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January 7, 1919: A Dartmouth Doctor in WWI

January 7, 1919

Fair and cold.

The morning papers announce the death of ex-Pres. Roosevelt.
What a loss to the country!
The entire center is sad.

I feel that I have neglected this diary since I have been on duty at Hdqrs. The papers have been filled with items of importance that I should have noted for future reference.
Col. Thornburgs [sic.] illness has placed me in command of over 20.000 men and I have had no previous training for the job. I feel the responsibility.
I am obliged to visit the various hospitals every day, discipline is so lax that it is necessary to keep after each unit.
It was a very unpleasant duty.

I find practically no relaxation, When I get to quarters I am obliged to live the whole day over again with Thornburgh.
In addition to this his peculiarities are most irritating. I dislike seeing him. Barklay, Yocum and Papen share this feeling with me so it cannot be my peculiarity. We are all nervous wrecks. I am unable to sleep, I cannot eat much. I am losing weight.

Have asked for an assistant but that has been denied. Just why Thornburgh should refuse when he called for one is difficult to explain. 

Col. Fisher calls again this afternoon and asks me very pointed questions about Tucker. Someone has told him about his drunken debauch with the enlisted men at the time of the Christmas celebration. 

The most interesting thing at the moment is the attitude of the enlisted men that are patients in the hospitals.
They are extremely disgruntled. I have talked with numbers of them. 

They are not ill. They have recovered from their illness.
They want to go back to their organization, they want to go home.
They dislike the restriction of hospital life.
Being separated from their organization they are not getting their pay, they are not getting their mail. They are simply out of luck.

They recall the promises made at home before they left. They even mention the posters and the moving pictures telling of the wonderful things the Red Cross were doing for the boys on the “other side”.
Recently these same boys bought cigarettes of the Red Cross in Toul and when they opened them they found a slip in each package which said “presented by the New York Times”. 

One might attribute these remarks to the hysteria of the times were it not for the fact that all their statements were true. My own experience with the Red Cross is sufficient to make me feel that the organization should be investigated. It was inefficient at every point that I came in contact with.

When we left camp to embark for Europe we left in the early morning hours. Reaching Long Island City we were lined up in front of a Red Cross station for some time. We were forbidden to leave the lines — yet no one came out with coffee or food of any kind. 

When re reached the dock to embark it was too late for lunch on the ship. The Red Cross gave us one glass of milk and one bun. We did not see them again until we reached Cherbourg, and then at the rest camp. Here they gave us one sheet of paper and one envelope.
We did not see them again until we reached Chaumont, and after we had waited there an hour without food for over eight hours they suddenly discovered that we were there and they gave us a glass of cocoa.
Again we saw them at Toul, when we had been without food for twelve hours and Tucker said they were to give us a supper. They gave us one half slice of black bread, smeared with jam and a cup of coffee that tasted like mud.
There was not a man in the unit that had not contributed a far greater amount of money to the Red Cross before leaving home than the entire expense of the things we received were worth. It was not, however a question of values. it was a question of taking care of a lot of persons in a foreign country that were so restricted in their movements that we could not leave the train to go into the station where there was plenty of food to be had. If it was necessary to remain on the train then the Red Cross should have seen that we were fed.
Even this statement, that may seem unfair, is made in view of the fact that had already been noted, that Carter Harrison came to my office just before Thanksgiving day and said spend all the money you can as they are starting another drive in America and we must use up the money.

I cannot recall a single instance when an officer in the entire group ever said a single good word for the Red Cross.
If this was the attitude of the officer the enlisted man has even greater reason for complaint. 

The majority of these men had gone over the top, they had been injured or taken sick. On their way back to the hospitals all their belongings had been taken from them, they were cut off from their friends, they had failed to get their mail, they were living under hospital discipline and there is every reason why they should be discontented. More than that many of [them] told me that their friends at home were working for very high wages, far more than their pay would amount to if they were getting it.
They had every reason in the world to complain and yet none of us could be of help unless we gave them money.

I wonder what their attitude will be when they get back home.
They say America lied to the. I am certain they will be dissatisfied but I doubt if they will say very much. All the men I have talked with have a personal feeling that they have done their part and that it is a satisfaction to them. At the same time they say to hell with the people that do not appreciate what has been done. 

From MS-397, Box 1 Folder 17. To read the diary in its entirety, visit Rauner Special Collections Library and ask to see the Harry Goodall papers (MS-397).

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