World War I -- Life Histories/Section 018/H. Gaston Carney

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H. Gaston Carney's Passport Photo

Overview[edit]

H. Gaston Carney (1896-1968) was an insurance salesman and golfer in Wilmington, North Carolina. He served as a captain in the US Army in western France during WWI.

Biography[edit]

Hiram Gaston Carney was born in Wilmington, NC on September 22, 1896. Carney was born to J.G. (a policeman) and Mildred Merritt Carney. He enlisted in the US Army in 1918. He was deployed in September 1918 from Fort Caswell, NC. He served as a captain in the AEF. After they crossed the Atlantic, his company travelled around France from their arrival in Cherbourg, down through the Loire River Valley, ending near Trelaze in the western part of France. During his travels, at least 50 troops a dayeast died from the Spanish Flu in his camp. He was not a part of any major battles in WWI, but while he was there, his brother died in the trenches. He returned to the United States in March of 1919. During WWII, he served as Chair of both the Board of Elections and his local Draft Board, and he worked for the Shenandoah Life Insurance Company for most of his life. He died on November 6, 1968 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Social Issues[edit]

The Spanish Influenza[edit]

The Spanish Influenza epidemic lasted from 1918-1919 and killed 40 million people—675,000 of them Americans[1][2]. Its death toll was greater than that of the Great War itself[3]. It began in Kansas with “eighteen cases of influenza of sever type” and spread all over the globe before slowly declining[4]. It affected people in three waves that were caused by different strains of the virus[5]. The Spanish Flu epidemic was terrible in the camps of the AEF and would affect 26-40% of all of the soldiers in the armed forces. Many soldiers died before even crossing the Atlantic according to Carney’s account—Byerly corroborates this death toll in her report[6]. The Red Cross was one of the most important institutions in the fight against the Influenza[7]. It operated around 3000 hospitals and had over 20 million members[8][9]. Part of the reason for the slow stopping of the influenza was the problem of understanding. Physicians believed that “a bacteria…called Pfeiffer’s bacillus” was the cause of the influenza when it was actually a version of the swine flu, and they did not realize that the flu spread by coughing and sneezing[10][11]. Symptoms included “sore throat, exhaustion, headache, aching limbs, bloodshot eyes, a cough and occasionally a violent nosebleed sore throat, exhaustion, headache, aching limbs, bloodshot eyes, a cough and occasionally a violent nosebleed sore throat, exhaustion, headache, aching limbs, bloodshot eyes, a cough and occasionally a violent nosebleed”[12].

The Psychological Tolls of War[edit]

As a result of the devastation that soldiers saw, their writings “often adopted a terse, almost telegraphic style,” that illustrated their psychological distance from what was happening around them[13]. Bellesiles also says “all sense of heroism and glory, or human compassion, died in the trenches of northern France”[14]. The poetry of returning soldiers show this change in style[15]. Shell shock, or PTSD, was rampant in the returning soldiers of WWI, and it affected millions of young men of the age. Between 1917-1918, 159,000 American soldiers were taken out of action because of psychological problems[16]. When the soldiers returned home, they often went to war hospitals to be treated for their wounds and shell shock. In some hospitals, like the Richmond War Hospital in Ireland, soldiers did not need to be declared insane to be treated for shell shock[17]. By eliminating the stigma surrounding PTSD, the doctors at the Richmond War Hospital made mental health care more accessible to returning soliders. According to the report, “more than half of the soldiers admitted reportedly recovered following their time [in the war hospitals];” in many cases related in the report, the soldiers recovered within a few weeks[18]. The quick recovery times show the strength of the young minds involved in the Great War; however, the psychological effects of the war were lasting even if shell shock was not. The Great War’s advanced military technology and astronomical death toll had an effect on the world mindset for decades to come.

  1. "The Pandemic." . : The Great Pandemic : : The United States in 1918-1919 : . US Dept of Health and Human Services. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  2. Reid, Ann H, Jeffery K Taubenberger, and Thomas G Fanning. "The 1918 Spanish Influenza:integrating History and Biology." Microbes and Infection 3.1 (2001): 81-87. Science Direct. Science Direct. Web. 19 Mar. 2015. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1286457900013514>.
  3. "The Pandemic." . : The Great Pandemic : : The United States in 1918-1919 : . US Dept of Health and Human Services. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  4. "The Pandemic." . : The Great Pandemic : : The United States in 1918-1919 : . US Dept of Health and Human Services. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  5. Taubenburger, Jeffery, and David Morens. "1918 Influenza: The Mother of All Pandemics." Emerging Infectious Diseases 12.1 (2006). Print.
  6. Byerly, Carol R. “The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919.” Public Health Reports 125.Suppl 3 (2010): 82–91. Print.
  7. Billings, Molly. "The 1918 Influenza Pandemic." The 1918 Influenza Pandemic. 1 Feb. 2005. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  8. "World War I and the American Red Cross." World War I and the American Red Cross. American Red Cross. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  9. "History of British Red Cross Nurses and Hospitals." History of British Red Cross Nurses and Hospitals. British Red Cross. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  10. "The Pandemic." . : The Great Pandemic : : The United States in 1918-1919 : . US Dept of Health and Human Services. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  11. Taubenburger, Jeffery, and David Morens. "1918 Influenza: The Mother of All Pandemics." Emerging Infectious Diseases 12.1 (2006). Print.
  12. "The Pandemic." . : The Great Pandemic : : The United States in 1918-1919 : . US Dept of Health and Human Services. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  13. Bellesiles, Michael A. A People's History of the U.S. Military: Ordinary Soldiers Reflect on Their Experience of War, from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. New York: New, 2012. Print., p. 197
  14. Bellesiles, Michael A. A People's History of the U.S. Military: Ordinary Soldiers Reflect on Their Experience of War, from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. New York: New, 2012. Print., p. 198
  15. "Twelve Great First World War Poems." The Week UK. The Week UK. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  16. Bentley, Steven. "The VVA Veteran--A Short History of PTSD." The VVA Veteran--A Short History of PTSD. The VVA Veteran, 1 Apr. 2005. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  17. Kelly, Brendan. "Treating Shell Shock in Returning WWI Soldiers." Irish Medical Times 48.42 (2014): 24. Proquest. Irish Medical Times. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
  18. Kelly, Brendan. "Treating Shell Shock in Returning WWI Soldiers." Irish Medical Times 48.42 (2014): 24. Proquest. Irish Medical Times. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.