Dowling Replies to Chamberlain's Camp Criticisms


Dowling Replies to Chamberlain's Camp Criticisms


Wooton, Paul




1918 January 31


Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia





Refutes Charges of Senator and Declares Hospitals Marvels of Efficiency.

By Paul Wooton.
Times-Picayune Staff Representative.

Washington, Jan. 30. — After a conference with the surgeon general of the army and other prominent officials interested in health and sanitary conditions at the military camps, Dr. Oscar Dowling, president of the Louisiana State Board of Health, has given to Washington correspondents and to Washington papers a statement defending vigorously medical officers and enlisted men of the Medical Corps. As a result of Senator Chamberlain’s charges a wave of criticism against the Medical Corps has been sweeping the country. In an effort to counteract this sentiment, Dr. Dowling made public his opinion, formed after intimate association with a number of encampments and cantonments. His statement, which bears the caption, “Chamberlain’s Cruel Camouflage” is, in part, as follows.

“One of the most cruel mistakes or wanton acts in the history of Congress, one that will cause more heartaches and greater anxieties to a larger number of people of the United States than anything that has happened since the war began, was the publication by Senator Chamberlain of the two letters citing neglect and maltreatment of sick and dead soldiers in the army cantonments.

“Granting that every word of the gruesome details cited in the letters were facts, it would seem the right method to employ by a man who really desires to correct conditions and to bring deserved punishment to the guilty soldiers, would have been to submit the letters to the secretary of war for investigation and action. But Senator Chamberlain refused to give the identity of the accusers and declined to give the names of the offenders, or the location of the camps in which the crimes were said to have been committed. As a consequence the whole army of a million and a half of men stands accused of gross neglect and maltreatment of sick and dead soldiers, and until Senator Chamberlain allows the cases to be investigated, there are many who will doubt the incidents occurred as alleged.”

“To stage and act deliberately a part in order to convince the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, sweethearts and friends of the million and a half of gallant young men who are giving up all, maybe their lives, for their country, that the United States soldiers are being mistreated and neglected when sick, and even after death, in a clever effort to distract attention from his mistake, is unbelievable conduct for a man who holds the high position of United States senator.


“If Senator Chamberlain is sincere in desiring to know the facts about health conditions in army cantonments and of how sick soldiers are treated he should visit some of the cantonments. He should take with him a physician who has had experience in sanitation or in hospital management; and after getting all the fact, then publish them. Millions of the good people of this country now are distressed with the belief that our brave soldiers are being mistreated, and it is Senator Chamberlain’s duty as a man and as a senator to give the people the facts—not damn the whole army, from the secretary of war down to the humblest private, because he heard of instances where two out of a million and a half soldiers have neglected their duty.

“If Senator Chamberlain will go to the army cantonments he will find the most comfortable, the best equipped, the best managed temporary hospitals that have ever cared for the sick of an army in this or any other country. Senator Chamberlain will find at the head of each of these army hospitals a regular army surgeon who has had years of experience in the administration of military hospitis. He also will find in each of them a number of leading physicians, surgeons and specialists in all branches of medicine, from various medical centers of the United States, who have given up practice ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 annually, to serve their country on salaries of from $2000 to $3000 per year. There are also in each of these hospitals a number of younger physicians, selected because of their hospital experience, to assist in the medical and surgical work. Senator Chamberlain would find in each of these hospitals 60 per cent more of the very best nurses in the United States. Only the highest class of nurses have been selected. He will find the sanitary arrangements in and surrounding the thirty-three cantonments in better condition than in the suburbs of any city, or in the rural districts of any state in the Union.


“No temporary military camps ever had purer water supplies, the installation of which, in such a short time, has been a marvel of engineering skill; and as yet, according to the statement of an army engineer, no case of a water borne disease has occurred among the million and a half men in cantonments. Another thing that never has been done before is the hot and cold shower baths, sufficient for every soldier in the army to have a bath every day, if he desires it.“Senator Chamberlain may find a few incompetents in the Medical Corps, but the number is so few that they amount to nothing when compared to the 20,000 medical officers and 80,000 enlisted men who are efficient, and who are doing their full duty in caring for our sick soldiers. No organization made up of human beings is perfect. Not even the Senate.

Considering the stupendous undertak ing of getting a million and a half men in training camps in the time given, it simply is wonderful what has been accomplished by the army. British and French officers who have inspected our camps, marvel at the efficiency of the American army, and the English papers every week call attention to how much more the United States has done the first year of the war than the British did in the same time. There are so many splendid, excellent things that have been done by the army, and so few mistakes have been made, it would seem the chairman of the Senate military committee should tell the people of our country of that which would encourage us to win the war, rather than distress and discourage us by his criticism of the few instances of inefficiency and incompetency that have occurred.

“If Senator Chamberlain is sincere, if he has a heart and desires to relieve the minds of the millions of men and women whom he has distressed by publishing the two gruesome letters, with the inference that the whole army, from the secretary down, is guilty of neglecting and mistreating our soldiers, let him get all the facts and publish them. Until he does this he will stand before the American people as guilty of the most cruel camouflage the war has brought out.”

Original Format




Wooton, Paul, “Dowling Replies to Chamberlain's Camp Criticisms,” 1918 January 31, WWP22222, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.