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January 2015

Medical Problems in the Trenches

Author Affiliations
  • 1Retired
  • 2private practice
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(1):81. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.1267

Sometimes we can learn a lot even from a single word. Take, for example, the word “trench,” which means a ditch used for concealment and protection in war. One hundred years ago, that word took on a more horrifying meaning when it began to describe the most devastating form of war mankind had ever invented: the “trench warfare” of World War I.

For 4 years, Western Allies and Germans faced each other across an extensive series of trenches extending from the Franco-Swiss border to the Belgian coast. Separated by a no-man’s land of a few hundred meters, the armies fought ferociously for precious meters of land, enduring huge casualties.1