War Letters, 1917-1918: From Dr. William T. Shoemaker, A.E.F, in France, and His Family in Philadelphia


William Toy Shoemaker, M.D., was the most respected ophthalmologist in Philadelphia in 1917, and he was the senior eye surgeon at the Pennsylvania Hospital when the U.S. entered that Great War. The Pennsylvania Hospital was invited to form one of the first of the 500-bed Base Hospitals, and it was thus ready to go into action when war was declared on April 6, 1917. Designated Base Hospital No. 10, it was mobilized on May 15, 1917, and sailed to Europe. When he arrived in France, he wrote, “The nearer we get to the theatre of war, the more horrible the whole thing becomes. We are now in it and you can bet we will all be glad to get out of it when it is over.” Over the next twenty-one months, Base Hospital No. 10 at Le Treport, France, recorded that it received 47,811 wounded and sick, with 538 deaths. It buried six of its own staff members. This book is based on the handwritten letters that Dr. Shoemaker wrote to his wife and children, and the letters that they sent to him. To his wife, he was “Dear Billy;” he signed “Bill” in his letters to her. To his five children, who in 1917 ranged in age from twenty-one to fourteen, he was “Father,” “Dad,” “Pa,” or “Daddy.” Major Shoemaker was discharged from service at Hoboken, New Jersey, on December 30, 1918, having been in service for nineteen and one-half months. Very few, if any, letters such as these have previously been published from World War I, that were exchanged between an American serviceman and his wife and family.

George J. Hill, M.D., D.Litt., Captain, Medical Corps, USNR (ret)

2020, 8½x11, paper, 266 pp.

ISBN: 9780788403552