Notícia

Woodrow Wilson pegou a gripe durante uma pandemia durante as negociações de paz na Primeira Guerra Mundial

Woodrow Wilson pegou a gripe durante uma pandemia durante as negociações de paz na Primeira Guerra Mundial

Na noite de 3 de abril de 1919, o presidente Woodrow Wilson começou a ter uma tosse violenta. Sua condição piorou rapidamente a ponto de seu médico pessoal, Cary Grayson, pensar que o presidente poderia ter sido envenenado. Grayson mais tarde descreveu a longa noite passada ao lado da cama de Wilson como "uma das piores pelas quais já passei. Consegui controlar os espasmos da tosse, mas seu estado parecia muito sério. ”

O culpado não era o veneno, mas a mesma cepa potente de gripe apelidada de "gripe espanhola" que mataria cerca de 20 milhões em todo o mundo, incluindo mais de 600.000 nos Estados Unidos. A doença de Wilson piorou ainda mais com o tempo - o presidente ficou acamado no meio das negociações mais importantes de sua vida, a Conferência de Paz de Paris para encerrar a Primeira Guerra Mundial.

Antes da gripe, um impasse

Wilson chegou às negociações de Paris armado de sua estratégia visionária de “14 pontos” para alcançar a paz mundial. Incluiu apelos por tratados de paz abertos e transparentes, liberdade e autodeterminação para todas as nações europeias, desarmamento e, acima de tudo, a criação de uma “associação geral de nações” - mais tarde chamada Liga das Nações - para prevenir ativamente todas as guerras futuras.

Mas partes do esquema de pós-guerra de Wilson foram inflexivelmente opostas pelas outras principais potências na Conferência de Paz de Paris, a saber, França e Grã-Bretanha. O primeiro-ministro francês, Georges Clemenceau, entrou em confronto aberto com Wilson sobre o nível de punição econômica a ser infligida aos alemães. Clemenceau exigiu bilhões em indenização pela perda monumental de vidas e propriedades francesas nas mãos dos alemães, mas Wilson queria poupar a Alemanha de tal humilhação e se concentrar em construir a Liga das Nações.

Em abril, as negociações de Paris chegaram a um impasse, e foi exatamente nesse momento que Wilson adoeceu. O presidente ficou confinado ao leito por cinco dias lutando contra uma febre de 40 graus e tosses violentas, enquanto seu médico, Grayson, mentia para a imprensa que não era nada além de um forte resfriado.

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Doenças neurológicas pós-gripe

ASSISTA: A gripe espanhola foi mais mortal que a Primeira Guerra Mundial

A gripe “espanhola” de 1918 foi notória por atacar agressivamente o sistema respiratório. A infecção foi pior em jovens e previamente saudáveis, cujo sistema imunológico poderia reagir exageradamente ao vírus e afogar os pulmões com fluido, matando pacientes em questão de dias. Mas para aqueles que sobreviveram ao ataque inicial, alguns também apresentaram sintomas neurológicos.

Mesmo depois que suas febres ardentes diminuíram, as vítimas da gripe descreveram "manifestações pós-influenzal", delírios psicóticos e visões que resultaram de danos ao sistema nervoso, diz John Barry, autor de A grande gripe: a história da pandemia mais mortal da história.

“O estudo mais abrangente da pandemia de 1918 observou como os distúrbios neurológicos eram comuns”, diz Barry. “Eles ficaram atrás apenas do pulmão. Isso incluía psicose, que geralmente era temporária. ”

De várias fontes, parece que Wilson sofreu efeitos semelhantes durante sua luta contra a gripe na Conferência de Paz de Paris.

“Ele ficou paranóico”, diz Barry. “Wilson achava que os franceses tinham espiões ao seu redor. Ele era bizarramente obcecado por seus móveis e automóveis, e quase todo mundo ao seu redor notava isso. ”

O principal porteiro de Wilson, um homem chamado Irwin Hoover, escreveu mais tarde que "algo estranho estava acontecendo na mente [do presidente]" e que "[uma] coisa é certa: ele nunca mais foi o mesmo depois desse pequeno período de doença."

O primeiro-ministro britânico, Lloyd George, foi visitar Wilson durante sua recuperação no Hôtel du Prince Murat e rotulou a condição de Wilson de "colapso nervoso e espiritual" no meio das acaloradas negociações de Paris.

Embora ocorrências de “psicoses de gripe” tenham sido relatadas por médicos já no surto de gripe russa em 1889, não havia tratamento para a doença, que geralmente passava por conta própria. Uma hipótese é que o distúrbio neurológico experimentado por Wilson e outros foi causado por um inchaço do cérebro (encefalite) associado à gripe.

Wilson Capitula em Paris

Quando Wilson finalmente estava bem o suficiente para voltar a ingressar na Conferência, ele mal se parecia com o homem que havia lutado tão obstinadamente por seus princípios. A gripe havia enfraquecido seu corpo e sua mente, e Wilson simplesmente não tinha força ou vontade para se manter firme.

“O impacto foi muito dramático na minha opinião”, diz Barry. "Wilson foi inflexível, insistindo nos '14 pontos ', autodeterminação e' paz sem vitória '. Clemenceau até o acusou de ser' pró-alemão '. De repente, Wilson cedeu em todos os 14 pontos exceto a Liga das Nações, e apenas porque Clemenceau jogou-lhe um osso. ”

Para a equipe de negociação de Wilson em Paris e seus apoiadores em casa, o Tratado de Versalhes, assinado em junho de 1919, foi uma traição a tudo o que Wilson defendeu e preparou o terreno para mais conflito e morte em solo europeu.

William Bullitt, assistente do Departamento de Estado e leal adido de Wilson nas negociações de Paris, apresentou imediatamente sua renúncia.

“Eu fui um dos milhões que confiaram com confiança e implicitamente em sua liderança e acreditaram que você tomaria nada menos do que‘ uma paz permanente ’baseada em‘ justiça altruísta e imparcial ’”, escreveu Bullitt. “Mas nosso governo consentiu agora em entregar os povos sofredores do mundo a novas opressões, sujeições, desmembramentos - um novo século de guerra.”

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A maioria dos '14 pontos 'de Wilson foram abandonados

A avaliação do jovem assessor foi tragicamente presciente. Os historiadores concordam que uma das principais causas da ascensão do partido nazista de Adolf Hitler foi a humilhação e o desespero econômico infligido ao povo alemão pelo Tratado de Versalhes. Em vez de proteger o mundo de guerras futuras, o Tratado de Versalhes ajudou a pavimentar o caminho para a Segunda Guerra Mundial.

A doença de Wilson desempenhou um papel significativo e perturbador nas negociações de paz de Paris? Barry disse que certamente teve um impacto.

“Você não pode provar absolutamente que ele não teria cedido a tudo de qualquer maneira, mas se você sabe alguma coisa sobre Wilson, não há nada em seu comportamento que sugira que ele era um comprometedor em questões como essa”, diz Barry. “Muito pelo contrário. Ele insistia que era 'o jeito dele ou a estrada' em quase tudo. ”

Voltando aos Estados Unidos, as coisas só pioraram para Wilson. Primeiro, o Congresso rejeitou a participação americana na Liga das Nações, o último remanescente sobrevivente dos “14 pontos”, e então Wilson sofreu um derrame debilitante do qual nunca se recuperou totalmente.

ASSISTIR: O Último Dia da Primeira Guerra Mundial no Vault de HISTÓRIA


Como a gripe Woodrow Wilson de 1918 e # 038, a pandemia do TrumpVirus de 2020, trouxe o fascismo para a América

pandemia TrumpVirus de 2020, que está matando tantos de nós hoje, tem raízes profundas na Primeira Guerra Mundial e na gripe Woodrow Wilson, que matou 50 milhões na época.

Junto com a morte em massa, os dois vírus trouxeram o fascismo para a América. Para evitar um replay completo, precisamos saber como.

Como a catástrofe atual do TrumpVirus, a pandemia global de 102 anos atrás era quase totalmente evitável. Não foi um acidente inocente ou ato da natureza. Ele se espalhou a partir das decisões fascistas de um homem: Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson foi eleito presidente em 1912 como um democrata liberal. Ele se vendeu como um homem de paz. Mas ele era (como Donald Trump) um apoiador da supremacia branca do KKK. Em 1915, sem um bom motivo, ele enviou tropas dos EUA para a Cidade do México para “dar uma lição” aos “nossos irmãozinhos marrons”.

Em 1916, Wilson venceu por pouco a reeleição com o slogan "Ele nos manteve fora da guerra". Então ele nos arrastou.

O envolvimento dos EUA na Primeira Guerra Mundial foi extremamente impopular. Seu oponente mais conhecido foi o lendário socialista Eugene V. Debs, nascido em Indiana. Trabalhadores e sindicalistas às dezenas de milhões o viam como um “santo americano”. Incansável, incorruptível e carismático, ele atraía grandes multidões onde quer que falava e pode muito bem ter se tornado nosso primeiro presidente socialista em 1920.

Mas em 11 de setembro de 1918, usando duvidosos poderes ditatoriais, agentes federais prenderam Debs por falar contra a guerra. O "Red Scare" ao estilo Gestapo de Wilson prendeu, agrediu e assassinou ilegalmente inúmeros organizadores de base, ativistas e trabalhadores. Bandidos federais armados invadiram casas particulares, destruíram escritórios e atacaram manifestantes pacíficos. O nascente Federal Bureau of Investigations de J. Edgar Hoover prendeu cidadãos que apenas criticavam Wilson em conversas privadas ou carregavam suas próprias citações em cartazes em marchas públicas.

O ataque federal de Wilson de 1918-1920 à Constituição dos Estados Unidos foi tão totalitário quanto a conquista da Alemanha pelos nazistas em 1933 ou o golpe chileno patrocinado pela CIA em 1973. Seu objetivo era destruir um Partido Socialista Americano amplamente adotado como uma alternativa legítima ao Democratas / republicanos, e para garantir que Eugene Debs não se tornou presidente.

Em 1920, Gene obteve 900.000 votos enquanto estava trancado em uma cela de prisão federal. Se ele estivesse livre para fazer campanha, com seu movimento de base intacto, ele poderia ter desarraigado o sistema bipartidário da América e transformado nossa economia política para sempre.

Mas também havia um vírus à solta. Cerca de 650.000 americanos morreram na infame pandemia da “Gripe Espanhola” de 1918. Como Trump em 2020, Woodrow Wilson causou sua propagação.

As opiniões divergem sobre a origem da pandemia global. Mas o vírus que matou tantos americanos surgiu na zona rural do condado de Haskell, no sudeste do Kansas.

O historiador John Barry acredita que o vírus pode ter passado de um porco para um fazendeiro. À medida que a gripe se espalhava, um médico local alertou as autoridades federais de saúde. Se eles não tivessem se distraído com a guerra e tivessem respondido com atenção médica razoável, a área teria sido rapidamente colocada em quarentena. Poucos teriam morrido. O vírus pode ter sido uma pequena nota de rodapé.

Mas Wilson estava batendo os tambores da guerra. Um jovem fazendeiro trouxe a doença para Camp Funston do Exército (mais tarde Fort Riley) a 300 milhas de distância. O vírus surpreendentemente contagioso se espalhou por um campo superlotado e apertado com mais de 50.000 recrutas. Soldados, enfermeiras e cidadãos comuns que adoeciam pela manhã costumavam morrer ao anoitecer.

Por qualquer padrão de sanidade, o acampamento e a região deveriam ter sido isolados imediatamente. Mas Wilson estava decidido a guerrear. Seu quartel construído às pressas e absurdamente lotado se estendia por todo o país e se tornou a rede perfeita para reprodução em massa e disseminação de doenças transmissíveis. Incontáveis ​​soldados enfiados em trens mortais espalharam a gripe de Wilson como um incêndio. Mesmo navios mais mortíferos o levaram para o exterior.

Incontáveis ​​rapazes e moças até então saudáveis ​​foram lançados em valas comuns ou no oceano muito antes de verem a batalha. Os sobreviventes espalharam o vírus na Europa e, em seguida, em todo o mundo. Ficou conhecida como “Gripe Espanhola” porque apenas a Espanha, que foi neutra na guerra, informou abertamente sobre o hediondo número de mortos, que subiu para milhões, em seu próprio solo.

Wilson aumentou a aposta organizando comícios em massa para vender títulos de guerra. Na Filadélfia, cerca de 200.000 se reuniram. Então, pelo menos 15.000 morreram rapidamente. Os cadáveres foram empilhados nas ruas, onde ratos e cães selvagens logo perambulavam. Remédios, caixões e túmulos desapareceram quando a equipe médica caiu morta. Famílias enlutadas esconderam os corpos em casa e depois os jogaram em valas comuns sem identificação.

Como hoje, nos remansos devastados pela doença de Trump, a própria civilização pairava à beira do colapso.

Sozinho entre as grandes cidades dos Estados Unidos, São Francisco limitou o número de mortes prematuras em 1918 com máscaras e distanciamento social. Mas quando a gripe voltou no outono, o ceticismo e o cansaço venceram, e os mortos se amontoaram.

Focada na guerra, a rede de acampamentos militares de Wilson foi perfeitamente projetada para espalhar a gripe, que ele contraiu em Paris em 1919. Doente de morte, ele aprovou duras reparações alemãs que alimentaram a ascensão de Hitler. Um derrame logo se seguiu, debilitando-o no último ano de seu mandato. “A loucura”, lamentou, “entrou em tudo”.

(O secretário adjunto da Marinha, Franklin D. Roosevelt, também pegou gripe. Ele se recuperou, mas três anos depois foi vítima da poliomielite e nunca mais voltou a andar).

Se Wilson tivesse lutado contra o vírus em vez da guerra, cerca de 675.000 americanos poderiam ter sido poupados de suas mortes inúteis e dolorosas. Outros milhões poderiam ter evitado a terrível pobreza, dor e terror político que veio com a fragmentação do tecido social.

Um século depois, Donald Trump também poderia ter poupado a América de sua catástrofe viral.

Antes de sua chegada, Trump desmantelou agências bem estabelecidas projetadas especificamente para combater pandemias previsíveis como esta. Quando o vírus o atingiu, ele ignorou profissionais médicos desesperados que o alertaram explicitamente sobre o que estava para acontecer.

Desesperado para preservar a ilusão de uma economia em expansão, Trump se recusou a proteger a saúde pública. Ele deixou que suprimentos e equipamentos vitais ficassem escassos e fez com que os estados lutassem por eles. Ele promoveu tratamentos não testados como hidroxicloroquina (na qual ele tem investimentos pessoais), defendeu a ingestão de água sanitária e atacou o Obamacare e outros programas de seguro vitais.

Como a pandemia de Wilson, quase todas as doenças, mortes e ruína econômica de Trump-COVID poderiam ter sido evitadas.

A negligência maligna de Trump não matou até agora 650.000 americanos. Mas ele pode chegar lá ainda com a rápida escalada do número de mortos, exigindo “negócios como de costume”, sem precauções sãs.

Como durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial, os EUA novamente estiveram à beira da transformação. Impulsionado pela geração do milênio, o autoproclamado socialista Bernie Sanders atraiu nas primárias de 2016 e 2020 uma dúzia de vezes mais votos do que Debs um século atrás.

Em resposta, como Wilson, Trump exige poderes ditatoriais. Imposição autoritária, esquadrões da morte fascistas, assalto ilegal, prisão injusta, retribuição vingativa, bandidos de rua armados, uma “solução final” anti-imigrante e um punho de ferro fascista estão todos na lista de desejos de Trump.

Como a pandemia de Woodrow Wilson, o pesadelo TrumpVirus de hoje destrói nossa saúde, mata nossos parentes, destrói o coração de nossa infraestrutura legal, a alma de nosso tecido social e o que restou de nossa civilização devastada.

Se esta é a rima histórica de Mark Twain, exige nada menos do que uma resposta transcendente épica ... sem a qual nossa nação e nossa espécie podem morrer.


Woodrow Wilson pegou gripe em uma pandemia durante as negociações de paz da Primeira Guerra Mundial - HISTÓRIA

BIDEN Estamos prestes a entrar em um inverno sombrio. [END CLIP]

BROOKE GLADSTONE Do WNYC em Nova York, aqui é On the Media, eu sou Brooke Gladstone. No programa desta semana, lembramos como, durante o outono de 1918, a gripe espanhola voltou com uma vingança semelhante e conselhos igualmente incoerentes e inconsistentes das autoridades estaduais de saúde pública.

JOHN BARRY Há pessoas morrendo 24 horas após os primeiros sintomas. As pessoas sabem muito rapidamente que estão mentindo. Eles perdem toda a confiança no boato de autoridade e no pânico se espalham.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Além disso, como e por que a América sempre reivindicou a propriedade da obra do próprio Will Shakespeare da Grã-Bretanha.

JAMES SHAPIRO É explosivo. É potencialmente tóxico. Mas é por isso que fala conosco. Nós entendemos.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Tudo está surgindo, depois disso.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Do WNYC de Nova York, aqui está na mídia. Bob Garfield saiu esta semana, sou Brooke Gladstone. Temos muita história chegando nesta hora, alguns doces, mais azedos, praticamente todos fascinantes e todos tendendo à conclusão inevitável, para parafrasear Samuel Beckett, que o sol brilha, não tendo alternativa sobre o nada novo. Começamos com o espectro ainda nos assombrando neste fim de semana de Ação de Graças.

RELATÓRIO DE NOTÍCIAS As hospitalizações em todo o país quase dobraram desde o final de setembro. Alguns hospitais já falam em racionamento de cuidados.

NOVO RELATÓRIO Novos casos, quase o triplo da taxa diária que víamos apenas algumas semanas atrás. 44 estados relataram um aumento na semana passada. As mortes também aumentam. [END CLIP]

BIDEN Estamos prestes a entrar em um inverno sombrio, um inverno sombrio. [END CLIP]

BROOKE GLADSTONE A segunda onda assassina está sobre nós. Assim como a gripe espanhola voltou a ser uma ameaça no outono de 1918. No final das contas, essa gripe matou mais de 50 milhões de pessoas em todo o mundo, incluindo pelo menos 675.000 americanos. No entanto, o presidente Woodrow Wilson nunca abordou a perda da nação de forma alguma. A primeira onda a atingir os campos de batalha da Primeira Guerra Mundial na Europa ocorreu na primavera. Não querendo parecer fracos, os alemães, os britânicos, os franceses e quase todos os outros ficaram calados. Sobre tudo isso e muito mais, conversamos no início deste ano com John Barry, autor de The Great Influenza A história da pandemia mais mortal da história. Ele nos disse que só foi coberto por jornais da Espanha neutra, que de fato foi como a gripe recebeu esse nome.

JOHN BARRY A Espanha não estava em guerra, então não fez isso, talvez porque o próprio rei tenha ficado doente. Então, houve muita imprensa sobre isso e recebeu o nome de Gripe Espanhola. Já estava bem estabelecido em outro lugar antes de chegar à Espanha.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Nós sabemos que ele se espalhou em nossas praias fora do controle de uma base militar fora de Boston. Direito?

JOHN BARRY Esse foi o primeiro lugar que a segunda onda atingiu nos Estados Unidos, quer dizer, o vírus mudou claramente na primeira onda, geralmente era leve. Na verdade, houve artigos de revistas médicas dizendo que isso parece e cheira a gripe, mas não está matando pessoas suficientes, então provavelmente não é gripe.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Houve uma mutação entre a primeira e a segunda onda?

JOHN BARRY Quase com certeza. Quer dizer, não podemos provar isso por meio da biologia molecular, mas epidemiologicamente parece bastante certo.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Entre 50 milhões e 100 milhões de pessoas em todo o mundo foram infectadas. Isso seria igual se você ajustasse para a população em algum lugar entre 200 e 400 milhões, hoje. 675.000 mortos nos EUA

JOHN BARRY Estima-se que 28 por cento da população dos EUA foi atingida.

BROOKE GLADSTONE A segunda onda foi a mais mortal aqui. Foi no outono de 1918, logo no final da guerra. Mas o que teríamos visto se tivéssemos aberto um jornal local no outono de 1918?

JOHN BARRY Muita cobertura da guerra, mas muito pouco sobre a pandemia. Wilson criou algo chamado Comitê de Informação Pública, um braço de propaganda, e o arquiteto desse comitê disse que verdade e falso são termos arbitrários, mas isso é muito pouco se for verdadeiro ou falso. Então essa era a atitude da máquina de propaganda do governo. Também havia aprovado uma lei que possibilitava, com 20 anos de prisão, citar, solicitar, imprimir, escrever ou publicar e linguagem desleal, grosseira, profana ou abusiva do antigo governo dos Estados Unidos.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Este foi o Ato de Sedição de 1918, certo?

JOHN BARRY Sim, um congressista foi condenado a mais de 10 anos de prisão por causa desse ato. Então, os editores foram ameaçados com isso. O próprio Wilson disse a um primo, graças a Deus por Abraham Lincoln, não cometerei os erros que ele cometeu, permitindo que uma imprensa livre floresça durante a Guerra Civil.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Mas Lincoln fechou 300 jornais!

JOHN BARRY Muita imprensa negativa sobre ele na campanha de reeleição de 1864. E, novamente, voltando àquele comitê de informação pública, um cara que dirigia que George Creel queria criar, citar, uma massa branca quente com fraternidade, devoção, coragem e imortalidade determinação. Eles realmente tentaram fazer os americanos conformarem essa forma de pensar. Acho que nunca experimentamos isso antes ou depois. Mais do que o período McCarthy, mais do que qualquer um dos sustos vermelhos, a imprensa estava determinada a ser tão patriótica quanto qualquer um. Por exemplo, o Cleveland Plain Dealer escreveu: O que a nação exige é que a traição, seja velada ou totalmente desmascarada, seja eliminada. Eu poderia continuar e dar outros exemplos. Você sabe, você tinha, por um lado, a cenoura, a ideia de que a imprensa deveria ser patriótica e inspirar as pessoas a ajudarem no esforço de guerra e, por outro lado, você tinha o pau daquele Ato de Sedição, então o O resultado, como regra geral, foi uma imprensa muito cooperativa e complacente, onde havia, de fato, notícias falsas porque estavam cooperando com a linha do governo.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Mas toda essa intensidade também foi empregada para cobrir a boca da gripe.

JOHN BARRY Exatamente. Havia a preocupação de que qualquer notícia negativa, não importa do que se tratasse, prejudicaria o esforço de guerra, abalando o moral.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Mas certamente houve exceções. O Jefferson County Union Paper em Wisconsin - sobre o qual você falou?

JOHN BARRY Correto, quando a pandemia atingiu lá e eles começaram a falar a verdade sobre ela, foram ameaçados de processo sob a Lei de Sedição. Não existia Tony Fauci naquela época. Um líder nacional de saúde pública citado pela Associated Press disse que não se trata de uma gripe comum com outro nome. Outro disse que a chamada gripe espanhola nada mais é do que uma gripe antiquada.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Isso soa um pouco familiar.

JOHN BARRY Sim, a alguns quilômetros de Little Rock ficava o acampamento Pike. 8.000 soldados foram internados no hospital em quatro dias. O comandante do campo parou de divulgar os nomes dos mortos. Os médicos de lá escreveram a um colega: Todos os corredores, e há quilômetros deles, têm uma fileira dupla de catres com pacientes com gripe. Existe apenas morte e destruição. O campo convocou Little Rock para fornecer médicos civis, enfermeiras, roupa de cama e caixões, e o Arkansas Gazette, a apenas alguns quilômetros de distância, escreve, entre aspas, a gripe espanhola está tocando o Grippe, a mesma velha febre e calafrios. Você tem essencialmente a mesma coisa acontecendo em todos os lugares. Des Moines, Iowa, por exemplo, o procurador da cidade fazia parte do comitê de emergência que redigia a resposta à gripe. Ele escreveu 'Publishers', citação, eu recomendaria que se algo fosse publicado em relação à doença ou fosse confinado a simples medidas preventivas, algo construtivo em vez de destrutivo, feche aspas. E é claro, você sabe, isso traz consigo o potencial de processo.

BROOKE GLADSTONE O que foi construtivo, o que foi destrutivo nesta formulação?

JOHN BARRY Orientações de saúde pública, como manter as janelas abertas, evitar multidões, lavar as mãos, coisas assim - isso seria considerado construtivo. Na verdade, publicar notícias do que estava acontecendo era destrutivo.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Hmm. Você também teve detalhes notáveis ​​sobre a Lei de Espionagem que envolvia os correios.

JOHN BARRY Certo, e o postmaster não ia permitir nada negativo, e o que eles consideram negativo era na verdade apenas a verdade, em muitas ocasiões. Qualquer coisa que eles considerem depressivo para o moral. Naquela época, é claro, muitas notícias da mídia eram distribuídas exclusivamente pelo correio. Então, isso efetivamente estava silenciando completamente os editores, efetivamente colocando-os fora do mercado.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Pareceria uma época terrível para ser americano.

JOHN BARRY Foi uma doença violenta e assustadora. As pessoas podiam ficar tão azuladas com a falta de oxigênio, mas citei um médico escrevendo a um colega que ele não conseguia distinguir soldados afro-americanos de soldados brancos porque sua palidez era muito semelhante. Em alguns campos, 15% dos soldados com a doença tiveram sangramento nasal. Mas você também pode sangrar pela boca e pode sangrar até pelos olhos e ouvidos. E quando ouvem que se trata de uma gripe comum com outro nome, há pessoas morrendo 24 horas após os primeiros sintomas. As pessoas sabem muito rapidamente que estão mentindo. Eles perdem toda a confiança na autoridade, o boato e o pânico se espalham. Isso leva ao desgaste da sociedade e, nos piores casos, quase ao colapso da sociedade.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Você compara as cidades de Filadélfia e São Francisco.

JOHN BARRY Filadélfia pode ser o exemplo mais extremo. Literalmente, milhares de pessoas estão morrendo e, finalmente, fecham tardiamente escolas e bares, teatros e assim por diante, e finalmente praticam esse ato. Um dos jornais da Filadélfia disse, citação: Esta não é uma medida de saúde pública. Você não tem motivo para pânico ou alarme, sem citar, além do absurdo. Claro, você não vai acreditar em nada do que ler ou naquele jornal ou em qualquer jornal. Na Filadélfia, a sociedade realmente quase começou a entrar em colapso. Há relatos de pessoas morrendo de fome porque ninguém teve coragem de levar comida para elas. Em São Francisco, por outro lado, o prefeito, líderes médicos e líderes empresariais comunitários, os líderes sindicais, todos assinaram uma declaração conjunta em letras grandes na página inteira do jornal dizendo: Use uma máscara e salve a vida. Acontece que esses mapas não eram muito úteis. Mas essa é uma mensagem muito, muito diferente de gripe comum com outro nome. São Francisco funcionou. Pareceu dar certo quando as escolas fecharam, os professores se ofereceram até mesmo como motoristas de ambulância, o que, claro, é uma coisa muito arriscada de se fazer. Compare isso com a Filadélfia, onde as pessoas podiam morrer de fome porque ninguém tinha coragem de levar comida para elas. Acho que está diretamente relacionado ao fato de que as pessoas ouviram a verdade e a liderança confiou no público. Filadélfia e São Francisco foram extremamente atingidas pela doença. São Francisco está em torno do quinto lugar do país em termos de mortalidade excessiva, que era quase o mesmo que Filadélfia. Mas em uma cidade você pode ver um desgaste absoluto da sociedade. E na outra cidade você vê a comunidade se unindo e se ajudando.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Woodrow Wilson pegou uma gripe. Resultou em desorientação intensa, diminuição do funcionamento mental. Esse foi um sintoma dessa pandemia específica. Na hora absolutamente errada.

JOHN BARRY Você sabe, foi amplamente notado que as pessoas ficaram extremamente desorientadas e, em alguns casos, psicóticas e se recuperaram, e Wilson adoeceu em Paris enquanto negociava o tratado de paz. Todos ao seu redor, desde Erwin Hoover, que era o oficial da Casa Branca sobre o qual Herbert Hoover comentou, como eles nunca o tinham visto assim. Sua mente não estava funcionando. Os territórios alemães foram essencialmente cedidos à França. A França teve permissão para explorar economicamente as regiões alemãs. A Alemanha estava sobrecarregada com enormes pagamentos de indenizações. E, essencialmente, todo historiador da ascensão dos nazistas credita ou culpa esse tratado de paz por parte da ascensão de Hitler e, subsequentemente, a Segunda Guerra Mundial. John Maynard Keynes chamou Wilson de a maior fraude da Terra depois daquela conferência de paz.

BROOKE GLADSTONE A maior fraude da Terra. Wilson nunca, nunca falou sobre a gripe, não é? Olhamos para as notícias dos jornais, elas estão amordaçadas e confusas. O que você conseguiu descobrir sobre como as pessoas entenderam o que estava acontecendo ou como prantearam os mortos ou tentaram se proteger?

JOHN BARRY Era um cientista muito sério chamado Victor Vaughn, que durante a guerra se tornou coronel, chefe da divisão de doenças transmissíveis do Exército. E bem no auge, ele escreveu na taxa atual de aceleração continua por mais algumas semanas, a civilização poderia facilmente desaparecer da face da terra. Isso é o quão ruim estava começando a acertar o que aconteceu bem no auge e as coisas começaram a melhorar.

BROOKE GLADSTONE E quanto aos artistas? Os romancistas? Sabemos que Katherine Ann Porter escreveu Pale Horse, Pale Rider, mas não parece haver muito escrito por observadores, mesmo por sobreviventes.

JOHN BARRY Você sabe, isso sempre me intrigou, a falta de literatura sobre isso. No entanto, está claramente lá fora na mente do público. Christopher Isherwood estava em Berlim em Berlim, histórias das quais o grande filme Cabaret surgiu quando os nazistas entraram em Berlim. Você disse que podia sentir como uma gripe nos ossos. Esse tipo de sensação de medo profundo, e isso é 15 anos após a pandemia. Você certamente esperava que esses leitores reconhecessem o pavor a que ele estava se referindo. Então estava lá fora, mesmo que as pessoas não estivessem escrevendo sobre isso.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Houve um período de gerações em que não houve menção à epidemia. Não acho que fui uma exceção à regra. Sabíamos mais sobre a peste bubônica do que sobre a pandemia de 1918. Como você explica isso?

JOHN BARRY Você sabe, foi tão rápido. Isso faz parte. Provavelmente, dois terços das mortes em todo o mundo ocorreram em um período de 14 ou 15 semanas. E em qualquer comunidade, era cerca de metade desse período. A gripe atingiria uma cidade em seis semanas, sete semanas, oito semanas depois, tinha ido embora. Você sabe, pode ter havido uma terceira onda dependendo de onde a cidade estava, mas isso viria meses depois. E a terceira onda ainda era letal o suficiente, mas não era nada comparada com a segunda onda. Você teve essa brevidade incrível e a vida voltou ao normal muito rapidamente, e estava terminando quase simultaneamente com o fim da guerra. 11 de novembro, as pessoas estão comemorando praticamente o momento em que em muitas cidades estavam saindo de seu bloqueio. Então, estou falando agora que posso meio que ver parte do esquecimento, exceto para aqueles que sofreram pessoalmente. Dois terços dos mortos eram pessoas de 18 a 45 anos e os idosos quase não sofreram. Mas crianças menores de cinco anos morreram a uma taxa igual hoje a todas as causas de mortalidade por um período de 23 anos. Apenas pense nisso. Crianças morrendo hoje por todas as causas ao longo de um período de 23 anos compactadas em um período de algumas semanas em 1918, e pense no preço que cobraria dos pais.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Mas eu tenho que perguntar a você, 675.000 mortos nos EUA ajustados pela população, seriam dois milhões. Sim. E, no entanto, quando tudo acabou, houve um momento de luto nacional? Já houve um monumento erguido aos mortos? Já houve um reconhecimento da imensa tragédia?

JOHN BARRY Em termos de recordação individual? Sim, lembro-me de dizer à minha tia, que tinha cerca de 10 anos durante uma pandemia, o que eu estava fazendo, e ela basicamente agarrou o peito, praticamente começou a chorar. Portanto, não foi algo esquecido por indivíduos que negociam. Como sociedade, não. Pensei nisso por 20 anos e não tive uma explicação decente.

BROOKE GLADSTONE Muito obrigado.

JOHN BARRY Obrigada.

BROOKE GLADSTONE John Barry é o autor de A Grande Influenza A História da Pandemia Mais Mortal da História e professor da Escola de Saúde Pública e Medicina Tropical de Tulane. Nós transmitimos essa entrevista pela primeira vez na fase um, chegando, algo novo e completamente diferente, o relacionamento difícil de Shakespeares com a história americana. Isso está na mídia

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In 1918, the flu infected the White House. Even President Wilson got sick.

In the fall of 1918, as President Woodrow Wilson scrambled to end World War I, the flu pandemic began its lethal march across the country, killing at least 675,000 Americans over the next two years.

Churches were closed. Public dance halls were shuttered. No corner of the nation’s capital was spared — not even the White House.

On Friday, President Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump have contracted the novel coronavirus, the deadliest pandemic since the 1918 flu.

Trump — who has repeatedly played down the risks of the virus and eschewed the masks his own scientists recommend — was diagnosed after one of his top aides, Hope Hicks, tested positive.

In 1918, Wilson’s personal secretary was among the first in his administration to be sickened. Margaret, his eldest daughter, got it. Secret Service members did, too. Even the White House sheep were not spared.

Also not spared: the president of the United States.

In April 1919, Wilson traveled to the Paris Peace Conference for talks on ending the Great War. Soon after arriving, the president become ill with a fever and violent fits of coughing that left him nearly unable to breathe.

Wilson's condition deteriorated so quickly that his personal doctor, Cary T. Grayson, thought he had been poisoned.

“But it soon became obvious the diagnosis was simpler, if only marginally more reassuring,” wrote John Barry in “The Great Influenza.”

Wilson was so ill that the talks were nearly derailed. The president could not even sit up in bed.

In a hand-delivered letter to Wilson’s chief of staff back in Washington, Grayson wrote that the night Wilson became ill “was one of the worst through which I have ever passed. I was able to control the spasms of coughing but his condition looked very serious.”

Wilson's administration worked furiously to keep Wilson's diagnosis a secret. Grayson told reporters that Wilson had a cold and just needed some rest, blaming the president's illness on the rainy weather in Paris.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s condition worsened. And he began acting strange.

“Generally predictable in his actions, Wilson began blurting unexpected orders,” A. Scott Berg wrote in his biography of Wilson. “Twice he created a scene over pieces of furniture that had suddenly disappeared,” even though the furniture had not moved. Wilson also thought he was surrounded by spies.

Wilson’s entourage was worried — not just about his illness, but also about the talks falling apart because of what the illness was doing to his behavior.

Barry recounts how in a meeting at Wilson’s bedside, he told negotiators: “Gentlemen, this is not a meeting of the Peace Commission. It is more a Council of War.” Barry described a frightening portrait of a president:

The talks went on, with Wilson relying on deputies before he could return to face-to-face talks. Ultimately, he yielded to several French demands that he had previously said were nonnegotiable. The president fully recovered, only to be stricken by a major stroke a few months later.

In the years since Wilson’s death in 1924, scholars have debated whether he actually suffered a stroke during the conference — not the flu.

Barry opposes those theories. Wilson’s symptoms, which included “high fever, severe coughing, and total prostration,” Barry wrote, “perfectly fit influenza and have no association whatsoever with stroke.”


In 1918, the flu infected the White House. Even President Wilson got sick.

Churches were closed. Public dance halls were shuttered. No corner of the nation's capital was spared - not even the White House.

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump have contracted the novel coronavirus, the deadliest pandemic since the 1918 flu. Trump - who has repeatedly played down the risks of the virus and eschewed the masks his own scientists recommend - was diagnosed after a top aide, Hope Hicks, tested positive.

In 1918, Wilson's personal secretary was among the first in his administration to be sickened. Margaret, his eldest daughter, got it. Secret Service members did, too. Even the White House sheep were not spared.

Also not spared: the president of the United States.

In April 1919, Wilson traveled to the Paris Peace Conference for talks on ending the Great War. Soon after arriving, the president become ill with a fever and violent fits of coughing that left him nearly unable to breathe.

Wilson's condition deteriorated so quickly that his personal doctor, Cary T. Grayson, thought he had been poisoned.

"But it soon became obvious the diagnosis was simpler, if only marginally more reassuring," wrote John Barry in "The Great Influenza."

Wilson was so ill that the talks were nearly derailed. The president could not even sit up in bed.

In a hand-delivered letter to Wilson's chief of staff back in Washington, Grayson wrote that the night Wilson became ill "was one of the worst through which I have ever passed. I was able to control the spasms of coughing but his condition looked very serious."

Wilson's administration worked furiously to keep Wilson's diagnosis a secret. Grayson told reporters that Wilson had a cold and just needed some rest, blaming the president's illness on the rainy weather in Paris.

Meanwhile, Wilson's condition worsened. And he began acting strange.

"Generally predictable in his actions, Wilson began blurting unexpected orders," A. Scott Berg wrote in his biography of Wilson. "Twice he created a scene over pieces of furniture that had suddenly disappeared," even though the furniture had not moved. Wilson also thought he was surrounded by spies.

Wilson's entourage was worried - not just about his illness, but also about the talks falling apart because of what the illness was doing to his behavior.

Barry recounts how in a meeting at Wilson's bedside, he told negotiators: "Gentlemen, this is not a meeting of the Peace Commission. It is more a Council of War." Barry described a frightening portrait of a president:

"Colonel Starling of the Secret Service noticed that Wilson 'lacked his old quickness of grasp, and tired easily.' He became obsessed with such details as who was using the official automobiles. When Ray Stannard Baker was first allowed to see Wilson again, he trembled at Wilson's sunken eyes, at this weariness, at his pale and haggard look, like that of a man whose flesh has shrunk away from his face, showing his skull."

The talks went on, with Wilson relying on deputies before he could return to face-to-face talks. Ultimately, he yielded to several French demands that he had previously said were nonnegotiable. The president fully recovered, only to be stricken by a major stroke a few months later.

In the years since Wilson's death in 1924, scholars have debated whether he actually suffered a stroke during the conference - not the flu.

Barry opposes those theories. Wilson's symptoms, which included "high fever, severe coughing, and total prostration," Barry wrote, "perfectly fit influenza and have no association whatsoever with stroke."

How did Wilson's illness affect world civilization? Would the peace terms have been different? Would the war have gone on?

"No one can know what would have happened," Barry wrote. "One can only know what did happen. Influenza did strike Wilson."


Trump isn't the first sitting U.S. president to contract a potentially deadly virus in the middle of a pandemic — so did Woodrow Wilson in 1918

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he has tested positive for Covid-19, and he isn't the first sitting president to contract a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus in the middle of a pandemic.

Former President Woodrow Wilson became ill with the 1918 flu when he was in Paris in April 1919 organizing a peace treaty and the League of Nations following World War I.

Wilson wasn't a healthy man and "always frail," said Howard Markel, a physician and medical historian at the University of Michigan. He would go on to have symptoms such as headache, high fever, cough and runny nose, Markel said. Many of Wilson's aides would also contract the flu, including his chief of staff, he added.

Trump tweeted overnight that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus after the White House confirmed that aide Hope Hicks had tested positive and had some symptoms.

Trump was experiencing "mild symptoms" after testing positive for the coronavirus, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows confirmed to reporters Friday morning. The announcement came hours after the administration confirmed that White House aide Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus.

For Wilson, the virus "took its toll on him," Markel said. "That can have neurologic and long-term complications. And he was already at the time traveling and living on a train and giving five to 10 speeches a day. That's not healthy."

When he got back to the United States, Wilson went on a whistle-stop tour to get the League of Nations ratified, which ultimately failed, Markel said. While on his tour, Wilson became thinner, paler and more frail, Markel would write in a column. He lost his appetite, his asthma grew worse and he complained of unrelenting headaches, he added. He would later have a bad stroke.

"His wife basically took over the presidency after that," he added.

Many infectious disease experts and medical historians have drawn other parallels between 1918 and today. Schools and businesses were also closed and infected people were quarantined a century ago. People were also resistant to wearing face masks, calling them dirt traps and some clipped holes so they could smoke cigars.

Several U.S. cities implemented mandates, describing them as a symbol of "wartime patriotism." In San Francisco, then-Mayor James Rolph said, "[C]onscience, patriotism and self-protection demand immediate and rigid compliance," according to influenzaarchive.org, which is authored by Markel. But some people refused to comply or take them seriously, Markel said.

"One woman, a downtown attorney, argued to Mayor Rolph that the mask ordinance was ➫solutely unconstitutional' because it was not legally enacted, and that as a result, every police officer who had arrested a mask scofflaw was personally liable," according to influenzaarchive.org.

As with Trump, some reports and historians have suggested that Wilson downplayed the severity of the virus. But Markel said that is a "wrong and a false trope of popular history."

The federal government played a very small role in American public health during that era, he said. Unlike today, there was no CDC or national public health department. The Food and Drug Administration existed, but it consisted of a very small group of men.

"It was primarily a city and state role, and those agencies were hardly downplaying it," Markel said.

Unlike today, Wilson did not get sick during his reelection, Markel said. He said the public needs to know "how healthy or how not healthy" Trump is before the election on Nov. 3.

"When you're voting for a president now, you really are potentially voting for the vice president," he said. "Because what if Trump gets sick and gets incapacitated or worse between Election Day and Jan. 20 because of Covid? Well then the elected vice president becomes president."

"The importance of him being clear, open and honest — or his doctors — with his health conditions is something I'm skeptical we'll see. But it is critical," Markel said.


The importance of watching the health of a U.S. President: the Spanish flu and a flawed peace treaty

President Woodrow Wilson in Paris, Jan. 1919. Credit: United States. Exército. Signal Corps, photographer/Library of Congress

As we reflect on the centennial of the end of First World War, it's worth remembering that another calamity was just beginning in 1918: the Spanish flu pandemic, which killed at least 50 million people, more than twice the number of men who had just been shot, blasted or gassed to death in the trenches.

By the time the Paris peace talks began in early 1919, this particularly virulent strain had already infected one third of the global population. As Laura Spinney notes in her new book on the subject, the Spanish flu "resculpted human populations more radically than anything since the Black Death." It could also induce neurological problems such as lethargy and paranoia even after the normal symptoms abated.

In a textbook still used today, Principles and Practice of Medicine, the Canadian physician Sir William Osler remarked that "almost every form of disease of the nervous system may follow influenza." Certainly, this was true of the 1918-19 pandemic strain, to which Osler himself succumbed.

Researchers recently used nucleic acid recombinant techniques to recreate the Spanish flu virus genome from the lung tissue of victims long buried in permafrost. Unlike the ordinary flu, the reconstructed strain can directly infect the brain tissue of laboratory ferrets. Specifically, it strikes the olfactory bulb, disrupting wake-sleep cycles and inducing symptoms similar to those of Parkinson's disease.

This research opens a better view into how this illness behaved a century ago when U.S President Woodrow Wilson arrived in France for the peace talks.

An accomplished scholar and sincere progressive about everything except race, Wilson was known for his intellectual verve. In early 1918 he had outlined his famous Fourteen Points, in which he called for free trade, open diplomacy and a new balance of European power along with an international body to prevent future wars.

Emergency hospital during Influenza epidemic Camp Funston Kansas. Credit: Otis Historical Archives Nat'l Museum of Health Medicine - NCP 1603, CC BY

The Fourteen Points also disavowed any malice towards Germany, which is why Berlin accepted them as the basis for negotiations.

Compared to the exhausted and embittered British and French, the United States (and Wilson himself) thus emerged as the key player in early 1919, the one party capable of forging a durable peace.

But on April 3, 1919, Wilson fell ill with flu-like symptoms. Recognizing that "the whole of civilization seemed to be in the balance," his physician downplayed the sickness and ordered bed rest.

Ever since, historians have wondered about this episode, both concerning Wilson's prior health problems and his performance when he returned to the negotiating table a week later.

Lost chances and dark outcomes

Wilson wasn't the same man. He tired easily and quickly lost focus and patience. He seemed paranoid, worried about being spied upon by housemaids. He achieved some of his specific goals but was unable or unwilling to articulate a broader vision for a better world.

In other words, he acted like a man with residual neurological problems stemming from a recent bout of Spanish flu.

Over the next crucial weeks, Wilson lost his best chance to win the peace by agreeing in principle to draconian terms favoured by France. The final settlement punished Germany with a formal admission of guilt, enormous reparations and the loss of about 10 per cent of its territory.

In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson arrived in France to take part in peace negotiations and to promote his plan for a League of Nations, an international organization for resolving conflicts between nations. Credit: CC BY

The stunned Germans had little choice but to sign on June 28, 1919.

Back in the U.S. that fall, Wilson suffered a major stroke just as opposition to the treaty by isolationist senators gained steam. He died four years later, his vision of a strong League of Nations hampered by the absence of his own country.

The rest, as they say, is history

Right-wing leaders in Germany raged at their nation's betrayal. Among them was Adolf Hitler, who blamed Jews and leftists for undermining the war effort and swore revenge on the Allies. In 1940, he insisted on humiliating France by dictating its surrender terms in the same train car where the 1918 Armistice had been signed.

Could a more forceful Wilson have secured a better peace? Would that peace have kept monsters like Hitler on the fringes?

Of course, we can't know. But by bringing medical and historical research together, we can get closer to what actually happened, and think better about what might have happened.

We can also use this incident to reflect on the awesome power of U.S. presidents, then and now, to shape the fate of unborn millions. Surely that calls for a close watch over their mental health.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Leia o artigo original.


Spanish Flu, Woodrow Wilson, and My Family

Perhaps you’ve heard of the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. Foi horrível. The deadliest in history, it infected an estimated 500 million worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed as many 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans. My father’s mother was one of the victims, so it has particularly meaning to me. And the pandemic had a particularly bad influence on the American involvement in World War I.

An article from that time indicates that the epidemic began on 5 th March 1918 among the Chinese workers contracted at the Fort Riley military base in Funston, Kansas. Another one also refers to this influenza outbreak which affected 1,100 soldiers. Since that publication, it is generally accepted that the Spanish Influenza pandemic began at that time. However, I believe that it is problematic to assign such a specific date to the beginnings of the pandemic, since its origins are likely to be much more complex and varied. What is certain is that the outbreak did not start in Spain. Spain got the blame because it was a neutral country in WWI and had no wartime press censorship. The countries involved in the war censored news about flu cases in their own countries. When Spain reported its cases, that news was reprinted and everyone got the idea that that’s where the epidemic started. The origins might have started in China or elsewhere. But the clearest signs were those in Kansas. So, for whatever reason, America has a strong link to this disease.

This first epidemic wave of the spring of 1918 was benign, affecting many soldiers but causing few deaths. In the French army, 24,886 influenza patients were recorded in May, with 7 deaths 12,304 in June, with 24 deaths and 2,369 patients in July with 6 deaths, all of whom were diagnosed with “grippe” (influenza). Reports by the American army doctors indicate that there were 1,850 cases of “influenza” in April, 1,124 in May, 5,700 in June and 5,788 in July. The first 5 American soldier victims of the influenza died during July.

In Europe, the flu was devastating both sides. 70,000 American soldiers were sick in some units, the flu killed 80% of the men. General John Pershing made a desperate plea for reinforcements. But that would mean sending soldiers across the Atlantic on troop ships.

Even with the number of sick and infected soldiers, President Wilson decided against his chief physician’s advice and sent in thousands of more soldiers on transport ships to the frontlines in France, which seemed to have resulted in the virus spreading across the world. This was not surprising, since troop ships were crammed from stem to stern with soldiers, causing a spread of the illness among the troops. There’s nothing more crowded than a troop ship it’s just being jammed in there like sardines and if somebody has a respiratory disease, everybody’s going to get it. Looking at what happened from afar, Wilson’s decision resulted in the virus spreading across the world, from Kansas to the front lines and outward from there.

President Woodrow Wilson failed to inform the people of America about the devastating effects of Spanish Influenza. When US soldiers arrived in France on what was called ‘floating coffins’, around 200,000 soldiers fell sick, with many being affected on the transport ships. To soldiers and civilians alike, what was attacking them was not any ordinary influenza, but they had no answers.

The most shocking part of the flu was the deafening silence of the government and neither national nor local governments addressed the fast-moving pandemic. With a lack of information and almost no advice from public health officials, people in the United States had no answers but expected a mass extinction had the disease continued to grow and develop at the pace it was going.

The year 1917 saw the formation of the Committee on Public Information by Wilson’s executive order, which aimed at getting more recruits for the war. By the summer of 1918, as the disease started to tighten its grip over the country, the government was focusing on the War and encouraging people to do their bit for the War but made almost no mention on anything else.

The Committee was not used to combat the pandemic. In fact, there were even cases of people being prosecuted over public discussion of the flu.

The fact that the government was attempting to keep the “morale” up turned out to be extremely damaging. The president had been able to sell the war to the people even though he had initially promised that America would not enter World War 1, but fell short on informing the people about a much greater threat with the potential to wipe out the world.

During the war, cities in the U.S. foolishly held parades, and this helped spread the disease. For Philadelphia, the fallout was swift and deadly. Two days after the parade, the city’s public health director Wilmer Krusen, issued a grim pronouncement: “The epidemic is now present in the civilian population and is assuming the type found in naval stations and cantonments [army camps].”

Within 72 hours of the parade, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. In the week ending October 5, some 2,600 people in Philadelphia had died from the flu or its complications. A week later, that number rose to more than 4,500. With many of the city’s health professionals pressed into military service, Philadelphia was unprepared for this deluge of death.

By the time the Paris peace talks began in early 1919, this particularly virulent strain had already infected one third of the global population. This was when President Woodrow Wilson arrived in Paris. An accomplished scholar and sincere progressive about everything except race, Wilson was known for his intellectual verve. In early 1918 he had outlined his famous Fourteen Points, in which he called for free trade, open diplomacy and a new balance of European power along with an international body to prevent future wars. The Fourteen Points also disavowed any malice towards Germany, which is why Berlin accepted them as the basis for negotiations.

Compared to the exhausted and embittered British and French, the United States (and Wilson himself) thus emerged as the key player in early 1919, the one party capable of forging a durable peace. But on April 3, 1919, Wilson fell ill with flu-like symptoms. Recognizing that “the whole of civilization seemed to be in the balance,” his physician downplayed the sickness and ordered bed rest.

Ever since, historians have wondered about this episode, both concerning Wilson’s prior health problems and his performance when he returned to the negotiating table a week later.

Wilson wasn’t the same man. He tired easily and quickly lost focus and patience. He seemed paranoid, worried about being spied upon by housemaids. He achieved some of his specific goals but was unable or unwilling to articulate a broader vision for a better world. In other words, he acted like a man with residual neurological problems stemming from a recent bout of Spanish flu.

Over the next crucial weeks, Wilson lost his best chance to win the peace by agreeing in principle to draconian terms favored by France. The final settlement punished Germany with a formal admission of guilt, enormous reparations and the loss of about 10 per cent of its territory. The stunned Germans had little choice but to sign on June 28, 1919.

Back in the U.S. that fall, Wilson suffered a major stroke just as opposition to the treaty by isolationist senators gained steam. He died four years later, his vision of a strong League of Nations hampered by the absence of his own country.

Right-wing leaders in Germany raged at their nation’s betrayal. Among them was Adolf Hitler, who blamed Jews and leftists for undermining the war effort and swore revenge on the Allies. In 1940, he insisted on humiliating France by dictating its surrender terms in the same train car where the 1918 Armistice had been signed.

Could a more forceful Wilson have secured a better peace? Would that peace have kept monsters like Hitler on the fringes? Of course, we can’t know. But by bringing medical and historical research together, we can get closer to what actually happened, and think better about what might have happened.

The entire scenario of the Spanish Flu epidemic sings of irony. The Flu may have started inside the United States. Wilson helped the spread of the disease by sending troops to Europe in overcrowded boats. Wilson’s American government had a policy of secrecy about the disease, and that added to the spread of the disease. And finally when Wilson himself caught the disease, he could not defend his Fourteen Points in the negotiations, and this ultimately led to an ugly Peace Treaty. The result: the rise of Hitler and the start of World War II.

You can thank the Wilson and the Spanish Flu for a lot more than 50 million deaths. My grandmother’s death, for one.


Spanish Influenza in the President's Neighborhood

When Americans consider threats to democracy during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, they usually think of the bloody world conflict that became World War I. As the war was ending in 1918, another often-forgotten adversary arrived in the United States: an outbreak of the Spanish influenza, a deadly pandemic which significantly impacted global populations, including Washington, D.C. Scientists estimate that the Spanish influenza infected one-third of the world’s population, and as the influenza spread, the President’s Neighborhood found itself in the middle of a deadly outbreak. 1

“Spanish influenza” is something of a misnomer, as there is no evidence that the outbreak began in Spain. However, it became known as the Spanish flu due to the quantity of infection reports in the Iberian Peninsula—including the illness of Spanish King Alfonso XIII. 2 The U.S., France, and other war-weary nations had similar rates of infection in their populations, but war censorship led reporters to underestimate the disease to protect morale. Meanwhile, Spain, a neutral country, reported deaths from the flu without hesitation. 3 As a result, the outbreak was commonly referred to as the “Spanish influenza.”

Washington, D.C. public health officials attempted to warn citizens of the symptoms and spread of influenza using posters like this one.

The virus originally flourished in the close quarters of the trenches and military encampments of World War I, and the international movement of soldiers facilitated infection across borders. By October 1918, the city of Washington, D.C. became a breeding ground for the highly contagious H1N1 strain of the flu. As civilian cases multiplied, local health officials initiated bans on public gatherings in order to quell the spread of infections. Across the city, public schools and universities closed their doors, and Congress and the Supreme Court adjourned. 4 Meanwhile, emergency hospitals opened across the District as nurses desperately tried to care for the constant influx of patients. Influenza cases continued well into the next year, disproportionately affecting healthy residents in their mid-twenties and thirties, a group normally predisposed to fight infectious disease. The infection of the strong and youthful, in addition to babies and the elderly, caused life expectancy in the U.S. to drop by twelve years in 1918. 5

Nurses care for the sick at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1918.

This proximity to the outbreak meant that those working within the White House were vulnerable, and the Spanish influenza affected members of the Wilson family and staff. The first documented case of influenza within the administration was reported at the height of the pandemic in October 1918, when President Wilson wrote to Mississippi Senator John Sharp Williams, emphasizing “I would have answered your letter of October 14th sooner, had not my Secretary been absent with the influenza.” 6 That same month, First Lady Edith Wilson responded to the outbreak by sending 1,000 roses to sick young women working for the war effort in Washington, “with an expression of sympathy and the hope of speedy recovery.” 7

The pandemic did not only affect human patients. In January 1919, The Washington Post reported that two of the White House sheep, known for grazing on the White House Grounds and raising money for the war effort, were “in an animal hospital and…said to have influenza symptoms.” 8 Fortunately, they made a speedy recovery under the care of the Department of Agriculture and returned to the lawn in less than two months. 9

White House sheep grazing during the Wilson administration.

Despite the unprecedented scale and mortality rate of the Spanish influenza, an armistice remained the most critical matter for those working for the Wilson administration. After nearly four years of war, a ceasefire was reached in November 1918, but post-war peace was far from finished. The Paris Peace Conferences began in January 1919, where the “Big Four” (France, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Italy) met to discuss peace in Europe and abroad for future generations. 10 Travels to Paris for the negotiations further increased the risk of staff catching the disease, as cases in Europe persisted into 1919. In February, multiple members of Wilson’s staff caught the influenza during a transatlantic voyage from Brest, France, to Boston, Massachusetts, including several Secret Service members, Chief Usher Irwin “Ike” Hoover, and Charles Swem, Wilson’s stenographer. 11 President Wilson’s eldest daughter, Margaret, also fell ill that month during a trip to Brussels and was “confined to her room in the American Legation.” 12 They all recovered upon returning to the U.S.

President Woodrow Wilson is pictured above with Allied leaders, with whom he would negotiate during the Paris Peace Conference. Wilson fell ill at the conferences in spring 1919.

Even President Wilson could not avoid the contagious disease, and became ill in the midst of the peace talks. In April 1919, Rear Admiral Cary T. Grayson, personal physician to the president, wrote to a friend, explaining that: “These past two weeks have certainly been strenuous days for me. The President was suddenly taken violently sick with the influenza at a time when the whole of civilization seemed to be in the balance.” 13 The extent of President Wilson’s illness was not revealed to the American people, however. Instead, Grayson informed the press that it was merely a cold caused by the “chilly and rainy weather” in Paris to maintain confidence in the president. 14 Wilson’s absence came at a critical moment of the negotiations. The Big Four were attempting to solve larger questions of German reparations, the creation of the League of Nations, and the threat of Bolshevism—all of which were jeopardized by Wilson’s sickness. 15 As Grayson’s assuring reports of Wilson’s speedy recovery were printed in O jornal New York Times e The Washington Post, influenza confined Wilson to his bed, where he was barely able to talk or stand upright. 16 The press reported his condition back to concerned American audiences daily. One columnist for The Washington Post wrote:

The country will be anxious regarding President Wilson until he is again at work…It is a time when an hour lost means the loss of millions of hours to these individuals who are awaiting to begin reconstruction…the allied world hopes for the sake of its material interests that his illness will be light and brief. 17

President Woodrow Wilson walks with Rear Admiral Cary T. Grayson, his personal physician and close confidante.

Back at the White House, worried citizens expressed sympathy for their sick president abroad and well-wishers across America sent “scores of telegrams” to the Executive Mansion. 18 To the country’s delight, Wilson recovered his strength and quickly returned to negotiations.

A promising American politician and future White House resident also caught the deadly virus and survived—Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt. In September 1918, The Washington Times reported that Roosevelt fell ill with Spanish influenza during a voyage to France. 19 Aboard the U.S.S Leviatã, close to one-sixth of the men onboard became infected, claiming almost two thousand victims. 20 Severely weakened, Roosevelt was carried off the ship on a stretcher after docking in America and transported via ambulance to his mother’s home in New York, where he made a full recovery. 21

Washington Times report of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's illness in 1918.

It is difficult to imagine the course of American history if Woodrow Wilson had succumbed to the disease during post-war peace negotiations or if Franklin Roosevelt had not survived the pandemic. Not all of their countrymen would be so lucky—over 675,000 Americans died during the unprecedented outbreak. Fortunately, by March 1919, cases had steadily decreased in the Washington, D.C. area, but by then, almost 35,000 residents of the District had contracted influenza in some form. 22 Small spikes in infection, like President Wilson’s illness in April, continued until the pandemic ultimately abated globally by 1920.

These stories of the Spanish Influenza remain salient today, particularly following the global outbreak of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. As of the publication of this article, over one million people have succumbed to the virus since December 2019—and tens of millions more have been infected, including celebrities, athletes, members of Congress, and world leaders. 23 The connections between 1918 and 2020 are a striking reminder that the present is never far removed from the past. As in 1918, 2020 witnessed the widespread closure of schools, strict mandates surrounding social gatherings and interactions between citizens, and American concerns about the health of leaders in the White House and abroad.


Woodrow Wilson’s Case of the Flu, and How Pandemics Change History

Vittorio Orlando, David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson meet to discuss the Treaty of Versailles, during which Wilson became ill with the 1918 flu. Photograph from Bettmann / Getty

On the evening of April 3, 1919, in Paris, President Woodrow Wilson began to cough he soon took to bed, feverish and unable to move. He had contracted what had become known as the Spanish flu, the President’s physician wrote confidentially to the White House, and it had made Wilson “violently sick.” By then, the influenza had rampaged around the world for more than a year and was on its way to killing at least twenty million people, including at least six hundred thousand Americans. Wilson was in Paris for the treaty negotiations following the end of the First World War, which sought to shape the postwar global order and settle the status of the defeated Germany. He became ill at a decisive moment, making the virus an insidious actor in one of the twentieth century’s most consequential episodes of great-power diplomacy.

How does a pandemic alter history? To capture the scale of lives lost and economies shattered, and the national mobilizations often required, it has become common to compare the catastrophe to a war against an “invisible enemy.” This is the preferred metaphor of Donald Trump, a self-pronounced “wartime President,” and also of many other national leaders who are struggling forward in these days of COVID-19. Yet, among other shortcomings, war metaphors fail to capture the natural and intimate character of a severe and contagious illness, and how its effect on individual behavior can often be subtle and difficult to measure.

In the days before Wilson was stricken, he had argued heatedly with the French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau, and the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, about the price, in territory and reparations, that Germany should be made to pay as the aggressor in the war. Wilson thought that the Allies should go easy on Germany’s nascent postwar republic and prioritize his idealistic, ahead-of-its-time project, the League of Nations, and the enlightened principles of self-determination among peoples which he promoted. But France had twice endured German occupation during the previous half century, and Clemenceau sought what the French public saw as a just and prudent resolution: tens of billions of dollars to rebuild France, plus buffer zones on the country’s eastern frontier, including the occupation by French troops of the German Rhineland.

By April, Wilson and Clemenceau had argued themselves into a mutually aggravating deadlock. When Clemenceau learned that Wilson was ill, he asked Lloyd George, “Do you know his doctor? Couldn’t you get round him and bribe him?”

Wilson, sequestered during his recovery in the Hôtel du Prince Murat, an elegant town house in the Eighth Arrondissement, soon appeared changed by his bout with flu. He became obsessed with “funny things,” as an aide put it. He grew fixated on the furniture in the house and came to believe that he was surrounded by French spies. “We could but surmise that something queer was happening in his mind,” Irwin Hoover, the President’s chief usher, said. “One thing is certain: he was never the same after this little spell of sickness.” Hoover’s remarks are recounted by the historian John Barry in “The Great Influenza,” his magnificent narrative of the pandemic of 1918 and 1919. Barry points out that Wilson’s reported disorientation can be a complication of severe influenza.

During the second week of April, an exhausted Wilson gave up most of the demands that he had been pressing Clemenceau to meet. The President accepted the demilitarization of the Rhineland and its occupation by France for at least fifteen years, along with an open-ended process for calculating Germany’s reparations bill. In the judgment of Margaret MacMillan, the author of “Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World,” an authoritative account of the postwar negotiations, Clemenceau suddenly found himself with “the best possible deal for France.” Infamously, the achievement was a Pyrrhic one. The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, and which ratified Wilson’s concessions, proved to be a settlement so harsh and onerous to Germans that it became a provocative cause of revived German nationalism during the nineteen-twenties and thirties, and, eventually, a rallying cause of Adolf Hitler.

Barry considers in his book whether Wilson might have been a more forceful and stubborn negotiator in Paris if he hadn’t contracted the flu, and whether, therefore, the history of the twenties and thirties in Europe might have turned out differently. He is appropriately skeptical of such counterfactual speculations we cannot know what might have happened if Wilson had remained healthy and vigorous, only “what did happen,” as he writes. “Influenza did strike Wilson. Influenza did weaken him physically. . . . precisely at the most crucial point of negotiations.” Nazism’s triumph over Germany was caused by much more than the blowback from the Versailles Treaty, yet there can be little doubt that the treaty’s punishing terms, including the highly visible French occupation of German territory, did help Hitler to mobilize and narrate German grievances. Lloyd George, who had opposed, in particular, the French occupation, later concluded in a memoir that the “odious accompaniments of such an occupation of German towns . . . had much to do with the fierce outbreak of patriotic sentiment in Germany, which finds its expression in Nazism.”

Wilson recovered from the influenza, but suffered a severe stroke six months later, and was incapacitated through the remainder of his Presidency. He should be remembered as a thoroughgoing failure as a pandemic-time President. In addition to the debacle of Versailles, he never once spoke publicly about the flu as it decimated the United States. He was so narrow-mindedly focussed on the American war mobilization that he generated “a kind of furious intolerance” for any other subject of governance, Barry told me, and he suppressed dissent in the United States in ways that “went beyond anything seen in the McCarthy period or any other time.” He added, “Much like Trump, he did not tolerate criticism from friend or foe. Even if a friend evidenced any distance from him, he exiled that person. All this makes Wilson’s complete silence on the pandemic understandable in only one context: he would do nothing to distract him or the nation from the war effort. His focus was absolute—there was the war, and nothing else.”

It was unfortunate that Wilson fell so ill in Paris we can easily forgive his frailty in the run-up to Versailles, but not his record of prolonged indifference, before then, to public suffering at home among the citizens who elected him, or the racist convictions that led him to support institutionalized segregation. For now, it seems hard to judge which presents the greater record of Presidential failure during a pandemic: Wilson’s silence or Trump’s bombast, self-contradiction, and self-promotion. It may be partly just bad luck that the two worst pandemics to strike the United States in the past hundred years coincide with the terms of two Presidents so plainly unprepared for their responsibilities. Yet it bears reflection that, even a century ago, as is so obvious today, the country requires a President at least as knowledgeable about and committed to sound science and public health as to diplomacy and national defense.


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