Camp Crane

Camp Crane ultimately proved not to be an escape community, and for this reason we chose not to include it in our final report. The experience of the camp during the 1918–1920 influenza epidemic was still rather remarkable, however, given that the camp was located on a very small parcel of land in the middle of busy downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania. We therefore decided to present the research materials here.

At a Glance

  • Type of Site: Army Camp.
  • Population: Variable, but as high as 10,000; average population of 2,119 during second wave of epidemic.
  • Pop. Density: 27,166 ppl./sq. mi on average during second wave of epidemic.
  • Geographical Considerations: Camp Crane occupied a 50-acre area in the middle of Allentown, PA, a city of 73,500 people at the time.
  • Influenza Cases: 355
  • Influenza Deaths: 13
  • First Reported Case: Sept. 26, 1918
  • NPI Implemented: random inspection of men; isolation of cases; ventilation of barracks; cots places in same direction with canopies used; throat and nose swabs taken to identify cases; men prohibited from entering places of public amusement in Allentown; civilians prohibited from entering camp.

Case Study

Historical Background

Unlike most other military camps, which were located nearby but outside of towns and cities, Camp Crane was in the middle of downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Lehigh County and a prosperous and populous industrial city. The camp initially served as the headquarters and training facility for the United States Army Ambulance Service and then as a station for the Army Medical Corps during World War I.

Occupying a space in the middle of a small city, Camp Crane was small, covering approximately fifty acres and bounded on all sides by city roads and buildings. Despite its rather small size, Camp Crane was home to a sizable population of men. Accurate numbers are difficult to ascertain, in part because constant deployments and new arrivals caused fluctuations in camp strength. According to the camp’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Slee, the camp was originally only intended to house approximately 2,500 men. Before the camp was brought up to full speed, however, that number had increased to 4,500 and then to 7,500. Slee wrote that the population eventually reached as high as 10,000 men. Once deployments began, those numbers dropped, and by November 1918 the mean strength of the command was listed as 2,119. As a result of the large numbers of men occupying such a small space, housing was an acute problem.

Camp Crane and the Influenza Epidemic

On September 23, 1918, well aware of the influenza epidemic sweeping through military installations and civilian populations across the nation, the camp surgeon and sanitary officer met to draft a plan for the early detection and prevention of influenza in the camp. The memo they drafted listed several suggestions and called for the camp’s commanding officer, Slee, to take several actions. It recommended that all men presenting with any symptoms be sent to the infirmary for isolation if necessary, that random inspections be held to determine who was sick, that advised that the barracks be properly ventilated, and that cots be placed in the same direction with a canopy used overhead. The next day, September 24, Slee put these recommendations into general orders.

These orders came in the nick of time. Only two days later, on September 26, the first cases appeared in the camp: three officers and a private who lived at home outside of camp. Other cases appeared the following day, all among new arrivals. As a result of the appearance of cases, the camp command quickly went into action. On September 27, a series of preventive measures were instituted. Because camp strength was still low at this time, each man was afforded 100 square feet of space in the barracks. In the hospital isolation annex, the same space was given patients and cubicles were used. In the mess hall, men sat on one side of the tables only. Mess kits were washed in running hot water; hospital dishes were boiled. All suspected cases of influenza (those with temperatures over 100 degrees F) and all confirmed cases of the flu were taken to the isolation annex at the city hospital.

In addition to the above measures, on September 27, Captain J. H. Owens of the Sanitary Corps, acting under Slee’s authority, declared that all officers and enlisted men were hereby prohibited from entering places of amusement or participating in public gatherings, and warned all to avoid public transportation and to reduce visits to stores. Civilians were prohibited from entering the camp except for official business. All new arrivals were placed in quarantine for 72 hours, under guard. In early October, in an attempt to bring a further measure of protection to his troops, Slee ordered masks for the camp, specifically for soldiers responsible for sweeping the barracks as well as medical officers who had contact with patients wear the masks.

The protective confinement was imperfect, however. For one, the order to avoid public places applied to those officers and enlistees living on the grounds of the camp; Slee’s jurisdiction did not extend to the homes of officers who lived off-base. Those officers were merely advised to follow the same precautions being urged upon the enlisted men. In addition, in the second week of October, 18 doctors from the camp were ordered to the state’s anthracite coal mines to fight the epidemic there. In the coming days, more Camp Crane physicians were sent to various Pennsylvania towns to help with their influenza outbreaks. Civilians frequently came onto the camp grounds to play sporting events and to perform in vaudeville shows. The camp’s jazz band and wrestlers also traveled to nearby Pennsylvania towns. The protective confinement, therefore, was hardly airtight.

These measures may have helped, but they certainly did not prevent new influenza cases from developing in camp. By October 9, Camp Crane had over 80 sick soldiers, 13 of those cases appearing the previous day. Slee reported that all of the cases were mild. As yet there was only one case of pneumonia, Willard A. Babcock, but that patient died ten days after coming down with influenza. A few days later, on October 16, two more soldiers died at the Allentown Hospital isolation annex, with one additional death occurring the next day. The number of cases increased over the next two weeks before unexpectedly and drastically slowing in the final days of October, just as the number of civilian cases in Allentown was on the rise. As was the case in many other military facilities, the vast majority of Camp Crane’s influenza cases developed in a short, approximately eight-week window. Some 348 cases were reported between September 26 and November 4, 1918, with 51 cases of pneumonia and 12 resulting deaths. A few more cases developed throughout November and into December 1918. In the end, 355 cases of influenza broke out at Camp Crane. Of this number, 62 developed into pneumonia, and only 13 of these cases died.

Research Materials

The bulk of the primary source materials on Camp Crane during the 1918–1920 influenza epidemic come from Army records in RG 112 at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Because of its location in the heart of Allentown, the local newspaper was consulted as well. In addition, a site visit was made to view the old location of Camp Crane, now operating as a flea market. Digitized sources include:


Archival Material:

The Allentown Morning Call
Date Title PDF
9/27/1918 Influenza Spread Keeps on Unabated; Draft Call Cancelled amc01
9/28/1918 Keeping Influenza From Lehigh Valley amc02
9/29/1918 Allentown Takes Steps to Nip Influenza amc03
10/2/1918 May Take Drastic Action to Combat Spanish Influenza amc04
10/3/1918 Slight Abatement in Number of Influenza Cases amc05
10/3/1918 Liberty Loan Rally amc06
10/4/1918 Drastic Health Board Order Closes Places of Amusement and Saloons in Pennsylvania amc07
10/4/1918 All Places of Amusements and Saloons Must Be Closed amc08
10/5/1918 Compliance With Closing Order All Over State Reported By Officials to Headquarters amc09
10/5/1918 Rotarians Keep Liberty Loan Drive on Centre Square amc10
10/5/1918 State of Pennsylvania, Office of the Commissioner of Health amc10
10/5/1918 Keeping Liberty Loan Fires Burning Despite Quarantine amc11
10/5/1918 Quarantine In Allentown In Effect At Midnight amc12
10/5/1918 Dozen Good Rules to Prevent Influenza amc13
10/5/1918 Official Cautions as to Influenza amc14
10/7/1918 Influenza Situation In State Reported Exceedingly Serious by the Health Authorities amc15
10/7/1918 State Quarantine On Tight to Guard Against Influenza amc16
10/8/1918 Penna. Has 200,000 Influenza Cases; 19 Districts For Nurses amc17
10/8/1918 Serious Inroads On Liberty Loan Drive by Spanish Influenza amc17
10/8/1918 Quarantine Orders in Full Effect in Allentown amc18
10/8/1918 Influenza and the Local Public Schools amc19
10/9/1918 Quarantine Probers Well Pleased Here amc20
10/9/1918 Influenza Situation Bad In and Near Easton amc21
10/9/1918 Schools of City Closed on Account of Influenza Menace amc22
10/10/1918 Influenza Conditions in State Continues Very Serious amc23
10/10/1918 Theatrical and Liquor People Seek Relief From Quarantine amc24
10/10/1918 First Camp Crane Soldier Victim of Influenza amc25
10/11/1918 Army Doctors From Camp Crane Ordered to Hard Coal Fields to Fight Influenza Plague amc26
10/11/1918 Stroudsburg Suffers From Influenza amc27
10/11/1918 Churches Continue Open; Some Will Be Closed amc27
10/11/1918 Local Conditions With Reference to Influenza amc27
10/11/1918 Camp Crane To Send Doctors Where Needed amc27
10/12/1918 Influenza Epidemic Shows No Signs of Abating in Such Places That Are Affected amc28
10/12/1918 Church and Sunday School Services Dispensed With amc29
10/12/1918 Open Air Catholic Services of Two Local Churches amc29
10/14/1918 Gauze Masks to Check Influenza amc30
10/14/1918 With Churches Closed, Open Air Service Ruled amc31
10/14/1918 How to Avoid Influenza; Care For Those Having It amc32
10/15/1918 Contagious Ward Masks for Sale In City amc33
10/15/1918 Many Camp Crane Doctors Fighting Epidemic amc33
10/15/1918 No Abatement in Influenza Situation amc34
10/16/1918 No Modification of Closing Order By State Health Dept. amc35
10/16/1918 Influenza Spreads to Other Parts of State amc35
10/16/1918 Epidemic Situation in Allentown amc36
10/16/1918 Camp Crane Loses Two Soldiers, Due to Influenza amc36
10/16/1918 Camp Crane Doctor Working at Harrisburg amc37
10/16/1918 52 Camp Crane Doctors in the Coal Regions amc38
10/17/1918 Tuesday Evening Event at Camp Crane amc39
10/17/1918 Two Solders Victims of Spanish Influenza amc39
10/18/1918 Thirty States Now Under Blight of Spanish Influenza amc40
10/19/1918 Influenza Continues to Cut Wide Swath in Country amc41
10/19/1918 Health Board Rules as to Influenza Bodies amc42
10/19/1918 Good Entertainment for Camp Crane Soldiers amc42
10/19/1918 Twenty-Six More Doctors Sent to Schuykill Co. amc43
10/21/1918 Influenza Situation in Pennsylvania and New York amc44
10/21/1918 Allentown Hospital Woefully Overcrowded amc45
10/21/1918 Camp Crane Doctors Fight Disease at Scranton amc46
10/21/1918 Bethlehem Status on the Epidemic amc46
10/22/1918 Health Conditions in Camps and States Report to Government amc47
10/22/1918 Pennsylvania Gets Reports on Influenza Spread amc47
10/22/1918 Lively Game of Soccer at Camp Crane amc48
10/22/1918 Influenza Cases Here amc49
10/22/1918 Proper Care of Sick Soldiers From Camp Crane amc49
10/23/1918 State Reports on Influenza Epidemic amc50
10/23/1918 Improvement in Influenza Situation Throughout Country amc50
10/23/1918 Allentown in Bad Shape From Influenza amc51
10/24/1918 Epidemic on the Wane and Conditions Improved in Number of States amc52
10/24/1918 No Diminution in Influenza Cases amc53
10/25/1918 Rigorous Rules of Quarantine Continue in Force amc54
10/25/1918 City Still Continues in Throes of Influenza amc55
10/26/1918 A.G. Saeger Mansion As Emergency Hospital amc56
10/26/1918 Twelfth Ward’s Liberty Loan Jubilation This Afternoon amc57
10/26/1918 Nazareth Y.M.C.A. Opens Emergency Hospital amc58
10/26/1918 Nifluenza [sic] Epidemic Here Worse Than Ever amc59
10/28/1918 Procession and Public Exercises Mark 12th Ward’s Jubilation amc60
10/28/1918 Two Soldiers of Camp Crane Are Dead amc61
10/29/1918 Dr. Royer Opposes Early Lifting of Quarantine Ban amc62
10/29/1918 Health Boards Give Warning of Influenza Danger amc63
10/29/1918 Take Steps to Have Quarantine Lifted amc64
10/30/1918 Drastic Action By State Health Authorities If the Local Officials Disobey amc65
10/30/1918 Quarantine Ban Continues Indefinitely amc66
10/30/1918 Liquor Dealers Test Quarantine Ruling amc66
10/30/1918 Inspecting Homes In Influenza Zone amc66
10/31/1918 Lancaster Board of Health Defies State Authorities, Permitting Saloons to Open amc67
10/31/1918 Camp Crane Soldiers’ Interesting Evening amc68
11/1/1918 Vital Statistics of Pennsylvania In Influenza Plague amc69
11/1/1918 Quarantine Is Lifted, Effective Wednesday amc70
11/2/1918 Influenza Reports Show Improvement amc71
11/2/1918 Allentown Hospital amc72
11/4/1918 Quarantine At Lancaster to Be Made a Test Case amc73
11/4/1918 Pep Taken Out of Halloween by Quarantine amc74
11/5/1918 Schools Still Closed; No Opening Date Set amc75
11/5/1918 Slight Increase in Influenza Cases Here amc76
11/5/1918 Camp Crane Eleven Has Game Here Tomorrow amc76
11/6/1918 Dates For Reopening of Allentown Schools amc77
11/7/1918 No Health Improvement in Pittsburgh amc78
11/7/1918 Camp Crane Won Handily From Susquehanna amc78
11/9/1918 Camp Crane Vs. Dickinson on Muhlenberg Field amc79
11/9/1918 Palmerton in Throes of Influenza Plague amc79
11/9/1918 Influenza on the Decline amc79
11/11/1918 Camp Craners Given Auto Ride Thru Country amc80
11/12/1918 Departure From Camp Crane of 1800 Men amc81
11/13/1918 Steps For Entertainment of Camp Craners amc82
11/14/1918 Influenza Epidemic Not Yet Wiped Out in Pennsylvania amc83
11/14/1918 Camp Crane Eleven Plays Muhlenberg Saturday amc84
11/15/1918 Victory Pageant Tonight at A.H.S. amc85
11/16/1918 Prison Was Entirely Free of Influenza amc86
11/16/1918 Muhlenberg Plays Camp Crane This Afternoon amc87
11/19/1918 School Attendance Not Up to Par amc88
11/20/1918 Looks As If Influenza Were Coming Back amc89
11/21/1918 Fresh Outbreaks of Influenza in Pennsylvania Reported amc90
11/21/1918 Return of Influenza Imminent amc91
11/22/1918 Cool Clear Weather May Allay Influenza amc92
11/23/1918 Many Influenza Cases in the Perkiomen Valley amc93
11/23/1918 War on Influenza by Health Service amc93
11/23/1918 Propose Quarantine For Influenza Cases amc94
11/26/1918 No Action on Influenza Situation amc95
11/27/1918 City Will Quarantine For Influenza Cases amc96
11/30/1918 Notice to Physicians on Quarantine amc97
12/2/1918 Five Prison Inmates Ill With Influenza amc98
12/4/1918 Latest Influenza Reports From Penna. amc99
12/4/1918 Influenza Cases amc100
12/6/1918 Camp Funston Force Reach Allentown amc101
12/6/1918 Mustering Out Many Doctors At Camp Crane amc102
12/12/1918 Influenza Warning Issues by Surgeon General Blue, Urging Taking of Precautions amc103
12/26/1918 Allentown Work Hard for a Hospital Camp Here amc104
12/30/1918 Good Bye to Camp Crane; Its Abandonment Ordered amc105
12/31/1918 Bubonic Plague and Influenza Bacillus Identical amc106
1/20/1919 Camp Crane Loses Efficient Sanitarian amc107
1/31/1919 Dismantling Camp Crane Big Job amc108

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Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), Camp Crane, Entry 31-C (Camps), SGO 1917-1927, RG 112, NARA, College Park, MD
Box/Folder From/To Date Description or Title PDF
Box 17/F:710.1 “Influenza” D. Martin to CO of Camp Crane 9/23/1918 “Spread of Respiratory Infections,” recommending measures to be taken to prevent spread of influenza in camp. CraneNA01
E. Capers, by order to Lt. Col. R. Slee 9/24/1918 Memo: “The Early Detection and Treatment of Mild Illnesses Among the Men of Your Command”; Puts into orders D. Martin’s recommendations of 9/23/1918 (enclosed in D. Martin to CO of Camp Crane, 9/23/1918) CraneNA02
K. Owens, by order of Lt. Col. R. Slee 9/27/1918 Memo on influenza, ordering men to avoid crowds in Allentown (enclosed in D. Martin to CO of Camp Crane, 9/23/1918) CraneNA03
H. Garfield, US Fuel Administrator, to Secy. of War N. Baker 10/23/1918 Acknowledges receipt of Baker’s letter of 10/19/1918 regarding use of medical students to help with epidemic in Pennsylvania coal mining communities. CraneNA04
Wm. Mayo to F. Lund 11/9/1918 Thanks him for Lund’s report on the Mozingo method of treating empyema. CraneNA05
D. Martin to Dept. Surgeon, Eastern Dept. 11/12/1918 “Report on the Influenza and Pneumonia Epidemic”; table and chart of cases by date enclosed. CraneNA06
Unknown Unknown “Bacteriological Findings in Cases of Influenza at Camp Crane, Allentown, Pa.” with charts. CraneNA07
D. Martin to Surgeon Genl. 11/22/1918 “Report of Influenza Epidemic at this Camp from Sept. 26, 1918 to Nov. 4, 1918” CraneNA08
C. Lynch to R. Slee 5/13/1920 Comments on low influenza rate at Camp Crane and asks for explanation. CraneNA09
R. Slee to C. Lynch 5/18/1920 Reply to Lynch’s May 13, 1920 letter; Attributes low influenza rate at Camp Crane to several factors; table of cases by date enclosed. CraneNA10
C. Lynch to R. Slee 5/26/1920 Acknowledgement of Slee’s letter of 5/13/1920; States that Slee’s report has been presented before the Advisory Committee on Respiratory Disease; Encourages Slee to write article on Camp Crane and the epidemic in Military Surgeon. CraneNA11

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Camp Crane History, Lehigh County Historical Society, Allentown, PA
Box/Folder Date Description or Title PDF
Camp Crane History/Brooks Folder, 2nd draft N/A “History of the Quartermaster Corps,” by Sgt. W.C. Becker CraneLCHS01
N/A “History of the Sanitary Department,” by Maj. F. Shute CraneLCHS02
N/A “Medical History of Camp Crane,” by Maj. D. Martin CraneLCHS03
N/A “The Detachment Medical Department,” by Hospital Sgt. S. Glass CraneLCHS04
N/A “The Guth’s Station Camp of the U.S.A.A.S.” CraneLCHS05
Camp Crane History/News Clippings 1/15/1918 “212 USAACS Sick in Local Camp” CraneLCHS06
1/30/1918 “Guard Against Disease Spread” CraneLCHS07
8/12/1918 “Greater Task Confronts City” CraneLCHS08
4/10/1919 “Camp Crane Has Passed Into History” CraneLCHS09
4/11/1919 “Camp Crane Now Only History; Colors Taken Down Yesterday” CraneLCHS10
4/18/1919 “Mayor Regrets Passing Out of Ambulance Camp” CraneLCHS11
Camp Crane History/Slee Article 2/1923 Col. R. Slee, “An Old Report,” The Military Surgeon 52 (Feb. 1923):203-206 CraneLCHS12

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