Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Experience the Life of a WWI Medical Officer

While exploring the Dartmouth College Archives, I stumbled upon a packing list for an officer going to Europe to fight in WWI in the papers of Harry Goodall 1898.. At Dartmouth, Goodall was a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity. He went to Harvard Medical School, and appears to have been very ambitious, as he opened his own private practice in 1904 and was a professor of Chemistry and Medicine at Harvard until 1917.

Goodall began as a contract surgeon with the Army in August of 1917 but was commissioned as a Major in the Medical Corps on October 20 of the same year. In 1918, Goodall was sent down to Camp Greene, in North Carolina, where in March the Spanish Flu had broken out. Following Camp Greene, Goodall was sent to Camp Wheeler, in Georgia, where he complained about the conditions of the hospital and food, saying in one document, “The place [was] not very clean. The mess [was] frightful [and] the food [was] often unfit for use.” Soon after, though, he was sent to France to work in Base Hospital 51 where, in his diary, he described the commanding officer as “a man totally unfit to command...He lacked medical knowledge...He never appeared in any capacity aside from that of a cheap politician...After the Armistice he was sent home for discharge for inefficiency.”

Goodall appears to have experienced culture shock in France, and complained that the “toilet facilities were anything but American” and described how the French contractors would empty the toilet cans with their bare hands, saying, “this was one thing that perhaps made me disgusted with the French although there were many things of similar nature that would make it impossible for an American to ever understand the French.” In October, Goodall moved to Base Hospital 87 and gained command of 2,000 beds. Here, there were many cases of the flu, but Goodall was proud that he was able to take precautions to avoid tremendous mortalities. The Army was sufficiently impressed with Goodall to send him back to Base Hospital 51 to control the situation there.

Though Goodall’s story itself is fascinating, and detailed wonderfully in his diary, the most interesting document I found among his papers was this packing list. On one page it details everything the Army deemed necessary for a soldier to take to France. At the bottom of the page, they claim that, “[t]his includes everything.” My favorite section of the list is “Articles suggested but not required,” which includes the seeming necessities of toothpaste, soap, bath towel, and toilet paper (apparently the army was less than concerned with personal hygiene). My favorite part of this list is that between the items of handkerchiefs and pocketknife is the entry “housewife.” Apparently for an officer going to France in 1918, a housewife was included on the packing list as a recommended item.

To explore Harry Goodall's papers, come to Rauner and ask for MS-397.

Posted for Addison Himmelberger '15, HIST 62 class.

1 comment :

  1. A housewife is also a small case for needles, thread, and other small sewing items.