November 24, 1918 – Quarantine

1918.11.24

The 301st Engineers had marched into the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on November 23, 1918 and set up camp in the town of Bous.  But the next day, 100 years ago today Company A was sent to another town:

“Here we halted in a few days, and here we lived the darkest chapter of our lives!  Exhausted by the march, weakened through exposure and lack of proper food, our company was attacked by an epidemic of influenza, and before its virulence our ranks fell away like chaff in the path of a storm.  During that week – Thanksgiving week – many a comrade, many a dear friend and pal, crept away to the field hospitals, there to pay the great sacrifice, or if he was fortunate, to recover.”

– Our Memoirs: Company A, 301st Engineers

From November 24 until December 1, Company A was quarantined due to this severe outbreak of influenza.

During this period, 5 men of Company A died of Spanish Influenza.  Many others recovered from the disease but were not well enough to resume the march to Germany and returned to the U.S.  Here are the men from Company A who died of influenza and pneumonia caused by the flu during the quarantine:

  • Corporal Theodore Haussler
  • Private Fred Waring
  • Private Konstante Berestechki
  • Corporal Walter J. Karpowich
  • Wagoner Herbert Castle

Spanish Influenza was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people worldwide including an estimated 675,000 Americans  It was especially hard on the American Army:

“In Europe and in U.S. Army training camps, 1918 pandemic influenza killed around 45 000 American soldiers….”

– Death from 1918 pandemic influenza during the First World War

by Peter C. Wever and Leo van Bergen

It stalked into camp when the day was damp

And chilly and cold.

It crept by the guards

And murdered my pards

With a hand that was clammy and bony and bold;

And its breath was icy and mouldy and dank,

And it killed so speedy

And gloatingly greedy

That it took away men from each company rank.

From The Flu by Private Josh Lee, 1919

How did Jay survive?  It’s very likely his bout with the flu back in Ohio during his basic training gave him an immunity to the outbreak that flattened Company A.  In any case, he survived while many of the company didn’t make it.

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