You are now aware that the Spanish Flu originated in Santa Fe, Kansas.
Camp Funston, at Fort Riley, was the largest training facility in the Army, full of makeshift non-insulated barracks, housing 250 soldiers each. It teemed with soldiers from all over the Midwest, training for duty in France.
“They trained over 50,000 troops at a time who all lived in close quarters. The Army was cognizant that it needed to help our French and British Allies out, so there was no questioning, they were sending troops out — soldiers were being sent that had flu-like symptoms,” said Robert Smith, supervisory curator for Fort Riley Museums.
Troops traveled by train from the Midwest to ports, then boarded ships bound for the war.
“Recruits were being shifted from camp to camp by the thousands and they were taking with them fatigue and it made for easy exposure. The infections and disease followed,” Smith said.
Along the way, the virus mutated, many times. It hit people in waves, becoming more virulent each time.
The first wave in the winter of 1918 was serious. The second wave — during the summer, when many of the soldiers were on the Western Front — was deadly, Smith said. The third wave came during the fall, when troops were returning.
“We gave it to our Allies and they gave it to our enemies,” Smith said.