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Monday, July 13, 2015

Life After Base Hospital 46 Service in the First World War: Helen Krebs Boykin

Helen Krebs, R.N. expanded her First World War Base Hospital 46 service to postwar medical humanitarian nursing with the Red Cross in Eastern Europe. Her service demonstrates that rather than an "end" to the war, continuing conflicts and the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees and orphans meant instead a "long war" of the twentieth century and beyond.

Helen Krebs, Grace Phelps Papers, Box 3, Binder 5, Base Hospital 46 Staff Files, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University.  Courtesy Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU.

Krebs was born in 1983 in Woods, Oregon in Tillamook County and trained at the Multnomah County Hospital Training School for nurses in Portland. She was one of the seven nurses of Base Hospital 46 "borrowed" for service before the unit could be completed and ready to sail. The army assigned Krebs to service in the Presidio in San Francisco. She returned home with most of the rest of the Hospital 46 staff in the spring of 1919.

Newspaper coverage gives us some additional information about the rest of her story.

"Red Cross Nurse is Soon to Join Russian Unit," Oregonian, February 22, 1920, Sec. 1, p. 11.
 The Oregonian reported in February 1920 that the Red Cross had assigned Krebs to join a unit for service in Russia, which was in the midst of revolution and civil war. We also learn that Krebs worked with her brother-in-law, Dr. Dorwin L. Palmer [OHSU records confirm Dorwin, not Darwin), who had charge of X-ray or Roentgenology work for the unit.

Otis Wight et. al. on Active Service with Base Hospital 46 (1920): 20.
Palmer was a 1915 graduate of the University of Oregon Medical Department and conducted graduate study in Roentgenology at Cornell.

"War Blights Children," Oregonian, October 21, 1920, 9.

Krebs returned from her service in October 1920, and reported on her work in Bialystok, Poland in an orphanage with 700 children. The city had been invaded by the Germans, was part of the independent Polish state, and invaded by the Soviet Union during the Polish-Soviet War in 1919-1920 after which the city returned to Polish hands. Krebs saw firsthand the problems for refugees and children, and she joined other Oregonians like Esther Lovejoy and Marian Cruikshank who were engaged in medical humanitarian work with the American Women's Hospitals in this period.

On August 6, 1922, the Oregonian reported that Krebs had married Herbert C. Boykin, an orchardist from Husum, Washington. Dr. Dorwin Palmer and his wife, Helen's sister, served a bridal dinner with friends at Portland's University Club. ("Society News," Oregonian, August 6, 1922, Section 3, p. 4).

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