After the U.S. entered World War I, Dr. Sawyer accepted a commission as a major in the Medical Reserve Corps in December 1917.
In January 1918, he moved to Washington DC to take up his duties in the Venereal Disease Section of the Surgeon General's
Office, leaving his family behind in California. In June, after returning from a few days of vacation with his family in Michigan,
he received orders to go to Newport News, Virginia, to serve as Supervisor of Non-Military Activities. In this post he was
the military liaison with local authorities concerned with keeping order in a town full of new army recruits. Sawyer's
military service was his first extended separation from his wife and children (though not his last); his affectionate letters
show that he missed them greatly, but also provide extensive commentary on life in the Washington area during the war, and
on various activities of military and civilian public health organizations.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
5 (378,162 Bytes)
1918-07-11 (July 11, 1918)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Early Career in California and World War I, 1908-1919
Haven't I been reforming? I've sent not more than one letter in two days on the average for a week.
I am enclosing my last letter from Gertrude. In a few days Mrs. Falconer will be back and then Gertrude will know what she
Enclosed is a wrist watch for Peg and a pin for Gertrude. Last time Peg got a pin and Gertrude a wrist watch. I can't
think of anything nice enough for you, Margaret.
By the way, a bill for about four million dollars has just gone through Congress like a land slide and is before Pres. Wilson.
It creates a Division of Venereal Diseases in the U.S. Public Health Service, provides a subsidy for the states, gives some
extra money to the Secretaries of War and Navy for V.D. control, and appropriates for research work in V.D. I don't know
what more we could do to make the V.D. program permanent. The bill was looked after by Mr. Moore of Portland Oregon,
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but all of us had a chance to criticize and amend. I stood out for calling the Division in the P.H.S., a Division of Venereal
Disease, and the bill probably went through that way. So the action of the Calif. State Board of Health in changing the name
of the Bureau there to "Social Hygiene" is no longer serious, although somewhat embarrassing. I have not heard who
was responsible and why, but I have written Dr. Walters for particulars. This change happened after many other states had
followed suit and had adopted practically without exception the term you and I had decided on. I think the term has its disadvantages,
but it certainly is straightforward and clear.
Yesterday I had an hour's conference with Mr. Homer Ferguson of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. He is
much interested in our work and I expect to interest his chief surgeon in establishing a venereal disease clinic for the men
and doing educational work among them.
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To-day I went over to Norfolk with Col and Mrs. Lynch and Lt Col and Mrs. Cumming. Col Lynch and I visited the Naval Base
and I saw the medical aide to the Commandant about the V.D. work. I also saw Surgeon Young (formerly of Chicago) U.S.P.H.S.
and Dr. Converse (U.S.P.H.S.) recently of S.F. It was a nice trip, but a dreadful little tub of a boat. In California we
would drag it into the estuary at Alameda and let it rot in the clam flats. Here it is the regular ferry between two cities
of over 100,000 population each.
The Naval base is on the site of the former Jamestown Exposition. The buildings are permanent and handsome, in contrast to
the temporary structures being thrown up everywhere by the army. While crossing Hampton Roads I saw a captive bal[l]oon way
off near the ocean. There
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were bal[l]oons and aeroplanes in and near the hangars at the naval base.
Mrs. Cumming asked whether you would come to Newport News.
I received several communications about the freight, which is on the way. The bill of loading was announced in a letter from
the quartermaster in Washington. I wrote to Victor and Meads asking that one of them designate a ware-house to which the
furniture can be delivered. I received also letters from the S.F. Quartermaster and from the students express. The Q.M.
asked questions which I cannot very well answer, because the express company did not tell how many pounds were books and how
many were other personal effects. So we shall have to pay for a larger share of the crating, etc., than otherwise. I shall
study the whole thing further and may have to carry on correspondence with the company
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before I can decide about the amount of freight. I shall get only the freight allowance of captain because my notice of promotion
went via Calif. and reached me one day after my orders to active duty. However it will not mean very much money and it looks
as if most of the freightage, if not all, will be paid by the army.
It is nice and cool. Last night I woke up and pulled a blanket over me. So you see the weather is fine for summer.
We move into our new quarters to-morrow and things ought to begin to move.
I expect a letter from you about to-morrow, and it will be very welcome.