Paints Horrors of War’s Work

Wood County Reporter/February 4, 1915


Nellie Bly Describes Awful Scenes Witnessed in Red Cross Hospital.

Soul Shrinks From Sight

Wounded, Frozen, Starved, Thousands Are Dying in Agonizing Torture and Other Thousands Are Being Rushed to the Same Fate.

Ten languages are spoken in the hospital, and nurses, German, Austrian, Gulitzin, Hungarian and Servian, are employed, so that patients will always have nurses who speak their language.

They have also a series of chapels, Catholic, Protestant and Hebrew. Off each ward are small soundproof rooms called “death chambers.”

Patients on the point of death are removed to these rooms to spare the feelings of their fellow comrades. Smoking rooms, glass partitioned, are also an adjunct to each ward.

This hospital accommodates 2,000 wounded. The kitchen is superb and needs a column to properly describe it. They showed with pride a large American refrigerator. The doctors and nurses each have their sleeping, eating and rest departments. One large hall, gaily decorated with the national colors, is used for the amusement of the convalescent. Every kind of shows are given and concerts.

Men were being received from a train, so we went down to see them. We talked to them, as detachments of 20 were taken at a time to the bath.

I cannot praise too highly the wonderful executive ability of those who conceived and established the astounding perfection of these two hospitals. Nothing is wanting to aid and assist nature to save and heal what man is so inhumanly torturing and destroying.

We had scarcely reached the Astoria when I had a telephone call from Doctor MacDonald.

Called to Hospital

“I want you to get into a taxi and come here, Miss Bly,” he said, “I have received just now the worst cases I have ever seen in my entire life. They may interest you.”

I rushed to the American Red Cross hospital. It is located in Mexico street in a large building, formerly used as a home for the blind. I flew in the door and up the stairs over which floats a 50-foot American flag.

Doctor MacDonald, grave and sad, met me at the head of the stairs.

“Come into the operating room,” he said, taking my hand. “I have the most frightful case I ever saw.”

Mr. Schriner, who had enough misery for one day, had tried to induce me not to come. Failing he had come along. Silently he kept at my side.

The operating room was in confusion. On the floor was blood. Filling pails and in piles were bloody bandages. I tried not to see. I began to wish I had not come.

Four American Red Cross nurses stood gravely around an operating table. Doctor MacDonald pointed to two bandaged stumps. I could see one foot was gone at the ankle, the other apparently half way to the knee.

“This is a Russian,” said the doctor. “He was wounded by a shot through his body. For eight days he lay in the trench unattended. His feet froze. He was put on a freight train, and when we received him an hour ago his feet had dropped off, doubtless in the car, for we never saw them, and the last blood the poor fellow had was pouring from his open veins. We carried him here and bandaged him up, but he cannot live many minutes longer. He has no pulse now. Come look at him.”

A Dreadful Sight

Come, look, reader, with me! My whole soul shrank from the sight. The doctor took me by the hand. I kept my eyes away from the face I was afraid to look upon.

“Look at this body,” said the doctor. I looked—I shuddered. The clay-pallor of death. The ribs cutting the skin. Bones, bones, no flesh anywhere.

The head turned. Great, hollow black eyes looked into mine. Transfixed, I stood, heartsick, soul-sad. Those great hollow eyes searched mine. They tried to question me. They spoke soul language to soul. The lips parted, a moan, a groan of more than physical agony. He spoke. I could not understand. His words were a sound my ears shall never forget. The appeal, the longing, the knowledge!

“What does he say?’ I cried, unable to stand it. “Can no one understand? Can’t you find someone to speak to him?”

A nurse smoothed his forehead. An attendant held fast the pale, pale hands.

“The attendant understands,” the doctor said; and to him, “What does he say?”

Asked for Children

“He is asking for his children,” was the low reply.

The hollow, black eyes turned again to search mine. I could not endure their question. I had no answer to give.

“Let me go!” I said to the doctor.

The low moans seemed to call me back, but I walked steadfastly toward the door and down the corridor.

“Could emperors and czars and kings look on this torturing slaughter and ever sleep again?” I asked the doctor.

“They do not look,” he said gently.

“Only by witnessing such horrors can one realize them.”

“Miss Bly,” cried Von Leidenforst, running down the hall, “that poor fellow just died!”

This is only one case. Travel the roads from the scene of battle; search the trains; wounded, frozen, starved thousands are dying in agonizing torture—not hundreds, but thousands. And as they die thousands are being rushed into their pest-filled trenches to be slaughtered in the same way.

(Source: Library of Congress, Chronicling America,