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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Joint Forces Journal calls HEROIC MEASURES "a riveting and historically accurate novel!"

Joint Forces Journal, a privately published newsletter for members of the United States Armed Forces of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard praises HEROIC MEASURES as "…a riveting and historically accurate novel."

This review appeared in their latest issue, and you may view it in its original form at this url link:

But you may also view it here as I attempt to take screen shots and piece them together for you!

I am delighted with the honor of their review and extremely delighted to have their praise.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lafayette Escadrille, Lex Learner in HEROIC MEASURES flies for Army Aero Squadron & beginning of American Air Force

Flag with logo
   The volunteers who went to France before the USA declared war in April 1917 were men who had enjoyed the luxury of learning how to fly aeroplanes. Most of these men were college students from well-to-do families. After all, flight instruction was expensive!
    Because the United States had declared itself a neutral country, any Americans volunteering had to belong to a "neutral" unit. Hence, they joined the "unofficial" flying unit of the French aero fleet. The French were canny and called it after the famous French aristocrat who had been a leader in the American forces aiding George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

     Aeroplanes were relatively new transportation, produced in greater numbers only at the beginning of the 1910 decade. Planes were fragile, constructed of plywood, a few bits of metal and the gas tank. Those who flew understood that they had to be very cognizant of wind, shear, temperatures and storms. They also knew that once off the ground, flying a mile or two in the air was extremely cold. All those photos we see of men in leather jackets with huge scarves around their necks is no fabrication! They were frozen up there—and suffered colds, pneumonia and massive ear infections as a result. (So does Lex Learner in HEROIC MEASURES!)

     Accidents, too, were very common. Only as manufacturers took advice from experienced pilots did they begin to produce planes that were sturdier and offered more functionality. The Germans produced quite a few models before and during the war, including the Fokker and Junker, both useful in bombing raids. The French produced a few, too, the most famous being the Nieuport, used by our Escadrille and by the men in that unit who transferred to the new US Aero Squardrons when we declared war.

     In wartime, the probability of accidents increased. And as the men of the Escadrille learned from their French cohorts how to fly amid cannon fire, they also learned how to take reconnaissance pictures
and drop bombs. As the war wended on, they also learned how to use the newest of the deadly technology—the machine gun.
Nieuport's were choice of US Aero Squardrons,
light and efficient.

     Life expectancy was short. In fact, most of the men who originally served in the Escadrille died in service. ONe of the few to survive, and one of the most famous, is Eddie Rickenbacker. He went on to found a major airline in the United States. ____
Air Service Map, A.E.F. aerodromes:
The most active squadrons—for bombing raids and surveillance—were stationed
in the northeast sector, near Chaumont, US Headquarters, and employed heavily
in the battles for St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne drives,
September 1918 through November, 1918.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

German Cemetery in Consenvoye, France in Argonne. Why are they here?

     Stark black crosses mark the graves of 11,148 German soldiers who died in the Battles for Meuse-Argonne in Autumn 1918 in France.

     Here near the American Cemetery of the Meuse-Argonne rest these soldiers along the highway outside the very tiny town of Consenvoye, France. As you can see here, the plots are not as well tended as the Americans'. We understand this decision.

     But when I talk about this quiet little cemetery along the road to our own huge one, many ask why these German soldiers are laid to rest here.

   One reason, we learn from memoirs of American soldiers, nurses and ambulance drivers, is that the Germans retreated very rapidly in the Argonne offensive. They left, rushing to their homeland, leaving behind huge amounts of armaments and supplies. One account noted that the Americans had to climb into trucks to pursue them, the Germans were running so quickly. They had no time to bury their dead.

     In fact, American burial teams did this for them. And while it is true that they buried their foes' bodies after interring their own deceased, nonetheless the Americans did do this.

     For more on this, please do read a stirring account of this in Brannon Simon's edited version of his grandfather's diary (one I highly recommend).  The buy link for his wonderful book, THAT's WAR, is:

"In this soldiers' cemetery rest 11,148 German soldiers."

I took this picture in late April when the dandelions are in bloom, a contrast to the serene black crosses.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mobile hospitals, Surgical teams, X-ray trucks, Sterilizers and more!

US Ambulance, circa WWI, holds 4 men!
How do you best save wounded men if:

1. they are sometimes carried by 4-6 stretcher bearers for 1 mile or more before getting to ambulance

2. they must travel over muddy, shell-warped lanes for 3 to 5 miles back of line to get to a sterilized operating room

3. only at night, lest the enemy see the ambulance line during the daylight and bomb them

4. in ambulances that hold either four or eight

5. with only barest field dressings on utterly horrific head, chest and intestinal areas

6. with limited morphine pills

7. not enough front line surgeons

8. who have limited facilities (surgical supplies, no needles, no ether, no nurses, orderlies only...)

The United States Army Medical Corps answered these challenges by creating mobile hospital units. These teams of expert surgeons, nurses and orderlies formed 7-member teams who volunteered to go directly in back of the front lines of Doughboys.

US Army Mobile X-Ray truck, WWI
These men and women were screened to be the most professional, stable, healthy individuals who had proven their resilience and talents in the first months that Americans had gone abroad. Then, as the need for medical teams to be much closer to the wounded became vital, mobile surgical units were created.

Composed of one surgeon, one assistant, two nurses, one nurse anesthetist and two orderlies, this team would receive a wounded man and immediately operate on him.

To ensure that this occurred within minutes, the mobile unit also consisted of admitting officers who were trained in triage, x-ray technicians and ambulance drivers who took the post-op patients and transported them farther down the line to another mobile unit or a larger facility, also mobile, called an evacuation hospital.

Want to read about one in action in the Meuse-Argonne in November 1918 during the Big Push?
Read HEROIC MEASURES, out now.
In there, you see how the main character, Gwen Spencer from Scranton Pennsylvania joins a mobile surgical unit and survives the rigorous PUSH in The Great War.

A group of trucks in a mobile unit would pull into a clearing and go to work!
This was their configuration.

Even men of the ambulance units had to pause to line up and get a bath! Note that water had
"to be carried several blocks an coal is scarce. Rambillard, France, Oct. 23, 1918

Sunday, November 10, 2013

TOMORROW, 99th Anniversary of Armistice! Honor the women and men who fought in The Great War and read HEROIC MEASURES

     When the British, French, Americans and Germans and Austrian-Hungarians signed the Armistice agreement November 11, 1918 in Compiegne, France, the world celebrated a cease fire, the end of the slaughter that typied the war.
     Here is the famous picture of those who signed the agreement in the railroad car along the front in northern France.
Photographer unknown. In public domain in EU, UK and USA.
     Millions in tiny villages and large cities across the world came out to mark the end of this tragic conflict. Some danced. Most cried. Millions mourned their loss of  friends and family. For thousands who served, many decried the impairment of their health. Bitter and devastated, the millions who survived had before them an extremely difficult time recovering. Whole towns had disappeared. Home and farms were destroyed. Landscapes were forever altered by huge bombs, tunnels and gas warfare.
    People had to deal with the loss of millions of their loved ones. In Britain, so many young men had been killed that the Government soon developed a program for unmarried women to move abroad so that they might find husbands in the Commonwealth countries. Wounded, largely due to the improvement in medical care, survived by the hundreds of thousands. As amputees, many learned to use prostheses. Others who were facially wounded underwent new skin grafting techniques that were to be the solid basis for the development of plastic surgery.
     Today, the park and forest around Compiegne's treaty site are peaceful sites. Like that day when the Entente military leaders and their German counterparts met in a railroad car, the foliage is thick. And as then, it is so deep you cannot see the sky. On that day, the Entente leaders wanted aerial coverage as protection but the canopy was so dense this was impossible.
Museum at site of Armistice signing.
Inside is Railroad Car, next in sequence of actual car since destroyed in fire.

Aside from this car, the museum houses wonderful panoramic pictures of all aspects of military life.
I estimate ninety percent of these are not duplicated anywhere else.

Outside in the clearing, this statue
to French General Foch
who received the German agreement to the cease fire for 11.11.18.
Memorial to the Heroic Soldiers of France
Defenders of the their country
and the glorious liberators of Alsace and Lorraine.
This stands directly opposite the building in above picture
which houses the replica of the train car where Germans agreed to cease fire.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Countdown to 11.11.13: What is your definition of heroism? How heroic are you?

Poster, public domain, USA
    What is your definition of heroism?
   Are women as heroic as men?
   Are you heroic?
   Who is your hero and what have they done to win this place in your heart and mind?
   These are valid questions each of us should ask ourselves as we prepare to commemorate on Veterans Day those who gave their all for us in war.
   These are men and women, not only in the armed services in all countries, but also in support services.
   In The Great War, we see the growth of the Salvation Army, the YMCA, more than one thousand different volunteer groups who gave of their time and services. The Salvation Army girls made Doughnuts. Yes, many say that the term DOUGHBOY came from the famous fried dough these women made for men to enjoy back of the line!
What did the YMCA do? Both men and women volunteers in that organization operated canteens for soldiers to buy hot chocolate, candy or cigarettes.
   Among the women who joined the Army Nurse Corps, we see women who worked 24 hour shifts as the fighting intensified, women who worked in wards where men dealt with discovering they were amputees or otherwise physically impaired. These women found a way to aid these men who realized that when they went home, they would be challenged by their new physical conditions. Some were paralyzed. Some were visually impaired. Others bore facial wounds. Others had wounds to the mind that we then termed "shell shock" and today we call PTSD.
   Many of these women died in the line of duty. Although not permitted to the front lines, women did suffer from malnutrition, pneumonia, ear infections, influenza and infections. Quite a few are buried in our American Cemeteries in France alongside our soldiers. Do ask the attendants when you visit to give  you the platts so that you can visit and pay homage to them.
USA Public domain, Poster.
And for those who cannot speak for themselves, then or now, I will show you a few pictures of the brave animals taken into service during the war. Note their varied roles.
Canaries who sang to wounded in hospital trains.

French Blue Cross Hospital for sick and wounded horses.

Here, to end on a note of joy, is a picture of Sergeant Stubby. Stubby served throughout the war, even capturing an enemy and holding him by the seat of his pants until relieved of his duty by a human! Stubby won many medals. A true hero for all of us to applaud!
Bull terrier Sergeant Stubby in his dress uniform with decorations!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Video: History of US Army Nursing Corps, intro with footage of WWI Nurses

With marvelous footage and narration by former Army Nurse Corps Historian, this video is a comprehensive introduction to learning about American women who have served throughout US history to wounded and dying men in arms.
Significant here are notes that a nurse in 1917 volunteered for the duration of the conflict, she received pay half of officers and she held no rank. Indeed, she was addressed by her last name, a practice in civilian hospitals, or by the term, "Nurse!"
Hope all of you are reading HEROIC MEASURES to learn more about these courageous women who served in a foreign land under horrific conditions to save their fellow countrymen.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Plastic Surgery began when thousands of WWI survivors needed to go on with their lives

Illustration of one man's facial wounds
Musee de la Grande Guerre,
Meaux, France
(My photo)
Prostheses for various types of wounds,
as seen in Musee de la Grande Guerre,
Meaux, France
(my photo)

Today, plastic surgery is so common that it is an elective procedure for many.
But in 1917, when America entered the Great War, plastic surgery was so new that even attempts at skin grafting were primary challenges for surgeons. As surgeons continued to improve their techniques, others assisted soldiers who needed a way to literally face the world and return to their normal lives.

IN American surgical front line units, nurses assisted in 3 main types of severe wounds: those wounds to the head, chest and abdomen were considered the most severe.  Soldiers with these types of wounds who might best survive surgery were "triaged" to be put at the front of the line for care. Yet of course many of the men who incurred these wounds suffered the most hideous disfigurations. These men, capable of living normal lives despite these facial wounds, were the ones that many medical professionals wished to save to live more appropriate daily lives.

Two such people who helped were not surgeons, but sculptors. In fact, one was a woman, Anna Coleman Ladd, an American who worked in Paris in her own studio and whose fame spread as her work helped hundreds of disfigured wounded. In her studio, mirrors were banned. By 1919, she had created more than 180 masks for disfigured soldiers. To read more about her, read this SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE article:

Another sculptor was Derwent Wood, British, who had volunteered to work in hospital wards when he learned he was too old to volunteer to fight. Wood began a practice of molding thin metal to the shape of the soldier's face, then painting it to match skin color and attaching behind the head. He is known for working in the "Tin Noses Shop" or as it was officially termed, Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department, located in the Third London General Hospital,Wandsworth. For more than 20,000 British facially wounded in the war, Wood was able to help hundreds. Others depended on advances in surgical procedures to alter their appearances.

Englishman Derwent Wood putting finishing touches
to one soldier's partial face mask.
Anna Coleman Ladd, American sculptress, 1878-1939 

Examples of facial masks or prostheses developed to aid soldiers wounded facially in Great War. These are 
from the British, called the Tin Nose Shop.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

AEF Operating Rooms, trauma care in WWI France, Nurses take active roles

Accession number1991.86
DescriptionBlack and white photograph. Hospital scene. Man with leg in traction and having a cast applied. Medical personnel surrounding him, including one nurse.

From the service of Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Benjamin Francisco, American Medical Officer, assigned to 1st, 32nd, and 35th Division in France after working at Old Mill Hospital, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Archives of National World War I Museum
Accession number

DescriptionBlack and white photograph. Operating scene in an operating room. Female nurse and another male assisting doctor while averting eyes away from patient.

From the service of Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Benjamin Francisco, American Medical Officer, assigned to 1st, 32nd, and 35th Division in France after working at Old Mill Hospital, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

American Nurses in WWI trained in Army camps and marched in parades!

   Women recruited for Army Nurse Corps and for American Red Cross all had field training by the American Expeditionary Forces. Army Nurse Corps recruits were all registered nurses, or the equivalent, having had two to three years professional nurses training. American Red Cross recruits, on average, had only a few months training (and as a result took on lesser responsibility in the wards). But all of them went through medical training specific to the care and treatment of those with wounds, or suffering from trench foot, trench fever, dysentery and Spanish flu.

   Army Nurse Corps recruits went to Army posts for training and many of them had French and British instructors. All were considered contract labor, without rank and yet were expected to act like regular Army recruits, "falling into line."

  They were housed in separate barracks, ate in mess halls separate from officers. When ready to ship out, they were housed in hotels near their embarkation points. A few of these were in Hoboken, New Jersey and others in Manhattan. Sometimes depending on the Navy's warnings of U-boat activities, nurses waited for more than 2 months in these hotels ready to leave at a moment's notice. And what could they take with them? One steamer truck (no larger than 36" wide), one small suitcase and a blanket roll!

   Many were also expected to march in parades. Here is a unit from Houston, Texas, marching together before they ship out!
Accession number1999.20
DescriptionBlack and white photograph of a Red Cross parade in Houston, TX.

From the service of Rose Baker (?), American Red Cross Nurse - Army Nurses Corps.
And here, in dress uniforms, a group of Army Nurse Corps recruits march in France!

A group outside their barracks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

18+ Days in AEF's footsteps, Verdun, The Citadel, a bastion carved into the hills of the city!

During the Great War,  the French fought desperately to protect the city of Verdun, nestled in the hills along the Meuse River. Long a bastion protecting the gateway west to Paris and the lush Champagne region, Verdun sits amid a ring of fortifications first built in the medieval period. The French added to these over the centuries so that by 1914, the City of Verdun seemed to be well protected.

Meuse River as it flows through City of Verdun today.
Yet German ingenuity and military skill brought them into the hills above the City and their lightning attacks spread panic through the whole of France as they seized more land than any Frenchman imagined possible.

The Citadel, literally a fortification dug into the hillside south of the old city, served as the headquarters for protection of the this city. Today, the cave-like structure astounds for its durability and its vast expanse. Yes, it smells of mild dew. Yes, it is dark and dreary. But yes, it is also one of the most awe-inspiring sites in the northeast sector of front line Great War sites.

One story in particular about Verdun's Citadel that I found in primary records was of an American nurse who was sent with two orderlies up and an ambulance driver (from a base hospital south of Verdun) to the fortification. Their purpose was to lead back shell-shocked Doughboys. The US Medical Corps did operate a few base hospitals totally devoted to those who suffered from shell-shock, or as we now term it, PTSD. Usually these soldiers were examined by doctors carefully before they were categorized as needing (as they termed it) "neuro-psychiatric" treatment. But in this particular case, the need seemed urgent and the normal routine was suspended.  This was most likely due to the intense fighting of our troops in this Meuse-Argonne sector. Many orderly rituals of wound/disability analysis changed rapidly out of necessity as the fighting increased in the September through November 1918 in this region.

Did I include this in my novel, HEROIC MEASURES? I did want to. But as often occurs in plotting, the need to make the actions logical and the rule of thumb to ensure they are useful to the story arc, meant that I gave that up—and list it here for those of you who love intriguing historical fact as much as I do! What I did do in the novel was discuss briefly how neuro-psych cases were usually sent to one particular base hospital up in this northeast sector, a hospital by the name of La Faure.

Tours of the Citadel continue to this day and justly so in this vast cave that once housed thousands of French soldiers and their generals. Here, men lived and worked in the bitter cold and damp. French poilus baked their comrades' bread here, prepared their meals, repaired guns, collected ammunition and planned strategies to hold the city and the mountains surrounding it.

Notable for their tenacity here, the French sought to retain control over this town and river by sheer force of will. Outnumbered often throughout the four years of war, they held on. The ground around the city and up into the hills is riddled with foxholes, bomb craters and trench lines. It seems unimaginable to calculate the tens of thousands of men who lost their lives and were wounded here. In the town itself, thousands of civilians lost their lives, their homes, their livestock and livelihoods as the bombs continued to fall over and over again.
Entrance to Citadel, Verdun, carved into the side of this mountain. Tour possible. Do visit to marvel
at French dedication to hold this fort and city at all costs.
French 75 mm cannon emplacement, circa 1914-1919, outside entrance, protecting The Citadel.
Interesting aspects of the City itself are that almost everything is marked in French, English and German. Much of the architecture speaks of German Rhineland influence. So does the cuisine. Then too the land is so rich, so arable that it is easy to understand why the burgeoning German population of the period would find this Lorraine-Alsace area very attractive to produce crops.

For more about the Meuse-Argonne region and Americans campaign here, do return here to this blog. Simply fill in your email address in the block that says, Subscribe by Email.

And do buy my new novel, Heroic Measures, so accurate and rich in historical detail that you will have a rich experience viewing the war from the American nurses' point of view! Buy Links are to the top right of this blog!

Thank you!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

HEROIC MEASURES debuts worldwide in print and digital!

AMAZON Buy Links:


      In 1917, more than 10,000 American nurses volunteered to go abroad to nurse American soldiers in the Great War. With more than 28 years of interest and primary document research in the records, I am delighted to give you the dramatic tale of these courageous women in Army Nurse Corps.

                                * * * * *       
      Honoring those who have served their country in war, most focus on those who have fought on the battlefields. But one group’s heroics under fire have slipped through the pages of history, a group whose blood and sweat were left in operating rooms and hospital tents, a group whose heroism has seldom been measured.
            For nurse Gwen Spencer, fighting battles is nothing new. An orphan sent to live with a vengeful aunt, Gwen picked coal and scrubbed floors to earn a living. But when she decides to become a nurse, she steps outside the boundaries of her aunt’s demands…and into a world of her own making.
            Leaving her hometown for France, she helps doctors mend thousands of brutally injured Doughboys under primitive conditions. Amid the chaos, she volunteers to go ever forward to the front lines. Braving bombings and the madness of men crazed by the hell of war, she is stunned to discover one man she can love. A man she can share her life with.
            But in the insanity and bloodshed she learns the measures of her own desires. Dare she attempt to become a woman of accomplishment? Or has looking into the face of war and death given her the courage to live her life to the fullest?

Excerpt: Copyright, Jo-Ann Power, 2013. All rights reserved.
After a blissful minute of silence, Gwen faced Pearl. “So you really are thinking of volunteering?”
Pearl stared over the rims of her glasses. “I am. Want to come? It’s a set of uniforms, an overcoat, two pairs of boots, a trip to France and all the work you can get until the war ends and all the men in the entire world are dead. Oh, and especially for you, Spencer, a raincoat. The one you never afforded for yourself because you gave half your pay to that ungrateful aunt of yours.”
“A raincoat. Golly,” Gwen mused half-seriously. “A worthy reason to join. Plus, if I go with you, I could listen to you complain all the time.”
Markham threw a pillow at her.
“I might look into this, just to learn what it’s got to offer,” Gwen teased her, but inside a seed of interest grew roots.
“Ask Dalton. She knows more.”
“She’s going. O’Bryan persuaded her.”
“Doc is going to France?” Gwen couldn’t believe it. O’Bryan didn’t seem like the adventurous type, nor the noble type, either. She misjudged him. Why would he volunteer?
“For a million soldiers,” Anna chimed in. “You need thousands of doctors and nurses. Dentists, too.”
“Of course,” Gwen murmured. How many people do you need to care for millions of men? How many scalpels and needles? How much ether and debridement solution? How many sterilizers and…just how do you get all that where it’s needed to save lives of men in pain and bleeding? “I want to learn more.”

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

18+ Days in A.E.F.'s footsteps: Day 9, St. Mihiel Battle and Montsec Memorial

     St. Mihiel is a little town along a peacefully flowing river in eastern France. South of Verdun, the town was vital to that city and to all points west for its control of train traffic. When the German Army attacked the town and held it in a tight grip in 1918, General Pershing decided to attack their fortifications and open communications and transportation before attacking the Germans in the Meuse River-Argonne Forest region to the north.
     In only 3 days, the Americans fought fiercely taking the ridges and the valley near St. Mihiel.
Today, the area consists of small villages and many farms.
American engineers march into St. Mihiel after taking the area within 3 days fierce fighting in September 1918.
The Montsec Memorial to those AEF forces who took this ridge and the towns below within 3 days is a beautiful tribute to the men who fought here. With a commanding view of the valley that they struggled to take, this Memorial offers a panoramic view—and inspires you to marvel at the feat these men accomplished.
In these few photographs, I attempt to show you a glimpse into their efforts–and their victory.
Montsec Memorial to AEF's 3 day battle of St. Mihiel
A closer view
A panorama into the valley near Thiacourt
Inside the rotunda sits a relief map of the valley that the AEF had to take from entrenched German Army.
Official description of the Battle of St. Mihiel at Montsec Memorial. Do enlarge to read.
Army Medical Corps cadeusus. Atop each pillar of Montsec is the insignia of a corps unit
contributing to the AEF's victory in this valley.
Atop Montsec, this floor map shows the villages AEF soldiers took in the 3 day offensive.
Dedication on steps up to top of Memorial.
To show the irony of both world wars, this plaque details how this land was once again a battleground.