October 29, 2022 | Last updated Mar 23, 2023

Nebraska’s WWI Hospital in France

Detail of photo of Base Hospital #17

Detail of photo of the convalescent ward at Base Hospital #17, Dijon, France. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

During World War I, US military hospitals in France were built and staffed by volunteers. Responding to urgent demand for medical care, the University of Nebraska’s Medical College organized and staffed a hospital for overseas duty. Base Hospital No. 49, located in Allerey, France, was known as Nebraska’s hospital.

It seems strange today that the army wouldn’t have its own hospitals for its soldiers, but these were anything but normal circumstances. The US army grew from from about 200,000 soldiers in April 1917 to 2 million by the fall of 1918. An entire medical system had to be put together on short notice and sent overseas into a war zone.

Historian Marilyn Irvin Holt tells the story in “Nebraska’s Base Hospital No. 49 in World War I” in the Winter 2017 issue of Nebraska History, the quarterly magazine of the Nebraska State Historical Society. Members receive the magazine as a benefit of membership. As part of our ongoing recognition of the World War I centennial, the article is available online here.

You can also listen to the Nebraska Public Media special on Base Hospital No. 49 here.

Nurses of Base Hospital #49, Allerey, France. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Here’s another WWI story that reveals something of the dangers that medical personnel encountered. Consider this helmet:

The helmet belonged to Dr. Charles Arnold of Dorchester, Nebraska, who enlisted in the British army and served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and Belgium. He survived, and you can read his story here.

 

Women played important roles at base hospitals and in other facets of the war. Recently we looked at the portrayal of women in our large collection of World War I posters. They offer insights into the place of women in the context of wartime goals and cultural norms. Read more

(First published 12/19/2017, updated: 3/23/23)

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