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    Saluting Our Veterans, With Gratitude for Their Service

    Liberty Trucks of the 314th Supply Train May 1917 at Camp Funston

    WWI Liberty Trucks 1917 | www.thefamilycurator.comMy grandfather, Walter George May was a young Army soldier stationed at Camp Funston near Manhattan, Kansas in the spring of 1917.

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    Denise: As someone with a deep interest in the 1918 Flu pandemic, I find your photo and explanation that your grandfather was at Camp Funston in 1917 quite interesting. If your grandfather was at Funston through late 1917 and survived, then he was a lucky young man. Camp Funston was the 2nd largest cantonment (place where troops were temporarily assigned quarters) in the U.S. at the time and housed up to 56,000 new, inexperienced troops on average. The Camp was within Ft. Riley and was thrown together in just a few weeks in 1917. The 1917-18 winter was particularly cold and the tents and barracks were inadequately heated and very overcrowded. The Army did not have enough clothing to keep the troops warm and lack of bedding also made the men huddle unusually close to try to keep warm. Perfect conditions for the spread of disease -- and that is just what happened! By early March 1918 men started coming down with the flu (called lagrippe then) and pneumonia in horrific numbers. Within 3 weeks more than 1,100 soldiers were sick enough to require hospitalization and thousands more were treated at infirmaries around the base. 237 men got pneumonia -- 20% of those hospitalized. Other than Haskell, Kansas, Camp Funston was the first known outbreak of the deadly 1918 influenza in the U.S. and many histories of the 1918 Flu give Funston a central role in the development and spread of the disease. Many authorities believe the 1918 flu likely began in the U.S. and the disease can be tracked from Camp Funston out to other bases and cantonments and then to Europe and to the U.S. civilian population. If you have any letters or a diary or such from your grandfather while at Camp Funston -- especially if he was there into the winter and next spring -- it could make fascinating reading if you view it in terms of any sicknesses he might mention. My maternal grandfather was at Watervliet Arsenal in NY near Albany and I have a postcard from him to his mother telling her he was recovering for lagrippe and was one of scores of men that went down with the illness. He survived the early wave of the flu which was less lethal than later. If you want to know more about Funston and the flu, check out John Barry's "The great Influenza."

    November 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn D. Tew

    John, Thanks so much for reminding me about this topic. I read Flu by Gina Kolata some years ago and had forgotten the role Camp Funston played. I don't have much from my grandfather's war years except a few photo albums, and you've encouraged me to pull them out for another look. I'm also going to check out Barry's book. If GPa did survive the flu, it may explain why that side of the family is so unbelievable healthy... good genes! ~ Denise

    November 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterFamily Curator
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