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Monday, March 18, 2013

Wounded warriors of WWI, home front knowledge of, and new interest in prosthetics

      The US Archives are filled with hundreds of photographs of American wounded soldiers who had amputations and were maimed in battle.
     Yet, during the war and much afterward, almost all pictures (like most personal letters) were censored, i.e., redacted, meaning they were never published at home in newspapers or magazines. This was by order of the War Department, lest morale at home and among the troops suffer. (Yes, this is very similar to the recent contemporary regulations forbidding media coverage of reception of wounded and deceased soldiers from front lines in the Iraqi war or Afghanistan conflicts.)
     Here first is one rare photo of a nurse with two wounded soldiers, one of few pictures to survive the thick black mark of the censor's slanted on the bias across the center.
     Another is of a trio of soldiers in a hospital in Vaucaire, France, and the third of two men recuperating at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.

     "During World War I, there were 2,635 major amputations among American soldiers." 
     After they returned home form the front, many wounded required protheses for arms, hands and legs lost in the fighting. Prosthetics became a new interest among doctors and medical technicians. World War One, known for massive destruction by shrapnel, chlorine gas and bombs, was the first war in which men survived wounds which heretofore had been lethal.  Prosthetics were vital to these soldiers in their attempt to return home and adapt to their physical conditions.
    Here is an American prosthetic arm of wooden fingers and metal joints. From the American History Museum, website beneath the photo, is this description: "Arm is a Carnes model from the late teens, William Carnes being an amputee who fashioned the first workable shoulder harness design around 1915."

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