Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spanish Flu Pandemic Of 1918

I had a little bird
Its name was Enza
I opened a window
And in-flu-enza.

  A worldwide influenza pandemic broke out in 1918 just as U.S. troops were landing in Europe to fight in World War I. To prevent panic, Allied governments censored reports about the "Spanish Flu" and military death records often cited pneumonia as the cause of death. The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed 25-40 million people on all seven continents and has been described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history." Among influenza's complications were hemorrhage from the nose, stomach, and intestine. Bleeding from the ears was also common. In the 1920s the State Library & Archives sent questionnaires to the families of all Tennesseans known to have died during their World War I service The questionnaires were called Gold Star Questionnaires because the mother of a soldier who died in wartime service was awarded a gold star to sew onto a small flag for display in the window. President Wilson called these women "Gold Star Mothers." A blue star indicated that a son or daughter was on active duty in the military.

  I interviewed my wife's grandmother, Grace Brown, on camera when she was probably in her late 80's. She was born in 1902 and lived to be 93. I asked a number of questions about her memories of certain events in her life and one thing I asked about was the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. She gave birth to Debbie's mother Margaret on October 8, 1918. This was also the day that Sergeant Alvin C. York killed 25 German soldiers and captured 132 single handed in France earning the Medal Of Honor. Grace told me that because of the flu epidemic that was then at it's height she gave birth on a gurney at Nashville's old City hospital in a hallway. She said that five people died that day just in her immediate vicinity. 

  The Spanish flu actually started in the US in a milder form among American soldiers and they spread it overseas where it developed into a more deadly form. In Spain it killed many people and because of that it was named the Spanish flu. The flu returned to the United States with a vengeance. The first picture is of Private Leander A. Bennet who died one day after arriving in France of the flu. The second is Private Caycee Brann who didn't even make it to France. The third is a Army hospital in Kansas full of sick soldiers.

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