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Interpreting the Evidence

American Hospital in France

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load American Hospital in France, World War I, n.d. in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
American Ambulance Hospital, Neuilly, Paris, France, World War I, n.d.

Historical Context

A group of Americans living in Paris took it upon themselves to establish a hospital at Neuilly, France in 1914. To staff the hospital, they pushed American universities to form surgical units that would rotate every three months. Some of the men involved began to push for a medical preparedness drive back home in the United States so that more hospitals could be created. Colonel W. C. Gorgas, the surgeon general and head of the Army Medical Corps was supportive of this idea, but at that point, the American Red Cross became involved and said that because the U.S. was not at war, they should be responsible for organizing aid abroad.  After negotiating, the two groups compromised by allowing the Red Cross to organize base hospitals with the commissioned/enlisted men of the Army Medical Reserve Corps as personnel. By April 1917, the Red Cross had already organized 33 base hospitals.  Soon after U.S. entry, the British claimed that they needed doctors desperately.  Six base hospitals were immediately mobilized and were sent to aid the British. The Americans took over some of the already organized British base hospitals and went to work saving lives. The British base hospitals were typically located near the coast and close to a railroad so that casualties could arrive easily.  Port locations were also important so that men who needed further treatment could be evacuated. The base hospitals were large facilities, often made out of preexisting buildings like seaside hotels. To staff a base hospital, typically about 265 people were required and over 100 of these were Red Cross nurses. The Red Cross base hospitals that were organized served as the backbone of American hospital service in France during WWI. 

Essential Question
How do countries care for wounded soldiers?

Check for Understanding
Describe the treatment of these soldiers using evidence from the photograph.

Historical Challenges
Research Base Hospital 21 to learn about how one of the Red Cross Base Hospitals took over for the British during WWI.

Interdisciplinary Connections
English: Write a poem from the standpoint of one of the injured soldiers in the photo.