Medical doctors from KU served during World War I

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

Several medical doctors from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in the Rosedale community played a key role in staff Base Hospital No. 28 in France during World War I.

That was the message that Dr. Frederick Holmes of Lenexa delivered at a meeting Sunday, Nov. 18, of the Wyandotte County Historical Society.

World War I began in Europe in the summer of 1914. President Woodrow Wilson, a pacifist, ran in 1916 on a platform of keeping the United States out of war. However, the United States did finally enter the war in 1917 after the Germans attacked American ships.

Dr. Holmes said Base Hospital No. 28 was established in Limoges, France. The medical staff, including doctors and nurses, arrived at the hospital on July 2, 1918. Some 400 French laborers set up several prefabricated barrack buildings for wards. Later, a partially completed girls’ school was acquired and turned into a hospital. They received their first patient on July 21, 1918. At times, the area served nearly 3,000 patients. The “War to End All Wars” ended on Nov. 11, 1918.

Dr. Holmes said that soldiers were transported by specially designed French railroad cars from the front to the base hospital. In addition to wounds from shells and shrapnel, soldiers suffered from mustard gas, pneumonia and the flu. The hospital was quite efficient. One of its staff members, Dr. John Binnie often served as a consultant to other hospitals.

Dr. Holmes, a retired faculty member at the KU School of Medicine, was the editor of the website www.kumc.edu/wwi.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press.

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