The Endangered History Project is proud to announce its first book, Going the Extra Yard; An Army Doctor’s Odyssey, by board member Dr. C.E. Campbell.
Here’s the forward that Executive Director Don Ray wrote for the book:
The fire broke out shortly after midnight on the morning of July 12, 1973. Before the smoke cleared, it had devoured the entire top floor of a massive building in the St. Louis suburbs. However, it was the destruction of its precious contents that would have a profound impact on millions of people for years to come, perhaps, for centuries.
The sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center in Overland, Missouri, was where the National Archives and Records Administration kept the bulk of the personnel files of United States soldiers who served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War. It also housed the records of many men and women who mustered out of, or retired from, the United States Air Force between 1947 and 1964.
The impact of that fire is greatest on historians, ancestors, and other researchers who are trying to piece together information about American combatants of The Great War, World War I. Although they’re rapidly dwindling in numbers, the survivors of the Second World War and of the conflict in Korea are opening up – many for the first time – and are describing their wartime experiences. Their oral histories are filling in the blanks left when their personnel files went up in flames in 1973. But it’s too late to hear the stories of the soldiers of World War I.
Oral historian David L. Clark stressed the importance of recording the recollections of family members. “It’s like being in a library that’s burning down,” he said, “You’ve got to move fast.”
For people who want to piece together the individual details of World War I, two libraries have burned – the National Personal Records Center’s World War I files and the first-hand memories that the veterans eventually took to their graves.
The next best resources are the letters and the journals that the soldiers wrote at the time. In fact, in many ways these documents can be better than recollections – they offer details, observation, and feelings that vanish from a person’s memory with age.
One such journal by an Army physician, Colonel Charles M. Hendricks, MD, was the embryo that would become this ground-breaking book. More than a half-century after Dr. Hendricks’ passing, his grandson, C. E. Campbell, has done more than publish the journal – he has painstakingly reconstructed much of the fascinating and productive life of this remarkable physician.
Indeed, what began as my friend Campbell’s attempt to fill in some of the blanks of his grandfather’s life turned into an odyssey of its own – a four-year quest that uncovered astounding stories of the remarkable doctor’s serendipitous encounters and liaisons with the famous as well as the infamous. Campbell’s exhaustive research pieced together, for the first time, the broken tiles of a mosaic that depicts an unsung pioneer of medicine and more.
The author had known little or nothing about how his grandfather had socialized with and had given medical treatment to the legendary General Francisco “Pancho” Villa as well as to other soldiers, leaders, and victims of the Mexican Revolution in 1911. Nor was he aware of the ongoing friendship and professional relationship his grandfather had enjoyed with the man who led an army in pursuit of the infamous Pancho Villa, General John J. Pershing and his young aide, Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr. That friendship, Campbell discovered, would lead to his grandfather’s enlistment into the Army and his important service under General Pershing when he was commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during and after World War I.
Dr. Hendricks’ descriptive journal observations and interpretations are the golden core of this book. It’s rare indeed to be able to read the entries that run the gamut from anticipation and curiosity to seasoned reflection and well-thought-out analyses of what he would learn were the realities of one of the most savage and deadly front-line wars of modern times. The observations and description stand out in another important way – they are the entries of a well-educated officer who was able to see the brutality of the battles from the front lines as well as from the medical aid stations and field hospitals. But never, it seems, was he ever far enough from the action to not have to be dodging bullets and bombs. Nor was he immune from the weapon that set World War I apart from most other conflicts – the use of deadly gas.
Because he was responsible for implementing and supervising the steps that soldiers had to take to prevent the exposure to the deadly gasses, Dr. Hendricks was able to add a perspective that adds significantly to today’s knowledge of that barbaric weapon. His passion to learn innovative ways of helping the gas victims breathe and survive lead directly to his post-war determination to improved treatment for all kinds of respiratory challenges.
Although An Army Doctor’s Odyssey is the story of the life and accomplishments of Dr. Hendricks, it became, as well, a journey of personal discovery of its author, Dr. Campbell. He only knew his grandfather for a relatively short time – he was 13 when Dr. Hendricks died in 1953. However, the doctor’s influence would follow his grandson for life. Campbell’s studies led him in the direction of public health education and to a successful career teaching health and chemistry courses in schools and universities.
I was fortunate to be one such student when Campbell was a rookie teaching health education classes in a southern California high school in the mid-1960s. He’s one of the very few teachers that I would seek out as an adult so that I could continue learning from him. It wasn’t difficult to keep track of him, though. He would frequently show up on radio and television discussing his latest health-related books.
Our friendship as adults allowed me to learn more about Campbell’s sometimes headstrong determination to solve problems or complete projects. At times, he reminds me of the Jack Klugman television character, Dr. Quincy, Medical Examiner – strong willed and on the surface at least, invulnerable to outside attempts to derail him or even slow him down. In time, I learned of his modesty and his own search for the meaning of his life. And, the son of one of the most popular teachers in his community was equally determined – driven, you might say – to pursue a career in education – in his mid-20s he was teaching high school classes by day, college classes by night and wrapping up his doctorate degree at UCLA.
After he retired from teaching, a promise he had made to himself back when he was thirteen, filled the void in his life that teaching had opened up. Actually, his plan to honor the grandfather he had so admired had become an obsession in itself.
Campbell devoured more than 100 books about World War I and combat missions, books about the history of the military and books about the Mexican Revolution. He traveled to do research at university libraries, museums, newspaper morgues, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives.
He found himself astounded to learn about the advances his own grandfather had made in the treatment of wounded soldiers, about the physician’s lifelong pursuit of improving the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases – including even the common cold – and about the organizations that he had founded or co-founded to raise the standards of the medical profession itself.
In poring over his grandfather’s published articles, his letters, and the transcripts of his numerous speeches, Campbell began to marvel over the low-keyed, gentle side to this man of unrelenting determination. In his four years of research, Campbell was able to do what few biographers accomplish – he was able to understand the thoughts and emotions behind his grandfather’s quiet momentum. He had come to know the man so well that he could effectively recreate the man’s thoughts and words.
The academic side of C. E. Campbell provided another element that magnetizes this book. His thorough research of the Mexican Revolution, World War I, the history of gas warfare, and the history of American medicine makes this book come alive in a way no other history book has. It has forever changed the way I see the war that rarely finds itself into classroom discussions anymore. It has revived my own desire to learn about my own grandfather who was in the medical corps in The Great War – almost certainly in one of the units that practiced the techniques that then-Major Charles Hendricks had introduced. It makes me wonder how many lives my own grandfather might have saved thanks to Campbell’s grandfather.
Because of this book, Charles Hendricks’ name can now find itself among the names of other pioneers. At the same time, C. E. Campbell has, himself, changed forever. It’s like a bell that one cannot un-ring – he has found the roots of the patience, warmth, determination, modesty, and persistence he first observed in his grandfather when Campbell was a child. Whether he wants to or not, he cannot help but strengthen those qualities in himself – maybe even embrace them and make them more a part of his own life.
If I may speak for the readers of this book, I must say that I could not digest this compelling story without also holding the accomplishments and characteristics of Dr. Charles M. Hendricks up like a mirror and reassessing my own life.
The prognosis? I have a lot of work to do in my own life, but I am already a better person because I came to know Charles Hendricks and got to know my former teacher C. E. Campbell even better.
Don Ray, Executive Director, The Endangered History Project, Inc.
The book is available for $24.98 plus $5 shipping and handling. You can purchase it online by going to the “donate” link.