The Great War, as it was called at the time, produced a host of
innovations in medical technology, record-keeping, understanding of
diseases -- their causes, spread, and treatment, surgery, psychiatric
conditions, dentistry, the importance of sanitation, and so on.
The internet is a wonderful source of primary reference material on
military medical history. I've compiled some of the key documents on
MILITARY MEDICINE DURING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Section I. WORLD WAR I
[some terrific WWI photos, here, but you have to dig around to find them]
Battlefield Surgery 101: From the Civil War to Vietnam Photo Gallery
--Operating room with patient on table. Army Medical Dispensary (WWI/Reeve 984).
--Wounded arriving at triage station, Suippes, France, from sanitary
train (WWI/Reeve 17413).
--French x-ray truck and the generator that supplies light to the
tents, formerly the Yale University Mobile Unit. December 19, 1918 (SC
HIGHLIGHTS IN THE HISTORY OF U.S. ARMY DENTISTRY
Some primiary source photos:
THE RADIOLOGY UNIT OF THE HARVARD UNIVERSITY SURGICAL UNIT, SERVING
WITH THE BRITISH RED CROSS DURING WW1
THE MEDICINAL SUBSTANCES ON THE SUPPLY TABLE OF THE MEDICAL
DEPARTMENT, UNITED STATES NAVY, AND THEIR PRINCIPAL PROPERTIES, USES,
...The statistical records of the World War, setting forth the
incidence of disease, injuries and battle casualties and of the work
of the Medical Department during that period have been inscribed in
history. As in the case of the Civil War, these records are of great
interest from the standpoint of medical science and, for military
purposes, furnish the soundest basis for war planning.
EPIDEMIC CEREBROSPINAL MENINGITIS AT CAMP BEAUREGARD, LA.
...From November 10, 1917 to June.1, 1918, we had 126 cases of
epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis, with 65 recoveries and 61 deaths, a
mortality of 48.26 per cent. A review of these cases disclosed certain
facts as to the transmission, forms of the disease, symptomatology,
treatment and complications which may be of interest.
WWI Influenza At Camp Beauregard, Louisiana
Poison gas in World War I
The Pathology of Influenza in France
The Medical Journal of Australia
March 6, 1920
"War Surgery "
...In 1915, Dr Edmond Delorme, a distinguished French military surgeon
published a small handbook on advances in military surgery entitled
War Surgery. This book was considered to be so valuable that it was
translated into English by Dr H. de Méric, a surgeon to the French
Hospital in London and it was published in England by H. K. Lewis of
Gower Street, London.
MEDICAL SERVICES IN THE FIELD
SANITATION AND HYGIENE.
...The following lecture on Sanitation and Hygiene is taken from the
book, "Military Organisation and Administration" published by Major G.
R. N. Collins, 4th. Battn. Canadians Instructor, Canadian Military
School, in 1918.
SYPHILIS TREATMENT DURING WWI
GONORRHOEA TREATMENT DURING WWI
The Repression of War Experience
Delivered before the Section of Psychiatry, Royal Society of Medicine,
on Dec. 4th, 1917,
SHELL SHOCK AND ITS LESSONS
First edition 1917
Some other sources to consider:
A Bibliography of Great War Medicine
WWI Medical History | Links
I trust this information fully answers your question.
However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need. If you would like any additional information, just post a
Request for Clarification to let me know how I can assist you further,
and I'm at your service.
All the best,
search strategy -- Used bookmarked links to military medical history
sites, along with Google searches on combinations of terms:
Clarification of Answer by
12 Nov 2006 15:09 PST
Thanks for getting back to me.
It would take a good deal of research to unearth primary sources on
all the sociological aspects of WWI and medicine that you mentioned in
your follow-up question, but I was able to find quite a number of
I trust the information below will meet your needs, but if not, don't
hesitate to post another comment, and let me know what more I can do
[here's a good overview of major impacts of medicine on war, and vice-versa]
World War I:
A New Kind of War
...military medicine in 1914 - 18 benefited from the medical advances
of the nineteenth century, as well as from the genuine therapeutic
breakthroughs that occurred as a direct consequence of the need to
deal with the new injuries of 1914. Better evacuation systems and
medical infrastructures; the possibility of having antiseptic surgery
using anaesthetics on the battlefield; the removal of damaged tissues
when treating fractures, limiting the risk of gangrene and reducing
the number of amputations; the X-ray detection of projectiles embedded
in the flesh; facial plastic surgery; vaccination against typhus and
tetanus; and blood transfusions --- all these were therapeutic
capabilities that had no equivalent in earlier conflicts. Entirely new
specialties were created during the war.
[the same site also emphasizes the importance of the emerging
understanding of psychology]
...Lastly, combat violence, suffered but also inflicted, caused
irreparable psychological damage. Psychiatry at that time had at best
only primitive explanations of the stresses and traumas of the
battlefield. Germans had a quite sophisticated concept of
Kriegsneurose, or war neurosis, but the principal interpretative tools
among the British and Americans was the simplistic notion of "shell
shock," and, among the French, commotion and obusite ("shellitis"), in
a context where exacerbated patriotism caused physicians invariably to
suspect soldiers of simulating insanity, or at least of engaging in an
unconscious psychological and bodily ruse in order to escape duty.
[this recent article looks back at medicine and war, and notes the
major advances emerging from WWI]
Rolling Back the Fog of War
...Medical and scientific knowledge both arise from war and influence
it. Recognition of the danger of sepsis and importance of public
health measures halved the death rate from infection between the
American Civil War and World War I, although infectious disease
Infection/combat deaths = 1:1
MEDICAL ADVANCES: Triage, prosthetics, plastic surgery, public health,
antisepsis medicines, vaccines
[The role of women during and after WWI is explored here:]
Thirty Thousand Women Were There
...As the Army stumbled around bureaucratic red tape trying to figure
out how to enlist women the Navy simply ignored the War Department
dissenters and quickly recruited women. Nearly 13,000 women enlisted
in the Navy and the Marine Corps on the same status as men and wore a
uniform blouse with insignia....These were the first women in the U.S
to be admitted to some military rank and status.
The Encyclopædia Britannica -- which is only available online by
subscription -- has a detailed article on the history of medicine
which touches on the impacts of WWI in several fields. Of key
importance was the emergence of the concept of "rehabilitation" as a
Here are some key excerpts from EB:
...World War I broke, quite dramatically, the existing surgical
hierarchy and rule of tradition. No longer did the European surgeon
have to waste his best years in apprenticeship before seating himself
in his master's chair. Suddenly, young surgeons in the armed forces
began confronting problems that would have daunted their elders...
...their training had been in ?clean? surgery performed under aseptic
conditions. Now they found themselves faced with the need to treat
large numbers of grossly contaminated wounds in improvised theatres.
They rediscovered debridement (the surgical excision of dead and dying
tissue and the removal of foreign matter)...
...Perhaps the most worthwhile and enduring benefit to flow from World
War I was rehabilitation. For almost the first time, surgeons realized
that their work did not end with a healed wound. In 1915 Robert Jones
set up special facilities for orthopedic patients, and at about the
same time Harold Gillies founded British plastic surgery in a hut at
...The rapid progress of medicine in this era was reinforced by
enormous improvements in communication between scientists throughout
the world. Through publications, conferences, and?later?computers and
electronic media, they freely exchanged ideas and reported on their
[The reliability of vaccines was demonstrated beyond question]
....A bitter controversy over the merits of the [typhoid] vaccine
followed, but before the outbreak of World War I immunization had been
officially adopted by the army. Comparative statistics would seem to
provide striking confirmation of the value of antityphoid inoculation,
even allowing for the better sanitary arrangements in the latter
I trust this is what you need, but let me know if there's anything
more I can do for you.