Byerly, Carol R.
Byerly, Carol R.
Office—History Department, University of Colorado at Boulder, 234 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0234. E-mail—[email protected]
Carol R. Byerly is a historian, research scholar of military medical history for the office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General, and former American Red Cross worker. Her experience in education and medical research makes her uniquely qualified to write about the effects of disease on the American armed forces. Her book Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I is an examination of the effects that the deadly flu pandemic of 1918—and the way it was mishandled by military leaders—had on troops and on the course of World War I.
The influenza outbreak of 1918 took the world by surprise, and many thousands of people died during what became an international crisis. That it occurred during a time of an international conflict greater than any Europe had ever experienced before only served to heighten the scope of the tragedy. According to Byerly, military doctors initially dismissed the seriousness of the disease, confident in the ability of medical science to combat it. However, as influenza quickly spread through crowded camps and transport ships, military doctors found themselves suddenly overwhelmed by catastrophe; they were further hampered by their reluctance to challenge the questionable decisions made by their superior officers. Byerly estimates that one-quarter of American soldiers became sick with influenza and that over fifty thousand died of it. She further suggests that the burden this placed on the army's resources and ability to train and maintain its troops had a serious negative impact on the war effort.
Byerly goes on to claim that the records left by military and political leaders show an attempt to dismiss their own poor judgment and responsibility for the disaster by falsifying the virulence of the disease and the impact the epidemic had on the troops. A critic for SciTech Book News related that Fever of War shows how "over-confidence combined with ignorance" can make an already bad situation even worse. In the Military Review, Richard S. Faulkner wrote that the book "offers an interesting and provocative interpretation of the creation of historical memory." Faulkner's review further declared Fever of War to be an important work that contains important lessons for the future. He suggested that it "should be read by military, medical, or government officials involved in planning or executing the Nation's response to biological-weapons attacks or public-health disasters."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February 1, 2006, Gerald N. Grob, review of Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I, p. 214.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 1, 2005, D.A. Henningfeld, review of Fever of War.
JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, July 6, 2005, "World War I," p. 113.
Journal of American History, June 1, 2006, Heather MacDougall, review of Fever of War, p. 257.
Military Review, January 1, 2006, Richard S. Faulkner, review of Fever of War.
SciTech Book News, June 1, 2005, review of Fever of War, p. 81.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (October 1, 2005), Sanders Marble, review of Fever of War.
New York University Press Web site,http://www.nyupress.org/ (May 10, 2008), review summary of Fever of War and short biography.
University of Colorado at Boulder Web site,http://dirwww.colorado.edu/ (May 10, 2008), short faculty profile.