U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann .The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
USS Terry (DD-25), 1918 - History
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|USS USS TERRY DD-513 |
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Remembering World War I: American Troop Ships First Arrive in France
Shortly after the United States entered World War I, the commander of U.S. Convoy Operations was ordered to organize and begin escorting the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to France. With the threat of enemy submarines, American ships crossing the Atlantic needed protection. Four cruisers, 13 destroyers, two armed yachts, and two fuel tankers gathered in New York Harbor in early June 1917 to serve as escorts. They would convoy 14 steamships and three navy transports to France with cargoes of soldiers, material, draft animals, and supplies. By the end of the war, more than 75 percent of American troops passed through New York Harbor on their way to Europe.
In little time, the transport ships had been gathered, fitted for carrying troops, equipped with radios, and armed. The United States even utilized German ships that had been interned, or seized after the declaration of war. The American government had to be flexible and efficient in order to get troops and supplies into Europe quickly. By June 14 the ships were deemed ready to sail.
The cruiser USS Seattle, and the destroyers USS Wilkes, Terry, Roe, and later, the Fanning served as heavy escort to the USS Tenadores, Saratoga, Havana, Pastores, and the DeKalb, a captured German armed merchantman. (Merchantman is a name given to a ship, tanker, or freighter whose intended purpose is the transportation of goods and supplies, not military troops). Their orders sent them toward the port of Brest, France. Late at night on June 22, torpedoes coursed through the convoy, narrowly missing several ships. Lt. T. VanMetre of the destroyer USS Wilkes used early passive sonar to discern the sounds of nearby U-boats. The ships scattered as planned and regrouped the morning of the 23rd. Marines on the DeKalb were aware of the attack but some soldiers missed the incident. A soldier of the First Division reported “Daily rumors spread that submarines were near, but no one saw them.” The Navy later remarked on the incident to Congress.
On the afternoon of the 24th the convoy rendezvoused with additional American destroyers stationed at Queenstown, Ireland. They escorted the ships toward France, where French aircraft could be seen patrolling for submarines. Because of U-boats off the port of Brest, they headed for Saint-Nazaire instead. The crowded troop ships arrived safely, giving the soldiers, sailors and Marines a great sense of relief.
On June 26th the landing began with Army stevedores going ashore to prepare for unloading. Company K of the 28th Infantry Regiment was the first AEF infantry unit to set foot in France. The rest of the 28th, and the 16th Infantry Regiment also came ashore that day, as did part of the 5th Marine Regiment. It was June 30th before the entire contingent could be brought ashore. Due to the cramped port, it took stevedores assisted by Marines a few day to bring all animals, materiel and supplies ashore.
First Units to Land at St. Nazaire in Order of Arrival:
• 16th Infantry Regiment
The first units ashore marched three miles to Camp No. 1, a site hastily constructed by German Prisoners of War. The mayor of Saint-Nazaire welcomed the Americans, who awed the citizens of the small port town. Local French bands played in honor of the Americans, and American regimental bands returned the compliment. Shortly after arrival, the French requested that Americans march in Paris on July 4 as a symbol of the United States’ entry into the war. The 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment received a rapturous welcome in Paris from French citizens and government officials.
The USS Arizona – 5 Facts You May Not Know and 30 Photos
Most people are familiar with the iconic ship and the amazing memorial to her in Pearl Harbor. Here are some things you may not know and some great photos of her.
Dozens of Brothers Were Serving Aboard
There were 38 sets of brothers aboard the Arizona when the Japanese strike occurred. By the end of the attack, only 15 sets remained alive. Following this, U.S officials suggested that the practice of having siblings aboard the same ship should be discontinued. However, this was never enforced.
A Burial Ground for Survivors Also
The wreck of the USS Arizona currently lies in Pearl Harbor. Several of the crew members who survived the attack requested that this site serve as their burial ground. Cremated remains of these crewmen are put in an urn which would is placed under one of the ship’s gun turrets by a diver. The surviving crewmen see this as a way of getting back in touch with their fallen comrades.U.S. Navy Lt. Terry Bewley, a chaplain, reads a prayer while the remains of Seaman 1st Class Wallace F. Quillin are handed to National Park Service divers during an interment at the USS Arizona Memoria
Elvis Presley Performed to Raise Funds for the Memorial
Around 10% of the total cost of the USS Arizona memorial was raised by the KING, Elvis Presley. About fifty thousand dollars was raised in a concert at Pearl Harbor’s Block Arena. This memorial is visited by millions of people yearly.
Arizona’s Flag Officer was First to be killed in the Pacific War
The USS Arizona’s Rear Admiral, Isaac C. Kidd, died during the Japanese air strike on the ship. He turned out to be the first U.S Navy flag officer killed by enemy fire in the Pacific theaters. He was posthumously awarded the medal of honor.
Captain Isaac C. Kidd
Fuel Still Seeps From the Wreck of Arizona
Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack on 7th December 1941, the USS Arizona took on an enormous load of fuel in preparation for a trip later that month. During the attack, it began to leak out underwater. Fuel still seeps out of Arizona’s wreckage today at a rate of 8 liters per day. It is called “The Black Tears of Arizona.”
The “tears of the Arizona”. Oil slick visible on water’s surface above the sunken battleship. ©James G. Howes
The keel of the USS Arizona was laid down on 16th March 1914 and the ship was launched 15 months later. It was one of the two ships that made up the Pennsylvania class of warships and the largest navy ship at the time. The ship was commissioned in 1916 and was named after the Union’s newest state at that time, but it did not see any action in World War I.
USS Arizona in New York City
In 1918, Arizona sailed with 37 other ships to escort President Woodrow Wilson aboard the George Washington so he could attend the Paris peace conference. The Arizona joined the Pacific fleet in 1931, was sent to Pearl Harbor in 1940, and it was there that the ship met the end of its career.
Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on Pearl Harbor.
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Arizona was attacked by ten Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers, hitting it from amidships to stern and in the bow area. The last bomb hit near the ship’s second turret, probably penetrating the armored deck and hitting the ammunition magazines at the ship’s forward section. This resulted in a cataclysmic explosion that destroyed the forward part of the ship and effectively tore the Arizona apart. The ship lost 1177 crewmen in that attack.
USS Arizona during the attack
Due to the level of damage inflicted on the Arizona in the Pearl Harbor attack, it was placed temporarily out of service on 29th December 1940 and by December 1942, its name was removed from the naval vessels register. It was scrapped and the salvaged armament reused on other ships.
More photosUSS Arizona. Underway during the 1930s.
Arizona (BB39) port bow, before being modernized at Norfolk Naval Shipyard between May 1929 and January 1930
USS Arizona. Underway during the 1930s.
The burning wreckage of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
USS Arizona (BB-39) sunk and burning furiously, 7 December 1941.
USS Arizona, Submerged off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor.
The burned-out, sunken wreck of USS Arizona (BB-39), photographed some days after the attack.
Arizona in the 1950s.
An aerial view of the USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona: collection of photographs of salvage operations at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard taken by the shipyard during the period following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which initiated US participation in World War II. The photographs are found in a number of files in several shipyard records series.
USS Arizona (BB39) Foremast structure, conning tower, and top of turret
USS Arizona: Ship’s complement posing on her forecastle, forward turrets and superstructure, circa 1924.
USS Arizona, View from main mast. Bow projecting from water- forward
USS Arizona: collection of photographs of salvage operations at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard taken by the shipyard during the period following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which initiated US participation in World War II. The photographs are found in a number of files in several shipyard records series.
USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial. By Ben Weir – CC BY-SA 3.0
USS Arizona memorial interior. The Shrine Room.
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) manning rails for USS Arizona
An NPS diver with the forward guns on the No. 1 Turret of the submerged USS Arizona (BB-39)
An NPS diver examines & documents the wreckage of the USS Arizona in 2015.
Steel Worker 1st Class Jesse Hamblin, with Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 Construction Dive Detachment (CDD) Alpha, spreads the ashes of his grandfather, WWII veteran Donald Booth, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
1885 - Birth of John Henry Towers, USN admiral and pioneer Naval aviator.
1891 - Birth of Francesco Pricolo, Italian aviator, Aeronautic engineer and Chief of staff of the Italian Regia Aeronautica during WWII.
1891 - Birth of Walter Herschel Beech, American pioneer aviator, co-founder with his wife of Beech Aircraft Company.
1892 - Birth of Heinrich Lorenz, German WWI flying ace.
1892 - Birth of Hans Waldhausen, German WWI flying ace.
1894 - Birth of René Pierre Marie Dorme, French WWI fighter ace
1895 - Birth of Ivan Vasilyevich Smirnov, Russian WWI fighter ace and Dutch airliner pilot.
1910 - Birth of Nero Moura, Brazilian Air force pilot, WWII fighter pilot and high ranking officer, later founder of Aerovias Brazil and Lois Air and politician.
1911 - Longest over-water flight to date was made by John Alexander Douglas McCurdy on a Curtiss pusher biplane when he attempted to fly from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba. After covering 96 miles, he was forced to land in the sea due to loss of oil through a crankcase crack. USS Terry (DD-25) made then the 1st airplane rescue at sea
1915 - 1st flight of the Gotha G.I, German 3 seat heavy bomber biplane.
1918 - The School of Aerial Photography opened at Langley Field in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The school trained enlisted men in the art and skill of aerial photography. Their airplane of choice? The JN-4 Curtiss Jenny, a maneuverable two-seat biplane that allowed pilot and photographer to work together to obtain accurate aerial photographs.
1920 - Birth of Alexander Geric, Slovak WWII flying ace who served on the Eastern front with the Axis Forces.
1922 - Birth of Joseph Christopher McConnell Jr., 1st American triple jet-on-jet fighter ace and op American flying ace during the Korean War.
1929 - Inter-Island Airways (today Hawaian Airlines) is formed.
1930 - 1st flight of the Tupolev ANT-10 (also known as the R-7), soviet prototype single-engined light-bomber/reconnaissance aircraft
1930 - 1st flight of The Boeing XP-15, American prototype high wing monoplane fighter.
1931 - 1st flight of The Tupolev ANT-8, soviet experimental flying boat designed by Tupolev, designated "MDR-2" (MDR meaning Morskoi Dalnii Razvedchik, or Naval Long-Range Reconnaissance) by the military.
1931 - 1st flight of the Breguet 39T, French large 3-engine sesquiplane of all-metal construction with fixed, tailwheel undercarriage, transport prototype aircraft.
1933 - 1st flight of The Curtiss T-32 Condor II, American biplane twin engine airliner and bomber aircraft.
1934 - Osoaviakhim-1, record-setting, hydrogen-filled Soviet high-altitude balloon designed to seat a crew of three and perform scientific studies of the Earth's stratosphere makes it's 1st flight which lasted over 7 hours, reaching an altitude of 22,000 metres (72,000 ft).During the descent the balloon lost its buoyancy and plunged into an uncontrolled fall, disintegrating in the lower atmosphere. All three crew members were killed.
1942 - Qantas Imperial Airways Short Empire S.23 'Corio', en route to Surabaya to pick up refugees from the Japanese invasion of Java and transport them to Australia, is shot down by 7 Japanese Mitsubishi A6M-2 Zero off the coast of West Timor, Dutch East Indies, killing 13 over 18
1942 - Canadian Pacific Air Lines is formed by the acquisition and merger of Arrow Airways and Canadian Airways, along with all the various subsidiaries of the latter.
1943 – 2nd day of the Battle of Rennell Island. The USS Chicago (CA-29) is sunk and a U.S. destroyer is heavily damaged by Japanese torpedoes launched from Mitsubishi G4M Type 1 and Mitsubishi G3M Type 96.
1943 - The H2S radar, 1st airborne, ground scanning radar system, is used by RAF bombers for navigation for the 1st time.
1946 - Death of Oskar von Boenigk, German WWI fighter ace.
1946 - Death of Maryse Hilsz, born Marie-Louise Hilsz, French aviatrix and air force test pilot, in the crash of her Siebel 204 due to bad weather.
1948 - Death of Orville Wright, American Early aviation pioneer.
1948 - Air Marshal Sir Arthur "Mary" Coningham disappears with G-AHNP Star Tiger, Avro Tudor Mark IV passenger aircraft owned and operated by British South American Airways on a flight between Santa Maria in the Azores and Bermuda. Royal Flying Corps flying ace during WWI, Conningham was later a senior Royal Air Force commander during WWII, as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief 2nd Tactical Air Force and subsequently the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Flying Training Command.
1956 - Death of Charles Edward Taylor, who built the 1st aircraft engine used by the Wright brothers and was a vital contributor of mechanical skills in the building and maintaining of early Wright engines and airplanes.
1957 - 1st flight of the Sikorsky HSS-1F, S-58 piston-engined helicopter, developped for anti-submarine operations.
1958 - Death of Ernst Heinkel, German aircraft designer and manufacturer.
1960 - Death of Paul Codos, French Raid Aviator.
1964 - Death of Paul Wenzel, German WWI flying ace.
1964 - Launch of Ranger 6, American spacecraft carriying six television cameras high-resolution to photographthe lunar surface during the final minutes of flight up to impact.
1965 - 1st flight of The Distributor Wing DW-1, American prototype agricultural aircraft of unorthodox design. It had a second engine mounted directly below its main powerplant, using this second motor to power a distribution system that used compressed air to carry dry chemicals from a hopper and blow them out of the trailing edges of its wings, over the flaps. Varying the power of this blower engine also provided lift control.
1969 - Launch of Isis-1 (International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies), Canadian satellite to study the ionosphere.
1974 - Pan Am Flight 806 Boeing 707-321B 'Clipper Radiant' crashed on approach to Pago Pago International Airport, killing 97 over 101.
1975 - Turkish Airlines Flight 345 Fokker F28-1000 Fellowship 'Bursa' crashed into the Sea of Marmara during its final approach in poor visibility to Istanbul Yesilköy Airport killing all 42.
1979 – A Varig 707-323C freighter disappears over the Pacific Ocean 30 minutes after taking off from Tokyo.
1981 - British Airways make a record 96 automatic landings in one day at Heathrow airport.
1983 - MN Airlines, LLC, operating as Sun Country Airlines, American low-cost airline, begins operations.
1984 - Death of Kenneth Burns Conn, Canadian WWI fighter ace, businessman who served as head of the Royal Canadian Air Force Historical Section during WWII.
1985 - Death of Harold Arthur Sydney Molyneux, Canadian WWI flying ace who also served during WWII.
1988 - Boeing 747SP owned by United Airlines sets a round-the-world air speed record from seattle and back. The Friendship Foundation ticket on the flight cost $5,000, and in total the flight raised more than $500,000 for children.
1992 - STS-42, Space Shuttle Discovery mission with the Spacelab module, is back on earth.
1998 - British Airways launches the low-fare airline Go.
2000 – Off the coast of Ivory Coast, Kenya Airways Flight 431 Airbus A310-304 crashes into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 169 over 179.
2001 - Death of James Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson, British WWII fighter ace who also flew during the Korean war, highest scoring Western Allied fighter ace against the German Luftwaffe.
2005 - A Royal Air Force Lockheed C-130K Hercules C3 is shotdown in Iraq during operation Telic, probably by Sunni insurgents, killing all 10.
2007 - A Boeing 702 spacecraft carrying NSS-8 (Dutch telecommunications satellite) is destroyed when the rocket that was launching it exploded on launch.
2009 - Death of Walter Omiccioli, Italian WWII pilot who flew in the italian Air force until 1973, commanding a T-33 Squadron.
USS Terry (DD-25), 1918 - History
On the 9th of June, 1917, USS Sterett arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland. Queenstown was the centre for anti- submarine forces, on the Western Approaches, under the command of Admiral Lewis Bayley, Commander in Chief , Coast of Ireland. The Shaw commenced operations with the Queenstown Command on the 10th of July.
Initially there was uncertainty as to the most effective use of destroyers. At first they were given patrol areas which they would scout, singly or in pairs. Any stray incoming merchantmen seen, were to be escorted to near their destinations. This was a most ineffective use of the force, as the chances of coming across, and destroying a lone submarine in the vastness of the Western Approaches was virtually nil.
By Summer 1917, under the urging of commanders such as Admiral Sims, Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe, the convoy system was initiated. Groups of merchantmen were escorted through the war zone by flanking destroyer screens. This had the dual effect of reducing the amount of targets for German u- boats, and allowing destroyers and sloops to attack the harassing submarines. The priorities of the destroyers were to:
Protect and escort Merchantmen.
Save the crews and passengers of torpedoed ships.
Anti- submarine patrols did continue also for the duration of the war, especially in the Irish Sea and close to the coast of France, where u- boats would try to sink merchantmen as the convoys dispersed. In 1918, any destroyer in the Irish Sea, which was not actively convoying, came under the orders of The Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla, under the command of Captain Gordon Campbell VC based in Holyhead, Wales. US destroyers were also used to patrol the west coast of Ireland to hunt suspected gun- running ships, for Irish Republicans.
The destroyers , initially, were ill- equipped to fight submerged submarines. When they arrived in Europe they were armed with guns and torpedoes. The only undersea weapons supplied were single hand- launched 50lb depth charges which were particularly ineffective. It was the later fitting of dual depth charge racks on the sterns of the ships, Thornycroft depth charge throwers, and Y shaped charge throwers that turned them into a dangerous force. These were capable of dropping and firing a continuous patterned barrage of 200lb, charges around a submarine's suspected position. Most of the retro- fitting of these armaments was done at Cammel Laird in Birkenhead, England.
On the 21st of June, 1917, the SS Lord Roberts was shelled and sunk by submarine in pos 53.30N, 15.58W. USS Sterett and HMS Snowdrop went to her assistance.
On the 17th of July, 1917, in pos 5 miles south of Old Head of Kinsale, USS Sterrett sighted periscope of submarine which submerged immediately.
On the 20th of August, 1917, USS Sterett intercepted message from British sloop HMS Zinnia, stating that she had been in collision with USS Benham. Sterett made for the spot, and on arrival saw Benham well down by the stern. HMS Crocus also arrived to help. HMS Zinnia took Benham in tow, with HMS Crocus and USS Sterett standing by. They made Queenstown the next day.
On the 3rd of November, 1917, USS Sterett and Conyngham were part of a convoy escort in the Irish Sea. Conyngham gave orders to Sterett to communicate change in speed of Convoy to Port lead ship. As Sterett approached this ship SS Virginian. Depth charges were set to safe. Suddenly a red light appeared out of the darkness on the port quarter. Collision was inevitable. Sterett put helm hard over and blew three blasts on whistle. General alarm sounded and collision quarters. Sterett struck the approaching ship, HMS Camellia stern first.
Ships aimmediately separated. Damage sustained on Sterett - Frame 165 bent inwards, Thornycroft depth charge thrower sheared and shoved inboard, and plating damaged. Camellia had 20 feet of plating above the waterline crushed.
On the 13th of November, 1917, in position 51.54N, 07.47W, a torpedo was fired at USS Sterrett by unseen submarine, which missed. Two depth charges were dropped by Sterett, both of which failed to explode. Sterett developed machinery trouble, and headed back for Queenstown, abandoning the search.
On the 22nd of January, 1918, in position 50.19N, 07.02W, USS Sterett dropped depth charge on what appeared to be a moving wake. No result observed.
On the 26th of January,1918, USS Strerett, and Jenkins, escorted USS Bridge from Queenstown to Westward. The next day, they, escorted SS St Louis from 48.20N, 15.00W, to Liverpool.
Between the 9th and 11th of February, 1918, Convoy HE5 was escorted safely to Devonport by USS Allen, Wainwright, Sampson, Sterett, and the British sloop HMS Crocus.
On the 31st of May, 1918, in position 51.03, 9.09 USS Sterrett sighted periscope of submarine. Sterrett at the time was escorting oiler Astrakhan, with McCall. The Sterrett dropped depth charges. Oil and bubbles came to surface and Sterrett was able to trail submarine by these. Sterrett had no depth charges left. USS Porter, HMS Jessamine and 3 motor launches went to Sterretts assistance but Porter had to give up the search due to lack o fuel.At 4.35am on 1st June submarine came to surface and after engagement with Sterrett dived again. HMS JEssamine arrived at this point and dropped two depth charges with no apparent result. USS Wilkes, USS Ericsson, USS Shaw, and USS Terry joined up and continued the search, but nothing further was seen.
On the 27th of June, 1918, Hospital ship Landovery Castle was torpedoed and sunk in position 116 miles 247deg from Fastnet Rock. HMS Lysander picked up one boat containing 24 survivors. When last seen submarine was reportedly shelling the boats as they were trying to get away from the sinking ship. (this was later disproved) HMS Snowdrop, HMS Safeguard, and USS Cassin searched for survivors. USS Kimberley, USS Stockton and USS Sterrett joined Snowdrop in search at 7am on June 30th.
On the 23rd of July, 1918, in position 50.41N, 08.36W, 15.40hrs. HMS Marmora was torpedoed. USS Stockton USS Downes, tugs Warrior and Cynic went to her assistance. Marmora eventually sank at 17.35hrs. Survivors were taken to Milford Haven by HMS P67. USS Sterett searched for raft supposed to contain one man.
On the 30th of July, 1918, USS Sterett was escorting SS Karina. Another merchantman was spotted and Sterett proceeded to investigate. Suddenly a shot was fired from the other ship which landed about 200 yards away from Sterett. Sterett turned on recognition lights and no other shots were fired. The merchant ship had mistaken the approaching destroyer for a u- boat
On the 04th of August, 1918, USS Sterett escorted store carrier Steersman from Queenstown to Falmouth.
On the 29th of September, 1918, USS Sterett and Sampson escorted USS Glacier from Queenstown to 15.00W.
On the 4th of October, 1918, SS Hirano Maru was proceeding in Convoy OE23. She was torpedoed and sunk in pos 51.12N, 07.01W. USS Sterrett picked up 29 survivors and landed them at Queenstown. Whilst assisting survivors Sterrett reported being missed by torpedo .
USS Sterett left the Queenstown Command in December 1918, and returned to the USA, arriving on the 3rd of January, 1919.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography was a multi-decade series of volumes of biographies of Americans in every state, published by James T. White and Company. It contains more than 60,000 entries, mostly compiled from information provided by the subjects or their families, though sources are not usually credited. There is no overall order to the biographies, but indexes exist. (There is a Wikipedia article about this serial.)
The first numbered volume was copyrighted in 1891. The lettered "current" volumes, specializing in living persons, began in the 1920s. (The letters denote the sequence of the "current" volumes, not the initials of the subjects.) Some volumes have revised editions or supplements. No volume copyright renewals are known. The last volume (combining regular volume 63 and current volume N) was published in 1984. Listings below are roughly in chronological order, with series volume order overriding in some cases.
Persistent Archives of Complete Issues
This is a record of a major serial archive. This page is maintained for The Online Books Page. (See our criteria for listing serial archives.) This page has no affiliation with the serial or its publisher.
How Does a Pandemic End? Here's What We Can Learn From the 1918 Flu
M ore than six months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, as scientific understanding of the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, one question remains decidedly unanswered. How will this pandemic come to an end?
Current scientific understanding is that only a vaccine will put an end to this pandemic, but how we get there remains to be seen. It seems safe to say, however, that some day, somehow, it will end. After all, other viral pandemics have. Take, for example, the flu pandemic of 1918-1919.
That pandemic was the deadliest in the 20th century it infected about 500 million people and killed at least 50 million, including 675,000 in the United States. And, while scientific knowledge of viruses and vaccine development has advanced significantly since then, the uncertainty felt around the world today would have been familiar a century ago.
Even after that virus died out, it would be years before scientists better understood what happened, and some mystery still remains. Here’s what we do know: in order for a pandemic to end, the disease in question has to reach a point at which it is unable to successfully find enough hosts to catch it and then spread it.
In the case of the 1918 pandemic, the world at first believed that the spread had been stopped by the spring of 1919, but it spiked again in early 1920. As with other flu strains, this flu may have become more active in the winter months because people were spending more time indoors in closer proximity to one another, and because artificial heat and fires dry out skin, and the cracks in the skin in the nose and mouth provide “great entry points for the virus,” explains Howard Markel, physician and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.
Flu “does tend to go quiet when the cold weather regresses, but no one knows why,” Markel says.
But, by the middle of 1920, that deadly strain of flu had in fact faded enough that the pandemic was over in many places, even though there was no dramatic or memorable declaration that the end had come.
“The end of the pandemic occurred because the virus circulated around the globe, infecting enough people that the world population no longer had enough susceptible people in order for the strain to become a pandemic once again,” says medical historian J. Alexander Navarro, Markel’s colleague and the Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Medicine. “When you get enough people who get immunity, the infection will slowly die out because it’s harder for the virus to find new susceptible hosts.”
Eventually, with “fewer susceptible people out and about and mingling,” Navarro says, there was nowhere for the virus to go &mdashthe “herd immunity” being talked about today. By the end of the pandemic, a whopping third of the world’s population had caught the virus. (At the moment, about half a percent of the global population is known to have been infected with the novel coronavirus.)
The end of the 1918 pandemic wasn’t, however, just the result of so many people catching it that immunity became widespread. Social distancing was also key. Public health advice on curbing the spread of the virus was eerily similar to that of today: citizens were encouraged to stay healthy through campaigns promoting mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, quarantining and isolating of patients, and the closure of schools, public spaces and non-essential businesses&mdashall steps designed to cut off routes for the virus’ spread.
In fact, a study that Markel and Navarro co-authored, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007, found that U.S. cities that implemented more than one of these aforementioned control measures earlier and kept them in place longer had better, less deadly outcomes than cities that implemented fewer of these control measures and did not do so until later.
Public health officials took all of these measures despite not knowing for sure whether they were dealing with a virus or a bacterial infection the research that proved influenza comes from a virus and not a bacterium didn’t come out until the 1930s. It wasn’t until 2005 that articles in Science and Nature capped off a nearly decade-long process of mapping the genome of the flu strain that caused the 1918 pandemic.
A century later, the world is facing another pandemic caused by a virus, though of a different sort. COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus, not influenza, so scientists are still learning how it behaves. While flu is more active in the winter&mdashand, as Markel points out, the 1918 flu died out in a way “we would expect now” of seasonal flu&mdashCOVID-19 was active in the U.S. over the summer. Doctors expect the COVID-19 pandemic won’t really end until there’s both a vaccine and a certain level of exposure in the global population. “We’re not certain,” Markel says, “but we’re pretty darn sure.”
And yet, in the meantime, people can help the effort to limit the impact of the pandemic. A century ago, being proactive about public health saved lives&mdashand it can do so again today.
USS Terry (DD-25), 1918 - History
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.
In the fall of 1918 the Great War in Europe was winding down and peace was on the horizon. The Americans had joined in the fight, bringing the Allies closer to victory against the Germans. Deep within the trenches these men lived through some of the most brutal conditions of life, which it seemed could not be any worse. Then, in pockets across the globe, something erupted that seemed as benign as the common cold. The influenza of that season, however, was far more than a cold. In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world's population was infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice). An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy (Deseret News). An estimated 43,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of influenza (Crosby). 1918 would go down as unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace. As noted in the Journal of the American Medical Association final edition of 1918:
"The 1918 has gone: a year momentous as the termination of the most cruel war in the annals of the human race a year which marked, the end at least for a time, of man's destruction of man unfortunately a year in which developed a most fatal infectious disease causing the death of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all--infectious disease," (12/28/1918).
An Emergency Hospital for Influenza Patients
The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. The influenza virus had a profound virulence, with a mortality rate at 2.5% compared to the previous influenza epidemics, which were less than 0.1%. The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds of influenza and pneumonia were 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years (Taubenberger). People were struck with illness on the street and died rapid deaths. One anectode shared of 1918 was of four women playing bridge together late into the night. Overnight, three of the women died from influenza (Hoagg). Others told stories of people on their way to work suddenly developing the flu and dying within hours (Henig). One physician writes that patients with seemingly ordinary influenza would rapidly "develop the most viscous type of pneumonia that has ever been seen" and later when cyanosis appeared in the patients, "it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate," (Grist, 1979). Another physician recalls that the influenza patients "died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their nose and mouth," (Starr, 1976). The physicians of the time were helpless against this powerful agent of influenza. In 1918 children would skip rope to the rhyme (Crawford):
I had a little bird, Its name was Enza. I opened the window, And in-flu-enza.
The influenza pandemic circled the globe. Most of humanity felt the effects of this strain of the influenza virus. It spread following the path of its human carriers, along trade routes and shipping lines. Outbreaks swept through North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Brazil and the South Pacific (Taubenberger). In India the mortality rate was extremely high at around 50 deaths from influenza per 1,000 people (Brown). The Great War, with its mass movements of men in armies and aboard ships, probably aided in its rapid diffusion and attack. The origins of the deadly flu disease were unknown but widely speculated upon. Some of the allies thought of the epidemic as a biological warfare tool of the Germans. Many thought it was a result of the trench warfare, the use of mustard gases and the generated "smoke and fumes" of the war. A national campaign began using the ready rhetoric of war to fight the new enemy of microscopic proportions. A study attempted to reason why the disease had been so devastating in certain localized regions, looking at the climate, the weather and the racial composition of cities. They found humidity to be linked with more severe epidemics as it "fosters the dissemination of the bacteria," (Committee on Atmosphere and Man, 1923). Meanwhile the new sciences of the infectious agents and immunology were racing to come up with a vaccine or therapy to stop the epidemics.
The experiences of people in military camps encountering the influenza pandemic:
An excerpt for the memoirs of a survivor at Camp Funston of the pandemic Survivor
A letter to a fellow physician describing conditions during the influenza epidemic at Camp Devens
A collection of letters of a soldier stationed in Camp Funston Soldier
The origins of this influenza variant is not precisely known. It is thought to have originated in China in a rare genetic shift of the influenza virus. The recombination of its surface proteins created a virus novel to almost everyone and a loss of herd immunity. Recently the virus has been reconstructed from the tissue of a dead soldier and is now being genetically characterized. The name of Spanish Flu came from the early affliction and large mortalities in Spain (BMJ,10/19/1918) where it allegedly killed 8 million in May (BMJ, 7/13/1918). However, a first wave of influenza appeared early in the spring of 1918 in Kansas and in military camps throughout the US. Few noticed the epidemic in the midst of the war. Wilson had just given his 14 point address. There was virtually no response or acknowledgment to the epidemics in March and April in the military camps. It was unfortunate that no steps were taken to prepare for the usual recrudescence of the virulent influenza strain in the winter. The lack of action was later criticized when the epidemic could not be ignored in the winter of 1918 (BMJ, 1918). These first epidemics at training camps were a sign of what was coming in greater magnitude in the fall and winter of 1918 to the entire world.
The war brought the virus back into the US for the second wave of the epidemic. It first arrived in Boston in September of 1918 through the port busy with war shipments of machinery and supplies. The war also enabled the virus to spread and diffuse. Men across the nation were mobilizing to join the military and the cause. As they came together, they brought the virus with them and to those they contacted. The virus killed almost 200,00 in October of 1918 alone. In November 11 of 1918 the end of the war enabled a resurgence. As people celebrated Armistice Day with parades and large partiess, a complete disaster from the public health standpoint, a rebirth of the epidemic occurred in some cities. The flu that winter was beyond imagination as millions were infected and thousands died. Just as the war had effected the course of influenza, influenza affected the war. Entire fleets were ill with the disease and men on the front were too sick to fight. The flu was devastating to both sides, killing more men than their own weapons could.
With the military patients coming home from the war with battle wounds and mustard gas burns, hospital facilities and staff were taxed to the limit. This created a shortage of physicians, especially in the civilian sector as many had been lost for service with the military. Since the medical practitioners were away with the troops, only the medical students were left to care for the sick. Third and forth year classes were closed and the students assigned jobs as interns or nurses (Starr,1976). One article noted that "depletion has been carried to such an extent that the practitioners are brought very near the breaking point," (BMJ, 11/2/1918). The shortage was further confounded by the added loss of physicians to the epidemic. In the U.S., the Red Cross had to recruit more volunteers to contribute to the new cause at home of fighting the influenza epidemic. To respond with the fullest utilization of nurses, volunteers and medical supplies, the Red Cross created a National Committee on Influenza. It was involved in both military and civilian sectors to mobilize all forces to fight Spanish influenza (Crosby, 1989). In some areas of the US, the nursing shortage was so acute that the Red Cross had to ask local businesses to allow workers to have the day off if they volunteer in the hospitals at night (Deseret News). Emergency hospitals were created to take in the patients from the US and those arriving sick from overseas.
The pandemic affected everyone. With one-quarter of the US and one-fifth of the world infected with the influenza, it was impossible to escape from the illness. Even President Woodrow Wilson suffered from the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the crucial treaty of Versailles to end the World War (Tice). Those who were lucky enough to avoid infection had to deal with the public health ordinances to restrain the spread of the disease. The public health departments distributed gauze masks to be worn in public. Stores could not hold sales, funerals were limited to 15 minutes. Some towns required a signed certificate to enter and railroads would not accept passengers without them. Those who ignored the flu ordinances had to pay steep fines enforced by extra officers (Deseret News). Bodies pilled up as the massive deaths of the epidemic ensued. Besides the lack of health care workers and medical supplies, there was a shortage of coffins, morticians and gravediggers (Knox). The conditions in 1918 were not so far removed from the Black Death in the era of the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages.
In 1918-19 this deadly influenza pandemic erupted during the final stages of World War I. Nations were already attempting to deal with the effects and costs of the war. Propaganda campaigns and war restrictions and rations had been implemented by governments. Nationalism pervaded as people accepted government authority. This allowed the public health departments to easily step in and implement their restrictive measures. The war also gave science greater importance as governments relied on scientists, now armed with the new germ theory and the development of antiseptic surgery, to design vaccines and reduce mortalities of disease and battle wounds. Their new technologies could preserve the men on the front and ultimately save the world. These conditions created by World War I, together with the current social attitudes and ideas, led to the relatively calm response of the public and application of scientific ideas. People allowed for strict measures and loss of freedom during the war as they submitted to the needs of the nation ahead of their personal needs. They had accepted the limitations placed with rationing and drafting. The responses of the public health officials reflected the new allegiance to science and the wartime society. The medical and scientific communities had developed new theories and applied them to prevention, diagnostics and treatment of the influenza patients.
From its origins in 1871, the empire was governed under the constitution designed four years earlier by Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian prime minister, for the North German Confederation. This constitution reflected the predominantly rural nature of Germany in 1867 and the authoritarian proclivities of Bismarck, who was a member of the Junker landowning elite. There were two houses: the Reichstag, to represent the people, and the Bundesrat, to represent the 25 states. The former comprised 397 members elected by universal manhood suffrage and a secret ballot. The constituencies established in 1867 and 1871 were never altered to reflect population shifts, and rural areas thus retained a vastly disproportionate share of power as urbanization progressed. In theory the Reichstag’s ability to reject any bill seemed to make it an important reservoir of power in practice, however, the power of the lower house was circumscribed by the government’s reliance on indirect taxes and by the parliament’s willingness to approve the military budget every seven (after 1893, every five) years. Most legislative proposals were submitted to the Bundesrat first and to the Reichstag only if they were approved by the upper house. Although members of the Reichstag could question the chancellor about his policies, the legislative bodies were rarely consulted about the conduct of foreign affairs. Imperial ministers were chosen by and were responsible to the emperor rather than to the legislature.
A problem that was to plague the empire throughout its existence was the disparity between the Prussian and imperial political systems. In Prussia the lower house was elected under a restricted three-class suffrage system, an electoral law that allowed the richest 15 percent of the male population to choose approximately 85 percent of the delegates. A conservative majority was always assured in Prussia, whereas the universal manhood suffrage resulted in increasing majorities for the political centre and left-wing parties in the imperial parliament. William I was both German emperor (1871–88) and king of Prussia (1861–88). Apart from two brief instances the imperial chancellor was simultaneously prime minister of Prussia. Thus, the executives had to seek majorities from two separate legislatures elected by radically different franchises. A further problem was that government ministers were generally selected from the civil service or the military. They often had little experience with parliamentary government or foreign affairs.
The constitution had been designed by Bismarck to give the chancellor and monarch primary decision-making power. Universal manhood suffrage had been proposed because of Bismarck’s belief that the rural population would vote for either the Conservative or Free Conservative parties. (Female suffrage had not been proposed because politics was considered a male preserve at the time.) The Progressives, a left-wing liberal party, were expected to do poorly in the two-thirds of Germany that was rural in 1867. Bismarck had not counted on new parties such as the Centre Party, a Roman Catholic confessional party, or the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands SPD), both of which began participating in imperial and Prussian elections in the early 1870s. The Centre generally received 20–25 percent of the total vote in all elections. The SPD grew from 2 seats in the first imperial election to 35 by 1890, when the SPD actually gained a plurality of votes. Bismarck termed the Centre and SPD along with the Progressives Reichsfeinde (“enemies of the empire”) because he believed that each sought in its own way to change the fundamental conservative political character of the empire.
Beginning in 1871, he launched the Kulturkampf (“cultural struggle”), a campaign in concert with German liberals against political Catholicism. Bismarck’s aim was clearly to destroy the Centre Party. Liberals saw the Roman Catholic church as politically reactionary and feared the appeal of a clerical party to the more than one-third of Germans who professed Roman Catholicism. Both Bismarck and the liberals doubted the loyalty of the Catholic population to the Prussian-centred and, therefore, primarily Protestant nation. In Prussia the minister of ecclesiastical affairs and education, Adalbert Falk, introduced a series of bills establishing civil marriage, limiting the movement of the clergy, and dissolving religious orders. All church appointments were to be approved by the state. As a result hundreds of parishes and several bishoprics were left without incumbents. Clerical civil servants were purged from the Prussian administration.
The Kulturkampf failed to achieve its goals and, if anything, convinced the Roman Catholic minority that their fear of persecution was real and that a confessional party to represent their interests was essential. By the late 1870s Bismarck abandoned the battle as a failure. He now launched a campaign against the SPD in concert with the two conservative parties and many National Liberals. Fearing the potential of the Social Democrats in a rapidly industrializing Germany, Bismarck found a majority to outlaw the party from 1878 to 1890, although constitutionally it could not be forbidden to participate in elections. Party offices and newspapers were closed down and meetings prohibited. Many socialists fled to Switzerland and sought to keep the party alive in exile. During the 1880s Bismarck also sought to win the workers away from socialism by introducing legislation granting them modest pensions, accident insurance, and a national system of medical coverage. Like the Kulturkampf, the campaign against the SPD was a failure, and, when the 1890 elections showed enormous gains for the Reichsfeinde, Bismarck began to consider having the German princes reconvene, as in 1867, to draw up a new constitution. The new emperor, William II, saw no reason to begin his reign (1888–1918) with a potential bloodbath and asked for the 74-year-old chancellor’s resignation. Thus, Bismarck, the architect of German unity, left the scene in a humiliating fashion, believing that his creation was fatally flawed. Indeed, his policy of supporting rapid social and economic modernization while avoiding any reform of the authoritarian political system did lead to an atmosphere of persistent crisis.
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