The Minute Book
Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Believe the War Will Be Humane (1914)
Topic: Military Medical

Believe the War Will Be Humane (1914)

US Army Surgeons Point to Advances in Surgery
Methods Bar Cripples—Amputations Fewer Than before but Instant Death Common

Kentucky New Age, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, 24 August 1914

The prevention methods and improved sanitation arrangements which have developed within the last generation in the armies of the world are generally regarded as even more important than the treatment of the wounded.

United States Army surgeons and New York stations agree that the impending European war will be settled in much shorter order than most persons believe possible, and that it will be the most humane ever waged. There will be no lengthy mortality list from disease, and no army of cripples will result, they are convinced.

Recent advances in surgery and sanitation will be the cause. The high power quick firing military rifle and the development in artillery will however tend to make the mortality list greater than in any previous war. Those who die will die quickly. Deaths will be due to accuracy, long range and rapid firing, and not to disease or infected wounds.

"Gangrene and infection," declared an army surgeon who is recognized as an authority, "will be practically unknown qualities in the wars of the future."

Until the Russo-Japanese war black powder and a large calibre bullet comprised the ammunition of the armies of the world. The bullets were of unsheathed lead, greased to overcome friction in the barrel. Their muzzle velocity was less than one half that of the missiles in arms now employed.

Up to that time bayonet and sabre charges, prolific of hideous and dangerous wounds, were common. Such charges are now considered medieval. The bullets now used are of less diameter than the ordinary lead pencil and are jacketed with steel, nickel or lead. They have a tremendous velocity and low trajectory.

Wounds from the old time muskets and military rifle, with their soft, mushrooming bullet, resulted in shattered bones and crushed flesh. Infection of gunshot wounds was almost inevitable. A wound in the abdomen was necessarily fatal. The death rate from wounds was enormous.

Nowadays, with military rifles such as all the great powers use and the degree to which surgery has advanced, a soldier may be shot through what once was regarded as a vital spot and walk unsupported to the field hospital at the rear. Such cases are on record.

Great Britain uses the Lee-Enfield rifle, caliber 7.7 mm., the bullet coated with cupro-nickel. French soldiers are equipped with the Lebel rifle, caliber 8 mm., with bullets coated with nickel. Germany employs the Mauser rifle, caliber 8 mm., with bullets steel and copper coated. Russia uses Mosin-Nagant rifles, caliber 7.62 mm., with bullets cupro-nickel coated. Austria's small arm is the Mannlicher, caliber 8 mm., with a steel sheet coat over the bullet.

Beyond 350 yards the wounds inflicted by such bullets are clean cut frequently passing through bone tissue without splintering. The arteries are seldom injured by such wounds which were formerly fatal, or at least necessitated amputation, are now healed without such an operation. Formerly a bullet wound through a joint such as the knee or elbow, necessitated the amputation of the limb. Now such a wound is opened and dressed and healed without amputation.

Russia, which once lagged behind the other great powers in medical and sanitary efficiency, learned a lesson in her war with Japan.

Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany and Austria now use vaccine to combat typhoid, once the fatal scourge of every campaign.

All these nations have been busy in the last twenty years building up a fine medical corps. Their hospital services employ the latest ideas in army sanitation, many of them copied from the hospital service of the United States army. The hospital corps are composed of especially selected men trained in caring for the sick and wounded, as well as in preventive work.

Every army division is supplied with four field hospitals, each capable of caring for 108 patients. There are also two evacuation hospitals with a capacity for 700 each, for each division. These may be from twenty-five to fifty miles in the rear of the army and it is from them that the more seriously wounded are shipped back to the hospitals at home.

Besides the hospital corps, which has bearers on the field of battle ready to rush the wounded back to the field hospitals, each officer in the American and European armies is instructed in first aid treatment, so that there need be no delay in caring for the wounded and no excuse for allowing infection to set in, even in the heat of battle.

The prevention methods and improved sanitation arrangements which have developed within the last generation in the armies of the world are generally regarded as even more important than the treatment of the wounded. In the Civil War eight soldiers died of disease to everyone who succumbed to wounds. Experts have figured that in the European war not more than three will die of disease to one killed in battle.

The camp pestilences have always been typhoid and dysentery. Until about fifteen years ago the causes of these diseases and the prevention were not known. Now both have been ascertained and are effectively fought. The typhoid germ is attacked by vaccination and the dysentery parasite by sterilizing drinking water.

During the Spanish war there were 20,000 cases of typhoid among the American soldiers in less than three months. About 1,600 deaths resulted. Now, with an army of 80,000 about half that number in the field during the Spanish war, one case of typhoid is not reported in a year.

Neglect of proper sanitation precautions is now regarded by every world power as suicidal. History shows that the fate of nations and dynasties may hang upon sanitation. In 1792, when the disciplined Prussian troops marched to the relief of Louis XVI, they were met and repulsed by the raw levies of the young republic. The report of Gen. Du Mouriez, the commander of the French troops shows beyond a doubt owing to neglect of ordinary sanitary precautions pestilential dysentery had attacked the Prussian army and rendered it unfit for service.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Expedient Medications (1855)
Topic: Military Medical

Expedient Medications (1855)

From: Field Service; The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 11 May 1855
(From the Household Words)

No soldier should be without useful hints in the case of wounded or sick men, when the doctor is not at hand. Fever, ague, and dysentery, are the diseases soldiers are most liable to. For ague there are several common vegetable substitutes, in the absence of quinine, the king of all: such as willow bark, or orange leaf water, the root of the sweet scented flag, oak bark, gentian,—to which add catechu and bitters in general for dysentery or diarrhoea, and holly bark for ague. The last remedy on the list is a truly military one—namely, a charge of powder swallowed in water is a prompt and safe emetic.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Friday, 22 July 2016

"War is a Funny Game, Mother"
Topic: Military Medical

"War is a Funny Game, Mother"

The Age, Melbourne , Australia, 31 January 1900

The following extract is from the letter of an officer who was shot by a Boer at Elands Laagte while protecting another Boer who had surrendered. After describing how he was "knocked over" from behind, he says:—

"I lay where I fell for about three-quarters of an hour, when a doctor came and out a field dressing on my wound, gave me some brandy, put my helmet under my head as a pillow, covered me with a Boer blanket which he had taken from a dead man, and then went to look after some other poor beggar. I shall never forget the horrors of that night as long as I live. In addition to the agony which my wound gave me, I had two sharp stones running into my back, I was soaked to the skin and bitterly cold, but had an awful thirst; the torrents of rain never stopped. On one side of me was a Gordon Highlander in raving delirium, and on the other a Boer who had had his leg shattered by a shell, and who gave vent to the most heart-rending cries and groans. War is a funny game, mother, and no one can realize what its grim horrors are till they see it in all its barbarous reality. I laid out in the rain the whole of the night, and at daybreak was put into a doolie by a doctor, and some natives carried me down to the station. The ground was awfully rough, and they dropped me twice; I fainted both times. I was sent down to Ladysmith in the hospital train; from the station I was conveyed to the chapel (officers' hospital) in a bullock cart, the jolting of which made me faint again. I was the last officer taken in. I was then put to bed, and my wound was dressed just 17 hours after I was hit. They gave me some beef tea, which was the first food I had had for 27 hours."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 25 March 2016

Shrapnel Wounds Worst
Topic: Military Medical

Shrapnel Wounds Worst, Because of Bad Infection

The Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 13 February 1915

New York, Feb. 12.—Shrapnel, causing infection, makes the most troublesome wounds of the present war, but bayonet wounds are the most deadly, according to Professor Walton Martin of the department of surgery of Columbia university, who was recently engaged in the American hospital in Paris and who was a speaker today at the alumni day exercises at Columbia. The number of soldiers wounded by bayonets who reach the hospital is small, the surgeon said, and from his experience behind the British and French trenches he was convinced that few men this wounded ever left the trenches alive.

Fragments of uniforms, wood and stone and chunks of soil were probed out of the wounds of soldiers felled by shrapnel, Dr. Martin said.

"The great danger is from infection," he continued. "Shrapnel makes a big wound going in and a big wound coming out." Out of 100 cases under his charge 82 wounds were caused by shrapnel and every one of these was infected. Of those due to rifle bullets one-fifth were clean and the infection in the others was milder than that made by shrapnel. In the 100 cases there was only one bayonet wound.

One lesson taught by this wart, he stated, is the necessity for a large base hospital behind the fighting lines, as the fatality list increases according to the distance the wounded have to be moved. A deplorable circumstance in his connection, he noted, is that the wounded can be taken out of the trenches only at night.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Analyze Wound Cause
Topic: Military Medical

Analyze Wound Cause

Most of War Injuries Result of Firearm Action

Toledo Blade, Toledo, Ohio, 18 March 1915

The subject of war wounds from firearms is of special interest to the reading public at this time:

1.     Because the recent improvements in armaments have brought about interesting changes in the source and character of wounds.

2.     In the case of lodged balls, and in bone injuries, the character of the injury through the medium of X-ray evidence gives a striking exhibit of the wounded part.

3.     A knowledge of first aid to the injured is so essential in these days of preventive medicine that modern civilization expects people generally to become familiar with the causation of war wounds, and the most effective means of ameliorating suffering while one is in the presence of the wounded, in the absence of a surgeon. With this end in view, every officer and soldier of the line in all armies is taught first aid to the injured.

War wounds are mostly caused by firearms, while a few, not exceeding 3 per cent., are cause by bayonets, swords, lances. Wounds by firearms are inflicted by the so-called hand weapons, like the military rifle, pistol, revolver and the military arms.

In our civil war 90 per cent. of gunshot wounds were inflicted by the hand rifle, pistol and revolver; 5 per cent. by artillery and about 3 per cent. by the bayonets, swords and other cutting instruments.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 30 January 2016

Military Surgery Mean Treating of Infected Wounds
Topic: Military Medical

Military Surgery Mean Treating of Infected Wounds

American Doctor Home from Berlin Tells of Hospital with 1,000 Sufferers

Ludington Daily News, Ludington, Michigan, 24 August 1916

Military Surgery No. 2 …

Berlin, Germany, Aug. 24.—(via Amsterdam.)—Dr. Jacob R. Buchbinder of Chicago has just passed through Berlin on his way to Norway, whence he will return to the United States early in September after six months of surgical practice at Naumburg, in the military hospital taken over by a number of American physicians. Dr. Buchbinder says he is glad he is going home, though his experience has been highly valuable to him.

Verdun Patients Seriously Wounded

"Military surgery," he said to me before leaving Berlin, "is different from civil surgery. It is like doing railroad or stockyard work on a large scale. Most of the wounded when the reached us were infected, which makes the practice totally different. We had 1,000 beds under our charge and all were filled when I left, many cases from the Somme and Verdun. The last transports were from the east front. The Verdun patients were nearly all suffering from shell wounds of grave character, while those from the Somme were wounded almost entirely by bullets from machine guns. Many had been wounded more than once.

"These were the first bullet wounds we had seen in months, for during ordinary trench fighting most of the wounded are injured by shrapnel, shells, bombs or grenades. The soldiers were all confident that the west front would hold out, but said the fighting had ceased being war and had become butchery. No, I did not see any bayonet wounds. As a matter of fact I have never seen one and I was never able to hear of one, though I inquired often. Most of the soldiers injured in hand to hand fighting are wounded by hand grenades. I did not see any dumdum bullets.

"We were kindly treated even during the days of the American crisis. Everywhere there was a desire to cooperate with us. We were always supported by the German surgical corps and the war ministry. We were promised serious cases and the promise was kept to the letter. I came to Germany fearing that I would find a general prejudice against Americans, which would make it difficult to live here. I had no trouble personally of any sort. Two of our party were spoken to on trains for talking English, but obviously it was by some one who had been embittered against the English because of special losses."

Dr Buchbinder said the German sanitary service filled him with admiration and he believed that it sis all that could be done under the exceptional difficulties. The care for details was really astonishing.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 31 January 2016 3:42 PM EST

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