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This LibGuide highlights the archival collections associated with Emory's involvement in WWI and WWII. These collections are housed in the Historical Collections of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library.
Unless noted otherwise, these collections are available in-person only.
Seen Above: "To Base Hospital 43, the Emory Unit." From History of the Emory Unit, Base Hospital 43, U. S. Army, American Expeditionary Forces, by Joel Chandler Harris.
In 1917, U.S. Army Surgeon General William Gorgas called for the recruitment of medical personnel during World War I, just after the United States entered the war. The local group of 24 officers, 65 nurses, and 154 enlisted personnel trained for several months before being deployed to Blois, France in 1918. They were called the Emory Unit due to the large number of personnel who came from Emory University.
Base Hospital 43, also known as the Emory Unit, was a civilian medical regiment comprised of volunteer physicians, nurses, and other enlisted personnel. Consisting of members from the Emory community, the Emory Unit served in Blois, France, during the First World War and in North Africa and southern France during World War II. The history and achievement of the Emory Unit can be told through the stories of its members, from the founder of the Emory Unit to the nurses, officers, and personnel.
The Emory Unit treated over 37,000 patients during both World Wars, including American and Allied servicemen, prisoners of war, and civilians. The information and photographs below provide a glimpse into the lives of those local men and women who risked much to provide medical care to the brave soldiers when they needed it most.
On July 3rd, 1918 the Emory Unit relieved Camp Hospital 25 at Blois, France. They stayed in Blois through the signing of the Armistice in November, and was relieved on January 21, 1919. By that time, the Emory Unit had treated over 9000 cases in its six-month duration in Blois, ranging from gunshot wounds and mustard gas burns, to pneumonia and meningitis.
Organized by Major Edward C. Davis in 1918, the Emory Unit was a Red Cross Hospital, officially known as Base Hospital 43, consisting of 500 beds, 24 officers, 65 nurses, 154 enlisted personnel, and 6 civilians.
Seen Above: Sign post at Base Hospital No. 43, Blois, France
Seen Above: "When the Emory Unit Went to War;" article by Dr. Frank K. Boland, Chief of Surgery at Base Hospital 43. From Emory Alumnus, September 1930. Major E.C. Davis is pictured in article.
Major Edward Campbell Davis was formerly a surgeon during the Spanish-American War and co-founder of Emory Crawford Long Hospital (now Emory University Hospital Midtown). He conceived and organized the Emory Unit, officially known as Base Hospital 43. He served as Medical Director of the Emory Unit, overseeing Base Hospital 43 until April 1918. During its six months in Blois, France, Base Hospital 43 was said to have the lowest mortality record of any similar hospital in the American Expeditionary Forces during WWI. The official history of the Emory Unit, written by Joel Chandler Harris, Jr. was dedicated to E.C. Davis, who was commonly known as the "The Daddy of the Emory Unit". For his service during World War I, Edward C. Davis would later be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
Born in Albany, Georgia in 1868, Edward Campbell Davis received his M.D. from the University of Louisville in 1892. Years later in 1898, he served his country as a surgeon with the rank of Major in the Spanish-American War. After the war, E. C. Davis practiced medicine in Atlanta, opening the Davis-Fischer Sanatorium that would later become the Emory Crawford Long Hospital (now Emory University Hospital Midtown). During this time, he held the rank of senior medical officer in the Georgia Militia.
Seen Above: Leila Anderson
Leila Anderson graduated from Wesley Memorial Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1907. She alternated her time in Havana, Cuba and Macon, Georgia before enlisting in the U. S. Army Nurse Corps in April 1918. Anderson was assigned to the Emory Unit and served at Base Hospital 43 in Blois, France. Ms. Anderson was assigned to Annexes 29, 13 and Ecole Superieure. Ecole Superieure was added on August 31, 1918, and was to be the largest of the three surgical hospitals of the Emory Unit. Annex 29 served medical cases while Anne 13 served both orthopedic and eye, ear, nose and throat cases.
Evidence of Leila Anderson’s service, including the uniform she wore and her personal scrapbook are located at the Woodruff Health Sciences Historical Collections and provide a unique window into the experiences of nurses in the Emory Unit, ranging from casual moments with colleagues, to hospital scenes and images of devastation caused by war. After the war, she was Superintendent of Nurses of T. C. I. Hospital in Copper Hill, Tennessee.
Anderson wore the standard Red Cross uniform used during World War I, a gray cotton crepe dress worn with white pique collar and cuffs. In gray chambray, it was the uniform of the Red Cross public health nurses for all seasons.
Finding Aid for Leila Anderson Collection, 1907-1919
Seen Above: Nurses quarters located just a few steps from Annex No. 29
Activation and staffing of a base hospital was also the paramount need of the War Department for World War II. As early as June 1940, Emory University was requested to assist in this effort once more, and the Emory community answered. This version of the Emory Unit was more mobile than its predecessor, stationed in Algeria and Italy before moving to Aix-en-Provence, France after the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. Allied Forces had recently taken this area of southern France; German doctors and nurses staffed the hospital when the Emory Unit arrived.
Finding Aid for the Emory Unit Subject File, 1930-1945
Seen Above: Emory banner presented to the Emory Unit, WWII, Left to Right: Lt. Col. Ira A. Ferguson, 2nd Lt. Loyce Douglas, Col. LeRoy D. Soper, C.O., 1st Lt. Susan W. LaFrage, Lt. Col. R. Hugh Wood, 2nd Lt. Minnie O. Persons
Seen Above: Major Thomas Sterling Claiborne
Born in Louisiana in 1908, Thomas Sterling Claiborne received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Virginia before spending his internship at Massachusetts General Hospital and residency at the Lahey Clinic in Boston, specializing in Internal Medicine and Cardiology. In 1942, Claiborne felt the call to serve his country after the United States entered World War II. He volunteered to serve in the Emory Unit, 43rd General Hospital. Claiborne served as the chief of cardiology section, overseeing cases of rheumatic fever in Algeria, which he was later published on the topic.
Claiborne was also selected as one of eight medical officers to take part in the invasion of southern France in August 1944. The medical officers, each with two enlisted men, boarded separate cargo ships, successfully reaching France while the territory was being reclaimed by Allied Forces. Claiborne and the Emory Unit would soon reach Aix-En-Provence. During the first ten days of operation, the 43rd GH was the only general hospital functioning in southern France. Major Claiborne kept a diary that provides a detailed description of his time during the war.
Seen Above: Ambulances bringing patients to the 43rd General Hospital, Oran, Algeria, October 1943