[image: The Work of the American Red Cross During the Great War]



Chapter IV
The mere recording of the definite services embraced in the Red Cross work in France will never approximate the story of what that work meant or of its results and value. This report is limited to the stating of facts. It must be hoped that the imagination of the reader, with the definite record before him, will translate the facts into a story wherein life and death and humanity play the part that they did in the work.

The Red Cross went to France to render service. This end was never lost sight of. It was controlling in all emergencies; indeed, the whole work was of an emergency nature. Formality or binding routine had no place. There was no time for elaborate statistical tabulation of work done. Statistics are lacking in many lines of work. Nevertheless, enough statistics are available to suggest the range and comprehensiveness not only of the particular lines covered, but of the work as a whole. No doubt certain statistics are incomplete, due to the conditions under which they were prepared, but they are never too large.

France was at once the seat of the most important theatre of war, the location of most of the American troops in overseas service, and the country whose civilians had suffered most keenly from the war.

As a result, it was also the seat of the most important operations of the Red Cross during the war.

In that country, the war had vitally affected every family in every village. In doing its work, the Red Cross found it necessary to penetrate into every section of the land. Map 10 shows the locations of the Red Cross operations in France.

Map 10. 551 stations from which the Red Cross rendered service in France, July, 1917, to February, 1919

Cash appropriated for the work in France during the twenty months ending February 28, 1919, aggregated over $57,000,000. To this may be added $38,000,000 representing the value of chapter-produced relief supplies shipped to France, making a total of $95,000,000 for the twenty months' work in that country. The table that follows shows by major classifications of work how the total amount appropriated for cash expenditure was used:

Table 27: APPROPRIATIONS FOR CASH EXPENDITURE IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Hospitals for American and Allied Troops

There were twenty­four Red Cross hospitals in France operated to assist the medical service of the United States Army. Although different circumstances surrounded the establishment and maintenance of each one of these hospitals, it is generally true that they were operated jointly by the American Red Cross and the United States Army under an arrangement by which the Red Cross supplied the management and equipment, and the Army furnished the scientific personnel. However, the Red Cross often assumed complete direction of the hospital, and sometimes furnished physicians and nurses.

Most of these hospitals were conducted for sick and wounded American soldiers, but, of course, French and other Allied troops were also admitted. One hospital was operated for the American Navy, one for Czecho-Slovak troops, one for Army auxiliary personnel, such as the Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus and the Red Cross, and one for neighboring civilian personnel whose health had become a menace to American soldiers.

A summary of the work performed in all of these twenty­four hospitals, based on incomplete records, is shown below:

Table 28: WORK IN TWENTY­FOUR RED CROSS MILITARY HOSPITALS IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

The growth of the Red Cross military hospital service during the months in which America was actively engaged in the fighting is shown in the following diagram:

Diagram 5. Hospital days in Red Cross military hospitals in France during months of America's most active service June, 1918, to December, 1918

As an indication of the ability to meet emergencies, a complete 1,000 bed hospital was made ready in forty­eight hours.

Convalescent Homes for American Soldiers

In addition to the twenty­four military hospitals mentioned above the Red Cross operated twelve convalescent homes for American soldiers who no longer required active hospital care but had not entirely recovered from their sickness or wounds These homes had 1,245 beds, and 2,692 patients were admitted. Patients were in the homes a total of 56,739 days (patient days).

Dispensaries and Infirmaries for American Soldiers

To assist the United States Army in handling less serious cases of sickness and injuries the Red Cross operated in France eight infirmaries and thirteen dispensaries. Some of these establishments were connected with Red Cross hospitals or canteens, and three of them were limited to dental work. During the period covered by this report 52,809 cases were treated in the infirmaries and 128,736 by the dispensaries.

Hospital Supply Service for American Army

Emergency depots of hospital supplies were always held by the Red Cross at the call of the Army. It was a supplementary service, but many times it met a vital need that otherwise would not have been met, admittedly lending to the saving of thousands of lives that otherwise would have been lost.

Hundreds of different kinds of things were furnished on emergency call. In addition to millions of surgical dressings and other ordinary hospital supplies, such things as tents, barracks, portable laundries, shower and delousing plants, disinfecting machines, sterilizers, laboratory outfits, and ice­making plants were also distributed.

A further suggestion of the extent of this work may be conveyed by two illustrations: in a single day during the heaviest of the summer of 1918 fighting, 128 emergency requisitions were received, each covering from one to fifty items; again, on one day at the start of the St. Mihiel offensive, fifteen carloads of surgical dressings and front-line packages were shipped to the American front.

What might be termed the mechanical aspect of this work reached an unusual standard of effectiveness, which may be illustrated by two instances: a request for 15,000 articles of various kinds, including medical supplies, food, and comforts, required for immediate use on the American front, was received in Paris at 4 p.m., the goods assembled from three warehouses and delivered at the front at midnight; in another case, a marine officer arrived in Paris at 1 a.m. with a large, urgent order, was given a bed to rest in and then started on his way back to Chateau-Thierry at 3 a.m., with his supplies loaded in three camionettes.

Red Cross Supply Service for French Hospitals

The Red Cross operated a similar supply service for French hospitals, practically all of which were in desperate need of supplies. Up to February 28, 1919, this service had been extended to 3,780 institutions. Millions of articles of hundreds of different kinds and aggregating in weight more than 3,820,000 pounds have been distributed in this work.

There was another line of Red Cross work directly affecting French hospitals, viz., a visiting service, conducted by Red Cross women, for the benefit of wounded American soldiers who had been brigaded with the French.

Production and Supply of Splints

At the request of the Army, the Red Cross undertook to supply the American Expeditionary Forces with all necessary splints. By means of orders placed with private firms and the operation of a factory in France a complete supply was made available for American soldiers at no cost to the Army. More than 294,000 splints were supplied.

Production and Supply of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen

The Army also relied on the Red Cross for its full supply of nitrous oxide and oxygen. (Nitrous oxide is a new and improved anaesthetic, particularly valuable in cases where patients are too weak to take ether.) The Red Cross met this requirement by means of shipments from America and the organization of production in France. No charge was made for this service.

The following table gives statistics concerning the production and distribution of these commodities:


Reconstruction and Re-education

The Red Cross operated a service to assist the American and French Governments in their problems of re­educating crippled and disabled soldiers and sailors. Certain aid of a less extensive character was also given to disabled Serbians. Mention has already been made (see page 4~) of work along similar lines done by the Red Cross in America through its Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, which should be referred to in this connection.

The relief of French mutilés included the operation of a school farm, the manufacture of portrait masks and artificial limbs, the operation of an educational and publicity service, and assistance to French institutions offering commercial and industrial courses to mutilés. It is estimated that 6s,000 of the 600,000 crippled French soldiers were reached by the Red Cross. Statistics concerning this work are given in the table below:

Table 30: RED CROSS AID TO FRENCH MUTILÉS , Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

To assist American disabled soldiers, the Red Cross collected information for the United States Government and undertook an educational campaign to spread information concerning reconstruction possibilities. It is estimated that the majority of the 230,000 American troops who were injured in battle were reached by the Red Cross. Statistics concerning this work are given below:

Table 31: RED CROSS AID TO DISABLED AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919


The best story of the Red Cross canteen service is one that would be given by the men who were benefited by it. However, the following simple record is bound to carry definite meaning:

Table 32: SUMMARY STATISTICS OF RED CROSS CANTEENS IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

It should be borne in mind that all service except complete meals was rendered free, and only a nominal charge exacted for meals.

Diagram 6. Thousands of drinks served in Red Cross canteens at the front, by months, September, 1918, to December, 1918

Front-line Canteens

The canteen work right up by the front lines is undoubtedly the most interesting part of the whole canteen service. In this work, men often worked under shell­fire for days, beset by difficulties, surrounded with dangers, distributing hot drinks, cigarettes, tobacco, chocolate, medical supplies and other articles to American and French soldiers near the front lines. There were twenty­two of these canteens and six outposts, through which 5,788,110 hot drinks were given away. The growth of this service is shown by Diagram 6 above.

Line of Communication Canteens

On the railroad lines connecting the French cities with the front, the Red Cross operated seventy-five canteens for the benefit of American and Allied soldiers in transit. This service added to the comfort of the passing troops by furnishing meals, refreshments, baths, and shelter, and by administering to the sick and wounded. Summary statistics of this work, which by no means tell the complete story, are given below:

Table 33: RED CROSS LINE OF COMMUNICATION CANTEENS , Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Aviation Canteens

In four American aviation camps the Red Cross operated canteens which performed a combination of canteen and camp service, distributing food, clothing, games, and comforts. The following table gives statistics concerning a part of this work:

Table 34: RED CROSS AVIATION CANTEENS,Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Evacuation Hospital Canteens

The Red Cross conducted sixteen canteens in evacuation hospitals of the United States Army. This service distributed refreshments, furnished special food for the sick and wounded and operated rest rooms and recreation houses. Every United States sanitary train was visited, and cigarettes, gum and cocoa given to each individual. Statistics concerning this work are given below:

Table 35: RED CROSS CANTEENS IN EVACUATION HOSPITALS , Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Metropolitan Canteens

In the metropolitan area of Paris, the Red Cross operated thirteen canteens to provide food and lodging for American and French troops. The service rendered by these canteens is shown below:

Table 36: RED CROSS METROPOLITAN CANTEENS, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

In addition to the metropolitan canteens mentioned above, the Red Cross financed either wholly or in part twelve other canteens in the Paris area controlled by the French. During the period covered by this report these canteens furnished 4,213,200 meals.

Representatives of the Red Cross were attached to every United States division and naval station in France. Their task was to do everything that could be done legitimately to aid the troops and to add to their comfort. Through them, troops in financial troubles were aided; if family troubles developed, steps were taken to assure that the Red Cross organization in the States reached out a helping hand to the family concerned; thousands of letters were written for boys unable to write; personal services of numerous kinds were rendered; newspapers and periodicals were distributed by the millions; all activities for entertaining the troops were fostered; comfort supplies were issued by the million---particularly the knitted sweaters, socks, etc., made by the chapter women in America.

A list of the kinds of things distributed would fill a volume. The extent of the service may be suggested by mention of a few items selected at random: barracks, books, coal, communion services, Christmas gifts, flags, footballs, baseballs, playing cards, ice-cream freezers, moving-picture films, pianos, phonographs, needles, printing presses, shaving outfits, stoves, tea, cigarettes, tobacco and writing materials.

Perhaps one example will serve to illustrate the important character of the work performed by the Red Cross representatives with the Army. Just before a certain division was expected to make an attack, a Red Cross captain was urgently asked for additional ambulances. By motoring through the night to Paris this man was able to appear at the front the next day with ten ambulances, which performed such effective service under fire that all the drivers were cited for bravery.

This work was essentially the same as the camp service work in hospitals in the United States. It confined its efforts very largely to the sick and wounded American soldiers and sailors in hospitals, providing dainties, comforts, recreation for them and a communication service which kept relatives at home informed regarding the welfare and whereabouts of their boys.

Hospital Farms and Gardens

This phase of the work included, among other things, the operation of hospital farms and gardens which served the double purpose of furnishing healthful exercise to convalescent soldiers and providing the patients with fresh vegetables. Statistics showing the nature of this work follow:

Table 37: RED CROSS HOSPITAL FARMS AND GARDENS IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Hospital Recreational Huts

These were club-rooms for the convalescents, where entertainment and light refreshments were provided, and where the recovering soldier could rest quietly in pleasant surroundings with books, periodicals, home papers and writing materials at hand. Perhaps the most appreciated element was the opportunity to enjoy the companionship of the American Red Cross girls by whom the huts were operated. There were ninety-nine of these huts.

Another service rendered in the huts, or in adjoining hospital buildings, that deserves special mention is the moving-picture operations. An idea of the extent of this service is given below:

Table 38: RED CROSS MOVING PICTURES FOR HOSPITALS , Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Home Communication Service

This work which involved the keeping of relatives at home informed as to the welfare and whereabouts of soldiers was conducted all over France but particularly with the men in hospitals. Through trained searchers, news of the sick and wounded was gathered, details of deaths were ascertained and men reported as missing were traced. The value of this service to the affected relatives may be imagined. The part that the Red Cross played in locating men first reported as missing was a very large one.

The extent of service rendered along the lines mentioned above is indicated by the following table:

Table 39: RED CROSS HOME COMMUNICATION SERVICE IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Grave Photography

A service directly related to that described above is the work of photographing the graves of all American boys who died in France. This entire work was done by the Red Cross. The family of every boy whose grave is distinguishable has received, or will receive, a picture of his grave. This work, now nearly completed, has involved the taking of some 170,000 photographs under all kinds of difficulties.

Relief of Refugees

Caring for the millions of refugees who had evacuated before the German advances presented an enormous task to the French Government, and one that the Government asked the Red Cross to take a large part in.

From the start the fundamental principle in the Red Cross work with refugees was to work through and with all available French agencies rather than to attempt to establish an independent service.

Working with such agencies, the task was to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical attendance and employment. Particular mention should be made of the splendid work done by the English and American Friends, with whom the Red Cross has cooperated.

Almost every conceivable difficulty had to be overcome, but the Red Cross work directly assisted 1,726,354 refugees.

A few statistics concerning this work follow:

Table 40: RELIEF OF FRENCH REFUGEES, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

This list makes no mention of the thousands of tons of supplies that were distributed, nor of many of the arrangements that were made to provide employment.

With the signing of the armistice, this work took on a different form ---that of helping the people as they returned to the devastated area. It has involved a much larger task than the work before the armistice, for it brings to hundreds of thousands of families in great need essential assistance in re-establishing their homes and is of a permanent rather than transient value.

Communities have been encouraged to organize committees to deal with their problems; the Red Cross is now working with 200 such committees, covering in their work 1,200 towns and villages. Through the committees, the Red Cross is distributing tens of thousands of tons of needed supplies of a value of many millions of dollars.

Relief of French Soldiers' Families

After three years of war, the families of thousands of the French soldiers were in desperate need. Such a condition naturally reacted on the morale of the troops. The French Government welcomed the aid of the Red Cross in coping with the situation. As a result, the Red Cross operated what was in effect "home service" for the families of French soldiers.

The main work took the form of a wide distribution of cash to assist in meeting the necessities of life. At first the distribution was made through the officials of the territorial departments of the French Government. Later, the gifts were made to families recommended through the commanding officers of all parts of the French Army.

Families to the number of 87,652 were aided in this way up to February 28, 1919.

Children's Relief Work

The welfare of children could not be given much care by a country harassed as France was by war, and, after three years of it, there was great need for work among children. It was in this way that one of the most important branches of the Red Cross work in France developed. The work had so many human elements in it that it is with hesitancy that any mention is made of it in a statistical way.

The main task was to cope with under-feeding, under-nourishment and lack of medical care. As far as possible, the work was done by encouraging and supporting French agencies, but in many places operations were carried on directly by the Red Cross---a necessity particularly in the case of hospitals, dispensaries and clinics.

An idea of the extent of the work is given by the following table:

Table 41: CHILDREN'S RELIEF WORK IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

Mention should also be made in this connection of the Red Cross work involved in selecting more than two thousand French war orphans for "adoption" by individuals or military units in the American Expeditionary Forces by contributions made through "Stars and Stripes"---the official newspaper of the A. E. F.

While the immediate value of the children's work in France is self-suggestive, no doubt a great permanent gain will be made through the stimulation this work gave to all welfare work with children.

Anti-Tuberculosis Work

Work in combatting tuberculosis also naturally suffered because all French efforts were centered on the war, and there was a large increase in the disease directly from the war's effects. In this field, too, the Red Cross was able to undertake large and important work, in cooperation with the Commission for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation. Substantial cooperative aid was given in this work by the Société des Tuberculeux de la Guerre.

Again, the main efforts of the Red Cross were directed towards assisting in every way possible existing French agencies engaged in such work. In only a few instances were institutions operated directly by the Red Cross. A brief statistical summary of the work follows:

Table 42: ANTI-TUBERCULOSIS WORK IN FRANCE, Twenty Months Ending February 28, 1919

The Red Cross part in anti­tuberculosis work in France extended beyond the work for French nationals just described. To mention only two instances, it assisted in the development of a hospital for use by tubercular American troops prior to their return to the States, and directly aided agencies for tubercular Serbians in France.

The preceding pages have covered only the major tasks undertaken by the Red Cross in France. Space does not admit of mentioning each of the many other activities, which included important research work along medical lines, emergency relief to stranded Americans and to the nationals of Allied nations, support given to the French Red Cross (including a contribution of approximately $1,750,000) and assisting U. S. Army nurses by equipment issues, supplementary allowances, etc.

Nor is this the place to deal with the Red Cross organization in France as an organization, or with the personnel that made up the organization. Perhaps the record presented in the preceding pages gives, by itself, an idea of the forces that carried on the work described.

Chapter V

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