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); they would not move to
Washington until late September. 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.
Letters from October mention the effects of the influenza pandemic that killed millions in 1918.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (143,193 Bytes)
1918-10-09 (October 9, 1918)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Early Career in California and World War I, 1908-1919
Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. And I shall not see you unless you should appear as a joyfu1 surprise to spend the week
end here. If you do I hope you will bring Peggy with you. I joined the officers' club last evening, and I am now eating
at the new mess where there are many officers wives and a considerable number of small children of assorted sizes. So I now
have a place where I can entertain you and Peg should you appear on short notice. Moreover I think I could persuade Mrs.
Buxton to take you into her home. I think that the room recently occupied by the lady of the bath is now vacant. So come
when you can.
I saw a most beautiful sunset this evening from the club porch. A gray sailing vessel was silhouetted against a patch of
livid red in a great gray cloud. And while we paused to gaze at it the gray cloud became flecked with patches of bright red
which became more and more numerous until the whole western sky had changed from a cold gray to a burning red, and finally
the color died out almost as fast as it had spread, and we went into the dining room to eat to the music of the piano.
I bought a couple of army blankets a day or two ago at 4.50 each, and I am mailing them to you to keep for me and use to keep
you warm. Aren't they nice? I have two other blankets and they are probably in the dunnage bag which I left with Victor.
They were finally put with the furniture and ought to be accessible on the top of the pile.
Colonel Snow phoned this evening that you were all right, and that he heard that I had gone to the hospital. Perhaps I had,
when he tried to reach me over the phone, but it was not as a patient. He says that he and Mr. Embree of the Rockefeller
Foundation will come down on Friday night and will arrive Saturday morning.
I did not hear the "spirituals" at Hampton Institute last Sunday, for I found out that the school was quarantined
and that no services were being held. Moreover I felt miserable during the afternoon with headache and slight aches in the
back. I thought that the grip germ had me and that the next day would see me adding to the statistics of the epidemic and
occupying a bed in the Embarkation Hospital. But next day I felt almost as good as new, and I have no excuse at all for loafing.
I hope that my few hours of discomfort gave me at least a temporary immunity. I hope that all of you will escape the "flu"
Dear Margaret, please do something a little different from other days to celebrate our anniversary. I remember so vividly
how wonderful you were in the parlor of the Derby St. house at the time of our ceremony. You took up my consciousness so completely
that I remember little else of that occasion. And you have taken up a great deal of mp consciousness ever since, no matter
whether we were close together or many miles apart, until I can scarcely think of myself as an entity independent of my better
half. I only wish that I could make you happier and be more worthy of you.
Lots and lots of love to you. I am very sorry that long delays in making arrangements for my change of station have made
it impossible for us to celebrate our wedding anniversary together in appropriate fashion.
Good Night, my own Sweetheart and lovely Wife, I just adore you and wish I could be with you.