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Section III

Contents

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SECTION III.

VOLUNTARY AID.

By law and Army Regulations the Medical Department of the Army is charged with certain duties covering broadly everything having to do with the preservation of the health of troops and the care of sick and wounded. These duties were performed by the department in the World War, just as in our other wars, but never had they been supplemented so largely by the activities of other agencies. Indeed, it has been said that a distinct line of demarcation may be drawn between the World War and all former wars, in that former wars were conducted almost exclusively by the military forces of the combatant countries, voluntary aid being confined largely to assistance in the care of sick and wounded, whereas the vast extent of the World War brought whole nations to the aid of their respective military establishments. This was true of the United States as of other combatants. Virtually every citizen not enrolled with the fighting forces became actively engaged in some kind of war work, or added to his or her ordinary activities whatever special service could best be rendered in the concerted effort to help win the war. In many instances individuals banded themselves together for more effective service, and organizations already in existence contributed their quota of service and substance to the great cause.

A large proportion of this national contribution, quite naturally, was directed toward the maintenance of the good cheer and the good health of the fighting forces. Toward this end some contributed special comforts for the soldiers, sailors, and marines; others gave ambulances to facilitate the handling of the sick and wounded, men and animals; while still others equipped or helped to equip special hospitals or other institutions for use by the Medical Departments of the Army and Navy.

No history of the activities of the Medical Department of the United States Army during this great conflict could be written justly without according due credit to other departments of the Government and to the many volunteer agencies through which was expressed the desire of the American people to render aid during the emergency. Many of these voluntary activities may be said to have applied equally to all branches of the service, the Medical Department among the number, while others were concerned directly with the Medical Department in that they supplemented the efforts of the department directed toward the maintenance of the health of the Army as a whole and in caring for the sick and wounded. It is manifestly impossible to include here even a very brief account of the services of the large number of organizations and units throughout the country which, working independently or under the direction of or affiliation with the American National Red Cross, gave generously of their services and means along the lines of voluntary relief. In this section, therefore, are included reports of the activities of only such agencies as were


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concerned directly with the Medical Department, and which were authorized by Congress or by the War Department, or whose offer of cooperation was accepted by the Surgeon General.

In addition to aid which directly concerned the maintenance of health and the care of sick and wounded of the Army, the Medical Department received valuable assistance, notably during the days of preparedness activity and throughout the early months of the war, which was concerned largely with the mobilization of personnel, resources, and research for cooperation with or addition to existing Medical Department personnel and facilities.

Prior to the World War the Medical Department was restricted by the Manual for the Medical Department (1916, 535-541) in the utilization of voluntary aid to two classes: (1) Organized voluntary aid; (2) individual voluntary  aid, which, in emergency, may be accepted from civilian physicians, nurses, litter bearers, cooks, and others, by the chief surgeon of a field army, a division  surgeon, a surgeon of a base group, the surgeon of any organization operating independently, or the commanding officer of a general hospital. The present discussion is concerned only with organized voluntary aid.