Stage 1: Daily Life

Life on the front lines brought battlefield danger, but it also forced troops to handle the incessant concerns of pest infestations, disease, and boredom. Despite the wealth of tasks available to keep a camp functioning, cot fatigue, a common term for boredom, became one of Hollinger’s most frequent complaints. Considering the prevalence of lice, rats, and disease in the close-quartered camps of the troops (seen in the picture above), Hollinger’s overwhelming focus on boredom seems unusual. However, complaining about something as menial as boredom provided a distraction from the other potentially life threatening problems the troops managed on a daily basis. Because Hollinger’s diary avoids the violent and often sexually explicit nature of war, the more gruesome realities rarely correspond with a diary entry.

 

Hollinger Diary:

Fri. Feb. 1, 1918
Case of Measles – Brobst[1]
{illegible}
Ten quarantined
Orders received to send home all useless articles and boxes.
I keep mine until I hear of something definite.

Measles:

The Rubella virus causes measles. Although there is a vaccine available today, it was not invented until 1963. In WWI, there was no way to prevent the spread of the disease among the troops[2]. While most infections were small scale, there were a few major outbreaks among recruits in mobilization camps although very few men died from the disease. The close quarters allowed the infection to spread quickly[3]. And, because measles weakened the immune system, a concurrent illness could kill infected troops. Once a soldier started to display symptoms of Rubella (coughing, small red welts covering the body, fever), he was quarantined until the virus had run its course, which took about 2-3 weeks[4].

Hollinger Diary:

Mon. Sept. 23, 1918
Prepared to leave + finally go away
in ambs {ambulances} at 8.30 rode to Locheres
and found room in an old stable dirty
cleaned out + settled. Poor weather
Walked up street after dinner + was
put on amb with Behmer[5] sat around
until 5.30 when sent to Vaubicourt
via Froidois nice trip beaucoup {much} traffic
Evac {Evacuation} for 109 FH {Field Hospital}. Got back at 9.30
Bothered with cooties {lice} all night.
Slept in amb warm etc. Few shells in near distance

Lice:

About 97% of men in the trenches had lice. Normally, soldiers were infected with body lice because the pests like to live in warm, moist places[6]. Considering the French climate in winter, that environment was only found under the soldiers’ uniforms. In addition, supply conservation resulted in poor hygiene, making the rapid spread of lice easier. Hollinger often complained about not being able to bathe or change out of his uniform. While lice were normally more of a nuisance than anything else, sometimes the bugs carried trench fever. It caused “headaches, skin rashes, inflamed eyes and leg pains[7].” Hollinger never reported a case of trench fever, but he seemed to display some of the symptoms.

Hollinger Diary:

Sun. June 2, 1918
Slept late and prepared to leave.
Left camp at 2.45 marched to
dock embarked on a small ride
whaler and sailed at 7 convoyed across
channel very quiet
Boat was so crowded that there was no
room to lie down or even sit. Got a
place to sleep on floor where rats chased another
fellow away. Passed [illeg.]
and fortifications.

Rats:

Trench rats lived by the millions and could produce as many as 800 offspring per pair per year[8]. While they rarely gave the soldiers any diseases, they often grew to the size of cats and feasted on the wasted food left behind in the tents and on the corpses that had not been properly buried.

Venereal Disease (STDs):

The U.S. Army refused to distribute condoms to the troops during WWI and promoted abstinence to prevent venereal disease. It didn’t work. Whereas Britain distributed condoms and France provided brothels to soldiers, U.S. army records indicate that 11% of soldiers in base hospitals were being treated for VD[9]. Historians today believe that percentage was deceptively small, with the true percentage of troops with VD at about 30%. Treatment for VD required the soldier to be removed from active duty and suspended without pay, causing troops to deny having the illness. There were also instances of men preferring lying in a hospital with an STD on their service records instead of dying in battle. Sometimes infected men carried on a lucrative business by allowing fellow soldiers to purchase the infection from them, thus allowing them to have a medical excuse that permitted them to spend a few weeks on medical leave[10].

Hollinger Diary:

Sat. Nov. 16, 1918
Up at 4.30 Made fire etc
Dental ord {orderly} Cliff sick in bed. I am dental
assistant. Put pain killer eugenol in
2 cases.
Read some mail.
Loafed away afternoon
Wrote a bit. on at 9.

Eugenol:

The medical corpsmen often prescribed eugenol, a natural painkiller found in clove oil, nutmeg, cinnamon and basil. Eugenol oil is a distilled and concentrated form that comes from any of these substances and is either rubbed onto the gums for toothaches or taken as a pill. The pills were scarce during the war, making the oil treatment available for toothaches and other minor pains.

harvey hottenstein edit_fotor

Mail:

While there are no pictures of Hollinger receiving packages from home, it is clear that mail was easily one of the favorite parts of his day. Tokens from home eased homesickness and allowed the soldiers to continue their efforts. In the photo above, we see the four men who consistently received the most mail, with Harvey Hottenstein in the lead. Harvey is the second in from the right.

Despite the boredom that dominated daily life, the 111th were still responsible for treating the wounded. Click here to see the battlefield.

[1] Valentine Brobst of Lititz, PA.

[2]http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/history.html

[3]http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/communicablediseases/chapter12.html

[4]http://www.healthline.com/health/measles#Treatment6

[5]Robert Behmer of Lititz, PA.

[6]http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/bodylice.htm

[7]Ibid.

[8]http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/rats.htm

[9]http://www.kumc.edu/wwi/index-of-essays/venereal-disease.html

[10]Ibid.

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