At night when things were quiet in the “jaw ward,” the wounded doughboys would take out their small trench mirrors and survey the damage to their faces.
Noses had been shot off in the fighting at Saint-Mihiel. Chins were destroyed in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Mouths had been torn apart in the battle of Belleau Wood.
It was 1918, and Clara Lewandoske, a 25-year-old Army nurse from Wisconsin, was caring for these cases in a Red Cross hospital in Paris. “They were wonderful boys,” she recalled, and rarely complained.
But at night, if she saw one with a mirror, she would go to his bedside and start chatting. “Get them off of the subject,” she said. “Invariably, you’d get them to sleep.”
In time, they got used to their injuries. “We all did,” she said. “It was just one of those things.”
Lewandoske and her “boys” were among the millions of Americans who served in World War I — soldiers, sailors, nurses; white, black and Latino — who were caught up in the cataclysm, which the United States entered 100 years ago on April 6.
Among them was an Army sergeant from Iowa named Arnold Hoke, who would one day become Clara’s husband.
Read more at the Washington Post.