Virginia furnished five medical units (two base hospitals and three ambulance sections), which were not integral parts of any division.
Base Hospital Number 45 (the Medical College of Virginia unit), was an expansion of Hospital Unit E, Richmond's first organized medical effort, Unit E, which had been organized by Dr. Robert Bryan in the early summer of 1917, was abolished as a unit in the reorganization plans of the War Department, but the personnel was used as the nucleus for Base Hospital Number 45. Dr. Stuart McGuire was appointed director and because of this fact the organization became popularly known as the "McGuire Unit."
Base Hospital 45 was organized under the auspices of the Richmond Chapter of the Red Cross and was financed and equipped by that chapter. The unit went overseas in July, 1918, and returned in April, 1919.
Base Hospital Number 41 was organized at the University of Virginia in the summer of 1917, Colonel William H. Goodwin being appointed director. The unit was financed and equipped by the Elks, through the influence of Mr. Fred Harper, of Lynchburg, an alumnus of the University and at that time Grand Exalted Ruler of the order. Base No. 41 was mobilized at the University and proceeded to Camp Sevier, Greenville, S. C. Major (later Lieutenant Colonel), Julian M. Cabell, was appointed to command the unit there. After training at Camp Sevier, until June, 1918, the unit left for Camp Mills. Sailed July 5th on the Scotian and landed at Colasgow. Moved thence to Southampton and embarked for Havre. Proceeded thence to Paris and from there to St. Denis, where the hospital was established. Remained at this location until February, 1919. Left St. Nazaire in April, 1919, reaching Newport News on the 25th, and was demobilized by May 1st.
Two ambulance sections were organized at the University of Virginia in May, 1917. The two units reported at the ambulance training camp at Allentown, Pa., in June, and were given the numbers 516 and 517. Section 517 left on August 5th and sailed from Hoboken on the San Jacinto. Disembarked at St. Nazaire August 20th. Moved to Paris September 23rd and took over the work of the field service at the American hospital at Neuilly. Attached to French arms on Alsace front in November. Moved to Flanders in March, 1918, and to Ypres sector in June. Moved to Champagne sector in July. Left for the Argonne August 18th. Served in Germany until February, 1919. Sailed from Brest in March, reaching Newport News April 1st, moving thence to Camp Lee to be mustered out.
Section 516 trained at Allentown, Pa., until October, 1917, when it moved to Tobyhanna. Left Hoboken, N. J., on the Pastores December 25th. Disembarked in France January 13th and moved to St. Nazaire.
The section proceeded to Sandricourt two weeks later and was there assigned to the 66th French Division. Served with this division in the Vosges until April 2nd, moving to Compiegne on that date. Ordered into line south of Amiens on April 4th. Moved next to the Chemin des Dames and in October, 1918, got into action on the Oise-Sambre Canal. After the Armistice 516 remained at Enghien-les-Bains until December 20th, proceeding thence to Belgium, staying there until February, 1919. Moved next to Lille, thence to Ferrieres and Brest, sailing from the latter point April 13th. Reached New York April 20th and was mustered out at Camp Dix April 23rd.
The Washington and Lee ambulance section was organized in May, 1917. Reported at Allentown, Pa., in June, where it was assigned the number 534, and trained there until January, 1918. Sailed on the 9th of that month and docked at Liverpool. Left for France February 2nd and landed at Havre, proceeding thence to St. Nazaire and from there to Paris. Moved to Versailles March 8th, where it was assigned to the 12th French Infantry Division. Served in the Somme campaign, then relieved and moved to the Lorraine sector. Went into action again In July, with headquarters at Vierzy. Later moved to Hartennes and on September 6th joined in the assault on the Chemin des Dames. Relieved September 15th and rested until October 7th, when 534 moved to Belgium and established headquarters at Thielt. Armistice was signed while the section was at Chreushautem.
Organized at Richmond, Va., in the summer of 1917. Enlisted personnel mobilized at Richmond, February 28, 1918. Reported at Camp Lee March 1st. Base Hospital 45 trained there. Seventeen officers left Camp Lee July 1, 1918, for Newport News, where they boarded the Hwah Jah and sailed for France. The remainder of the organization left Camp Lee July 3rd and proceeded to Newport News. Remained at Camp Hill seven days, then embarked on the Aeolii, and sailed July 10th, arriving in Brest on the 21st. The Hwah Jah reached St. Nazaire the same day. The officers on the latter disembarked and proceeded across France to Autun. The main body of the unit reached Autun July 30th. Base Hospital No. 45 left Autun August 20, 1918, and detrained at Toul the next day. The contingent of nurses joined the unit on September 9th. Thousands of patients were handled from early September until immediately after the Armistice. The unit remained at Toul until February 16, 1919. Nurses and detached officers proceeded to Brest and embarked March 3rd on the Agamemnon, which reached Hoboken, N. J., on the 11th. Nurses were mustered out by March 20th. The rest of the organization moved to Nantes, remaining there for some time. Finally orders came to proceed to St. Nazaire, where the unit embarked on the Walter A. Luckenbach and sailed for home. Docked at Hoboken, proceeding thence to Camp Merritt, N. J. All the Virginians in the unit were sent to Camp Lee and mustered out on April 29, 1919.
Hospital Unit E, Richmond's first organized medical effort, came into existence in the early summer of 1917, soon after the formal entry of the United States into the war. Its organization was entrusted to Dr. Robert C. Bryan, who had already been in the French service at the front and who consequently added valuable experience to the influence he would ordinarily have exerted in such a movement.
The unit Idea was a development of the Red Cross system sanctioned by the War Department, the function of such a unit being to furnish the human material for an active mobile hospital to operate In the field. The working staff consisted of twelve doctors, thirty nurses and fifty enlisted men. Dr. Bryan gathered around him a harmonious group---Doctors Greer Baughman. F. M. Hodges, W. B. Hopkins, A. L. Herring, J. F. Geisinger, C. H. Lewis, J. T. McKinney, F. C. Pratt, W. B. Porter, and J. E. Warinner.
An efficient corps of nurses was enrolled under the leadership of Miss Evelyn Page Edmunds. The enlisted personnel was composed largely of college graduates and was recruited chiefly from prominent Richmond families. Enthusiasm was unbounded, as everyone anticipated early departure for overseas.
Then, suddenly, the hospital "unit" as a type was abolished, the surgeon general having found that it did not fit Into his scheme of organization. Only the larger "base hospitals" were desired and but a limited number of these were authorized. Richmond seemed to have but little chance and Unit E appeared on the verge of extinction. Dr. Bryan was advised that his services were desired upon a mission of great importance, but that the remainder of the organization could not be used at that time. Similar units were in the same plight throughout the country.
The Richmond Red Cross, which had by this time effected a very powerful organization, marshaled all its forces behind a movement to preserve a definite medical organization of some type identified with the capital of the Confederacy. The War Department agreed to permit the expansion of Unit E into a base hospital under Red Cross auspices. Dr. Bryan was appointed chief medical adviser to the commission to Roumania, then about to start upon its labors. Dr. Stuart McGuire was appointed director of the base hospital and also designated to organize the ambulance company.
Thus came into existence the Medical College of Virginia Base Hospital, subsequently to be known as United States Base Hospital No. 45. The public meeting at which Dr. Bryan bade the organization farewell and Dr. McGuire assumed command was one of the most stirring ever held in Richmond. At a gathering held just before the meeting, the entire staff offered to resign and enter the service as individuals. Dr. Bryan refused to permit this, however, as he did not wish the organization to be broken up. Dr. McGuire was firm in his desire to use the existing organization as the nucleus for his base hospital, and he generously offered to act as director of the unit until Dr. Bryan returned from his Roumanian mission and then either retire in his favor or else surrender the command and act as his second. However, Dr. Bryan never rejoined the unit.
Dr. McGuire hardly had time to do more than confer very hastily with several of the leading spirits in the base hospital group when he was summoned to Washington to act as aide to the surgeon-general. This complicated the situation in Richmond somewhat, as strenuous efforts were necessary to prepare the base hospital for service overseas, and the enforced absence of the director was matter of serious concern.
When Dr. McGuire departed for Washington he left Dr. Joseph F. Geisinger in charge of affairs in Richmond. Young men immediately commenced seeking enlistment as privates, while doctors from a dozen states endeavored to make a connection with the new organization. Nurses trooped to the standard and the Richmond Red Cross started that tremendous effort which culminated in one of the finest achievements in the United States.
Major McGuire returned to Richmond ten days later to find that his organization had developed to the point where it could have left on short notice---on the Red Cross basis in existence at that time. This basis was later to undergo some very radical changes. Dr. Geisinger gave up his practice when Dr. McGulre returned and went into the latter's office as his adjutant. Shortly afterwards he was called into service, but was permitted to remain in Richmond as aide to Dr. McGuire. The latter, not only directed the organization of the base hospital but also continued his private practice and his work as dean of the Medical College of Virginia.
The exigencies of war made many readjustments necessary, but the organization of the unit made steady progress. The balance of the professional staff had to be selected from nearly 200 applicants. Various problems arose in connection with the nurses, and the enlisted personnel was being constantly broken up by the draft. The ambulance company had to be organized, a large undertaking in itself. Dr. C. Howard Lewis was designated for this work and his efforts resulted in the creation of an efficient company.
About the time things had gotten in fairly satisfactory shape it was announced from Washington that each base hospital organized under Red Cross auspices must raise $40,000 for its own equipment and that it must purchase this equipment. This created new difficulties. The money was raised promptly, but securing the manifold articles of equipment was another matter. In the first place the government was unable to furnish a list of what was required and in the second place it was not possible to purchase this material if the list had been available.
The hospital was first planned on a 1,000-bed basis, then on a 500-bed basis. Expendable supplies such as drugs, etc., were first required in quantities sufficient for one year, then for three months, then one month, and finally not at all. First it must have a laundry and an ice plant, then it must not have them. It must do this, that and the other, and then undo it all and start over again on some other basis. A delegation from Richmond visited New York and inspected several model base hospitals for the purpose of securing ideas. The director, the adjutant, and the purchasing agent made a number of trips to Washington in an attempt to secure information. Confusion was the order of the day.
Finally, order began to emerge from chaos in the medical department and Base Hospital No. 45 reaped some of the benefits of this. Authority was granted to muster the enlisted personnel into the service, thus preventing further inroads by the draft. The professional staff was completed and assigned to work in various camps, the roster of nurses stopped changing too often. More specific instructions were received from the equipment branches, and the purchasing agent was at last enabled to go ahead. Dr. McGuire exercised a general supervision over the work, Major John Garnett Nelson handled the recruiting of the enlisted personnel, Miss Ruth J. Robertson had charge of the nurses, and Mr. Richard Gwathmey was entrusted with assembling the equipment.
The ease with which the $40,000 required by the government was raised was due to the Richmond chapter of the Red Cross. This chapter, which had raised such an unparalleled sum in the first Red Cross drive as to arouse national comment, now adopted Base Hospital No. 45 and devoted its energies to turning out vast supplies of surgical dressings and supplies.
Several days after the $40,000 was raised, the acting adjutant went to Washington and delivered a check for that amount to the treasurer of the equipment division. This procedure was necessary in order that the fund might be recorded on the books at Washington and administered from that end. The fund was promptly certified back to Richmond, however, to be expended by the local purchasing agent.
It soon became evident that the $40,000 was but a beginning. Dr. McGuire conferred with the executive committee and was soon able to advise Washington that so far as money was concerned it would be available, whether the equipment cost $40,000 or a quarter of a million. As a matter of fact, the final cost of the base hospital was approximately $140,000, and the cost of the ambulance company was $40,000. This was the chapter's contribution in cash---of other things it gave still more. Mr. Coleman Wortham its president, and his associates, both men and women, gave prodigally of time and labor to promote the interests of the hospital unit. There were many opportunities for misunderstanding, yet the progress of the work was characterized by the utmost friendliness.
Washington could now state in a fairly definite way what the equipment should be. The money was in hand, so upon Mr. Gwathmey devolved the task of purchasing this equipment. After several months of incessant activity, during which time his private business took care of itself, Mr. Gwathmey had fourteen carloads crated and ready for shipment to Europe.
The government had requisitioned all the available stocks on hand and as foreign sources were cut off, the supply houses were overwhelmed with orders they could not fill. Business associates with powerful connections rallied behind Mr. Gwathmey and not only opened up sealed channels to him but often secured for him maximum quality for the minimum price. The firm of Powers and Anderson was of great assistance to him in purchasing the requisite equipment of surgical instruments. Beds, chairs, tables, drugs, kitchen outfits, ambulances, and the countless paraphernalia of a modern hospital began to gather, records of the purchases of all these having to be kept in detail. By the time the equipment had been assembled, the personnel had also been completed and Base Hospital 45 was ready.
Then ensued many long months of waiting and training. Dr. McGuire, with the aid of several of his officers, continued his work in Richmond. The rest of the staff were either already on active duty elsewhere, or were quickly sent to camps and cantonments throughout the country. With the co-operation of the surgeon-general, these assignments were made with especial reference to the future requirement of the base hospital. This system worked out well in the main, and many acquired experience destined to be invaluable at a later date. The lines seemed to converge towards Camp Lee and one by one the officers after periods of duty at other posts began to gather there. Major Peple became chief of the surgical service at the Camp Lee Hospital; Major Nelson, assistant chief of the medical service; Captain Smith, assistant adjutant; Lieutenant Warinner, registrar; Captain Baughman, registrar and later commanding officer of the contagious hospital; Captains Geisinger and Herring, operating surgeons; Captain Wright in the throat and nose clinic; Captains Harrison and J. B. Williams in the dental department. Some of these had already been through the grind at Oglethorpe, others had undergone special instruction in great cities. Captain Hodges was in Richmond and New York, Captain E. G. Hopkins and Lieutenant Phillips studied war bacteriology at the Rockefeller Institute, Captain Anderson was at the Neurological Institute in New York, Captain Porter was first in one place and then in another, finally winding up in England; Lieutenant Carrington Williams was holding things in shape at the Richmond headquarters, and Lieutenant R. Q. Willis and Q. H. Barney were at training camps.
The nurses had been divided into small detachments and scattered through thirteen cantonments. In many instances they faced more serious problems than they had ever encountered before. The cantonment hospitals were cold and cheerless, surrounded by mud, scantily supplied with equipment, crowded with patients, swept by epidemics, buried under tons of army paper, and entangled in army red tape, about which civilians knew little and cared less. Not only the burden of this fall upon the nurses but much of the correction also. Many misfits resulted from a lack of intelligence in making assignments to service. Grim determination and untiring labor triumphed over these numerous handicaps, and there emerged a -real hospital---clean, comfortable and efficient.
The last week of February, 1918, witnessed the calling into service of the enlisted personnel. The men were mobilized at Richmond on February 28th and went through the usual experiences of a green outfit. After several stirring days the detachment reported at Camp Lee on March 1st, in charge of Captain Smith and Lieutenant Warinner, and the members of Base 45 felt a glow of pride in these boys.
The detachment was promptly absorbed into the personnel of the Camp Lee hospital. At first they were apprenticed to the more experienced workmen, but soon they were in complete charge of many of the activities about the hospital. These men, added to the group already holding responsible positions there, caused the unit to become recognized as the backbone of the Camp Lee hospital organization.
For some time the question of a commanding officer for the base hospital had been of the greatest interest. While Dr. McGuire was designated as director of the unit and was regarded as its guiding spirit, it was known to be the intention of the surgeon-general to place at the head of each base hospital organization some regular army officer who combined medical skill with a knowledge of army methods and regulations. Members of the unit were so impressed with the vital importance of having the right sort of man chosen that they had made a tentative selection of their own and had contrived to apprise Washington of their wishes in an indirect manner. These suggestions were tolerated but not welcomed, so no further attempts were made.
In April, Major Alexander Williams of the Regular Army, a young southerner, presented himself at Camp Lee as the commanding officer of Base hospital No. 45. It became evident soon after his arrival that he contemplated the establishment of the unit as a separate organization. After a conference with Dr. McGuire, in Richmond, he returned to Camp Lee and established his office. Captain Smith was withdrawn from the Camp Lee hospital and made adjutant of Base Hospital No. 45. From then on the members of the unit were detached a few at a time, as any other method would have seriously crippled the camp hospital. Many of the officers located elsewhere, including Major McGuire and Captain R. C. Fravel, began to report at Camp Lee, and in a few weeks the entire unit except the nurses was assembled under its own standard and Base hospital 45 became a reality instead of a paper organization composed of several hundred widely scattered individuals.
The character of the work now became largely military. Major Williams was a strict disciplinarian. He personally drilled and conducted classes for officers and then sent them out to do the same for enlisted men The work was dull and tedious, but eventually it resulted in the creation of something resembling a military machine.
Two independent hospital organizations existing side by side inevitably resulted in friction. The commanding officer and adjutant of the Camp Lee hospital were regular army men to whom military regulations and technical details were of prime importance. The attitude of the former showed a tendency to encroach upon the prerogatives of Base Hospital 45. Major Williams met these encroachments with a firm and unyielding front, and as a result of this and of certain other factors the Camp Lee hospital soon found itself with a new commanding officer.
Base Hospital No. 45 was transferred to barracks in the woods adjoining the camp. Life there was not unpleasant, especially when one remembers the authorized and occasionally, unauthorized absences from bounds. The Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus, the hostess house, the camp theater and post exchanges---all these contributed diversion of one sort or another. Religious services were available for all who cared to attend them. The unit's own chaplain had not arrived, but "Bob" Nelson, who, lonely and unknown, strolled into the camp one day, constituted himself the temporary spiritual adviser of the men, and enforced a spiritual regimen all his own. He was not a member of the organization, but no record of it would be complete without the mention of his tireless devotion and of the astounding influence he wielded.
Major Williams, now become a lieutenant-colonel, had kept in constant touch with the Richmond Red Cross regarding equipment. Captain Baughman and a detail of twelve men were sent to the Fair Grounds In Richmond, where the equipment was crated and prepared for shipment.
Approximately forty men from Camp Meade, Md., and General Hospital No. 1 in New York were added to the unit at this time by the War Department. Certain of these men displayed unusual ability later. The unit also lost some members of its personnel, among whom was Parker Burbank, who had made such an excellent job of collecting the kitchen equipment, R. C. Wight, R. L. Gray, V. A. Gravatt and J. A. Tignor. Harold Calisch and Elmore Hotchkiss secured commissions in other branches of the service.
Changes were also taking place in the staff. The army plan of organization provided that an officer of the sanitary corps should be adjutant of each base hospital, so Lieutenant Thomas C. Boushall arrived to fill this place, Captain Smith going over to the medical staff. Captain Page Mauck was released as orthopedist to accept an appointment elsewhere and was succeeded by Captain Raymond Voisinet, of New York. Lieutenant B. F. Eckles, an old friend, came to the unit from a northern post. Lieutenant John Boyd was with the organization for a short while, but was then detached and sent elsewhere. Lieutenants C. J. Corcoran and F. G. Scharmann, of the Camp Lee hospital, were transferred to the unit. Lieutenant T. H. Van Camp, came from Iowa, Lieutenant L. F. Barrier from Georgia, and Lieutenant Perry J. Manheims from New York. Lieutenant C. O. Jenson became quartermaster of the organization and Captain W. W. James took over the important job of feeding the men. Much to the regret of everyone and without his consent, Lieutenant J. E. Warinner was transferred from the unit.
So far as anyone could tell, Base Hospital No. 45 was now ready for service. The staff (with one or two exceptions), was on the ground, the whole detachment was well-rounded, and the equipment was complete. Time passed and nothing happened. Drills, lectures, inspections, physical examinations---these the unit had with them always.
On July 1, 1918, sudden orders were received detaching seventeen officers for "extended field service." At 5:00 the next morning, they departed, leaving heavy hearts behind them. Then came orders for the entire organization to move at once. Immediately there ensued a day of the wildest excitement, but gradually, order emerged from the chaos and the stir subsided. At 2:00 o'clock the following morning the men marched out, each with his straw mattress on his head. A huge pile was built and in a few minutes was ablaze. Then the men swung into line and marched out of the camp.
The seventeen officers who had left in advance, went to Newport News, where they boarded the Hwah-Jah, a Chinese freighter, which proceeded up the coast and joined a large convoy bound for Europe. The remainder of the organization also went to Newport News, where seven days were spent at Camp Hill. Two new enlisted men were added to the unit there. At 2 : 00 A. M., July 10, 1918, Base Hospital No. 45 embarked on the U S. S Aeolus and a few hours later was at sea.
The men were crowded into the baggage hold of the Aeolus, but the officers fared somewhat better. The food was good. Eleven days were required for the crossing. The seventeen officers who were on the Hwah-Jah, were eighteen days on the way over. There were staterooms for all on this boat, but the food was bad, the crew untrained, and the voyage was a harrowing experience. Both ships traveled in convoys. Two freighters in the fleet with the Hwah-Jah sank after a collision, but the crews were rescued. On approaching the shores of Europe, the convoys were met by a number of destroyers. The Aeolus went to Brest and the Hwah-Jah to Havre. Singularly enough, although the former sailed a week behind the latter, both reached port on the same day, July 21, 1918.
Several days later the two detachments, neither being aware of the other's whereabouts, began to move toward the Interior of France. The group from the Hwah-Jah proceeded in leisurely fashion through Paris and a beautiful section of the country; but they were haunted always by the fear that they had been permanently separated from the rest of the organization. They halted at Autun, as they had been advised at Havre that the main body of the unit would join them there. In the meantime, the men from the Aeolus were experiencing all the hardships of life in the war zone and were becoming acquainted with the prevailing French mode of transportation. Long marches, rough food and rougher travel, rendered their first contact with France anything but pleasant. At last, however, on the evening of July 30th they pulled into the little station at Autun and were joyfully received by the waiting seventeen.
At that time Camp Hospital No. 47 was stationed at the Caserne Billard, in Autun, and Base Hospital No. 45 was directed to relieve this command, which had been ordered elsewhere for duty. This relief was effected on the 31st of July and at last it seemed as if the organization had commenced to function actively as an independent unit. There were no patients to be cared for, so the time was utilized in a survey of the buildings and equipment, and in an exploration of the surrounding country.
The caserne was an ancient monastery not very well suited for the purposes of a modern hospital. But by now members of the unit had begun to learn another of the great lessons the war taught, to take what was at hand and shape it into the thing it was supposed to be. Oftentimes in this army game, as was seen more specifically later on, one was appalled at a curt order demanding what appeared the impossible, asking much, providing little or nothing for its accomplishment, summarily requiring results and quick results. Doubtless more judgment could have been displayed in some of these orders; but one always recalls that in war the enemy fails to await the convenience and complete and leisurely preparation of his antagonist. Hence one may suddenly be required to act with speed and precision without opportunity for adjustment, and without accessories formerly considered essential. Soon one becomes accustomed to view huge obstacles without display and to rely upon himself and his fellows.
The work at Autun was trivial compared with what came later. There was little to do, although it bulked large at the time. If there had been any rush of patients the problem of getting the hospital. into condition might have been more serious. The beds were empty, however, so the task of making the place over could be given undivided attention. It was not long before the unit was prepared for eventualities. But none arose. Half a dozen patients came in from nearby outfits, but no battle casualties. Much time was taken up in planning the details of organization, making dressings, checking and re-checking the number of beds, and remedying some of the conspicuous physical defects in the place.
When Autun was first reached no one had any real conception of its relation to the front, but it was not long before it was discovered that Base Hospital No. 45 was practically buried in the central part of France, where the most that could ever be expected was an occasional train-load of wounded, already half well, on the way to the rear. Realization of this fact brought discontent and restlessness.
The question of bringing about a transfer was a perplexing one, for it is not customary to suggest such a thing to one's superior officers. In this instance as in many others, the influence of Major McGuire "put it over." He and Captain Baughman had been ordered, the day after Autun was reached, to Evacuation Hospital No. 7, at Coulommiers, behind the Chateau-Thierry line, for a week's observation. While there they saw some strenuous service and established contacts with certain high officials, who happened to be old friends, anxious to do something for Base 45, and sufficiently influential at that time to do a great deal. They promised Major McGuire a more active location than Autun, and before long things commenced to happen.
Meanwhile a most embarrassing and distressing situation, with respect to Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, had been developing. From the first it had seemed impossible for him to relinquish the handling of details to his subordinates, despite the fact that there were in the organization men of great ability, accustomed to handling large affairs. As the mass of detail accumulated and responsibilities increased, he seemed to think that it was necessary to give his personal attention to the minutest problem. This finally reached such a point that everyone became concerned for the future of the organization, and several of his officers, putting aside proprieties, begged him to let up. The effort was futile, however, and the spectacle was witnessed of a brilliant and capable young officer collapsing because of his total inability to let go and relax. By the time the unit was ordered to active service, his nervous condition had become such that he conceived the idea that it was unfit for service and requested an inspection of the outfit by an officer from general headquarters. This officer came on August 17th, in the person of Colonel Hansell, who immediately approved the qualifications of the organization. At the same time he inquired into the nervous condition of Lieutenant-Colonel Williams and directed that he be placed in a hospital at Dijon for treatment. After a period there he was returned to active service and placed in command of Camp Hospital No. 27. On October 10th the members of the unit were greatly shocked to learn of his death. The stay at Autun resulted in nothing else of importance save the addition of two new officers to the staff who came directly from the United States for duty. One of these was Second Lieutenant Frank A. Sullivan, S. C., who became detachment commander but who was subsequently transferred; and the other was First Lieutenant Joseph T. McKinney, who was an old friend, and who remained with the organization until it was mustered out of service.
On August 20, 1918, Base Hospital No. 45 departed from Autun. Satisfaction at getting closer to the actual warfare was tempered with regret at leaving so pleasant a place, and the memory of the days spent there will linger long in the minds of the members of the organization. The command, temporarily in charge of Major McGuire, moved toward Toul. No one knew the exact destination, but everyone was assured that it would be sufficiently near the front to satisfy the most war-like cravings.. On August 21st, at 9:00 P. M., after twenty-one hours en route, Base 45 detrained at Tout and set off for the Caserne La Marche. While proceeding to this point the organization experienced its first air raid. The trucks carrying the officers raced for the barracks and the men were hurried into dugouts. In a few moments, however, the sirens signaled "all's well" and soon the outfit was domiciled in its new home. The coming of day revealed Toul, with its moving troops, caravans of supplies and ammunition, airplanes circling overhead, and everywhere the bustle and stir of war. At last it seemed the work of "45" was at hand.
The caserne consisted of three large four-story barracks and a number of smaller ones, all enclosed within a high wall. At the time of the arrival of Base 45 the central building was occupied by Evacuation Hospital No. 14, the east building by Field Hospital No. 355, and the west building by a French hospital. The first departed on August 21st, three days later the field hospital left, and a week later the French unit moved out.
Orders were received almost immediately to prepare for the American drive which was about to begin in the Toul sector. The situation was difficult. From Autun nothing had been brought but personal belongings and enough food for the journey. The departing hospital units carried with them everything possible in the way of army property and hospital equipment. They left 300 patients in the east building and 350 more in the contagious annex, a half-mile distant, where were also left five officers, thirty nurses and sixty enlisted men, who were automatically attached to "45" for temporary duty.
Nothing at all resembling equipment was left---no drugs, thermometers, dressings or kitchen utensils---only a set of ancient French beds and mattresses and a few old French cooking stoves. With these, 650 American soldiers had to be fed and cared for, and preparation had to be made for the possible influx of 2,500 wounded---and this in a barren barracks without a heating plant, electricity, or a water system. It seemed impossible. Somewhere in France was the magnificent equipment assembled in Richmond. Somewhere between New York and Toul were 100 nurses trying to reach their unit, but none of this availed anything at all. For thirty-six hours even the question of food was acute. The quartermaster at the railhead asserted that Base No. 45 was out of bounds, being in evacuation hospital territory, and claimed to be without authority to furnish supplies. So rations had to be purchased as best they could. From the departing French outfit everything possible was purchased at liberal prices. Most of the surgical instruments were "junk," and the balance of the stuff was antiquated, except a small supply of surgical gauze. Some of this had been donated by the Richmond chapter of the American Red Cross and here a Richmond hospital unit was buying it back from the French.
With this inadequate equipment the task of caring for the sick was taken up, as well as preparations for the coming battle. There was much administrative detail to be looked after, and it was here that the adjutant, Lieutenant Boushall, commenced to display the personality and ability that gained for him the affection and respect of the entire organization. Assisting him was an administrative detail of officers and men of the detachment.
The remainder of the outfit fell to on the tasks allotted to them. Departmental lines were abolished. The hand that formerly wielded a scalpel now handled a stethoscope, broom or jimmy; dentists suddenly became expert in epidemiology ; nose and throat specialists and neurologists became internes overnight---no one ever knew what he would be doing from one day to another. Out of the apparent confusion gradually came order. Just how it was accomplished probably no one knows or cares. The 650 patients were cared for, even though two thermometers, six tin cups, and a few basins did sometimes constitute the equipment of a ward containing 200 sick men.
The daily expectation of an advance hung over the entire area. The advance affected a vital salient, with Mont Sec and Metz as distant objectives, and this first independent action of an American army at the front was regarded as of momentous importance. All France was watching to see what the American doughboy would do when he started forward with his own officers under his own flag. Days passed and nothing happened, until everyone began to wonder if there was going to be an advance at all.
At that time Base 45 was the base hospital closest to the front in France, being only about twelve miles distant. The unit was actually in evacuation hospital territory and in reality from then on exercised the functions of an evacuating hospital. A number of other base and evacuation hospital units soon arrived at Toul, with an aggregate of 15,000 beds, the whole being designated as the Justice Hospital Group.
From time to time equipment of a sort was gathered. Administrative details were perfected, operating rooms arranged, wards fitted up, and everything possible done to prepare the hospital for the coming test. Major McGuire took his officers into his confidence, discussed the various plans for the future, vested large responsibilities in his subordinates, and then let them alone. So long as they measured up to these responsibilities, there was no interference from headquarters. Results were demanded, but the method of achieving them was left to those who had to do the work. The accomplishments of the unit justify the course pursued by Major McGuire.
Shortly after September 1, 1918, Lieutenant-Colonel Maddux, M. C., arrived and took charge of the entire group of hospitals. He established his headquarters with Base 45. Fortunately he was a Virginian, a graduate of the University of Virginia, a former interne at the Memorial Hospital, in Richmond, and well known to many of the staff of "45." Being familiar with the ways of the service, he was able to tap supply sources unknown to the members of the organization and immediately commenced telegraphing all over France, setting forth the importance of the Justice Group in connection with the coming advance and demanding supplies and equipment. The response was very helpful, although by no means sufficient. At least some of the bare necessities of existence were acquired.
The most important event of the period was the arrival on September 9th of the contingent of nurses. Never were women more welcome anywhere or at any time. They had mobilized at New York, in July, 1918, sailed on the Adriatic on August 24th, landed at Liverpool, September 5th, and were immediately ordered to proceed to Toul. The detachment included the chief nurse, Miss Ruth J. Robertson, ninety-nine nurses and six civilian employees. Fifteen nurses were sent at once to the nearby gas hospital and ten for temporary duty to Evacuation Hospital No. 14.
As the hour of the "big push" drew closer, the front lines were combed of all liabilities in the shape of sick men in the field hospitals. Trench life brought down many with pneumonia and influenza. As a result Base No. 45 was overflowing, having approximately 1,500 patients. Orders were received constantly to evacuate hundreds of them to make room for hundreds more crowding behind them, meaning that many more examinations, diagnoses, records, and beds to be made. It is small wonder that the nurses were received with great acclaim.
September 12th was the time set for the attack by the American army. The hospital was ordered stripped of all patients except those too sick to be moved. This was completed and then everybody waited. Finally there was a flash in the sky as the guns opened, and then began the incessant roar that was to last all through the night and the day that followed. The battle was on. Some of the staff were ordered to an evacuation hospital several hundred yards down the road. Hospitals of this type filled up first, then "45" and the others. The work was now chiefly surgical, and operating rooms were continuously in service for days. As fast as the hospital filled up, it was evacuated and filled up again---and so on ad infinitum. Except for those too seriously wounded to be moved, men were operated on one day and the next were speeding to bases in the rear. In a month's time over 8,000 patients passed through Base Hospital No. 45, the majority of whom were concentrated around September 12th. Ambulances brought them directly from the field dressing stations until the receiving wards and corridors were choked with them and at times the yards were covered with litters on which men lay awaiting their turn. The surgeons each had two tables and turned from one to the other, working with the utmost speed. Most of the patients were cheerful and begged to be "patched up" quickly so they could get back with their outfits before the advance came to a halt.
The work of the base hospital followed no set routine and was constantly undergoing readjustments to meet changing conditions at the front. War takes no account of plans or schemes of organization, and these are inadequate unless elastic enough to permit instantaneous revision.
Base No. 45 was supposed to have personnel enough to operate a hospital of 1,000 beds---in reality there were twice that many most of the time. It had been expected that the surgical cases would greatly outnumber the medical, but it worked out "the other way around." Numbers of officers and men who were sorely needed in the professional section had to be given to the administrative service. Nothing really happened as had been planned. Clearly defined duties had been anticipated, but a doctor of surgery found himself a doctor of medicine one day, a quartermaster clerk the next, a litter bearer the day after that. While all of this added to the variety of the life it also multiplied its problems. Yet no one complained when detached from his regular duties and thrust into situations strange and temporarily embarrassing.
Prior to the St. Mihiel drive the unit was concerned chiefly with the work of reconstruction of the hospital, preparations for the battle, and caring for an ever-increasing number of medical cases. During the engagement and immediately after it the surgical situation was uppermost of course. Just as this hectic period was coming to a close, Evacuation Hospital No. 3 packed up and moved forward after the army, unloading its patients on Base No. 45. This completely filled every bed in the hospital and the gates had to be closed to further admissions.
About this time the organization recovered the magnificent equipment assembled for it in Richmond. The manner in which Lieutenant Charles Phillips rescued this valuable lot of stuff, loaded it on a French train, and delivered it to "45" at Toul, constitutes a brilliant chapter in the history of the unit. Every minute that could be spared from caring for a hospital jammed with patients, was devoted to uncrating and distributing the contents of the huge boxes. When this task was finally completed, "45" was a real hospital.
Before it was completed, however, another drive was on, there was a rush of evacuations and a corresponding rush of admissions, and the pressure on the surgical service again became acute. Then ensued a spell of comparative quiet and something resembling an orderly service was instituted. At this time an American command was gassed by the Germans, so the hospital was rapidly cleared and filled up with these victims; Base No. 45 becoming for the time being a gas hospital, with the ear, nose and throat department bearing the brunt of the work. No sooner was this siege over than another epidemic of influenza and pneumonia swept the armies, and this caused the medical section, already with their hands full, to be doubly pressed.. Departmental lines were abolished and all wards were opened to chest cases.
Stories commenced to circulate of a collapse by the Germans and visions of home began to loom large upon the horizon. Occasionally there would transpire events of more than personal interest. Major McGuire had been made permanent commanding officer in mid-September and elevated to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. The contagious annex was made an independent hospital on October 1st, and placed in charge of Captain Barrier. He took with him five casual officers, thirty nurses, and ninety-five enlisted men from the enlisted personnel of Base 45. One hundred and thirty-six special training battalion men had been added to the unit for temporary duty. The Justice Group Medical Society was organized on October 28th, with Lieutenant-Colonel McGuire as its first president.
November 11th dawned and still the guns roared and an occasional ambulance came in with wounded. At 10: 59 the cannon were still in action, but as 11:00 o'clock struck a new sound was on the air---the chant of bells ringing from every church in France that had a belfry left. The day was given up to celebration. Toul was thronged by a joyous crowd composed of many nationalities. That night the town was ablaze with light for the first time in years.
The relief of the French over the lifting of the long strain of war was pathetic and their antics brought many smiles. Doughboys and poilus marched in long lines up and down the streets singing "Tipperary," "Madelon," or anything that came to mind. While merriment prevailed outwardly, underneath it all was a spirit of deep thankfulness that the war was over. With. the next day came reaction and the realization that many months would pass before the American troops could be gotten back across the ocean and demobilized. In the meantime there was plenty of work to be done Time dragged interminably. There was no longer the stimulus of war, casualties now were from disease and automobiles and the careless handling of ammunition. These were the hardest days of all, for homesickness had everyone in its grip.
Just after the Armistice a stream of wounded poured into the hospital from the belated drive that took the Second Army over the top. "Wounded at 10:59 A M. November 11th" frequently appeared on the patient's card. It has been said that commanders in the field did not know of the Impending Armistice and continued fighting as a matter of course. It has also been stated that stubbornness and the desire for vainglory on the part of certain high officers was responsible for the peremptory commands to advance, when it was known all along the line that fighting would stop within a few hours.
The work commenced to slacken. Lieutenant-Colonel Maddux, detached on November 14th and sent into Germany with the Army of Occupation, was succeeded in command of the Justice Group by Colonel R. M. Thornburgh. The maximum number of patients in the hospital on November 23rd was 1908 and on the 1st of December "45" was designated as a "clean surgical" hospital and the medical service was practically discontinued. The same day a group triage consisting of a series of tents was established in the court of "45," which meant that admissions for all the hospitals in the group were presented here, assorted, tagged, and distributed to the different units. To "45" came the "clean" surgical, cases and for a while these were sufficient to keep everyone busy. On December 17th the bed capacity was reduced from 2,300 to 1,400.
Christmas provided a very welcome break in the monotony. Everyone had been secretly dreading it, but luckily for all some inspired individual suggested that the entire hospital be decorated and that a full stocking be placed at the bedside of every patient. The idea "made a big hit" and soon everybody was busily engaged in preparations of one sort or another. The finished result drew people from miles around. Wardmasters strove to outdo each other and the whole place was a riot of color. In the effort to provide a real Christmas for the patients the organization found one for itself.
On New Year's day orders were received from the chief surgeon of the A. E. F. for "45" to prepare to return to the United States. Instantly everything was in an uproar, and there was much useless hurrying to and fro. In a few days, though, everybody was back in the slough of despond. Some underground influence was at work, apparently, hindering the efforts of "45" to get away. Then Lieutenant-Colonel McGuire and several other officers were detached and started for home, leaving Major Nelson in command. When passing through Tours, one of these officers disregarded all intervening "military channels" and reported to the chief surgeon what seemed to be an attempt to circumvent the instructions for Base No. 45 to leave Toul. This resulted In the dispatch of a peremptory order at once and "things commenced to happen." After certain unpleasant incidents with the incoming organization, the transfer was finally completed and on February 16, 1919 the unit bade farewell to Toul.
The nurses and detached officers proceeded to Brest and embarked on March 3, 1919, on the Agamemnon, which docked at Hoboken on the 11th. By March 20th the nurses were mustered out and had returned to their homes. The rest of the organization went to Nantes, where it remained for some time. Headquarters were established near the University of Virginia Base Hospital. Captain Charles Phillips was detached and ordered to Brest to accompany the nurses to America. Shortly after this all officers except three were ordered to Brest. This left Lieutenant-Colonel John G. Nelson, commanding, Major John B. Williams, adjutant, Captain William B. Hopkins, detachment commander, and 348 non-commissioned officers and men. Inspections of every conceivable sort were held at all hours Diversion of various sorts, such as vaudeville, baseball, band concerts, competitive drills, helped to pass the time. When orders at last came to entrain for St. Nazaire, even the crippled and sick got well miraculously. The personnel detachment worked all night in order that not a single man need be left in France. At St Nazaire everything moved like clockwork and the Walter A. Luokenbach seemed to be the finest ship in the world.
After debarkation at Hoboken, Base Hospital No. 45 at once proceeded to Camp Merritt, where the men were divided into groups according to states. The. Virginians were mustered out at Camp Lee on April 29, 1919.
Organized at the University of Virginia in the spring of 1917. Enlisted personnel mobilized at the University and entrained for Camp Sevier, Greenville, S. C., on March 5, 1918. Base Hospital No. 41 was officially organized at Camp Sevier and Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Cabell appointed to command. Trained at Sevier until June 18, 1918, leaving on that date for Camp Mills, Long Island. Embarked July 5th on the Scotian. The vessel docked at Glasgow and the organization entrained for Southampton. Embarked at latter point for Havre and reached Paris July 25th. Moved thence to St. Denis, where the park and part of the buildings of the school of the Legion of Honor had been turned over to Base 41. Nurses mobilized in New York and sailed on the Lancashire July 22nd and arrived in Liverpool August 3rd. Entrained for Southampton and embarked there for France. Proceeded from Havre to St. Denis, reaching there August 11th. Shortly after that the unit completed its preparations for handling patients. Between September, 1918, and January 28, 1919, when the organization ceased to function as a hospital, thousands of patients were cared for by Base 41. Part of the unit was ordered to Nantes February 2nd and the rest followed a week later. The nurses went to La Baule, while the officers and enlisted personnel were billeted at San Sebastian. Base 41 left for St. Nazaire April 9th and sailed on the Rhindam April 12th. Reached Newport News April 25th and proceeded to Camp Stuart. Numbers of the men were ordered to camps near their homes to be mustered out. The rest of the organization proceeded by boat up the James to City Point and from there by train to Camp Lee, where the unit was demobilized May 1, 1919.
Promptly after the declaration of war, colonel William H. Goodwin, then associate professor of surgery at the University of Virginia, went to Washington to confer with the American Red Cross in regard to organizing a base hospital at the University. As a result of his consultation the authority to organize the hospital was granted, and on the recommendation of President E. A. Alderman, Colonel Goodwin was appointed the director. On June 23, 1917, the hospital was given the number 41. The position of director was one of great responsibility and required much time, energy and good judgment in selecting the personnel and in purchasing the supplies. The excellent results attained later in France show that the selection of both the enlisted and officer personnel was intelligently done. Among the older officers there were a number of distinguished surgeons. At least two of them, Major Gwathmey and Major C. S. Venable, were fully qualified for the position of chief of the surgical section of a base hospital. Unfortunately, the positions they filled in this hospital were not in keeping with the experience and distinction they had attained in civil life. The younger officers were carefully selected for the special duties they were to perform. They were all well qualified medical men and were thoroughly conscientious in the performance of their duties. The enlisted men were chosen with the idea in view that the unit might have men experienced and capable of attending to all of the many needs of a large hospital without being dependent on any outside assistance. There were forty-nine alumni and students of the University of Virginia and a number of men from other colleges among them. In addition to picking the personnel and arranging for the supplies, it soon became apparent that Colonel Goodwin was to have all of the responsibility of raising the funds necessary to purchase the equipment, as the War Department decided that only those hospitals that were fully equipped and supplied would be accepted for active service.
At this time the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the U. S. had collected from its members a large sum of money as a war relief fund. Mr. Fred Harper, or Lynchburg, Virginia, was then the Grand Exalted Ruler of the order. Mr. Harper was a graduate of the Law School of the University class of 1895 and was a loyal alumnus. Colonel Goodwin went to Lynchburg to see Mr. Harper and found him keenly interested in financing the hospital. Mr. Harper consulted with the Elk's War Relief Commission in New York, and through his efforts the commission decided to finance the University of Virginia base hospital. This was distinctive, as no other contributions were to be received from other sources. The Elks deposited with the Red Cross the funds necessary for the equipment of the hospital. It was most unfortunate that the supplies and equipment were shipped from one port and the officers and men embarked from another. The medical supply officer in Washington was seen by the Commanding Officer personally, and he promised to do all he could. It would have been a great satisfaction to have had the equipment which was originally selected by the director, but under the circumstances of such pressure and stress, after much correspondence, this proved to be impossible.
All of the requirements of the War Department having been complied with, the enlisted personnel of the hospital, 149 in all, was mobilized at the University under Lieutenant Herbert F. Jackson. It is interesting to note that in the spring of 1861 two companies were formed from the students of the University for the C. S. A.
On March 5, 1918, a few days after the mobilization, the detachment entrained for Camp Sevier, S. C. On the march to the station, much enthusiasm was shown by the people in and about Charlottesville.
The hospital was officially organized at Camp Sevier by Major (later Lieutenant Colonel), Julian M. Cabell, and ceased to be a Red Cross unit.
Colonel Cabell, a Richmonder, graduated at the University in 1886 and was commissioned in the Medical Corps of the Army the following year. He served in the Sioux campaign of 1890 and 1891, in the Spanish War in the Philippines and in the Philippine Insurrection, as the Assistant to the Chief Surgeon, 8th Army Corps. He was detailed as a member of the first faculty of the Army Medical School when it was organized in 1893. He also served with the Army of Occupation in Vera Cruz in 1914. He went to South Africa in the Boer War, 1899-1900, as Chief Surgeon of the Hospital Ship Maine. He had been an associate professor in the George Washington University and was on the medical staff of several hospitals in Washington.
At Sevier the organization was assigned to the base hospital for training. The Commanding Officer here and his personnel assisted in every possible way to expedite the preparations of the unit for overseas service. The officers and men were assigned as far as possible to such duties as it was expected they would have to perform in France. In France Base No. 41 was an independent establishment and had no central hospital headquarters to lean on. Intensive instruction was given in drill, discipline, military deportment and the duties of a soldier. As all were keenly Interested, exceptionally good results were quickly attained. The organization was fortunate in having a most efficient first sergeant in Aubrey H. Harwood, who was a student at the University when he joined. He possessed a fine personality and a natural aptitude for handling and drilling men. Later at St. Denis, on a most sacred occasion, as the detachment was marching in column of fours around the old building, a general officer, who had just distinguished himself in the Argonne, turned to the commanding officer and said, "Colonel, you have a remarkably fine lot of men and they march splendidly, etc."
While at Sevier an adjutant and a supply officer were secured and through the influence of a friend in Washington, a registrar of experience and an excellent mess officer were obtained. Each of these staff officers was efficient and, in France, added greatly to the real usefulness of the hospital, in that they relieved the medical officers of much necessary red tape and enabled them to concentrate all of their energies on purely professional duties.
The food at Sevier was good, and in spite of the hard work the time was pleasantly spent. On May 8th the commanding officer reported to the Surgeon General that Base 41 was ready for overseas duty. The endorsement on this report by the commanding officer of the Sevier Hospital, Colonel T. E. Scott, was as follows:
1. Forwarded. It is believed that Base Hospital 41 is ready for overseas duty and will be able to perform any work entrusted to it satisfactorily. This unit is composed of the highest grade officers and men and they have applied themselves most earnestly in learning the routine of base hospital work. Since their assignment to the base hospital at Camp Sevier they have been placed in positions it is intended they will occupy in their own hospital in an effort to teach them in the shortest possible time the duties connected with such work. The results have been excellent. The Commanding Officer, Major J. M. Cabell, deserves a great deal of credit for his studious application to duty and for his ability and judgment in bringing about the conditions desired.
Moving orders were slow in coming, but finally they arrived and the unit left Sevier by train June 18th and arrived at Camp Mills, N. Y., the night of June 19th.
While at "Mills," from June 19th to July 5th, there was but little to do while awaiting orders to embark for France. Many had never seen New York before, and passes were issued to everyone who wished to visit that city. Major Goodwin was made a lieutenant-colonel, which was most fortunate, as promotions in the medical department after arrival in France were held up until late in the fall. When he reported to Base No. 41 he was the fourth in rank, but after the above promotion he ranked next to the Commanding Officer.
The adjutant, registrar and mess officer joined the unit at "Mills." At last, on the Fourth of July, embarkation orders were received and all were overjoyed. One of the men was confined in the guard-house at Mills at this time for over-staying his pass to town and on account of his condition when he returned. He was nearly heartbroken when he heard of orders and was very happy when it was arranged to have him restored to duty just before the unit embarked. He did good work in France.
Everyone was ready to go. Few, if any, slept a wink that night, but sat up around the camp fires with men from Base Hospital No. 40 until the hour of departure In the early morning. Base Hospital No. 40 was from Kentucky and occupied the next camp street to 41 at Mills. Many friendly ties had been established with them and the two organizations embarked on the same transport. Shortly before daybreak, July 5th, Base No. 41 marked to the railroad and entrained for Long Island City and from there went by ferry boat around South Ferry and up North River to the transport, the S. S. Scotian. The Scotian left during the night and the fleet assembled in the morning off Long Island. The convoy was made up of fifteen large steamers and among them were several of the largest trans-Atlantic liners. The ships moved in columns of fours and kept this position night and day. The convoy at first consisted of submarine chasers, then a battleship served as escort, and on the other side chasers came out to meet them. The food, the cooking and the accommodations were not all that could be desired, but these were trifles after all compared to getting across. There were no entertainments aboard and little diversion of any sort on the voyage. The weather was good, and setting-up drills and boat drills were held daily. No smoking was allowed on deck at night, and all lights were well screened to avoid detection by submarines. Target practice was held once on the way over. Towards the end of the voyage the battleship sailed completely around the convoy and then departed to joined another fleet. No one knew at what port the transport would dock until early one morning everyone awoke to find that during the night the ship had entered the Clyde. Dumbarton Castle was passed, as well as the beautiful green lawn of a hospital, and no end of destroyers under construction on both sides of the river.
The Scotian docked that night at Glasgow and the next day entrained for Southampton. The stay there was short, but it was rather Interesting. Some of the men were entertained by the people of Southampton, but there was little they could do at that time. A cloud of gloom was cast over the unit when an order came directing that it be held In England. Later in the day this order was revoked and "41" was ordered to embark the next day. Zigzagging across the channel at night, Havre was reached the next morning. Then came a march up a long and steep hill to a British rest camp, but only one night was spent there. The unit left for Paris the next day and arrived there the morning of July 25th. Then out to St. Denis to the beautiful park of l'Ecole de la Legion d'Honneur, the park and a part of the school building having been assigned to Base 41. Steps were at once taken to equip the building and convert it into a hospital. This beautiful location, only five miles from the Place de l'Opera, Paris, was secured for "41" by the American Red Cross. The old building erected in the early part of the eighteenth century was, originally, a Benedictine monastery attached to the old Basilique de St. Denis, where most of the royalty of France were buried. In 1807, Napoleon took it from the church and converted it into a school for the children of the members of the Legion of Honor. Except in time of war, it has been used for this purpose ever since. It was a stately old building with a large and beautiful park laid out with broad gravel walks, shrubs and flowers, surrounded by a high wall. In a very short time many acres of this lovely park were covered with tent wards which were filled with more than two thousand soldier patients. The superintendent of the school, Mme. Huet, with her staff of teachers, remained in the building while we were there. She and Mlle. Last, her secretary, were always courteous and kind and were of constant assistance in many ways. The curé of the old church next door gave a special service for the unit soon after it arrived and was always very friendly. Orders were at once issued to organize for work as rapidly as possible, until able to report that we were ready to receive patients. The five hundred heavy iron bedsteads, that were in use in the school had to be taken down and stored away, and the equipment of Base 41 had to installed. What had been the dormitories of the school for five hundred pupils was soon converted into well equipped and appointed hospital wards. Unusual results were very rapidly accomplished through everyone's untiring efforts and whole-hearted cooperation.
On July 18th the Nurses' Corps and six civilian employees In charge of Miss Margaret B. Cowling, the Chief Nurse, were mobilized in New York. They sailed on the S. S. Lancashire, July 22nd, and arrived in Liverpool August 3rd. From there they went to Southampton, crossed to Havre, August 10th, and reported at St. Denis, August 11th What a blessed comfort they proved to be. Before the war with Spain and in the early days in the Philippines the opinion in the army was that it would not be practical in time of war to have nurses at the front. Such notions were certainly shattered by their efficient service in France. They accomplished wonders through their enthusiastic and untiring application to work. So often with the nurses it was all night work, and night after night, including the days between. However, they were always efficient, ready and cheerful and a great comfort to the patients as well as to the surgeons.
After the nurses reported preparations for receiving patients went on very rapidly and the wards were soon in excellent order, so it was reported on August 12th that everything was in readiness. This meant not only the wards, operating rooms and laboratories, but all the machinery necessary to run a big hospital, including administration, and the arrangements for cooking and serving food.
The first convoy of patients was promptly and efficiently handled in the receiving ward. It was the first practical experience of this kind, but all details had been well worked out in advance. The patients were admitted to the receiving ward and from there assigned to the dressing station, operating room or wards, the transfer being effected without delay or confusion, though there were a hundred and thirty-six patients in the first convoy. The nurse in charge of the receiving ward showed unusual aptitude for her duties. The ward was always in perfect working order, night and day, and the patients were all cared for and promptly assigned and transferred. This was always true even when the convoys arrived at midnight or in the early morning hours. In a conversation between several ambulance drivers in the District of Paris one was heard to say "There was never any delay out at Forty-One as there was a lot of college fellows out there who were right on the job."
In addition to the hard daily routine of caring for the patients new tent wards were being prepared. Base No. 41 kept on expanding in this way until the signing of the Armistice. However, when there were about fourteen hundred patients in the hospital information was received from the chief surgeon that facilities to care for battle casualties were needed and a report was requested as to the maximum number of patients Base 41 could care for. He was advised that twenty-nine hundred could be handled. It was a real crisis and all available space had to be used. At this time the advance was well under way and the battle casualties were heavy. Under these circumstances the hospital actually expanded to more than twenty-eight hundred patients without any increase in the number of nurses or of enlisted men. There were never more than two hundred and fifty-four enlisted men. At our best we had about twenty-eight patients to one nurse and eleven patients to one enlisted man. This ratio is far in excess of the average and is probably, excepting convalescent hospitals, the very best record of any base hospital in the A. E. F. In spite of this, however, the quality of the professional work was at all times excellent.
In this extreme emergency l'Abbe Nozais, the chaplain of the school, offered the use of the sacred old chapel of the school. L'Abbe Nozais belonged to the clerical staff of the Basilique de St Denis and was serving as the Catholic chaplain of the unit at the time. The offer was promptly accepted, and the beautiful chapel was at once converted into a ward and speedily filled with wounded American soldiers.
During the time when the unit was expanding so rapidly the epidemic of influenza attacked a large percentage of both patients and personnel.
This required more attention for the patients from greatly incapacitated personnel. Many had to go on the sick report, others kept going as long as possible who should have been in bed. One medical officer and three men died of pneumonia following influenza.
The situation became critical when there were 1,765 patients in the hospital and all the others in the District of Paris had stopped receiving patients which left it up to Base 41 to handle all the convoys of patients from the front. From four o'clock in the afternoon of October 19th to ten o'clock in the morning of October 22nd, 693 patients were admitted. Convoys came in continuously day and night and the entire personnel was well nigh exhausted. On this, however, as on all other occasions, Mrs. Lizzie G. Thurman, the very efficient dietitian in charge of the main dining-room, was always out to receive the convoys regardless of the time they arrived. She had hot coffee and chocolate and light food, and then cigarettes for the poor wounded fellows on their litters.
Even after there were more than twenty-eight hundred patients in the hospital they were always well cared for in every way. They seemed happy and always showed the keenest appreciation of what was done for them. They seldom, if ever, complained, except occasionally of the food or of some everyday trifle. Considering the circumstances the food was good and the cooking good, but of course it was impossible to have proper diet for the sick when it was often the case that only a dozen or two eggs a day and other such necessary delicacies in proportion could be obtained.
There were six hundred patients in the building and approximately twenty-two hundred in the tent wards. About five hundred of the latter were in French Besseneau tents, which were near the building. These tent wards were well arranged and comfortable. The remainder, about seventeen hundred, were in the Marquise tents farther out in the park. It was necessary to construct a field kitchen and mess tents for these tent wards,
The responsibility of Base 41 was great. The unit was practically an independent hospital, not being stationed in a center but under the surgeon of the District of Paris, who was five miles away and did not have the usual supply and other staff of a hospital center. As a matter of tact, "41" had nearly all of the responsibility of a hospital center as to administration, discipline and supply. Many hospitals were housed in the same building with the headquarters of a hospital center or in the same inclosure and their responsibility was reduced to a minimum by the staff of the center. The Red Cross rendered valuable assistance, but its special interest, of course, was in the hospitals in Paris.
Base 41 had a most efficient staff, which had been selected with great care before leaving Sevier. The easy working of the administration of the hospital, even after there were more than twenty-eight hundred patients, was probably never fully appreciated by the rest of the personnel. As few orders and circulars were issued as possible and practically all of the red tape was handled by the staff. In this way the medical officers were relieved of such work and were enabled to apply themselves exclusively to medical duties. In reference to the stag, the following letter may be of interest:
Dear Colonel Cabell:
Though I have not been able to acknowledge receipt of all the neurological reports that have come from the various hospitals, I nevertheless wish to send you a word of thanks for your very admirable and carefully prepared report, which is one of the neatest and most exact of these reports which I have received and reflects a great deal of credit upon the character of work your hospital must have done throughout.
With all good wishes, I am
Most truly yours,
While the unit was actively functioning as a hospital the discipline and morale of the personnel was always the very best. This was true even when the work was hardest, and especially so of the enlisted men. Everyone was too busy to think of petty grievances if they had them, and there was no discontent that interfered in any way with the efficiency of the hospital. Few, if any, of the base hospitals of the A. E. F. had so little friction among their personnel. The cooperation between individuals as well as between the several departments was perfect, and everybody pulled together to accomplish the greatest good. This cooperation was especially marked between the commanding officer and the chief of the surgical service throughout the entire time there were patients in the hospital. Each did all he could to carry out the wishes of the other. It was due in great measure to this that such satisfactory results were achieved.
Colonel Larry B. McAfee, the surgeon of the District of Paris, always showed an earnest desire to aid in every way possible. He recommended the commanding officer for the D. S. M. for having "rendered distinguished service to the U. S. Army in the rapid organization and the administration of the above hospital at a period when accommodation for battle casualties were in a critical condition, etc." This, of course, was in appreciation and recognition of the results attained through the efficient services rendered by all of the unit's personnel.
The officials of the School of the Legion of Honor did all they could to aid, and Madame Huet, the superintendent, and her secretary, Miss Last, were constantly In the wards performing little acts of kindness for the patients.
Very soon after the unit's arrival at St. Denis, the use of the entire school building was requisitioned through an officer at headquarters without consulting the officials either of the Red Cross or of the Legion of Honor. This naturally caused a great deal of bitter feeling, as the use of the park and a part of the building had already been granted by the Legion of Honor at the request of the Red Cross. It should be explained that in the District of Paris most of the buildings used as hospitals were secured by the American Red Cross. This organization also served as the supply department for the hospitals. Up to this time the Red Cross had cooperated with Base 41 in a most friendly spirit. The commanding officer of the hospital was never informed officially of this requisition. Later General Dubail, the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor, courteously granted us the use of the building in reply to a written request from the commanding officer of the hospital in which the urgent need of bed space was explained.
Base Hospital 41 was visited and inspected at various times by a number of distinguished officers. Soon after the command's arrival, It was inspected by the Chief Surgeon, Major General Ireland and later by his successor, General McCaw, a Richmonder, and by General Glennon, of the Medical Corps. When General McCaw came the hospital had expanded nearly to its limit, and he expressed surprise and much appreciation of this fact. The commanding general of the District, General William W. Harts, made a very careful inspection and the immediate superior of the unit in that section, Colonel Larry B. McAfee, made a number of inspections and always expressed approval of the work. General Dubail, the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor, went carefully over the entire hospital and took great Interest in every detail. He was greatly pleased with the results accomplished with the limited means at hand.
Admiral Andrew T. Long, Admiral Richard H. Jackson, and General S. R. Kean, the latter two alumni of the University, visited the hospital.
General Dennis E. Nolan was with us on a very sad occasion, the funeral of his brother, Lieutenant Martin F. Nolan, who died of pneumonia following influenza. Lieutenant Nolan was in charge of our pneumonia patients and had worked most indefatigably while ill himself. He had endeared himself to all who knew him through his fine character and his earnest application to duties.
The chaplain, Beverley D. Tucker, conducted services on Sundays and week days and also visited the patients daily in the wards. L'Abbe Nozais was voluntary Roman Catholic chaplain. He spoke English fluently and was a charming gentleman.
The Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A. and the Knights of Columbus workers supplied the patients with stationery, literature, games, toilet articles, tobacco and sweets. They also arranged concerts and other entertainments in the wards and did much to cheer the patients and keep them happy and in good humor. The Red Cross equipped the theater of the school as a recreation hail and operated a free canteen. Moving pictures, dramatic performances and other entertainments were provided. These did much to maintain the high morale of all. Chaplain Tucker had general charge of the amusements.
Major L. E. Arnott, of the Red Cross, was on duty with Base 41 nearly the whole time it functioned as an active hospital and rendered efficient and useful service. E. M. Ashman, Miss N. A. Watts and Miss Poet, all of the Red Cross, did a great deal for the men's welfare.
The "Medaille d'Honneur des Epidemies" was awarded to four nurses, four noncommissioned officers and six privates of Base No. 41, by the French Government. This medal is one of several French decorations which are sometimes called the Medal of Honor. They all rank equally, but there is no distinctive medal of honor in France. Three officers were awarded certificates for exceptionally meritorious and conspicuous services by the commanding general A. E. F. On the recommendation of his immediate superior officer the commanding officer of Base 41 was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and was recommended by him for the D. S. M. These decorations were awarded in recognition of the results attained by the entire personnel, for without the cooperation of everyone the hospital would not have functioned so smoothly. The high class men composing the personnel had much to do with this. The services of all were so unusual that it was difficult to decide as to who should be decorated. The chief nurse, Miss Margaret B. Cowling, would have been named for one of the above decorations except for the fact that the commanding officer was officially informed that she was to be awarded the Palmes (Officier d' Instruction Publique), which ranks next in France to the Legion of Honor. It was with this understanding that the medals of honor were accepted. The omission in awarding the decoration to Miss Cowling was due to the enormous rush of routine work at the time and was unavoidable, but it is expected that she will receive it in the near future.
The Surgeon General of the Army wrote to the authorities of the University after the war commending "the invaluable services rendered the nation by this splendid organization, and in this connection, I desire to invite your attention to the excellent work done by Lieutenant Colonel Wm. H. Goodwin, M. C., as director of Base Hospital No. 41, and to ask that you convey to him my sincere appreciation of the value of the service he gave to our country in its time of need."
Major Bernard B. Kyle, before joining "41," served with the Second Division. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French Government and was recommended for the D. S. C. for heroic services while with this division. He received a letter of praise from Major General Bundy and one from Major General Lejeune for his conduct under heavy fire while rendering medical aid to the wounded.
Major Lomax Gwathmey, while on temporary duty with Evacuation Hospital No. 4, was wounded by a six-inch shell when the vicinity of the hospital was shelled. A number of the corps men were killed and wounded and Major Gwathmey was removing the wounded to a place of safety when he was struck by a fragment of a shell. The wound was serious, but he had recovered sufficiently in six weeks to return to the United States. He received a complimentary letter from the Commander-in-Chief of the A. E. F.
Air raids were frequently experienced at night and occasionally in the daytime. The hospital was directly In the line of fire of the Big Bertha and the huge shells were constantly passing overhead.
The hospital ceased to function as such January 28, 1919. Part of the unit was ordered to Nantes to prepare to return to the United States February 2nd, and the rest followed a week later. The outfit was billeted at San Sebastian about five miles from Nantes, while the nurses were ordered to La Baule. A number of the latter remained in France and the others returned home.
Some of the officers were detached at St. Denis and others later, and sent to other organizations in the A. E. F., some of whom later saw service in Germany. All of the remaining officers, except five, were, detached and returned home by way of Brest. Some of the enlisted men were detailed to study at French colleges, but most of them returned to the united States. While at San Sebastian everyone was homesick and was glad when embarkation orders were received. Base 41 left San Sebastian. April 9th and sailed from St. Nazaire April 12th on the S. S. Rhindam, arriving at Newport News April 25th, where it was quartered at Camp Stuart. From there a number of the men were ordered to stations near their homes.
On April 29th headquarters and the remaining members of the outfit, in accordance with orders, proceeded by boat up the James to City Point and from there by train to Camp Lee, where the organization was demobilized on May 1, 1919.
|*Cabell, Julian M.||Lieutenant Colonel, M. C., Commanding Officer|
|*Goodwin, William H.||Lieutenant Colonel, M. C.|
|*Tucker, Beverley D.||Chaplain|
|*Gwathmey, Lomax||Major, M. C.|
|*Old, Herbert||Major, M. C.|
|*Venable, Charles S.||Major, M. C.|
|*Burke, John W.||Captain, M. C.|
|*Carroll, John W.||Captain, M. C.|
|Hayes, Henry J.||Captain, M. C.|
|*Lankford, Burnley||Captain, M. C.|
|Lear, Allen L.||Captain, M. C.|
|*Lile, Minor C.||Captain, M. C.|
|*Miller, Edward H.||Captain, M. C.|
|*Thomas, John D.||Captain, M. C.|
|*Venable, Charles L.||Captain, M. C.|
|*Witt, Dan H.||Captain, M. O.|
|*Woodward, Charles A.||Captain, M. C.|
|Miller, Walter E.||Captain, D. C.|
|Sharp, Foster||Captain, S. C.|
|*Brooks, Edward B.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Caylor, Claude C.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|Dowd, Heman L||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Gage, Lucius G.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Green, Berryman, Jr.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|Hadfield, Jonathan P.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Hume, Joseph S.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Hyde, Leroy W.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Jackson, Herbert F.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|McFarland, Gordon B.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|Magruder, Levin F.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|Nolan, Martin F.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Pott, Walter G. H.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Setzler, John B.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Steele, Kyle B.||1st Lt., 'M. C'-|
|*Wellford, Beverly R.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|*Woodberry, Hunter S.||1st Lt., M. C.|
|Parry, George C.||1st Lt., D. C.|
|Bouvier, Charles M.||1st Lt., S. C.|
|Owen, Alvin W.||2nd Lt., S. C.|
|Huff, Donald R.||2nd Lt., Q. M. C.|
The following officers joined at St. Denis:
|James, Harry M.||Colonel, M. C.|
|*Kyle, Bernard H.||Captain, M. C.|
|Falk, Frederick||Captain, M. C.|
|Bruns, John B.||1st Lieutenant, D. C.|
The following officers were on temporary duty with Base Hospital No. 85:
|Galley, Herman E.||1st Lieutenant, M. C.|
|Graham, Emmeth L.||1st Lieutenant, M. C.|
|Hunt, Samuel||1st Lieutenant, M. C.|
|Knight, Howard T.||1st Lieutenant, M. C.|
|Commanding Officer||Lieutenant Colonel Julian M. Cabell, M. C.|
|Adjutant||Captain Foster Sharp, S. C., until January, 1919, when transferred and then relieved by let Lieutenant (later Captain) Claude C. Caylor, M. C.|
|Commanding Detachment, M. D., and Personnel Officer,||1st Lieutenant Herbert F. Jackson, M. C., until September 9, 1918, when relieved, at his own request, by let Lieutenant Claude C. Caylor, M. C.|
|Registrar||2nd Lieutenant Alvin W. Owen, S. C.|
|Quartermaster||2nd Lieutenant Donald R. Huff, Q. M. C.|
|Mess Officer||1st Lieutenant Charles M. Bouvier, S. C.|
|Chief of Surgical Service||Lieutenant Colonel William H. Goodwin, M. C.|
|Chief of Medical Service||Major Herbert Old, M. C.|
|Chief of Laboratory||let Lieutenant Lucius G. Gage, M. C.|
|Chaplain||Beverley D. Tucker|
|Chief Nurse||Miss Margaret B. Cowling, N. C.|
Organized at the University of Virginia in May, 1917. Mustered into Federal service May 28th/29th. Left for ambulance training camp at Allentown, Pa., June 5th. Trained there until October 24th, being transferred on that date to Tobyhanna, Pa. Entrained December 25th for Hoboken and sailed the next day on the Pastores. Reached France January 13, 1918. Assembled twenty Ford ambulances and proceeded to Sandricourt. Assigned there to 66th French Division. Began active work in Vosges mountains on February 11th and continued until April 2nd. Moved to Compiegne and went into reserve. Entered line again May 4th at Moreuil, remaining there for one hundred days. Moved August 25th to Chemin des Dames, remaining until September 20th, proceeding then to Compiegne for a month's rest. Moved into action again on Oise-Sambre canal October 17th. Relieved November 4th. Moved to Fluquieres, thence to Paris, thence to Enghien-les-Bains, remaining there until December 20th. Proceeded from there with 66th French Division to Maubeuge, remaining there until February 20th, when the 66th was demobilized. S. S. U. 516 moved to Lille several days later. Ordered to Ferrieres March 13th and moved from there April -3rd, reaching Brest on the 7th. Sailed from Brest six days later on the Great Northern and arrived in New York April 20th. Proceeded to Camp Dix and the unit was demobilized April 23, 1919.
Ambulance Company No. 516 was organized at the University of Virginia in May, 1917, and was mustered into Federal service by Lieutenant L. H. Clapp, U. S. M. R. C., on the 28th and 29th of that month. On June 5th, in company with the other unit organized at the University, and under command of Acting First Sergeant John H. Bocock, the section left for the ambulance training camp at Allentown, Pa. There the unit was given the number 516. George E. Warren was made first sergeant, Luther W. Kelly and Latta Law, sergeants, and Charles E. Jenkins, corporal.
The first months at Allentown were spent in preparing the camp for later arrivals and in foot drill. On August 6th, Section 517 received overseas orders and was thereby permanently separated from Section 516. The period from early August until the 24th of October was spent by those left behind in hiking and drilling. On the latter date 1,000 men were transferred from Allentown to Tobyhanna, Pa., on account of the congested condition at the former place. Section 516 was in this contingent, which was commanded by Major Joe Devereux, of Washington, D. C. The time from early November until Christmas was spent in daily expectation of sailing orders, which finally arrived on Christmas day.
During the seven months' sojourn of Section 516 in this country, the enlisted personnel and officers underwent many changes. Only fifteen members of the original outfit were left, their places being filled from replacements.(note) The lieutenants in charge were many. Among those who commanded during this period were Lieutenants Hurley, Green, Cole, Kelly and Listoe. The last named was in charge at the time of embarkation. C. E. Jenkins, R. A. Chermside and M. E. Carter were the noncoms, Warren, Law and Kelly having received commissions.
On the night of December 25th "Devereux's Own" entrained for Hoboken, sailing from that port the next day on the U. S. transport Pastores. On January 10, 1918, the shores of France were sighted after a voyage that was uneventful except for two submarine scares. On the morning of January 13th the contingent disembarked and entrained immediately for St. Nazaire. There Section 516 assembled the motors and bodies of twenty Ford ambulances and departed two weeks later in these cars for Sandricourt, at that time headquarters of the United States Army Ambulance Service with the French Army.
At Sandricourt the entire system was changed and the cars turned over with their conducteurs to the French army. Section 516, U. S. A. A. S., was immediately assigned to the 66th French Division, the famous Chasseurs Alpins, and its official designation changed to Section Sanitaire Unie 516 (S. S. U. 516), by which name it was afterwards known.
On February 11th active work was begun in the Vosges mountains in Alsace. Until Easter day, April 2nd, the section evacuated wounded here, doing only light work. Then the division was removed to Compiegne, where it was held in reserve. On May 4th it returned to the line, this time fifteen kilometers south of Amiens at Moreuil, where it remained one hundred days before being relieved. However, 516 remained several days after the relief of its division with Debeney's army, collecting the wounded from the attack of August 8th. Finally, on August 18th, the section was given a week's rest near Amiens, going from there to a sector in the Chemin des Dames, remaining until September 20th, when it retired to the vicinity of Compiegne for a month's rest, while the division was refitting and receiving replacements.
On October 17th the 66th Division attacked again thirty kilometers northeast of St. Quentin on the Oise-Sambre canal, It was relieved on November 4th after advancing the line considerably. This marked the S. S. U. 516's last visit to the front.
Armistice day was spent at Fluquieres, near Ham. The section proceeded thence to Paris, where the Chasseurs were to act as guard of honor during the receptions of President Wilson, Kings George, Albert and Victor Emanuel. The next month, until December 20th, was spent at Enghien-les-Bains, ten kilometers north of Paris. Once more the division moved, this time afoot, the voitures sanitaires following them to Maubeuge, on the Belgian border, where 516 remained with its division until February 10th, when the 66th was dissolved.
General Bissaud visited the section on the day of its separation from the Blue Devils and inspected them in an informal way, shaking hands with each member individually. After he had finished his inspection, he approached Lieutenant R. A. Burrell, who had assumed command after the signing of the Armistice, and said to him in French: "Lieutenant, I do not see enough Croix de Guerre on your men to please me, give me the name of every man who has not received one and I will see to it that he does!" Previous to this, eighteen of the thirty men in the outfit had already won personal citations.
S. S. U. 516 moved from Maubeuge to Lille several days later and there remained doing civilian relief work until March 13th, when orders were received to report to the Ambulance Base Camp at Ferrieres to await transportation home. These orders arrived on April 3rd. The cars being already disposed of, the men left Ferrieres at once and arrived in Brest on the morning of April 7th.
Six days later the section sailed from Brest on the U. S. transport The Great Northern, arriving in New York on Easter morning, April 20, 1919.
On April 23rd the majority of its members were discharged from. Camp Dix, the remainder being held a few days longer.
Briefly, the work performed by Section 516 during its period of war service was as follows: 13,417 wounded transported, 212,417 kilometers travelled. The casualties were: one killed (Steve Webster), and five slightly wounded. Every car in the section was hit by a shell fragment at one time or another and six were completely demolished by direct hits during the last week at the front.
Every man in the section received an individual citation for the Divisional Croix de Guerre and the section, as a whole, received two divisional citations for work on the Somme and in the Chemin des Dames, and one army corps citation for the Oise-Sambre canal attack.
Note: On account of these changes no attempt will be made to give the personnel of the units organized at this University. The original enrollment to be found in the Alumni News, Vol. V, page 212 (May 28. 1917).
Organized at the University of Virginia in May, 1917. Left for ambulance training camp at Allentown, Pa., June 5th. Trained there until August 5th. Entrained for Hoboken, where the San Jacinto was boarded. Landed at St. Nazaire, August 20th. Followed training schedule until September 23rd, leaving for Paris on that date and taking over work of field service operating at Neuilly. Left for Alsatian front in the Vosges mountains November 7th and went into active service with French army near Thann. Remained there until March, 1918, moving to Flanders in that month and going into action at Ouderdom. Relieved May 14th and rested at Loon Plage until the 28th. Went into action again in Ypres sector on June 2nd. Relieved July 6th. Entered active fighting again in the Champagne July 14th. Moved into Argonne August 18th and took part in operations there. The company was at Vaux-le-Mouron when the Armistice was signed. Moved from there to Wiedensolen, near Colmar on the Rhine and remained there in Army of Occupation until February 15, 1919, leaving on that date for Darney, France. Remained there until March 15th. Moved to Ferrieres, thence to Brest and embarked on the President Grant for America. Arrived at Newport News April 2nd and marched to Camp Stuart. Proceeded up the James to City Point, and thence by train to Camp Lee, where the unit was demobilized.
This company was organized at the University in May, 1917, and mustered into Federal service on the 28th and 29th of that month. After ten days of training the company left for the ambulance concentration camp at Allentown, Pa., on June 5th, and was there redesignated Section No. 517.
From June 6th until August 5th the unit trained steadily for everything under the sun but driving ambulances. During this period the personnel was increased to forty-five. Rumors of early departure circulated constantly, and finally orders did come for 517, along with ten other favored companies, to prepare to leave. So at twelve o'clock one night the men were ordered to turn in their beds to the quartermaster department and then to entrain for the port of embarkation. Despite the utmost secrecy a number of friends were on hand at the train to bid the company farewell. By daybreak the men were stiffly unloading themselves and their baggage from the train on to a ferry boat that bore them through the mist to the wharf at Hoboken. There they boarded the San Jacinto, a coast wise fruit steamer which had been converted into a transport with a capacity of 2,000 men.
Immediately the San Jacinto slipped down the harbor and anchored just below the Statue of Liberty, waiting for the rest of the convoy. Two hours later a cruiser dropped down and anchored alongside, and soon four other transports, among them the Finland and the Henderson, with two destroyers, joined the party. At nine in the evening, the convoy started and Section 517 began its voyage.
After thirteen days of constant vigil submarines were sighted just off Belle Isle, in the Bay of Biscay, and Section 517 had its first taste of warfare. A torpedo barely missed the bow of the Finland, and the good work of the destroyer, which had been joined by four others, prevented a possible tragedy, so far as Section 517 was concerned. Over seventy-five shots were fired at the submarines, whose number even now is a matter of conjecture. The sight of the cliffs of Belle Isle, just off the coast of Brittany, at this juncture was perhaps the most joyful experience forty-five of the men on the San Jacinto ever had.
At St. Nazaire, August 20th, 517 and the accompanying sections went through another period of training and drill, including almost everything except driving ambulances, and on September 23rd four sections including 517, received orders to proceed to Paris for special duty, to take over the work of the field service then operating at the American Hospital at Neuilly. While at St Nazaire Sergeant Bocock received his commission as First Lieutenant, and was given command of Section 539, which unit later gave an excellent account of itself. Sergeant Calloway was made First Sergeant.
November 7th, after much preparation and after a number of men were taken from two of the sections at Neuilly to form a third, Section 517, which had been recruited up to forty-five men before leaving Allentown, started for the Alsatian front, in the Vosges with thirty men. The unit first went into active service with the French army near Thann, just across the lines from Mulhouse, and remained on duty there until March, during which time several lively engagements took place with the enemy, and five boys received the Croix de Guerre for valorous services. No mention need be made of the hardships and pleasures of that severe winter high up in the Vosges mountains--& winter whose burdens would have- been unbearable, but for the hospitality of "Doc" Doniat and his wife, innkeepers of Masevaux, a rendezvous dear to the heart of each member of 517.
In March, 1918, when the Germans were hammering at the gates of Ypres and had compassed Kemmel Hill on three sides, seemed to be on the road to Calais, the French division to which 517 was attached was ordered to Flanders, to help stem the German tide. After a period in reserve behind the British at Amiens, 517 went into action at Ouderdom in Flanders, close to Poperinghe and in the shadow of Kemmel Hill, where in a brief ten days action the division was reduced to one-half its original strength. Ten days were enough, and they were ordered en repos to Dunkerque, and remained at the peaceful retreat of Loon Plage, on the north Sea, from May 14th to May 28th.
Again on June 2nd, 517 went into action on the Ypres sector in the vicinity of Dickebusch and Westoutre, and remained there until relieved on July 6th. Here five more of the personnel received the Croix de Guerre for unusual valor in action. Lieutenant Hurley had been relieved of command when 517 left Paris, and Lieutenant Dobes, whose experience In the American Field Service rendered him peculiarly fitted for leadership at the front, commanded the unit throughout this period.
When the Germans launched their last and greatest offensive against the allies from the Argonne to the North Sea on July 14, 1918, the division to which 517 was attached was thrown Into action just southwest of Rheims in the Champagne. On that memorable day, perhaps the hardest the section had yet known from the standpoint of work and danger, 517 lost its first man. Suarez, who had been transferred from another section, and who had endeared himself to everyone in the unit was struck by a shell fragment in the stomach and instantly killed. He was buried in the little cemetery at Dillman, on the road from Chalons to Rheims
August 18th Section 517 went into action in the Argonne at Le Four de Paris and Vienne-le-Chateau, before Ste. Menehould, where there was comparative calm until the grand offensive of September 25th when the German retreat began. The section and its French division advanced first to Ville-sur-Tourbe, then to Sechault, Challerange, Grand-Pre, and Vaux-le-Mouron. where they were when the Armistice was signed.
Immediately 517 received orders to depart, and before its destination was known it found itself at Wiedensolen, near Colmar, on the Rhine, where it remained in the Army of Occupation until February 15, 1919, when It again crossed the Pass into France. The company remained at Barney until March 15th, when orders came to proceed to Ferrieres to prepare for embarkation. Four days at Ferrieres, four days on the road to Brest, four days at the port of embarkation, thanks to the efficiency of the clerk, twelve days at sea on the good ship President Grant, and the section passed between the Capes off Newport News at midnight April 1st.
The company marched from the ship to Camp Stuart, where it went through the de-baser and the de-everything else. and then boarded a steamer for the trip up the James to Camp Lee. Four days at Camp Lee (four seemed to be a lucky number for 517) and the unit was no more!
The honors of 517 are many. Read the list of the recipients of the D. S. O. and the Croix de Guerre. Each original member wears a service medal bearing four bars. That is honor enough. Fourteen months of actual service at the front before the Armistice was signed, not to mention the period of occupation, where the army "sits on top of the world." Casualties were many, deaths just one: for which there is a feeling of mingled sadness and pride. Suarez lies in Champagne; "Duke" Fenwick wears the D. S. C. because of bravery in action In Flanders when a shell hit the road ten feet from his car, a fragment killing a Frenchman on the seat beside him, and another fragment entering his own mouth through the upper lip, taking two teeth with it, and lodging in the roof of his mouth. A second later another shell hit the other side of the road, a fragment hitting him in the hand. He came to camp for a car to carry his blesses to the dressing station. A roll call would be necessary to recount the number and names of those who were gassed in more than one engagement, while the "near hits" and narrow escapes would require volumes. Jimme Moore was the first to win the Croix de Guerre, but many of the others soon followed his example in this respect.
The company was lucky in its commanders. Lieutenant Hurley was noted for his efficiency, and it is to him that 517 owes its first lessons in the general art of soldiering. His successor, Lieutenant Dobes, knew how to handle men and how to get the best results from a section. He was generally liked and respected and loved by all. He was relieved of command when the section went into the Argonne and succeeded by Lieutenant Jefferson B. Fletcher, now Professor of English in Columbia University, than whom no officer in the whole American Army was more beloved by his men. After the Armistice he was relieved by Lieutenant King, who remained in charge of the section until embarkation. It is interesting to know that Section 517 went over under command of Sergeant Bocock, and came back under command of Lieutenant Bocock, who had . charge of the several sections from the date of sailing until date of discharge.
Organized at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., in May, 1917. Moved to ambulance concentration camp at Allentown, Pa., in June and trained there until January, 1918. Sailed from New York January 9th, on the Carmania, by way of Halifax, and arrived at Liverpool fifteen days later. Moved to Morn Hill Camp, at Winchester. Proceeded to Southamp. ton February 2nd and boarded the Caesarea, arriving at Havre the next morning. Entrained for St. Nazaire and remained there until March 2nd. Organized at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., in May, 1917. Moved to ambulance concentration camp at Allentown, Pa., in June and trained there until January, 1918. Sailed from New York January 9th, on the Carmania, by way of Halifax, and arrived at Liverpool fifteen days later. Moved to Morn Hill Camp, at Winchester. Proceeded to Southampton February 2nd and boarded the Caesarea, arriving at Havre the next morning. Entrained for St. Nazaire and remained there until March 2nd. Proceeded thence to Paris and on March 8th moved to Versailles, where the section was assigned to the 12th French Division of Infantry. Moved to Pt. St. Maxence March 20th. Ordered to Montdidier a week later and on the 28th to Broyes. Established headquarters next at Esquernay and then at Fellville. Relieved April 10th and moved to Lorraine sector, going into billets at St. Clements. Left on July 18th and moved by way to Neuvillier, Perth, St. Dizier, Meaux, and Villiers Cottrett. Established headquarters at Verte Feuille and next at Vierzy. Moved about August 1st to Hartennes. Relieved September 16th and billeted near Crouy-sur Ourcq. Left October 7th for Belgium. Established headquarters at Thielt, going into action on October 21st. The section moved to Chreushautem and was there when the Armistice was signed.
President Smith, of Washington and Lee University, announced to the student body on May 12, 1917, that the War Department had requested thirty-six volunteers immediately. No sooner had the request been made known than a large number of students signified their desire to identify themselves with the cause. A faculty committee selected the following thirty-six from seventy-five candidates:
|H. D. Baker, Jr.||G. J. Irwin||R. E. Moore|
|L. G. Benford||K. J. Johnson||J. L. Morris|
|L. P. Collins||A. S. Johnston, Jr.||R. B. Morrison.|
|J. W. Cook, Jr.||A. C. Jones||p. D. Pickins|
|*T. H. Evans||R. A. Kelly||*T. 'M. Pitts|
|F. Fletcher||J. A. Kinnear||*G. W. Pole|
|*C. W. Gooch||*J. D. Knight||J. E. Richardson|
|J. P. Green||W. B. McKinney||J. A. Rowan|
|R. B. Grubb||E. L. Mason||*A. D. Swecker|
|*T. G. Hamilton||*C. C. Moore||*D. W. Thornburg|
|O. W. Hisle||H. L. Moore||R. G. Womeldorf|
|W. S. Hopkins, Jr.||L. L. Moore||T. G. Woodson|
The following list is of the men who were assigned as replacements at Allentown, before leaving for France:
|W. B. Blee||D. A. Metheny||R. C. Shelhammer|
|G. E. Hintz||J. A. Meyers||S. I. Sigman|
|L. Lyon||C. A. Olson||R. Zufall|
|G. W. Marshall||A. M. Riley|
By June 9th every member of the section had reported to the Commanding Officer at the concentration camp and had been mustered into the service of the United States.
The Washington and Lee section was one of the first to reach camp. By the middle of August there were one hundred similar organizations in Allentown undergoing instruction and training. On August 7th the first contingent, consisting of twelve sections, sailed from New York, and at intervals from that time until the following spring, others followed. The Washington and Lee section (later known as S. S. U. 534), was ordered to New York, and sailed on January 9, 1918, on the British transport Carmania, reaching Liverpool by way of Halifax after fifteen days of rough weather. The trip was uneventful save from the standpoint of scanty, ill-prepared food plus twenty-four degrees below zero weather.
Once in England, moves came rapidly. Soon after arriving in Liverpool the section was on its way to Morn Hill Camp, located at Winchester---one of England's largest and most efficient army centers, being only a few hours from Southampton and little farther from France. S.S.U. 534 was detained here for only a few days for necessary rest and re-equipment. On February 2nd, the order came to proceed to Southampton, where the section boarded the Caesarea. At dusk she put out into the Channel and by dawn arrived at Le Havre. A string of box cars was waiting, rations were distributed, and the third lap was begun, which terminated three days later at Base 1, Camp 1, St. Nazaire. Base 1 was at this time in its formative stage. The troops had started the immense camp, and Americans were very much in evidence. The sojourn at St. Nazaire was taken up with camp construction, which lasted six weeks. Houses were built, ditches were dug, and automobiles were assembled. Most of the work seemed out of keeping to those who had enlisted to drive ambulances for the French Army.
On March 2nd orders moved the section to Paris, where four days were spent in repainting, repairing and generally rebuilding twenty Ford ambulances, one Ford touring car, and one Ford truck, all of which had seen much service. On March 8th the section convoyed to Versailles where official connection was made with the French Army. The section was assigned for duty to the 12th Division of Infantry of the French Army which division had the reputation of being one of France's finest fighting organizations.
Throughout the entire course of events up until this time S. S. U. 534 had been functioning as a component part of the U. S. Army. Now, however, it was separated from the American Army and became part of the independent organization consisting of all the S. S. U. sections under the command of Percy L. Jones, Col. M. C. U. S. A., who had his headquarters in Paris. Col. Jones was personally acquainted with a large number of the men of the different sections, and was not only an efficient leader, but was liked by every one in the service. Each section while serving with the French received and executed. orders from the particular French organization to which it was attached and had no connection with the American Army except to draw from it pay and ration allowance.
On March 20th the section moved to Pt. St. Maxence and camped on the banks of the Oise. A week later it received orders to establish headquarters at Montdidier and join the division.. It so happened that at this time began the great German Somme offensive. This move had been expected but the exact striking spot was not known until after the section had started for Montdidier. Upon arrival in this city, it was found that there had been a split in the lines between the French and the English (this being just prior to the effecting of unity of command under General Foch). Consequently there was great confusion and the section failed to get in touch with its division which had gone into action a little to the left
Finally, about eleven p. m. on the 28th, after having been repeatedly warned by passing patrols to move back, orders were received to proceed to Broyes, where the section began the hardest kind of work. From Broyes it was moved to Esquernay, and the evacuation of wounded from Cantigny, Roquencourt, and nearby points went forward day and night. The Germans advanced steadily in spite of the most stubborn resistance, and section headquarters was forced to move to Fellville, a town afterward occupied by part of the American 1st Division, from which point all the wounded of the division from Grivesnes, Query le Sec, Le Plesier, and Coullemelle were evacuated. For its work here the section later received a divisional citation.
On April 10th the division was relieved and ordered to the Lorraine front, which was a quiet sector. By special request of General Penet, the division commander, the section remained with the division. General Penet was a very popular commander and was particularly friendly to the section, not only because of the way it had handled its work during its initial experience under fire, but because he was a great admirer of General Robert E. Lee and knew as much about Washington and Lee University as most of the members of the section. So, by way of Beauvais, Meaux, Nanteuil, Troyes, Charmes, Chaumont, and Rambervilliers, St. Clement was reached on the 22nd and headquarters established.
Nothing of importance happened during the six weeks' stay here, but the rest was a welcome one and the boys of the section enjoyed, themselves recounting their various experiences and close shaves during the retreat, and made the most of the opportunity to get ready for more efficient work in the next busy spell that should come. Every Sunday afternoon the Germans shelled the French observation balloons, but aside from that there was very little evidence of warfare. It was here that the section received the official citation for its conduct on the Somme, and along with the section citation came three individual Croix de Guerre for Hopkins, Jones, and Baker, who had particularly distinguished themselves.
The period of rest came to an end all too soon, and on July 18th a move was made. The division was to follow up the Chateau-Thierry offensive which the U. S. Marines had so ably started. The section convoyed, by way of Neuvillier, Perth, St. Dizier, Meaux, and Villiers Cottrett to Verte Feuille Ferme. Two days were spent in the woods of Villiers Cottrett, and at midnight of the second night a dash was made to Verte Feuille. From this farm as headquarters the ambulance worked the sector with posts at Vierzy and Ferme La Grange. At Vierzy there was a huge cave which had been used by the Germans. This cave was an admirable place to keep concealed in and was used also as a resting place for advancing troops. The Germans, however, knowing the advantages of the cave so well and, of course, having its exact range, poured a continuous stream of shells over the entrance. When an ambulance was ordered out the driver would crank up, wait for a shell to burst, and then make a dash for the opening, hoping to get clear before the next shell arrived.
As the division advanced the section moved and about August let arrived at Hartennes on the big road between Boissons and Chateau-Thierry. This was an extremely uncomfortable location for headquarters, and the boys had a hard job getting straightened out. The office was set up in what had once been a very pretty chateau, but the grounds were scattered with old gas shells, dead Germans, Frenchmen, and Americans. One day a French captain came in the office and excused himself for intruding, but remarked that he was passing and wanted to look in, because it happened to be his home. A little church just across the road with an old graveyard behind, was a mass of ruins, the graves turned inside out and dead strewn everywhere. Only one living creature was discovered when the section moved in---an old French woman. This woman said that she had watched the Germans come and go three times, in 1870, in 1914, and this last time and that their behavior had been the same on all three occasions. They had made her wash their clothes for them without offering her any pay (she washed the section's clothes and refused to accept any), had made her cook for them, had taken almost everything she possessed and when the Twelfth had started shelling Hartennes over fifty had crowded into her cellar, which was all that was left of her house, and had stayed there for over thirty hours.
From Hartennes the section worked posts located at Fr. Conde and other points across the Aisne river, and the three posts of Mt. Boissons, Ferme Epritelle, and Serches will never be forgotten by anyone who was under fire there. On Mt. Soissons the French gave up efforts to conceal movements along the roads because constant shelling was maintained by the Germans in spite of camouflage. Serches was a particularly unpleasant spot. It was a little village located in a hollow. The Germans dropped gas shells just often enough to keep it in a terrible condition. There was no passing in or out without masks, and when the night was dark driving with masks was almost impossible. It was here that several of the boys were put out of commission. During the night of August 9th, Morrison, Johnson, and Blee were severely gassed, and Benford was wounded by a shell striking the ground within a yard of where he was standing. He was standing just outside a dugout door by his machine when he heard the shell coming. A Frenchman with him dodged inside the dugout and was killed by a piece of the shell that went through the door, while Benford escaped with about ten slight body wounds.
At the beginning of this attack five drivers had been added to the section as reserves. Three of these new men were wounded during their first day and the other two were removed a couple of days later. However, the original members of the section had had remarkable luck, and with few exceptions this luck stayed with them throughout the war. It was early August before the first casualty occurred. Hisle had his arm broken when his ambulance back fired, and a few days later the same thing happened to A. S. Johnston. This, with the loss of Blee, Morrison, Johnson and Benford left the section short of men, and the steady strain of hard driving that never let up for a minute, day or night, was almost too much for the boy. Sometimes more than eighty kilometers were covered in a single trip. However, they kept going while the division slowly forged ahead, and September 6th they crossed the Aisne when the assault on the Chemin des Dames was begun. On September 7th a shell struck a small shelter, where Marshall and three Frenchmen were lying. Two of the Frenchmen were killed and Marshall had his foot torn off. The other Frenchman who was unhurt carried Marshall a half mile on his back to s first aid station.
A week later, September 15th, while the division was hammering away on the heights of the Aisne it was relieved. Terrible losses were sustained during this period of fifty-five days, and the section carried out almost as many men as the entire numerical strength of the division at the start of the drive. Despite the large number of replacements which had been received, the division was still little more than a skeleton organization. Evidence that the enemy had also suffered frightfully was met with as the Aisne was crossed. One group of Germans surrendered, stating that they were so reduced in numbers that they could no longer continue the struggle.
They said only twenty-seven men were left to a company, and displayed no reluctance in giving themselves up when their French captors assured them that they were even worse off than that. The division and section took their period of rest in and near Crouy sur Ourcq. The boys had their first bath for weeks, received their back pay, painted, repaired and fumigated their ambulance, and enjoyed life generally.
On October 7th another movement began. This time Belgium was the destination, and the convoy across country, with the stops at little villages at night was a real holiday. The route was by way of Compiègne, Beauvais, Abbeville, St. Omer, Rexpoude, Lion Belge. Ypres, Roullers, and Thielt. The division went into action again on October 21st and the section set up headquarters at Thielt. From Thielt ambulances were operated to posts at Wontergren, Machelm, and Chreushautem. The work during this offensive was short, but fast and furious while it lasted. The roads had all been mined, and the shelling and bombing was almost continuous. On the last night in October Womeldorf was badly wounded and gassed. He later lost his leg because of the fact that immediate attention was not to be had because of the rapidity of the advance. This was the last casualty of the section. The Armistice was signed while the section was at Chreushautem.