many declared by writ or by action that they existed in state of war.

The assassinations of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo June 28, 1914 certainly began the tragic series of events that culminated in millions of men, women and children dying world wide in the 4 year conflict that followed.

HEROIC MEASURES tells the story of the 22,000+ American women who volunteered to serve in the Army Nurse Corps and sail to France to serve.

What facts about them should you know and honor them for:


  • They volunteered, but were considered Army recruits.
  • They earned half—yes, HALF—the pay of an Army private.
  • They worked shifts that lasted 12 hour, but as the battles intensified and many wounded came to their operating tents and base hospitals—they worked 24 and 36 hours. Many of them dropped from fatigue. Hundreds died of tuberculosis, diseases and influenza. None died in combat, but hundreds served right in back of the front lines.
  • This is the first time that American woman go abroad to serve in the thousands.
  • Because this is the period in American history when the civil rights rule was to have "separate but equal" facilities for African-Americans, the Army established a separate African American Army Nurse Corps to serve the African-American recruits. 
  • A nurse signed a pledge to serve until the end of the war. She could not decide to go home at will, but had to remain in the Corps until the end. Just like a soldier.
  • I hope you will read my book for more insight into these marvelous women who served in a time of abject need.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ready for a Great American History lesson? WWI Centennial, April 1917

American Field medical kit, 1917
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux France
(Jo-Ann Power, photo)
Probably the least appreciated subject in school tends to be history. Just watch any of those "man on the street" interviews where a tv announcer asks someone who George Washington was and you can cringe.
But the best way to teach history is to live it.
And here, for your continuing education and delight, is a BRIEF list of a few groups and organizations creating really wonderful projects. Take note. Take yourself to these sites virtual and real. Better yet, take your children!
Learn from the past with these terrific programs:

1. Go to http://worldwar-1centennial.org to see the complete list, to date. Return often and look for more in your city or town!

2. For August 3-4, when the official commemorations begin in Europe, do see the wonderful lists of events our friends have developed here:
Britain: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/events/2014-2018-events-uk.htm
France: http://www.france.fr/en/institutions-and-values/first-world-war-centenary-1914-1918.html
Belgium:http://www.visitflanders.us/what-to-do/events/great-war-centenary/events_2014-2018.jsp
Germany: 100 Jahre Erster Weltkrieg http://www.volksbund.de
 German War Graves Commission web site

August 3 in the Alsace, the French and German heads of state meet to reaffirm their dedication to peace. They meet in the Alsace, one of the most hotly contested regions between the two countries. The meet beneath this sculpture of their ancestors carved into a mountain above the battlefield.

How could this possibly be of interest to Americans?
Well, I can tell you for myself that because my ancestors fled the Alsace in 1859 because of the constant warfare there, I find this interest in peace-keeping personally significant and gratifying to know.
From CentenaryNews.com: "They will meet at Hartmannswillerkopf, where almost 30,000 soldiers from both sides died in a series of battles for control of a strategic promontory overlooking the Alsatian Plain and the Rhine Valley. Known to French soldiers of the Great War as the Vieil Armand battlefield, the area was declared a historic monument in 1921, and now serves as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation."

3. For those with a passion for more WWI info, do go to World War One Historcal Association site: ww1ha.org.  You may join for a nominal sum.
    They have a monthly magazine which you can read on line or in print, written by experts in the subject.

4. If you saw on TV the 3-part History Channel documentary about the Two World Wars, then you saw brief bios of George Patton, the famous general who fought in the Argonne in World War One, and Douglas MacArthur who commanded the Rainbow Division, the unit that fought in Oise-Aisne and into Meuse-Argonne campaigns.
     For those of you who live in the Tidewater area, visit MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA. http://www.macarthurmemorial.org
    For a short and useful video of the causes of the war, do watch this 13 minute film:
http://youtu.be/p9rXwt6n1cU

5. Bringing the remembrance of those who fought to the cities and towns in the USA, a few organizations have wonderfully informative programs. One of these is the World War I Memorial Inventory Project, wwi-inventory.org
   This project is very exciting, recording in one place for the first time all of the memorials, large and small, the many American commemorations of the war we entered late...but helped to win.

6. Similar to the Inventory Project, but focused on teaching American children the history of the men and women who helped fight the war is Saving Hallowed Ground.  Led by Eugene P. Hough, this group will help communities organize and find the records of local military and volunteers who served in the war. Many of these men and women went abroad, fought and returned to little or no acclaim. With each school child choosing one name of a veteran and then learning about them and telling his or her classmates about that person, they will allow these men and women to live again in the hearts and minds of their countrymen. See www.SavingHallowedGround.com

    If any of these groups or their projects appeal to you, do contact the organizers or leaders. They will be happy to assist you with any efforts you may wish to contribute to remembering those who served in World War One.
   Please return here for more of my list of great American WWI Commemoration groups and events!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WWI Centennial is upon us as we remember how millions went to war in summer 1914: USA's WWI Centennial Commission

     I had the honor of being selected to attend the WWI Congressional Centennial Commission's first meeting in Washington D.C. June 14.
     Yes, here I am with my book at the event that bright Saturday afternoon, offering my services to speak at museums and tell others about the 22,000+ women who served in the Army Nurse Corps during The Great War. Ten thousand of them sailed to France to serve there.
     You are going to be surprised and very pleased by the number of those involved in the American commemoration projects.
     And yes, I will list them here, then post their website links to the right in the sidebar for you. What's more, I am delighted to tell you more about each one. They are so varied—from those who are re-enactors to those who are discovering and preserving our long-lost WWI memorials to those who are developing projects for K-12.
     The first website you should visit is that of the World War One Centennial Commission. This is a group authorized by the U.S. Congress to coordinate all commemorative activities by groups and individuals for the war. http://worldwar-1centennial.org
     This Commission will be the information center for American activities. If you know of an event or a private individual who has a special project or expertise, do send them to the website and encourage them to write to the Commission. Note too that this group was authorized without funding so all activities are voluntary.
     While those in Europe are already deep into the commemorative process, we here are just getting started. Understandable of course, since we Americans did not declare war against Germany and her allies until April 6, 1917.
   Then too, once we declared war, we really did not GO to war until approximately a year later. General Pershing demanded that he have at least 1 million men to go to the battlefront—and that conscription allotment was not fulfilled until approximately one year later. By the time we were in France in force of one million, it was the Spring 1918. No, Pershing did not go to war with the Army he had. He knew would be disastrous. Furthermore, he advocated educating his staff first, sending his artillery and cavalry (let that read mechanized forces, such as they were) into situations with French and British troops along their lines. He wanted his troops to benefit from what the British and French had learned.
  One of the first groups to go was the first hospital to be organized to go abroad. From Baltimore Maryland (my home town), Johns Hopkins University medical staff volunteered and organized as Base Hospital #1. I post here a photograph given me by First Division Museum curators in Cantigny Illinois of the interior of that hospital. Do note the wooden construction, the metal beds, the uniformity of linens and blankets and do notice especially the nurse in the aisle working with orderlies.