This piece originally appeared in the Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 111, No.1 (Spring/Summer 2016)
As cultural institutions around the world commemorate the centennial of the Great War, the Maryland Historical Society prepares for a new museum exhibit on the arrival of the Deustchland, (Currently on display at MdHS) a German merchant submarine that visited Baltimore in July 1916 as the war raged in Europe. Although the United States remained neutral during that long-ago summer, the country did depend on specialized items such as German high-quality concentrated dye. The submarine docked in the harbor unloaded tons of rubber, nickel, and dyestuffs as Maryland citizens and businesses mobilized the area’s strong industrial base to support European wartime efforts. The federal government considered Baltimore strategically important based on the waterways, railways, and location to Washington D.C. Private companies such as Bethlehem Steel, Baltimore Drydock and Shipbuilding, and Maryland Shipbuilding Company expanded their operations. Almost a year after the Deustchland visit, the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.* War efforts quickly extended into the counties and Camp Meade of Anne Arundel County, Aberdeen Proving Ground and Edgewood Arsenal in Harford County, a gunpowder plant in Cecil County, and an airplane plant in Hagerstown all opened within the year. Sixty-two thousand Maryland men served in the military, almost half of whom participated in the Selective Service program.
This photo essay commemorates the war efforts of Marylanders who served both in Europe and on the Maryland homefront. All photographs are part of the Maryland Historical Society library collections and are available to the public. (Debbie Harner)
*for more on the Deutschland’s visit to Baltimore, see John Emond and Robert Pratt, “War comes to Baltimore: the Voyage of the Deutschland,” MdHS News (Spring 2016): 6–11. Mr. Emond and Mr. Pratt are members of the Maryland Historical Society’s Maritime Committee and contributors to the current exhibit on the Deutschland at MdHS.
In 1917, Camp Meade in Anne Arundel County was created by an Act of Congress as a training site for infantry and battalions. It also housed a depot brigade and a remount station. More than 400,000 soldiers and 22,000 horses and mules received training at Camp Meade during World War I. The most famous troop was the 313th Infantry Regiment, known also as “Baltimore’s Own” because of the large number of men from the city. The 313th was part of American Expeditionary Force (AEF) and saw action in France during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, September to November 1918. The AEF remained in Europe after the armistice to maintain the terms of the agreement, returning to the States in June 1919. Twelve hundred soldiers of the 313th were wounded in battle and seventy-eight men eventually succumbed to their injuries. (Two hundred twenty-three soldiers died on the battlefield.) Battle injuries were not the only threat to soldiers’ lives. Typhoid fever was also a serious illness for soldiers battling in trenches with poor sanitary conditions. In 1909, American soldiers could receive voluntary typhoid inoculation. By 1911, the armed forces mandated that American soldiers receive the vaccination to prevent illness and possibly death. The 313th received vaccinations before leaving for Europe.
Camp Holabird in southeast Baltimore was founded in 1917 as the first motor transport training center and depot for the US Army. Soldiers received initial training at Camp Holabird, but the camp’s major purpose was to receive, repair, store, and prep all vehicles going overseas, including those used by the American Expeditionary Force in France. Most of the buildings were razed after the war ended, but the War Department used the campus for vehicle repair, transport, and testing, a Quartermaster Training School, and after WWII, a Counter Intelligence Center.
U.S. Army General Hospital #2
In 1917, Fort McHenry, the site of the famous Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, took a new role as U.S. Army General Hospital #2, the largest receiving hospital in the United States. Specially equipped and staffed to receive newly injured soldiers in need of an initial diagnosis or treatment, the site held over 100 buildings, 3,000 beds, and a staff of 900 men and women who served as doctors, nurses, medical corpsmen, and aides. Twenty thousand wounded or sick soldiers were treated at U.S. Army General Hospital #2 during World War I.
Civilian doctors and nurses from local hospitals also worked at the hospital which eventually shifted its focus from a receiving hospital to a surgical one, leading to major medical advances in neurosurgery and plastic surgery. A new rehabilitation program taught wounded veterans skills that helped them after their medical release. This is one the first rehabilitation programs created for wounded American veterans and included classes on metal work, carpentry, short-hand, and typing.
Some of the following photographs were taken by Eugene McFee, a staff photographer for the Baltimore American before WWI. He joined the army in 1919 and served as an x-ray technician at U.S. General Hospital #2. His photographs depict soldiers returning from the battle front and recovering from wounds and illnesses, as well as staff members helping soldiers with their rehab. The last soldiers to be released from medical care at the hospital at Fort McHenry occurred in 1923. The buildings that consisted of U.S. General Hospital #2 were torn down in 1927.
Evergreen Red Cross Institute for the Blind
The Red Cross Institute for the Blind was established in 1917 to help soldiers who lost their vision during the war. Mrs. T. Harrison Garrett loaned “Evergreen Jr.” to the government for the Institute, and neighboring land was used from the Kernwood estate. More buildings were constructed for classrooms, activities, and barracks. Soldiers learned new skills such as typing, Braille, massage, and bookbinding. They also participated in recreational activities such as music and dancing and received famous visitors, including General Pershing and Helen Keller. The institute closed in 1925 with Evergreen Jr. returning to the Garrett family. Most of the buildings were razed or used by Loyola College (now Loyola University) in the 1920s.