Civil War Sailors Monument, Washington DC

Gina and I planned to go to the recent Inauguration, and we’d secured tickets through our Congressman’s office. But jury duty supervened. So we canceled our reservations and gave the tickets to our older son James, who lives in the DC suburb of Falls Church.

Peace Monument, Washington DC (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

Peace Monument, Washington DC (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

It turns out that our tickets permitted access to an area pretty close to the inaugural event, in a small traffic circle that contains one of James’s favorite Washington features, the little-known and under-appreciated “Peace Monument”, also known by the moniker cited in my title, above.

The monument was erected in 1877-78 to memorialize Union naval deaths at sea during the Civil War. Sculpted by Maine native Franklin Simmons – a well-known portrait sculptor of the time – it stands, at 44 feet, in Peace Circle at Pennsylvania Avenue and 1st Street NW. The top figures depict America (or Grief) holding her covered face against the shoulder of History, weeping in mourning. History holds a tablet inscribed, “They died that their country might live.” The major figures standing below are Victory – facing west – with an infant Mars, god of war, and an infant Neptune, god of the sea, lounging at her feet. Facing the capitol stands Peace, with symbols of peace and industry, science, literature and art resting at her feet.

The monument’s inscription reads, “In memory of the officers, seamen and marines of the United States Navy who fell in defense of the Union and liberty of their country, 1861-1865.” Admiral David D Porter, Civil War commander of gunboat fleets, conceived the monument and raised the necessary funds from private donors. The monument came under the cognizance of the Architect of the Capitol in 1973. Badly weathered and damaged after 100 years of neglect, it has since undergone three major restoration / preservation efforts, in 1990-1991, 1999 and 2010. Interestingly, several limbs of the statue’s figures were broken off when crowds climbed on them during the 2009 inauguration.

My son “discovered” the Peace Monument  in the 1990s and is a serious devoté. His favorite image of it is this one:

Peace Monument in Washington DC snow

Peace Monument in Washington DC snow (Photo: source unknown)

My source of information is the Architect of the Capitol website, http://aoc.gov/capitol-grounds/peace-monument, accessed 31 January 2013.

©2013 Thomas L Snyder

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Blogger’s Imposed Sabbatical – Jury Duty, Week Two. The Final

Guilty of Murder in the First Degree.

Testimony rolled over into the third week because a witness for the defense was a no-show on Friday. We all came in and seated ourselves in the jury box. Just as I was taking my jacket off the Judge said, “Don’t get comfortable!” As she put it, “Some times these things happen”, but since there was to be no additional testimony, we could all go home. With a cheerful “Enjoy your long weekend!”

Monday was the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Gina and I went downtown to a theater to see the President’s inauguration speech on a really big screen. But for the rest of the day, well into evening, we watched network coverage of the day’s events in the comfort of our toasty warm living room.

The Judge had other hearings on Tuesday, so we were “off” for another day. On Wednesday, everyone, including the final defense witness, showed up. The testimony took only a few minutes to complete, and Counsel rested her case. Next, the Judge literally read the jury instructions to us. The DA made her final argument, about an hour long, and we broke for lunch. In the afternoon, we heard the Defense Counsel’s argument and the DA’s rebuttal. After some additional “procedural” instructions from the Judge, the bailiff escorted us to the Jury Room. The one remaining alternate juror – one replaced juror number six when he came down with the flu about 3 days into the trial – received the thanks of the Court and went home.

The Jury Room was surprisingly small – just enough room for us to barely circulate around the table, upon which the Bailiff had piled paper bags of physical evidence. Fortunately, there was a coffee maker and a water dispenser, along with a canister of ground coffee of uncertain age. While not of gourmet quality, it did serve to keep the coffee-drinkers among us “in the game”. The room had a wall of windows, so our deliberations occurred in the light of a bright California sun.

To our universal relief, one juror volunteered to be our Foreman. After a vote of confirmation, he started us off with an around-the-table session where we could say what we thought of the trial, and, if we wanted, to express our opinion about the defendant’s guilt or innocence. At this point, it was pretty apparent that three of our number were entertaining “reasonable doubt” about guilt. No one asked for a vote, though. We were content to sleep – or not – on our individual considerations of the evidence and testimony.

We reconvened at 10 the next morning. The Foreman and two other jurors then took us, point by point, through the elements of the evidence and testimony: did it establish convincingly that the defendant was in the area at the time of the murder? did it convince us of the weapon that was used? what was the motive for the crime? was the crime gang-related? The answers to some of these questions were not direct, particularly because the one eyewitness to the crime was a hostile witness who refused to actually name the murderer in Court. At one point, we requested the testimony of two witnesses be read to us. For this the Court was reconvened, with all the actors – Defendant, Counsel for Defense, District Attorney and Judge – present. After brief instructions, the Judge excused herself, and the Court Reporter read the requested testimony. Back in the Jury Room, we worked without break – pizza was ordered in for lunch – and at the end of the day, we took a secret ballot vote: 11 -1. At 4.30, we called it a day. We needed to sleep some more on the information we had.

Friday morning saw us present and cheerful at 10. We did another review of all of the points of evidence. We agreed to another secret ballot, this time with each voter writing his or her points of uncertainty. You could feel tension in the air as the Foreman opened and read each ballot. The tension quickly broke when the final ballot made it unanimous: guilty. Bailiffs escorted us to a nearby restaurant for lunch, and when we returned, we set about deciding the other allegations: use of a weapon – an easy “guilty”, and a crime performed for the benefit or in association with a street gang – not convincing, as jurors saw an element of personal vendetta in the murder act.

The Foreman signed off on all of the verdicts and we once again rang for the Bailiff. Court convened in very short order, and once again all the actors were present, this time with an audience section well filled with what we presume to be families of both victim and defendant. The Judge directed the Foreman to hand the Verdict form to the Bailiff, who delivered it to the Judge. After briefly perusing it – showing no reaction whatever – she handed it to a Clerk of the Court who read the verdicts out loud. The Judge asked Counsel if she wanted us individually polled – one of the jurors had cautioned us that this might happen – and she said, “Yes”.  The Clerk then intoned, “Juror Number One, did you vote ‘guilty’?” “Yes.” “Juror Number Two, did you vote ‘guilty’?” “Yes.” “Juror Number Three….” With the polling confirming our unanimous vote of guilt, the Judge thanked us for our service noting that it is difficult to obtain juries for long and difficult trials like this one. The bailiff escorted us out of Court through a door at the front of the room, so we didn’t have to see the families’ reactions. Two jurors, however, had noticed that both mothers cried at the announcement of the verdict. One juror said that the DA mouthed, “Thank You” to us as we filed out.

It was an amazing experience, and I’d serve again in a trice. Each juror took the duty very seriously, and while there was humor – at one point, one of us called out to another in the bathroom, “Is it Number One or Number Two?”, as we were plumbing the definitions of Murder in the First Degree and Murder in the Second Degree – we all felt the serious nature of our task. Several jurors had kept quite detailed notes during the trial, and where two or more of their notes confirmed a point of testimony, this was very valuable. I was especially taken with the respect each of us had for the others: there was no bullying argument or rolling of eyes. Each and every juror spoke out with opinions, questions, reasoning; or a comment on some nuance in the testimony that the rest of us may have missed. One juror expressed the need to be “fair” and to re-weigh selected bits of the testimony, and this was respected without impatience. In the end, in the Courtroom, every juror’s “Yes” was spoken with a firm voice of real conviction.

Guilty of Murder in the First Degree.

©2013 Thomas L Snyder

Blogger’s Imposed Sabbatical: Jury Duty

Jury duty prevents my doing any research or writing this week, and probably next.

I take this civic duty very seriously. Even though we were scheduled to fly to DC for the inauguration, I told my wife that should I be selected, the trip would be off. This is a murder trial, and because I’m a surgeon, I fully expected – based on comments from a friend who’s a San Francisco District Attorney – I’d be dismissed, based on a peremptory challenge from one of the attorneys.

Because this is a high-stakes trial, I imagine, jury selection seemed especially laborious. I was among nearly one hundred prospective jurors who convened at the appointed time on Wednesday 2 January. After some preliminary housekeeping, 12 prospective jurors and 6 prospective alternates were selected at random; the rest of us followed them into the courtroom and took our places in the audience section. The judge briefed all of us: the charge is murder with a firearm; expect the trial to run three or four weeks.

Court staff handed us a questionnaire that asked the usual “what’s your address?” questions, but also if we knew anyone who worked in law enforcement, or if there was anything about this trial that might prevent us from weighing the evidence with an open mind and deciding a verdict. The judge keyed on those last questions when she questioned each potential juror. She also identified the individuals for whom a month-long trial would create hardship: college students with imminent return to classes; moms with children under five; small business owners whose absence would cause a financial hit. The judge released them all. Two people told her their Christian belief that only God could determine guilt or innocence; they went home. When I told the judge and the lawyers that I had an appointment in a week, I thought for sure it would mean my exit as a juror. Silence from all three.

The judge’s final questions to all were, “Can you weigh the evidence without bias?” and, “Can you keep an open mind?” Then the lawyers – first the attorney for the defense, then the District Attorney – questioned each. Finally, the peremptory challenges: each lawyer named the jurors they wanted excused with thanks. As prospectives were dismissed, the court clerk called names from the rest of us at random to fill empty seats in the jury box. The Q & A sequence repeated until late Friday afternoon. I was third from last to take my seat – juror #10. But we ran out of prospective jurors with empty seats remaining in the jury box. The judge told us to return at 9.30 on Monday.

With a new crop of prospective jurors, we repeated the questions, dismissals, questions and challenges until Wednesday afternoon, when, with only a few people remaining in the audience section, the jury, with me still in chair #10, were sworn in. The judge selected two alternate jurors from a reduced pool of four. She gave us her instructions, and the DA called her first witness.

Our days start around 9.30, except on Tuesdays, when the Judge’s court hear other cases, hearings and motions. We get a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon break, and an hour and a quarter for lunch.

We heard the DA’s witnesses for a week; on Thursday, it was defense council’s chance to create a reasonable doubt in our minds. Defense’s first Friday witness was an apparent no-show so Her Honor granted us an extra-long weekend. We reconvene at 9.30 on Wednesday.

Next week: Deliberation? A verdict?

©2013 Thomas L Snyder

Book Review: Haycock and Archer, eds., “Health and Medicine at Sea, 1700-1900

Your correspondent is serving jury duty (a murder case – could run a month), and accordingly, has not been able to do his usual research to write. Fortunately, this week, Professor Timothy Walker sent me notice if the book review below with the note “this might be of interest to members of your Society [of the history of Navy Medicine]”. I suspect it will be of interest to readers of this blog, too. Thanks to the kind Professor! As you can see, the review comes to us by way of the h-net list serv from MSU.

From: H-Net Staff <revhelp@mail.h-net.msu.edu>
Date: Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 3:19 AM
Subject: H-Net Review Publication: Fabbri on Haycock and Archer, ‘Health and Medicine at Sea, 1700-1900’
To: H-REVIEW@h-net.msu.edu

David Boyd Haycock, Sally Archer, eds.  Health and Medicine at Sea,
1700-1900.  Woodbridge  Boydell Press, 2009.  xiv + 229 pp.  $95.00
(cloth), ISBN 978-1-84383-522-6.

Reviewed by Christiane N. Fabbri (Yale University)
Published on H-Disability (January, 2013)
Commissioned by Iain C. Hutchison

Surgeons, Sailors, and Slaves in the British Royal Navy: Observations
of Maritime Medicine from 1700 to 1900

Naval medicine in the context of military, colonial, and social
history has become a growing area of historical enquiry, as evidenced
by the number of publications in the field within the past decade.
The nine essays presented in this volume are based on the 2007 series
of historical seminars sponsored by the National Maritime Museum in
Greenwich. Collectively, they highlight the important contribution of
maritime medicine to the development of the British Empire during the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They explore the crucial role
naval surgeons played during this period in the advances in
sanitation and hygiene, surgical techniques, nutritional
deficiencies, and tropical diseases. They also underscore the growing
professionalization and prominence of naval medicine, starting with
the founding in 1694 of a hospital for old and disabled seamen in
Greenwich followed by the establishment of the Sick and Hurt Board
for taking care of sick and wounded seamen and prisoners of war,
through to its contributions in the fields of Laboratory Medicine and
Tropical Diseases at the end of the Victorian era.

The book is based on extensive original research, and includes a
valuable bibliography. Its contributors come from a broad range of
fields: social and cultural history, military and colonial history,
the history of science and medicine, psychiatry, and surgery. The
nine chapters of the collection are grouped around two central
themes: the first five are devoted to the practice and administration
of naval medicine in the Royal Navy, and to the crucial importance of
sailors’ health in war and maritime battles; the second four examine
health at sea in times of enforced migration, during the voyages of
slaves, convicts, and indentured or poor migrants.

The editor’s introductory chapter sets the stage from the opening of
the eighteenth century when the renowned London physician Richard
Mead reflected that “medicine still deal[t] so much in conjecture
that it hardly deserves the name of a science” (p. 1), to the end of
the nineteenth century, when after Louis Pasteur’s discoveries the
causative organisms of most common contemporary infectious diseases
had been identified.

The first chapter, an award-winning essay by medical historian Erica
Charters, discusses the inception of what may be some of the first
large-scale clinical trials conducted for the purpose of maintaining
and improving the health of seamen by the Sick and Hurt Board during
the Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763. Historians have attributed the
success of Britain during this war to the navy’s regular sending out
of fresh provisions; clearly, medical and naval officials recognized
that this was key to maintaining health and preventing disease among
sailors during long periods at sea. Contemporaries such as naval
physician James Lind understood diseases like scurvy to be the result
of a lack of fresh provisions, but still explained the disease itself
with traditional medical theories of putrefaction and lack of
adequate humors rather than lack of a specific substance, namely the
essential nutrient now known as Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. It was
the initiative and systematic investigation by the Sick and Hurt
Board that led to the institution of early standardized experiments,
first in land hospitals, then at sea, where naval surgeons were
charged with evaluating the efficacy of the experiment. Their
findings led to effective new means of provisioning men at sea, such
as the issue to sailors of the widely popular “portable soup.” Most
likely this empirical approach was motivated as much by strategic
military concerns as by therapeutic ones. Nevertheless, as Charters
shows, in its quest to improve the health of seamen the Sick and Hurt
Board contributed significantly to the development of standardized
clinical research methodology.

John Cardwell’s essay, “Royal Navy Surgeons, 1793-1815: A Collective
Biography,” is part of an ongoing research project seeking to provide
insight into the geographic and social origins, medical training, and
professional expertise of the naval surgeons of the French Wars.
Contemporary caricatures of “middle-aged sawbones, driven to the Navy
by alcoholism or incompetence” (p. 38) are not borne out by the
extensive data culled from multiple primary sources, including
service registers and other Admiralty archives. Indeed, the
prototypical naval surgeon of the era, in spite of his usually
relatively modest background, received considerable education and
training, comparable to that of his civilian counterparts, including
apprenticeship as well as university and teaching hospital study.
Tracing the career paths of his cohort, the author demonstrates that
a considerable number of naval surgeons developed successful
practices after their naval service, with some, such as Scottish
surgeon and naturalist Sir John Richardson, garnering lasting fame
for their advancement of nineteenth-century science and letters.

Michael Crumplin, himself a retired surgeon, focuses on the practical
challenges faced by the ship’s medical officer after what, in the
author’s view, was often inadequate experience or haphazard training.
He describes the training and credentialing of naval surgeons, and
provides much interesting detail of their practice setting, including
allocation by rate of ship, daily practice and record-keeping
requirements, surgical instruments needed and supplied, together with
medicinal inventories and sick-bay and dispensary plans. While most
of the surgeon’s duties entailed the care of common ailments such as
gastrointestinal complaints, colds, and rheumatism, combat injuries
would rapidly overwhelm a lone practitioner with few or no
assistants, no matter how sophisticated his casualty triage system.
Until 1795, naval surgeons were able to fine their patients fifteen
shillings for presenting with venereal infections. These were
considered shameful but reportedly accounted for over 60 percent of
urinary tract complaints, and the protocol surely discouraged
consultation (p. 77). Ships medical officers were also called upon to
deal with gruesome battle wounds and perform major operations such as
limb amputations under extremely difficult conditions.

Pat Crimmin’s essay sheds light on how political contexts and cost
considerations influenced the activities and therapeutic choices of
the Sick and Hurt Board. Her painstaking study of the board’s
archival records helps explain some of the difficulties encountered
in improving naval medicine and sailors’ health, as well as the
board’s own ultimate demise when it was abruptly abolished in 1805.
The accusations were a deplorable state of its business, financial
slackness, and poor record keeping. After all, “medical men, by their
training, could not be expected to transact the business of accounts”
(p. 106).

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and over the half century
following the abolition of the slave trade, the career of a Royal
Navy surgeon had become so unattractive that it deterred most
volunteer candidates. The health of the navy and the working
conditions of seamen received equally little attention. Mark
Harrison’s essay details how the problems of naval antislavery
operations in tropical stations, and the high death rates of the
crews of the West Africa Squadron, ultimately focused public
awareness on the plight of sailors and brought about a turning point.
Thus the fateful Niger Expedition (1841-42) not only resulted in the
development of medical topography and quinine prophylaxis against
fevers, but also led to broader reforms of naval medicine and health,
including improved conditions for its surgeons. At the end of the
nineteenth century these efforts culminated in the founding of the
London School of Tropical Medicine. The formal study of tropical
diseases had grown out of what was originally a branch of the
Seamen’s Hospital Society.

A second section of four essays centers on the morbidity and
mortality that befell crew and passengers onboard slave ships and
during the enforced voyages of convicts and indentured laborers. The
death rates among such migrant populations were a consequence of
the often appalling and inhuman circumstances: overcrowding and
inadequate provisioning (to maximize profits) together with filthy
conditions. All this made fertile environments for the spread of
diseases such as dysentery, smallpox, and scurvy; it is estimated
that gastrointestinal diseases caused over 40 percent of such deaths.
Slave mortality during the so-called Middle Passage is reported to
have fluctuated widely, from about 10 percent to over 50 percent. In
1693, of 700 slaves bound for Barbados on the Royal Africa Company’s
ship Hannibal only 480 arrived alive. Decreases in death rates in the
transatlantic slave trade by the middle of the nineteenth century
reflect the direct impact of improved health conditions and the
critical role of the ships’ surgeons. Interestingly, mortality rates
of the crew, likely due to malaria or yellow fever contracted in West
Africa, remained unchanged over the same period of study.

The lessons learned by the Royal Navy of the eighteenth century were
gradually implemented during the transport of convicts and other
emigrants from Britain to Australia in the nineteenth century.
Legislation supporting strict sanitary guidelines for surgeons and
captains of government-commissioned ships resulted in much lower
passenger mortality rates during these voyages compared to those of
the much shorter, but unregulated, transatlantic crossings.

This book will be of interest to many historians, particularly those
working in the field of maritime and colonial history, and the social
history of medicine and public health. Clearly, maritime medicine in
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is “a rich subject, … ripe
for further investigation” (p. 17). Navy surgeons not only played an
important role in the health of their ship’s passengers, but also
made incontrovertible contributions to the development of
investigational medicine and public health. Future avenues of
research might profit from greater scrutiny of the veterans of
maritime service: the numerous retired and/or disabled sailors and
their physical and emotional sufferings, post-traumatic casualties of
the era.

Citation: Christiane N. Fabbri. Review of Haycock, David Boyd;
Archer, Sally, eds., _Health and Medicine at Sea, 1700-1900_.
H-Disability, H-Net Reviews. January, 2013.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=37836

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License.

Guest Blogger: Commander David A Thompson, CHC, USNR, Ret, On the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918

Today, I welcome a guest blogger, retired navy Chaplain David A Thompson. He is researching the 1918 Influenza epidemic. 

Since starting this research, I have had a lot of living relatives of WW I vets come out of  the woodwork to tell their stories of their loved one’s death or survival of the flu in the military in 1918: One 85 year old woman shared with me her dad served with my dad at Camp  Dodge…and was, as a admin NCO [administrative non-commissioned officer, ed.], directed to order over 700 coffins for the dead and had to  help contact families of  dead and dying soldiers. Another clergy friend shared his mother’s dad died of the flu in the Army, meanwhile at home his mother lost her mother, three brothers and a sister to the flu …and was orphaned…all in two weeks in the Fall of 1918! Another Army chaplain friend shared how his dad was with fledgling Army Air Corps in France and was tasked by the CO [commanding officer, ed.] in ministering to dying soldiers due to the flu and ghost writing letters of condolences to families for the CO in lieu of lack of a chaplain. All these children/grandchildren of WW I vets, are now in their later 60”s-80’s like me (I’m a young 66).

A typical letter was shared by a writer friend in St. Paul about an Uncle  who was in the Navy who died of the flu pandemic in World War I :

“Dave, thank you very much for your email. I hope you do tell that important story. It reminds me of one from my own family. My father was a World War II navy veteran. His oldest brother, a gifted athlete, had enlisted in the navy in World War I at 18. He was sent to a naval station in South Carolina where he was assigned to train marksmen while preparing to ship overseas. You probably know what’s coming. Flu swept through his barracks and he came down with it. A telegram was sent to the family in Illinois, but by the time my grandfather, who worked for the railroad as the salvage yard manager, had boarded the train to go East, he was traveling not to see an ill son but to claim his body. He accompanied the coffin and, at one point on the trip back, realized the car it was in was being decoupled. He immediately got off the train and waited with the car for a day until he could see it was safely joined to another train headed to Illinois and that he was with it. My aunts always said that the family never really recovered from Ted’s death. When I was going through my father’s things after his own death, I found his mother’s gold star and a pipe in a leather case with Ted’s initials scratched into it. I felt it was a legacy that needed a special home and one day realized it should go to my cousin’s daughter, who was serving as an officer in the navy and had grown up a mile from that South Carolina barracks and whose grandmother was Ted’s closest sibling. I also put copies of the clippings about Ted together for my children and niece and nephew so that he could stay part of the family life and heritage.”

David McCullough illustrates problems with the flu on the home front, that worried WW I servicemen, in his book Truman. He wrote that Captain Harry Truman (later President Truman) serving as an Army Field Artillery Officer in the 35th Division in France with the AEF [American Expeditionary Force, ed.], hearing of the influenza epidemic in his home town in Missouri, “became so alarmed he hardly could contain himself.” His sweet-heart Bess, her brother Frank, and two friends all had the flu. Truman wrote home, “everyday someone of my outfit will hear that his mother, sister, or sweet-heart is dead. It is heartbreaking almost to think we are so safe and so well over here and the one’s we’d like to protect more than all the world have been more exposed to death than we.”

It was a terrible time for deployed soldiers and sailors, as well as those in training camps in the US, who were  filled with anxiety and concern for family and friends back home who were ill with the flu (25.8 % of the civilian populations) and thousands (675,000) dying back home.

Since there were no ‘footprints” in VA hospitals of wounded warriors from this terrible flu epidemic in WW I (you either got well in 6 weeks or you were very quickly dead), only mute testimony of these flu deaths related to the military (as well as civilian population) is found in US civilian cemeteries or ABMC military cemeteries in France and England (see: http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/su.php ) and Brookwood American Cemetery, 35 miles southwest of  London, England (see:http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/bk.php ). The Meuse Argonne American Cemetery (see: http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/ma.php ) located 150 miles northeast of Paris, France with 14,000 graves, also has many flu casualties buried there. It was during the Meuse Argonne Campaign when the pandemic hit the AEF in full force in October-November 1918 during this battle (over 20,000 + AEF troops died of the flu in this 6 week period of this campaign), while  30,000 died in CONUS [Continental United States, ed.].

Military flu casualties in the US were buried in VA or thousands of community cemeteries in the US, like the one in Texas noted here (see website:  “WW I Casualties from Fayette County”  from a county in Texas that documented so many flu victims among WW I veterans in its county cemeteries http://www.fayettecountyhistory.org/deceased_WWI_veterans.htm ). Most CONUS Navy flu casuloaties were buried in this matter…bodies shipped home by train for quick 15 minute graveside services with only immediate family and clergy without military honors, due to quarantine.

In discussing the WW I Centennial Commemoration of WW I with the American Legion National HQ, there may be an interest in mobilizing American Legion Posts in every county across our nation to dig into county WW I records (like they did in Fayette County, TX) to find veterans who died in the Great  War due to combat or to the flu and tell their story during the WW I Centennial Commemoration in 2018. Such an excavation of WW I veteran records with photos and cause of death will bring to life for the public the sacrifices of WW I veterans and the impact upon our forces of the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918.

©2013 David A Thompson

New Years 2013 – More on “History”

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New Year seems to be the expected time – indeed, a convenient time – to reflect on the state of the world. Or in this particular case, the state of the “historical” world. I’m the eternal optimist. So when I went to the New York Times book best seller lists, I expected to see several non-fiction works of (popular) history. To be sure, I found named in this week’s combined print-and-ebook 10 best sellers no fewer than four works, two of which were written by respected historians. Not bad, I thought! Then, I looked for a list of best sellers combining all genres. The most recent one from USA Today, lists just 7 recognizable historical works among 150 best sellers. One of these is the final volume in the Manchester Churchill biographic trilogy; only two of the remaining 6 were written by recognized historians. All of which prompts me to wonder, as the famed WW II cartoonist Bill Mauldin put it in 1946 –

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perhaps history is an “Un-American Activity”. Mauldin’s cartoon* above, published 2 April 1946, anticipates the most egregious workings of the House (of Representatives) Committee on Un-American Activities and that of Senator Joseph McCarthy. But we’re not talking about some conspiracy of historians with Communists or terrorists here. I’m simply suggesting that history is not currently an American “thing”.

By way of confirmation of this thesis, we read in October about Florida Governor Rick Scott wanting to reduce funding for teaching of liberal arts in that state’s public universities. And in April, Daniel Weiss, the outgoing President of my own undergraduate alma mater, Lafayette College, highlighted the challenges facing liberal arts education in private institutions. His six word summary: “The market is happening to us”. While these stories make no specific mention of it, it’s clear that the teaching of history, along with that of other liberal arts disciplines, is at risk of being downgraded (to oblivion…?)  in both public and private higher education.

But this problem starts even earlier –  in public elementary and high schools – where students demonstrate distressingly poor performance in history. In results released in June 2011, the National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that just 20% of 4th graders, 17% of 8th graders and a really scary 12% of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency in history. The questions weren’t complicated: who was North Korea’s ally in the Korean Conflict? Why is Abraham Lincoln an important figure in U S history? What social issue did Brown v Board of Education address? A New York Times article reporting these results blames public policy for this failure of public education:  No Child Left Behind places emphasis on improving math and reading scores to the neglect of other topics like history. I think Daniel Weiss’s formula “The market is happening to us” applies in the political / public realm every much as it does to private education. Popular perception (and probably the experience of a good many history majors…) has it that a history degree doesn’t predictably lead to a paying job. And that’s the whole story. Rick Scott said it: “So I want that [taxpayer] money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state.” Read this “STEM” – science, technology, engineering, mathematics.

What should be the historian’s role in this brave new world of the hard-science dominated marketplace, if we are to avoid being condemned to relive the past we forgot (or never studied)? As I wrote on New Years last year, I believe that historians must come out of their ivory towers and bring history to the people. Popular history is often looked down upon by academic historians. Yet if the marketplace is well and truly to dominate even the historical scene, practitioners of the discipline must respond by creating products that will do well in a marketplace that is very full and very competitive. Last year I argued that it is past time for academic historians to get out their Powerpoint presentations and knock on the doors of local history groups, libraries, service clubs and PTAs. I also promised that they would be gratified by the reception they receive: people really are hungry to hear their history – so long as it’s even remotely relevant to their lives and presented in an accessible manner.

There’s another thing – a lesson we can learn from the marketplace – that we need to incorporate in to our thinking. I call it the Google principle: you give away some useful product in order to gain customers. Historians must get used to doing some sort of free work in their communities if they are to earn the trust and respect of their communities of tax payers. Once the tax payers actually see what they are “buying”, historians will have gained a share of the marketplace.

So, I propose a goal for 2013: each historian, from Department Head to first year graduate student will give three presentations to lay groups in their communities. Let’s flood our communities with knowledge of their past. Everyone will be the better for it; the outreach may begin a movement that proves the relevance and importance of the study and teaching of history in our marketplace nation; and historians may thereby assure that the practice of their discipline once more becomes an All-American Activity.

* Cartoon is from DePastino, Todd, ed., “Willie and Joe Back Home”, a collection of Bill Mauldin’s post-war cartoons. Seattle, Fantagraphic Books, 2011.
 
©2012 Thomas L Snyder

I Love Archivists (Again…)! The Navy’s WW II V-12 Medical Program

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again – and again: I love archivists! They are the keepers – the restorers, sorters, preservers – of our documentary and artifactual past. Without archivists and their work, we risk having no “history” upon which to build an informed future.

The Alumni Association of my medical alma mater – Albany Medical College – underwrites a half-time archivist to oversee the College and Medical Center collections. Her name is Jessica Watson, and she is a gem. Every week or so, Mrs Watson sends out a new number of “Facts From the Past”. These are short written pieces – usually accompanied by an image – about some historic personage, say from the Class of 1846. A few weeks ago, however, there was a pleasant surprise waiting in my in-box:

"First 'GI Doctor' Class to Receive Commissions"

“First ‘GI Doctor’ Class to Receive Commissions”

In 1943, the Navy introduced the “V-12″† Program.  Its purpose was to provide an ongoing stream of college-educated officers for the service. Both services also instituted medical, dental and theological programs. An important part of these programs’ design was the “accelerated” schedule of instruction that utilized summer and other vacation periods for instructional time. The result: a normal 4 year degree could be earned in 3 years. Accordingly, new classes began every nine months.V-12 ran until the end of 1945, with the last V-12 classes graduating early in 1946.*

Each of the ~56 medical schools enrolled in the program had a V-12 unit, typically with a junior naval line officer in command, to which the navy medical students were assigned for administrative purposes. Students wore navy (Midshipman?) uniforms, and received a junior enlisted man’s salary. According of one source, men in the Navy program were not required – or the requirement was not enforced – to perform military drill, in contrast to their Army colleagues. This apparently caused no end of amusement among the Navy doctors-in-training, as they watched their Army colleagues sweating on the drill field while they lounged in the comfort of their dormitories!

The Navy received an allotment of 25% of the slots in each medical school class; this could be expanded by about 3% if the 20% of civilian slots were not filled. Medical schools continued to use their method of selecting students.  Other than with the accelerated program of instruction, Navy policy was not to interfere with medical school administration and curriculum, with a couple of exceptions born of military necessity: a course in military medicine / surgery was added; and the usual class in tropical diseases beefed up. Once they graduated and received their commissions, the new medical officers were subject to a strict Navy requirement for “rotating” (vs “specialized”) internships.^ Here again, military contingency ruled the day: after their abbreviated 9 month internships, these men would be assigned to shipboard duty or duty in remote locations, where a general and well-rounded medical knowledge was required. No superspecialized young doctors in the jungles of Guadalcanal!

Altogether, about 4600 physicians and dentists graduated from the V-12 program. One writer asserted that at the end of the war, nearly a quarter of Navy medical officers were products of the V-12 Medical program.

† Also designated “H-V(P)”, a code I have yet to penetrate…
 
* The Army Special Training Program was an equivalent, and much larger, operation.
 
^ Rotating internships have the new doctors serving rotations for experience and training in the major areas of the medical arts: internal medicine, general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics; with additional short rotations – typically 2 – 3 weeks – in such areas as ear-nose-throat, dermatology, urology, orthopedics. “Specialty” internships place an emphasis in time, education and experience in one area, such as internal medicine or surgery, to the general exclusion of all other areas.
 

©2012 Thomas L Snyder, MD

The Society for the History of Navy Medicine Future in Doubt

society-logo-compressed-resized-for-website.jpg

Society for the History of Navy Medicine Medallion

The Society for the History of Navy Medicine, “sponsor” of this blog, came into being in 2006 after discussions between your humble blogger (and Society founding executive director) and André Sobocinski, historian at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. André noted that while several people cycled through the Historical Office on research missions, there was no real scholarly “home” for people who are interested in that narrow little corner of history that is maritime medicine. Thus challenged, yours truly, with André’s enthusiastic support, set about to establish the Society.

Over its 6 years of life, the Society has grown to more than 165 members from around the world: academics, health practitioners, military and civilian, active and retired. We have mounted scholarly panels on the history of maritime medicine at annual meetings of the American Association for the History of  Medicine (of which we are an affiliate member), the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States; and the biennial McMullen History Seminar at the U S Naval Academy. We established the Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity to receive donations to support the work of the Society. From our members’ $20 voluntary dues-donations and $250 Life Memberships, we have funded Graduate Student Travel Grants – given to students whose papers are accepted for presentation on our panels; and we have funded a $1500 research grant in the history of maritime

Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine Medallion

Foundation for the History of Navy Medicine Medallion

medicine.

But all of this good work may come to an end in 2013. At the April 2012 Foundation Board meeting, I announced my intention to step down as Society executive director – on my 70th birthday – in April 2013. The Society, I feel, needs new energy and new ideas. And, from a strictly personal standpoint, I have some historical work of my own – the history of the Naval Hospital at Mare Island, CA (the Navy’s first on the west coast), and other projects – that I’ve been neglecting and want to complete in the remaining time allotted to me in this world.

Since that announcement, I have searched for my replacement in this volunteer and altogether felicitous job. But to no avail. Now, with no one at the helm, a Society, like a ship, must necessarily founder and sink. To avoid that fate, unless a new executive director appears on the scene between now and April, this vessel of scholarly support will go out of commission, and the blog you are reading will become – history.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder

Pearl Harbor Day – Navy Medicine on the Day of the Attack

“Men of the Navy Medical Department at Pearl Harbor were just as surprised as other Americans when the Japanese attacked on the morning of 7 December 1941…” Thus begins the narrative of “Pearl Harbor Navy Medical Activities”, a report from the Naval History and Heritage Command.(1)

The attack began at about 0745, and the Naval Hospital at Pearl Harbor had all treatment facilities and operating room set up and ready by 0815. In the first three hours, about 250 patients – the most seriously wounded or burned – were admitted. By the end of the day, 546 patients were admitted, and 200 ambulatory patients had been treated and returned to their duty stations.(2)

The hospital ship Solace, undamaged in the attack, began to receive casualties by 0825, and boats from the ship were soon picking injured sailors out of the oily and sometimes burning waters of Pearl Harbor soon thereafter, often at great risk to their crews. 132 patients were admitted aboard this ship and 80 men given first aid and returned to duty.

Shock Care in Hospital Ship Solace

Shock Care in Hospital Ship Solace

U. S. Mobile Base Hospital No 2 had arrived at the Navy base crates just 12 days before the attack. But its personnel were able to break out needed equipment and supplies to care for 110 patients that day.

The USS Argonne also set up to care for casualties, and later, with the help of medical personnel from other ships in the harbor, set up a sort of receiving and clearing station at the dock where she was moored. This open and uncovered area soon had about 150 cots set up for the injured and wounded. Under the direction of the Base Force Surgeon, these patients were moved to the Navy Yard Officers’ Club, a more protected place. By 1030, a functioning “field hospital” was operating there, stocked with necessary materials for the care of the wounded, injured and burned. The dock-side clearing station continued its work, however, sending the most seriously injured patients to the hospital; less severe casualties went to the Officers’ Club “Field Hospital” and to the Mobile Base Hospital.

In addition to these naval hospital and hospital-type facilities, a few patients were sent to the Aeia Plantation Hospital and the Kaneohe Territorial Hospital for the Insane. These men were later returned to duty, or transferred to the Naval Hospital.

About 60% of casualties that day were burn cases, some from burning fuel oil; many more, however, were “flash burns” caused by exploding bombs or gas fires. Traumatic amputations and compound fractures were frequently seen as well. Altogether, nearly 1000 men were admitted or cared for at Naval hospitals and organized facilities in one 24 hour period.

Many heroes that day were made…

(1) http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq66-5.htm, accessed 7 December 2012.
(2) “The History of the Medical Department of the United States navy in World War II – A Narrative and Pictorial Volume” (Navmed P-5031), United States Government Printing Office, 1953, Volume 1, pp 63-66.
 
©2012 Thomas L Snyder, MD

On the “Real” State of Medical History

Last week, I wrote an optimistic Thanksgiving reflection on the status of the history of (navy) medicine. Then, I received the latest newsletter from the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM). In the newsletter’s introductory presidential message , Professor Nancy Tomes paints a considerably more grim picture:

Why care about the history of medicine?
Readers of the AAHM newsletter have likely been asked some version of that question, couched in different degrees of disdain, many many times. We hear it from our students, our colleagues, and our Deans. In an era when universities, including academic medical centers, are struggling to reposition themselves in a difficult economic climate, history can easily seem irrelevant. We produce no patentable commodities. Our research attracts comparatively little private or public funding. Perhaps most damningly, we study a field associated with rapid and transformative change, where any minute some new development—it may be genomic medicine, or electronic medical records, or high tech prosthetic devices—will supposedly Change Everything. In a field such as health care where change occurs at a mind boggling rate, why should anyone care what happened a week ago, much less 500 years ago? [emphasis mine]

Professor Tomes’s “dependable if not particularly original set of answers” echoes my own: she invokes Santayana’s oft-quoted saw, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Professor Tomes suggests that Santanyana quite easily passes muster among her colleagues in the “Arts and Sciences” faculty. It’s in the health sciences faculty that the history of medicine runs into trouble as it competes with “bioethics and  literature”. In the hospital and the clinic, Santayana’s formula falls on increasingly deaf ears.

But it’s in the clinic, I think, that Santayana, by invoking the notion of historical “retentiveness”, offers us at least a partial answer to our profession’s apparent historical deafness.  Our history constitutes a “base” upon which we build a more enlightened future. The research / scientific arm of medicine “gets” this – even if “history” is not explicitly credited – because any researcher worth his or her salt readily acknowledges that most scientific progress is based on work that has been done before. “We stand on the shoulders of our predecessors.”

So, how do we convince the everyday physician – the busy medical student, resident or practitioner – of the value of the hallowed history of the profession?

I tend to associate the halcyon days of medical history – when it was held in high regard within the medical profession – with a generation of medical doctors who were respected as doctors, and especially as historians, or promoters of the value of medical history. The famed and revered Owsei Temken and Henry Sigerist were among the former; the beloved William Osler, of the latter. While subsequent generations of professional historians indubitably have served “history” well, I believe that the disconnect between medical professionals and their history comes at least in part from the replacement of MDs by PhDs in the medical history “establishment”.

My “formula” is this: “doctors talking to doctors”. I submit that people of a “culture” (and “medicine” is most definitely a “culture”) will more readily listen to, and value, the words of others from the same “culture”.

It may well and regrettably be true that medical school teaching budgets – both of money and of time – are too tight to accommodate formal courses in medical history. Yet, a respected clinician who spices his or her bedside or didactic teaching with historical vignettes will plant the seed of appreciation in students whose minds are open to such information. I also think it’s incumbent upon physicians and their historical associates to bring history to medical school in small and inexpensive (free is best!) doses. For instance, I have found it relatively easy to convince the provost of a local medical school to grant me time for an occasional lunch hour history presentation. (Most recently, it was a “Research Thursday” lecture: I highlighted my historical research…) These talks are pretty well attended, and we don’t even offer pizza and Cokes. Inevitably, a few students will stay after – their curiosity about medical history piqued.

I also submit that we can encourage an interest in our professional history in a new generation by encouraging work by current students. To this end, the Society for the History of Navy Medicine (this blog’s original “sponsor”) offers travel grants to students whose papers are accepted for presentation at our annual papers panels, and we offer a research grant for work leading to publication in the area of naval or maritime medical history. Finally, we should bring history to the conferences that practitioners – the “history creators” – attend. Last year, the Society mounted two panels on naval medical history at the Naval Academy’s biannual History Symposium. And the year before, we mounted our panels at the annual meeting of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. Both of these sessions were very well attended.

There is interest among medical professionals in their history. The key to getting them to listen, I submit, is to bring their history conveniently to them rather than hoping they will take time from their incredibly busy schedules to come to the historical fountainhead.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder, MD