Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives Blog

The Hospitals of the Mount Sinai Health System in the First World War

Nurses and doctors of St. Luke’s Hospital Evacuation Hospital No. 2

April 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I. Like many institutions in American society, the American hospital system and its doctors and nurses were rapidly mobilized to join the war that had been raging in Europe since the summer of 1914. The Mount Sinai Archives has now installed a display in the Annenberg Building north lobby outlining the activities of the hospitals in the Mount Sinai Health System.

In New York City, The Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and The Roosevelt Hospital (today’s Mount Sinai West) all contributed to the war effort by establishing overseas units affiliated with their respective hospitals, and many doctors at Beth Israel Hospital volunteered individually. The records, photographs and correspondence on display in these cases reflect the experience of a war that defined a generation.

For the medical officers and administrators in charge of overseas hospital units, organizing effective hospital service on a scale never before seen was an immense logistical challenge. And for the individual doctors and nurses working with patients, who saw at close hand the terrible destruction inflicted by new methods of trench warfare and aerial combat, all while dealing with a world-wide pandemic of influenza, the war was an experience of medicine at its most fundamental, as they struggled under harsh conditions to relieve human suffering.

The items on display include images of the staff from the hospitals in their World War I roles; a scrapbook from Marion Moxham, a nurse from Ireland who joined with the Mount Sinai unit, Base Hospital No. 3; letters home from physicians to the Beth Israel Hospital administration; dog tags; a medal that was awarded to members of the Mount Sinai unit; images of the wounded and wards of St. Luke’s Evacuation Hospital no. 2 and a photo of the mascot of the Roosevelt Hospital group.

Memorial Day

The cemetery at Base Hospital No.3 for Americans who died at the hospital.  circa 1918

The cemetery at Base Hospital No.3 for Americans who died at the hospital, 1918

Memorial Day is set aside to remember the servicemen and women who have died while in service to their country. Ceremonies started after the Civil War and it became a national holiday after World War II.  Since injury and death are a part of war, doctors and nurses have always been witnesses to the ravages of battlefields.  The image above shows the American cemetery at Base Hospital No. 3, the Mount Sinai Hospital-staffed unit that served in France.

While the deaths happened abroad, the biggest impact was felt at home. It was not only families that marked their losses, but institutions as well.  By World War II, service flags were a familiar patriotic symbol.  The photo below shows Mount Sinai’s flag hanging from 1184 Fifth Avenue.  The number on the bottom shows how many Mount Sinai doctors, nurses, staff and trustees were in the service at that time.  The gold star at the top showed how many had died. By the end of the war, Mount Sinai’s numbers had grown to 802 served, nine dead.

The Mount Sinai Hospital service flag, 1944

The Mount Sinai Hospital service flag, 1944

Those nine are recognized here:

  • Nils Carson
  • Sydney C. Feinberg, MD
  • Andrew Goldstein
  • Jerome W. Greenbaum, MD
  • Eugene M. Holleb, MD
  • Goodell G. Klevan, MD
  • Bernard Ritter, MD
  • Helen Rogers, RN
  • Stanley J. Snitow, MD