Talk Descriptions

Vancouver Barracks 

World War One 

National Centennial Conference

May 25 - 27, 2018

(Last Updated 25 January 2018)







Talk Title

Talk Description


The American Ambulance in World War I

Even though the United States did not enter World War I until 1917, from 1914 until 1917, many Americans volunteered as ambulance drivers.  They oftentimes raised money to purchase and outfit an ambulance in the United States before heading to Europe.  When the United States eventually entered the war, their efforts pave the way for the U.S. Army to develop its own ambulance corps.

MSG John (Jack) Giesen (ret.)

Buffalo Soldiers in the Trenches

World War I saw the largest mobilization of citizen soldiers in America, since the Civil War.  Despite prejudice, many African Americans volunteered to serve, only to find that many United States commanders did not want them in combat.  Instead, many African American soldiers fought with distinction under command of the French army.

SFC Frazier Raymond (ret.)

The Creation of the National Guard for World War I with a focus on the 41st Infantry Division

The United States had an active Army when the winds of the Great War started blowing, but there was no specific guidance to activate any reserves from the various state militias.  The Militia Act known as the Dick Act of 1902 codified the ability of the United States to create a National Guard and under what circumstances.  Douglas MacArthur as the press liaison for Secretary of War, Newton Baker, was asked for his opinion on the use of these new National Guard units.  He later was assigned as the Chief of Staff for the 42nd "Rainbow" Division, the first National Guard unit to go into battle during World War I. 

Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota militias would make up the 41st Division that was activated for World War I on April 1, 1917 and shipped to France.  Unfortunately, it was not needed as an infantry division and was designated as a replacement division, but the stories of 41st Division during World War I do not stop there.  Many of its units fought and it had a famous commander, George A. White.  This presentation will delve further into National Guard involvement in World War I and will focus on the 41st Division and its role.


Alisha Hamel

Conflicts of Allegiance: Portland’s Irish-Americans, the Easter Rising, and American Participation in World War I

Kathleen O’Brennan, sister-in-law of Eamonn Ceannt (an executed Irish leader of the 1916 Easter Rising), came from Ireland to Portland in 1918 to raise money and publicize the Irish nationalist cause.  While in Portland she became ill, and sought assistance from Dr. Marie Equi, local physician (abortionist) and radical, who was under investigation by the early version of the FBI.  Equi and O’Brennan two became close friends at the time when Equi tried to bribe jurors and eventually went to prison after conviction under espionage laws.  O’Brennan shifted her focus from Irish nationalism to assistance to Equi.     

The local Irish-American community wanted to show loyalty and patriotism towards the United States in time of war, but many in it had severe reservations about doing anything to assist the British in the aftermath of the revolt in Ireland.  Equi chose to refer to herself as a Bolshevik, and counseled her audiences not to support the war effort.  This well-publicized case eventually split the local Irish community, some of whom were repelled by O’Brennan’s association with Equi and the radicals.  The records give insight into the conflicts of allegiance felt by local Irish-Americans during World War I.


Fr. Art Wheeler, C.S.C.

The Forgotten Front: Gender, Labor, and Politics in Camas, Washington, 1913-1918.

The significant of the impact of WWI in Southwest Washington has received little examination by scholars beyond Vancouver Barracks and the wartime industries centered in Vancouver, Washington. This presentation elucidates the broad impact of WWI in Clark County focusing on Camas, Washington. The failure of the unionization effort in Camas, as a result of the war, impacted organization in Pacific Northwest paper mills for nearly a decade. This work presents an excellent new laboratory and case study to explore the intersection of gender, labor, and politics in response to wartime pressures in Southwest Washington.


Bradley Richardson – Historian and Executive Director, Clark County Historical Museum

From Nuns to Nurses: Women and the Army at Vancouver Barracks

Women have played important roles in military health care in Vancouver, Washington, from nursing care provided by the Sisters of Providence of Charity in the mid-19th century to development of a professional Army Nurse Corps in 1901 and beyond. In the early years at Vancouver Barracks, the Sisters of Charity provided important services for both the Army and the community, from tending to those with mental illness to ministering to Catholic soldiers who preferred their care over military doctors. Through the Spanish American War, WWI, and WWII, Vancouver’s nursing corps became increasingly professionalized. In this talk, Donna Sinclair examines military health care at Vancouver and the role of women in its professionalization, while exploring how military nursing affected women’s lives.


Donna L. Sinclair, PhD

The Great War and Camp Lewis

Discussion of the history behind the campaign for and the selection of the American Lake area for the establishment of a National Army Training Camp in 1916-17.  Overview of the construction of Camp Lewis and the training conducted by the men of the 91st and 13th Infantry Divisions.  Review of the role of Camp Lewis during the post-Armistice demobilization and the impact of the installation on the surrounding communities. 

Erik Flint, Director
Heidi Pierson, Curator
Lewis Military Museum

The Sisters of Providence Fall Prey to the Spanish Flu

In 1918, soldiers returning from World War I bought the Spanish Flu with them.  Among the first to render medical aid were the Sister’s of Providence.  Many of the nuns died as a result.  Richard Burrows discusses their actions and the resulting price the order paid.

Richard Burrows

Throwing Money at a Problem Sometimes Works: The 1914 United States Relief Commission in Europe.

World War I began in Europe in 1914.  Even though the United States did not enter the Great War until 1917, its government was deeply concerned.  When the war began, tens of thousands of Americans were stranded in Europe, and could not return home.  Two days later, the United States sent a Relief Commission to Europe, with several million dollars in gold coins to help its citizens return home.  In this case, throwing money at a problem worked.  Within five months, most of the American citizens who wanted to, returned to the United States

Major Jefferson Davis (ret.)

Underhand, unfair and damned un-English. Submarines during the First World War.

Submarine life and submarine warfare during the first world war. How did they work? How were they built? Were they effective? What was life like on a "pig boat", and why did they call them that?  What ties do the Pacific Northwest have with WWI submarines? After all there wasn't really a war in the pacific...  We'll answer these questions for you, and give you a view into "life in dark waters".

STS 1 SS William Lehman USN (ret)
FTG 1 (SS) Scott Lege, USN, USAF (ret

The Visit of the Spanish Lady, the Flu in 1918

The Army's insurance paid out more on soldiers lost to the Spanish Flu than were lost by enemy action. The troops at the Fort and the people in the neighboring town were sure that they were safe. The Army Doctor and the City Medical Officer thought otherwise.

Pat Jollota

The Wobblies in World War I

The IWW didn' t officially oppose America entering WW I, but did see it as the "Bosses War”, a war that did nothing to benefit workers. Nevertheless they were arrested by the thousands under the Sedition Act and were sentenced to up to twenty years in jail.

Edward James (Jim) Moody, PhD