Year
1917

Psychiatrist reports on the phenomenon of shell shock

Well-known psychiatrist W.H. Rivers presents his report The Repression of War Experience, based on his work at Britain s Craiglockhart War Hospital for Neurasthenic Officers, to the Royal School of Medicine, on this day in 1917. Craiglockhart, near Edinburgh, was one of the most famous hospitals used to treat soldiers who suffered from psychological traumas as a result of their service on the battlefield.

By the end of World War I, the army had been forced to deal with 80,000 cases of “shell shock,” a term first used in 1917 by a medical officer named Charles Myers to describe the physical damage done to soldiers on the front lines during exposure to heavy bombardment. It soon became clear, however, that the various symptoms of shell shock?including debilitating anxiety, persistent nightmares, and physical afflictions ranging from diarrhea to loss of sight?were appearing even in soldiers who had never been directly under bombardment, and the meaning of the term was broadened to include not only the physical but the psychological effects produced by the experience of combat.

The most important duty of doctors like Rivers, as prescribed by the British army, was to get the men fit and ready to return to battle. Nevertheless, only one-fifth of the men treated in hospitals for shell shock ever resumed military duty. Rivers’s patients included the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, who later wrote of his fellow inmates of Craiglockhart: These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished/Memory fingers in their hair of murders/Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Amanda Knox convicted of murder in Italy

On this day in 2009, 22-year-old American exchange student Amanda Knox is convicted of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in 2007 in Perugia, Italy. Knox received a 26-year prison sentence, while her 25-year-old Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaelle Sollecito, who also ...read more

The mystery of the Mary Celeste

The Dei Gratia, a small British brig under Captain David Morehouse, spots the Mary Celeste, an American vessel, sailing erratically but at full sail near the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship was seaworthy, its stores and supplies were untouched, but not a soul was ...read more

President Wilson travels to Europe

President Woodrow Wilson departs Washington, D.C., on the first European trip by a U.S. president. After nine days at sea aboard the S.S. George Washington, Wilson arrived at Brest, France, and traveled by land to Versailles, where he headed the American delegation to the peace ...read more

Bush orders U.S. troops to Somalia

President George H. Bush orders 28,000 U.S. troops to Somalia, a war-torn East African nation where rival warlords were preventing the distribution of humanitarian aid to thousands of starving Somalis. In a military mission he described as “God’s work,” Bush said that America ...read more

Hostage Terry Anderson freed in Lebanon

On this day in 1991, Islamic militants in Lebanon release kidnapped American journalist Terry Anderson after 2,454 days in captivity.As chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, Anderson covered the long-running civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). On March 16, 1985, ...read more

Viet Cong attack Tan Son Nhut airport

A Viet Cong unit penetrates the 13-mile defense perimeter around Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut airport and shells the field for over four hours. South Vietnamese and U.S. security guards finally drove off the attackers, killing 18 of them in the process. One U.S. RF-101 reconnaissance ...read more

Washington bids farewell to his officers

On this day in 1783, future President George Washington, then commanding general of the Continental Army, summons his military officers to Fraunces Tavern in New York City to inform them that he will be resigning his commission and returning to civilian life.Washington had led ...read more

Oliver Kelley organizes the Grange

Former Minnesota farmer Oliver Hudson Kelley founds the Grange, which became a powerful political force among western farmers.Though he grew up in Boston, Kelley decided in his early twenties that he wanted to become a farmer. In 1849, he booked passage on a steamboat for St. ...read more

Somerset Maugham sails for Pago Pago

On this day in 1916, W. Somerset Maugham departs on a voyage to Pago Pago. Characters he meets on the voyage, including a prostitute and a missionary, inspire the story “Miss Thompson,” which is published in his 1923 story collection, The Trebling of a Leaf. The story becomes ...read more

Smog kills thousands in England

Heavy smog begins to hover over London, England, on this day in 1952. It persists for five days, leading to the deaths of at least 4,000 people.It was a Thursday afternoon when a high-pressure air mass stalled over the Thames River Valley. When cold air arrived suddenly from the ...read more

Engagement ends at Waynesboro

On this day in 1864, eight days of cavalry clashes in Georgia come to an end when Union General Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate General Joseph Wheeler skirmish for a final time at Waynesboro. Although the Rebels inflicted more than three times as many casualties as the Yankees, ...read more