October 13, 1918
Another pleasant day.
At officers meeting Major Smith and I requested that we be permitted to consult together as to the distribution of the officers from a medical and surgical standpoint to get the best possible out of the men. Tucker agreed.
After the meeting I told Tucker that things in the hospital were very bad from a sanitary point of view and that if the thing was to be cleared up it would be necessary to do a lot of work and that the first thing to be done was to reduce the bed capacity so that the nurses could get between the beds and so that sheets could be hung between the beds in order to get isolation.
I never saw Tucker so mad before – his face turned ashen and he said “Not a single bed is to be removed from this hospital.” I tried to keep calm and told him again that the epidemic could not be stopped unless there could be isolation and that was possible only when the space between the beds was enough to permit the nurses to care for the patients.
He said “If you remove a single bed I will court marshal you.”
By this time I had lost my temper and I replied “Col. Tucker I have come back to stop this epidemic and I am going to do it. I cannot do it without bothering you evidently but I am going to do it and you will not interfere because when you step in and bother me I shall send a copy of this report to the Chief Surgeon and to Gen. Thayer. You can read it over and I will come in and see you again whenever you wish. He hesitated a moment, took the report and said come in at 11.30.
When I returned he was quite meek and said “You would not send that report in would you?” I replied – I will send it through you right now if you wish. If you do not care to have me do that you know perfectly well that I can send it directly anytime I wish and I assure you I will do it.
From that time on I never had any trouble with Tucker except that he did everything possible to hinder my work.
After this conversation he said he would cooperate with me in every way possible. I asked him for a carpenter and he gladly granted the request. The carpenter came and worked from 1.30 until 2.30 and then he disappeared.
I went to Tucker and he said “For Christ’s sake do you think you are the only man here that wants a carpenter?”
Still keeping cool I asked him for a hammer and saw and he said that the tools were all in the hands of the carpenter and he was not permitted to give them to anyone else.
I thanked him and told him I thought I knew exactly where I stood and said that I had been in France long enough to do things in spite of the fellow that tried to block everything.
He said “What do you mean?” and I replied that from now on you and I have nothing in common – you have nothing on me and I have a lot on you. I am in the hands of friends here in France and you are quite by yourself. So long as you leave me alone I will leave you alone – when you interfere with me there will be only trouble for you. He was purple with rage and as I left the office I turned and said I am going now to Maddux and tell him [sic.] just kind of a man you are and am going to tell him just what I am going to do. Furthermore if I am opposed my Maddux I am going to see Gen. Thayer tomorrow and insist that he come up and inspect your rotten place.
The filthy condition of this building was but one of the problems at the unit.
The discontent among the officers was very marked. Tucker had his friends and those he disliked and the distinction was very apparent. He spited himself in particular against what he termed as the “Boston crowd”.
Men were doing surgery that had no surgical training while good surgeons were doing medical work, or administrative work.
The nurses were unhappy. There were about 100 in all and they had but one toilet. Their beds were infested with lice and no effort was made to correct this. Many of them had been bitten so that they had numerous small abscesses on their extremities. The conditions under which they were working in the wards was impossible – they could not get between the beds, they had to run down to the ground to get drinking water for the men, bath water was practically impossible to get, there was no hot water and no means for heating water.
The enlisted men were discontented and they lacked discipline.
The enlisted men assigned to duty in Building A were incompetent and could not be depended upon. They very worst men in the unit had been assigned to duty here.
In order to clean up the epidemic it was necessary to reduce the bed capacity and to hang sheets between the beds in order to isolate. More than this it meant instructing the enlisted men in ordinary cleanliness, care of sputum etc.
It was all such a mess that one hardly knew where to begin.
The first step however was the cubicles. The bed capacity could not be reduced immediately as there was no place to put the men. However the death rate was so great as this time that by the time we were ready to cubicle we were reduced to the proper number of beds. That is as soon as a man died his bed was removed.
I had expected trouble from Tucker as a result of this but he never said anything about it.
The walls of the wards were of concrete and it was impossible to drive nails or fasten hoots but fortunately there was a very strong shelf running along the walls, intended for the belongings of the soldiers and there was a space of about three inches between the wall and the shelf. If we could get boards they would go in back of the shelf and would be stable enough for us to string wires across the room.
But there were no boards to be had. However there was a small mill not far from Toul and I had decided that I would go there and get the lumber just as soon as I was sure of sheets and wire.
In the morning I had requisitioned 500 sheets. Tucker had laughed and said that he could not get enough sheets to put on his beds to say nothing of hanging them between beds. He refused to sign the requisition.
During the morning, and after the sheets had been refused I went down to the Red Cross warehouse at Toul and had found cases of sheets.
With this information I went back to 51 and saw the Red Cross representative at this hospital, Mr. Ernest Whitcomb of Amherst Mass, one of the best men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Through all this trying time Mr. Whitcomb was a friend to be depended upon.
Mr. Whitcomb said he would be very glad to give me the sheets. Later however he came to me and said that he had made out the requisition to Maddux and had gone to Maddux for his signature and that Maddux had refused to sign it. The only reason I could find for his refusal was that it would be an admission that the Red Cross had the sheets and that the Army did not have them.
We were both disgusted with the outcome and I then asked Mr. Whitcomb if he would go to Toul and buy cloth for the purpose and he readily consented.
Later he came back to me with a smile on his face and said that after I had left he had thought things over and decided that it would be best for him to tell Maddux what he was going to do for me and that Maddux had said “Hell is Goodall going to do that? Give me the requisition and I will sign it.”
Whitcomb said I should have the sheets tomorrow.
During this time Major Barclay came over and asked me how things were going on and I told him frankly that everything was just about as bad as it could be, that the wards were not fit for anyone to work in and that I would not ask anyone to work in a place where I would not work. Said that I would clean it up as fast as I could but until it was clean I would assume no responsibility for the patients.
Barclay then said that he had just left Maddux and that it was his intention to make me the Commanding Officer of the unit. I requested him to tell Maddux that any such step would be a mistake as Tucker’s friends in the unit would do everything possible to make things uncomfortable for me.
Later in the afternoon Homer Smith and I went over the list of officers assigning them to their various duties according to their qualifications and then went to the office and presented the plan to Tucker. Once more Tucker went up in the air as his favorites were not given important jobs and he rejected the entire plan. When we left Homer went to Toul – to forget and I went back to the Medical building and called Pettingill into my office. I told Pettingill that the situation was a hopeless one unless we could get enough convalescent patients that were willing to work to put things over. Pettingill was familiar with the men and I was not. He said it can be done and I put him to work organizing the men. Fortunately for me he knew what he was saying and he got the men.
I thought I had seen hard days at the gas Hospital but this was the first time that I had met with opposition from every point. My mad was up and I was calm compared with Pettingill.
From MS-397, Box 1 Folder 13. To read the diary in its entirety, visit Rauner Special Collections Library and ask to see the Harry Goodall papers (MS-397).
Previous Post | First Post | Next Post