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Interpreting the Evidence

Diagram of Red Cross Hospital Hierarchy

  1. Load World War I Diagram of Red Cross Hospital Hierarchy, Battlefield to Convalescence, c. 1917. in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
World War I diagram of Red Cross hierarchy of hospital zones: field hospital, evacuation hospital, Base Hospital, and Convalescent and General hospital zone, c. 1917.

Historical Context
While many organizations supported American and Allied soldiers during World War I, few did so to the length or extent of the American Red Cross.  Throughout the war, the American Red Cross grew from a humble 107 chapters made up of almost 17,000 adult members in 1914 to an incredible 3,864 chapters with well over 20 million adult members, 11.4 million junior members, and more than 8 million volunteers by 1918.  Members ranged from financial supporters to front-line nurses and surgeons.  While the American Red Cross did furnish comfort and recreational goods for soldiers, the organization is perhaps most renowned for the medical services it provided.
The diagram shown illustrates the network of medical facilities that the American Red Cross would use to support wounded soldiers.  The regimental aid stations, field dressing stations, and field hospitals would provide care to soldiers near the front lines in the zone of advance, while larger facilities were established in safer locations further behind the lines or even outside of the country.  These facilities were linked by a network of ambulances, trains, and ships.
In all, the American Red Cross had nearly 24,000 nurses active in 25 different countries during World War I.  As some personnel operated close to the front lines, the organization suffered about 400 casualties during the war.  However, due to the brave service and selfless support of tens of millions of medical and support members, the American Red Cross was able to provide care and services to more than 4.7 million American and Allied military personnel during World War I.

Essential Question
What role do non-profit organizations play in times of war?

Check for Understanding
Describe and evaluate the process by which the Red Cross aided the war effort using evidence from the diagram.

Historical Challenges
The American Red Cross did much more than provide medical care for wounded soldiers. An active Junior Red Cross also contributed aid to those affected by World War I both during and after the war years. What were some of the services the Junior Red Cross provided? Is the Junior Red Cross still active today? What opportunities do you have to help those affected by war?

Interdisciplinary Connections
Family and Consumer Sciences: Make teddy bears, blankets, or pillows to donate to children of soldiers. Make a cheerful card to send along with your donation.

English: Write a letter to the American Red Cross or United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) asking what you can do to help families of service members.

Math: Based on the diagram, what is the minimum number of people that 7 base hospitals could care for?

Art: Make a recruitment poster for the American Red Cross (historic or modern). The poster should attract attention, have only a limited amount of text, and send a positive message.