Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chapter 12 - "Buy Liberty Bonds And Work Like Hell.": Part 5 - "Spanish Flu"

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

The first flu case in the U.S. had occurred at the military base of Ft. Riley, Kansas, in March 1918. Over 1000 soldiers had fallen ill and about 50 had died, but this first wave of illness, at least in the United States, soon diminished. However, many soldiers sent to the Western Front in Europe subsequently fell ill and many died, either having caught the illness in the crowded conditions of troop transport ships or in the trenches. Although it may have started in China and was beginning to devastate large parts of Europe and Asia, war censorship conditions had blocked the news of deaths in France, England, and Germany. When uncensored news of flu cases began to be reported from Spain, a neutral country, the illness became generally known as "Spanish Influenza" or the "Spanish Lady", in spite of protests from Spaniards.
In August a second wave of influenza in the U.S. started around Boston, where many troops and sailors had returned from abroad. The illness began to spread to the civilian population. Very shortly, it was raging through the East Coast into the population centers of New York and Philadelphia, although cities like Chicago and rural areas throughout the U.S. were also affected.

From March 1918 until February 1919, the "Spanish flu" would kill over 600 thousand Americans. More U.S. soldiers died from the flu than were killed in combat. The worldwide death toll from the 1918 flu has been conservatively estimated to be at least 20 million. It was the most devastating and deadly episode of contagious disease since the Black Death, which killed 1/3 of the population of Europe in the 1300s. Although public health officials understood it as a communicable disease, they did not know its exact source—an especially virulent form of virus which would only be discovered a decade later. They had no effective medical treatments or preventive measures. The illness came on very rapidly. A healthy man might begin to have symptoms in the morning and be dead by nightfall, drowned in the fluids of his blood-drenched lungs. And the number of deaths seemed to be increasing 
exponentially. In Boston for example, 46 people died in the week ending September 14. 1,214 people died in the week ending October 5. (27)  

On October 4, all U.S.F.A. meetings in the Georges Creek Region of Western Maryland were cancelled. It soon became clear that mass meetings anywhere in Maryland or West Virginia were probably unsafe. Alfred's speaking tour there was finished. (28) On October 7, he traveled back to Washington, D.C. and got reassigned to the Kansas City, Missouri District of the U.S.F.A. On October 11, he took a train to Chicago, where he met with Yurkowski and got the Polish Army uniform from him.(29) On October 14 he arrived in Kansas City where the next day he met Ira Clemens, the head of the U.S.F.A. regional office.  

The Kansas district, which included large parts of the Great Plains and Texas, had not suffered the number of flu deaths experienced elsewhere. But a day after his arrival, 
after addressing one joint meeting of miners and mine operators, Alfred had no work to do. Clemens could not find suitable engagements for Alfred, since public meetings had been banned in many of the areas where he would speak. Since the Fuel Administration was having this problem in other areas where its speakers couldn’t address large groups, it was decided to reclassify them as “production inspectors” who would actually visit mines and talk to individual operators, miners, and small groups. On Oct. 22, Alfred took a train  from Kansas City and arrived the next day in Bridgeport, Texas as a United States Fuel Administration production inspector. 

For the next few weeks, Alfred traveled around Texas visiting mines in Bridgeport, Thurber, Strawn, Lyra, New Castle, Eagle Pass, etc. Although going into the mining pits was rigorous, especially with his lame leg, Alfred enjoyed it. In his talks with individual miners, he continued the message he had developed in his speeches. He also spoke to small groups of 15 to 20 men. In his travels he visited or passed through Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Where permitted, he gave speeches to gatherings as large as 150, 200, or even 300 people. Ongoing concerns about influenza in Texas kept gatherings from 
becoming much larger than this, although Texas had missed the brunt of the epidemic and the nationwide death tolls had begun to abate by the first week of November.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
27. Crosby, p. 60. 

28. " 'Flu' Cancels Fuel Meetings". Cumberland Evening Times, 10/4/1918. AKDA 1.39. 

29. Telegram, AK to Yurkowski. AKDA 5.247. 

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