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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • YOU CAN DEFEND AMERICA
 

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Over Here: 1918

Over Here: 1918

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. "Army soldiers, Walter Reed Hospital." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

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Shave and a haircut

Well, I should HOPE that once the wounded boys were well enough to sit on the porch, they had a barber available to give them a fresh shave and haircut. Heck, maybe they even got a bath and clean underpants, too!

Wounds that aren't seen...

These guys might look healthy and chipper (wouldn't you be if you made it back from a meat grinder alive? Ever fill sandbags that contained tiny pieces of the bones of your comrades that were obliterated by a shell's blast? Ever WALK, not run, headlong into heavy machine gun fire?), but WWI left scars that killed years later. Chlorine gas, phosgene, mustard gas. No one knows what these guys went through. Even if they never made it to Europe, they might be flu sufferers, and how many millions did it kill back then?

91 Years Later

Today I was at the DMV titling a car and saw a young man in his 20s, wearing shorts, explaining to two 5 or 6 year olds how his below-the-knee prosthetic leg worked. From where I sat I thought it a piece of engineering genius and the boys were impressed. When they asked what happened, he said simply "I stepped on a bomb." He left before I could thank him.

Re: Re: What's wrong with this picture

I'm guessing that was written by an officer -- either General Cluelessness or his son, Major Cluelessness.

Re: What's wrong with this picture?

Make that "what's wrong with this comment." Such ignorance.

Post traumatic stress

Back then it was called shell shock. The stories they could tell.

What's wrong with this picture?

This photo reminds me of the classic one of Jack Dempsey, dressed in a work outfit, shovel-in-hand, supposedly "doing his part" around this same World War I period. The only problem was the expensive (and spotless) patent leather shoes he was wearing in the photo. Here in 1918, I would argue that you wouldn't have found, at the Yale Club, a group of healthier looking men with fresher haircuts and shaves than are sported by this group. The two fellows wearing robes in the chairs behind the uniformed soldier even felt well enough to ditch their hospital slippers in favor of their heavy boots. But, if if a staged picture like this raised the morale of worried loved ones back home, wondering how their boys were being treated at Army hospitals, what was the harm?

[This is one of dozens of photos taken by Harris & Ewing at Walter Reed in 1918-1919. None of them were "staged." - Dave]

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