11
Mar
09

On This Day, March 11, The Spanish Flu

March 11, 1918

First cases reported in deadly influenza epidemic

Just before breakfast on the morning of March 11, Private Albert Gitchell of the U.S. Army reports to the hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, complaining of the cold-like symptoms of sore throat, fever and headache. By noon, over 100 of his fellow soldiers had reported similar symptoms, marking what are believed to be the first cases in the historic influenza epidemic of 1918. The flu would eventually kill 675,000 Americans and more than 20 million people (some believe the total may be closer to 40 million) around the world, proving to be a far deadlier force than even the First World War.

The initial outbreak of the disease, reported at Fort Riley in March, was followed by similar outbreaks in army camps and prisons in various regions of the country. The disease soon traveled to Europe with the American soldiers heading to aid the Allies on the battlefields of France. (In March 1918 alone, 84,000 American soldiers headed across the Atlantic; another 118,000 followed them the next month.) Once it arrived on a second continent, the flu showed no signs of abating: 31,000 cases were reported in June in Great Britain. The disease was soon dubbed the “Spanish flu” due to the shockingly high number of deaths in Spain (some 8 million, it was reported) after the initial outbreak there in May 1918.

The flu showed no mercy for combatants on either side of the trenches. Over the summer, the first wave of the epidemic hit German forces on the Western Front, where they were waging a final, no-holds-barred offensive that would determine the outcome of the war. It had a significant effect on the already weakening morale of the troops–as German army commander Crown Prince Rupprecht wrote on August 3: “poor provisions, heavy losses, and the deepening influenza have deeply depressed the spirits of men in the III Infantry Division.” Meanwhile, the flu was spreading fast beyond the borders of Western Europe, due to its exceptionally high rate of virulence and the massive transport of men on land and aboard ship due to the war effort. By the end of the summer, numerous cases had been reported in Russia, North Africa and India; China, Japan, the Philippines and even New Zealand would eventually fall victim as well.

The Great War ended on November 11, but influenza continued to wreak international havoc, flaring again in the U.S. in an even more vicious wave with the return of soldiers from the war and eventually infecting an estimated 28 percent of the country’s population before it finally petered out. In its December 28, 1918, issue, the American Medical Association acknowledged the end of one momentous conflict and urged the acceptance of a new challenge, stating that “Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all—infectious disease.”

“First cases reported in deadly influenza epidemic.” 2009. The History Channel website. 11 Mar 2009, 10:29 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=338.

 

On This Day

537 – The Goths began their siege on Rome.

1665 – A new legal code was approved for the Dutch and English towns, guaranteeing religious observances unhindered.

1824 – The U.S. War Department created the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Seneca Indian Ely Parker became the first Indian to lead the Bureau.

1861 – A Confederate Convention was held in Montgomery, Alabama, where a new constitution was adopted.

1888 – The “Blizzard of ’88” began along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard shutting down communication and transportation lines. More than 400 people died.(March 11-14)

1935 – The German Air Force became an official organ of the Reich.

1946 – Communists and Nationalists began fighting as the Soviets pulled out of Mukden, Manchuria.

1948 – Reginald Weir became the first black tennis player to participate in a U.S. Indoor Lawn Tennis Association tournament.

1965 – The Rev. James J. Reeb, a white minister from Boston, died after being beaten by whites during a civil rights disturbances in Selma, Alabama.

1985 – Mikhail Gorbachev was named the new chairman of the Soviet Communist Party.

1990 – Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union. It was the first Soviet republic to break away from Communist control.

1993 – Janet Reno was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the first female attorney general.

1993 – North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty refusing to open sites for inspection.

1997 – An explosion at a nuclear waste reprocessing plant caused 35 workers to be exposed to low levels of radioactivity. The incident was the worst in Japan’s history.

1998 – The International Astronomical Union issued an alert that said that a mile-wide asteroid could come very close to, and possibly hit, Earth on Oct. 26, 2028. The next day NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that there was no chance the asteroid would hit Earth.

 

March 11, 1941

FDR signs Lend-Lease

On this day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program, which provides money and materials for allies in the war, goes into effect.

The Lend-Lease program was devised by Roosevelt as a means of aiding Great Britain in its war effort against the Germans, by giving the chief executive the power to “sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of” any military resources the president deemed ultimately in the interest of the defense of the United States. The reasoning was that if a neighbor was successful in defending his home, the security of your home would be enhanced. It also served to bolster British morale by giving them the sense that they were no longer alone in their struggle against Hitler.

The program was finally authorized by Congress and signed into effect on March 11, 1941. By November, after much heated debate, Congress extended the terms of Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union, even though the USSR had already been the recipient of American military weapons and had been promised $1 billion in financial aid. By the end of the war, more than $50 billion in funds, weapons, aircraft, and ships had been distributed to 44 countries. After the war, the Lend-Lease program morphed into the Marshall Plan, which allocated funds for the revitalization of “friendly” democratic nations-even if they were former enemies.

“FDR signs Lend-Lease.” 2009. The History Channel website. 11 Mar 2009, 10:41 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6738.

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