Bellevue staff in Vichy, France, c. 1918
The cover photo, c. 1918, depicts the Bellevue medical staff in Vichy, France, enjoying a light moment in the midst of the war.
With the outbreak of World War I and the subsequent entry of the United States into the conflict, medical professionals at Bellevue Hospital quickly realized that wounded and injured soldiers would need medical care near the battlefield. The hospital organized a mobile hospital that could be sent abroad. The Board of Managers of the Bellevue School of Nursing and the Board of Directors of the Auxiliary to Bellevue Hospital raised the necessary funds to equip and staff this hospital. Hospitals throughout the city and the United States did the same, but Bellevue was the first to be organized. Although it was not the first to be deployed, the government—in a sign of respect and recognition—designated the Bellevue contingent “United States Base Hospital #1.” The Bellevue doctors, nurses, and orderlies were sent to Vichy on the S.S. Olympic, the sister ship to the Titanic. They set up the hospital in the spa town at the Hôtel Astor and Hôtel Carlton, and remained there until the end of the war. (During World War II, the unit reorganized and, in homage to its earlier service, was designated “US General Hospital 1.”)
Anna Tjomsland, MD, a Bellevue physician, had volunteered to go to France during World War I, but the U.S. Army refused to allow a female physician (although female nurses were permitted). Undeterred, Tjomsland signed on as a contract surgeon with the Red Cross and later wrote of her war experiences in the book, “Bellevue in France.”
Jane Delano, the Director of Nursing at Bellevue, became Superintendent of the United States Army Nurse Corps in 1909. She created American Red Cross Nursing, mobilizing more than 8,000 nurses trained in disaster relief by the time the US entered the war. Delano died in France during a post-armistice Red Cross mission in 1919 and was buried in the Loire Valley. She was later re-interred in Arlington National Cemetery. She was one of 296 nurses who lost their lives in relation to World War I.
Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Hospital Center Archives.