Youngstown and World War I medicine

During World War I, the United States aided the Allies’ fight by setting up Base Hospitals in Europe.
Base Hospital 31 was organized in Youngstown, OH in the beginning of 1917. The $50,000 needed to supply the hospital was funded by donations from the citizens and staffed by 300 volunteers from the local medical community (50 officers, 50 nurses, 200 enlisted men). The unit was mobilized in September. After 3 months of training, they sailed from New York to Liverpool, England and finally docked at Le Havre, France on December 26th, 1917.

group of Base Hospital 31 nurses, 1918

Base Hospital 31 was located in Contexeville, France. Before the war, it was a summer health resort with many hotels. Eight of these hotels were assigned to become Base Hospital 31.

The Base Hospital operated from March 23, 1918 to February 3, 1919. The normal combined capacity of the buildings was 1,200 beds. It could be expanded to 2,000 beds to handle emergencies. It treated 3,413 medical cases and 4,585 surgical cases. The Youngstown staff treated American, French, Italian, Russian, and British troops for wounds, tuberculosis, pneumonia, influenza, poisonous gas, and psychiatric problems.

overflow ward of Base Hospital 31, 1918

The Melnick Medical Museum had a collection of approximately 75 glass lantern slides containing images taken throughout the training and operation of Base Hospital 31. Most likely, the photographer is man pictured below. This summer, the glass slides were cleaned and scanned. The originals were donated to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, where they join other documentation on the Base Hospital.

probable photographer of Base Hospital 31 collection

The entire collection can be viewed in the Youngstown State University Archives Facebook photo album. It contains pictures of the staff, their training, the hospital facilities, the Contrexeville area, war destruction, and the local residents.

Hospital staff with local children, 1918

2 thoughts on “Youngstown and World War I medicine

  1. I was delighted to learn about these plates and look forward to seeing the entire collection. My father,Harold B. Ellis, served with B. H. No 31 from Sept., 1917 until May, 1919. Part of that time he was on detached duty with Dr. Ralph R. Morral on orthopedic operating teams. I’m in the process of writing a story about his experiences during that time and would welcome comments.

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