American Orthopaedic Surgeons in World War I
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and entered what was then called the Great War. Among the first officers sent to Europe were 21 orthopaedic surgeons in the so-called First Goldthwait Unit. Prior to the war, orthopaedics had been a nonoperative “strap-and-buckle” specialty that dealt primarily with infections, congenital abnormalities, and posttraumatic deformity. The Great War changed all of that forever, creating a new surgical specialty with emphasis on acute treatment, prevention of deformity, restoration of function, and rehabilitation.