Ole Larson's Folks

In case you can’t stay for all 600 words of this post, let me sum it up: It seems that in the course of one four-day battle (perhaps more), Smith Larson went from a healthy, able-bodied Marine private, to a terminally ill veteran with an uncertain diagnosis, bouncing from one hospital to another for the 2-1/2 years until his death. Not “wounded,” though, and board-certified as “not disabled.” Hmmm.

Let’s put together what we’ve found so far about Smith’s medical history. From his birth on 22 April 1877, until 17 Sept. 1918 (following the WW1 Battle of St. Mihiel), no health information whatever has surfaced as of yet. That only proves how little we know. In his Marine records from 1906-1910, the full 4-year hitch, I found no medical notes other than a couple of “no sick days” at various posts. However, for the eleven months following Sept. 1918, we have a flurry of clues. First, revisiting a couple of the “muster rolls” posted earlier.

Sept. 1918

Sept. 1918

The one above shows that Smith was in combat for all four days of the St. Mihiel offensive, then on the next day “sick in hospital” for two days before transferring to Replacement Battalion on 18 Sept.

The entry below is different from most of the muster rolls, in that it details a period of several months, and seems to concentrate on medical events.

July 1919

July 1919

I’ll try to translate the abbreviations; accuracy not guaranteed: 16th Company: Field Hospital #16 jd (joined?) 9/17/18 from Command, Enteritis, transferred 9/19/18 to Base Hospital #45, Base Hospital #56 jd? 9/19/18 Bronchitis, Base Hospital #45 jd? 9/19/18 Enteritis acute, transferred 9/24/18 to HT? I was thinking HT might stand for something meaning an active unit, but “Abbreviations.com” lists “Hospital Treatment” and that also makes a lot of sense.  But if that is so, it seems there would be more abbreviations about what hospital and where.

After a gap of about six weeks, we pick up the thread: Field Hospital #1 jd? 11/5/18 from Command, Exhaustion, transferred 11/5/18 to Field Hospital #16, Field Hospital #41 jd? 11/10/18 from Field Hospital #1, transferred 11/11/18, Base Hospital #59 transferred 12/14/18, sailed 7/19/19 on Kroonland, arrived 7/30/19.

If all, or even some, of those entries are hospitalization records, Smith apparently spent at least Nov. 5 to Dec. 14 staying or being transferred from hospital to hospital, and also the period of Sept. 17 to Sept. 24. The period from Sept. 24-Nov. 5, ominously, is unaccounted for. Still unknown whether Smith was hunkered down sick somewhere, or in the thick of combat  so intense that record-keeping may have broken down, in the Battle of Meuse-Argonne (the “Argonne Forest”).

There is one more hospitalization record, coming two days before Smith sailed for home. It appears on one of the muster rolls, and also on this little card.

1919 hospital order

1919 hospital order

The other document confirms that the “CH” stands for “Camp Hospital.”

Finally (well, actually dated five days earlier than above, but still the final insult), there is this finding of the disability board.

Disability board

Disability board

How ironic is that? All it mentions is hemerhoids (sic), -preexisting(!) Disability denied.

On a much lower standard of reliability, we have his obituary from the LaCrosse newspaper. It states that Smith suffered from “chronic heart trouble” and “a rare blood disease.” Not very informative. Also that his leg was amputated two weeks before his death. An interesting clue, however tragic.

Perhaps more important, the obit also says Smith was “in the hospital practically all the time since his discharge.”

Hopefully more info may surface later; for now, I am moving on to other areas. I pray that Smith rests in peace throughout all this grilling.

Finding Private Larson
Smith's Good Conduct