Romania entered World War I in the summer of 1916 woefully unprepared to sustain a war on its own. The country faced near collapse as its Allies did not follow through on their promises and the Central Powers advanced into the kingdom. An unexpected participant in the events that unfolded as the Central Powers invaded Romania and occupied the capital city of Bucharest was an American doctor, Joseph Breckinridge Bayne. Like many of his generation, such as Ernest Hemingway, Richard Norton, Anne Hathaway Vanderbilt, and many others, driven by a spirit of adventure and a desire to help humanity in this moment of crisis, Bayne set out for Europe to throw in his lot with the Allied forces. After arriving in London, an unlikely set of circumstances led him to Romania, an isolated post on the Eastern Front of the war where his medical skills were greatly needed.
Bug and Bullets is the memoir of this brave doctor who spent the next two years combating disease and epidemics, and dealing with the horrors of war from behind enemy lines on the Eastern Front. Bayne worked at a military hospital in Bucharest, both before and after the German occupation of the Romanian capital. When the front lines had stabilized further to the East and the influx of wounded soldiers ceased, Bayne took his services to the villages outside the capital that were ravaged by disease and hunger. Once the war had ended, Bayne again volunteered his services and returned to Romania with the Red Cross to help to reign in the typhoid epidemic and to rebuild the country he had grown to love.
Bayne’s memoir provides a unique account of life in Romania during the First World War. He vividly describes medical conditions faced on the Eastern Front, revealing firsthand the savagery of war. Bugs and Bullets portrays the difficulties faced by the civilian population, overwhelmed by hunger and disease. As a foreign observer, he also provides a unique glimpse into life in Romanian villages during the war and creates an insightful portrait of the land and its people.
This edition of Bugs and Bullets, published to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, is edited and enhanced by a thorough introductory study on the author’s life and work by Dr. Ernest H. Latham, Jr., former cultural attaché at the American Embassy in Bucharest. Dr. Latham is a well-known specialist in Romanian history and has written the only biography of Dr. Bayne, entitled What Strange Fate.
Bugs and Bullets is essential reading for anyone interested in medical conditions during World War I and life on the Eastern Front during this dramatic period in history. It also provides a valuable look at life in the country on the eve of the creation of modern Romania.