Previous to the war the Kronprinz Wilhelm was a palatial transatlantic passenger steamship belonging to the North German Lloyd. In 1914 it was converted into a German raider and sent out on the high seas to sink merchant vessels bound with sup-plies to the Allies. Leaving Hoboken Aug. 3, 1914, its officers and crew thoroughly understood that they could not again touch port until the war was over. They were out at sea for nine months before the tragedy which we are about to record occurred to their men. During this time they captured, bombed and sunk fourteen vessels. Each of these vessels was robbed of its food and fuel supply before being sunk. From each of them the Germans took practically the same things. Plenty of white flour, white biscuits, sweet crackers, butter (or oleo), potatoes, canned vegetables, fresh meat, condensed milk, tea and coffee, and refined sugar.
Two of the vessels sunk were bound for Liverpool with whole cargoes of fresh meats. These the Germans crammed into their own perfect refrigerator system. (Some they salted and corned.) They had meat enough to feast upon and to last them indefinitely.
Two other vessels were laden with cargoes of whole wheat. From these the Germans took only the available white flour, butter, potatoes, and canned vegetables, ham, bacon, etc. They sent the precious wheat to the bottom. If the Germans had known what was going on in their own bodies, if they had known the priceless value to themselves of the phosphorous, potassium and calcium salts contained in that whole wheat, they would have gathered and stored and guarded it as so much unalloyed gold.
But the. Germans did not know they were sick. They did not know that the absence of these minerals was slowly robbing their tissues of life and bringing about a condition of acidosis, which would eventually cause 100 of them to drop without warning, paralyzed, to the deck.
They were eating typical American meals plenty of fresh meat, boiled or mashed potatoes, canned vegetables, white bread and butter (or oleo), tea and coffee with sugar and condensed milk. These in various appetizing forms they ate three times a day plus a substantial mid-afternoon lunch. Out in the fresh air of the open seas “fed up” with these typical American meals they should have been feeling very fit indeed.
They paid little or no attention to lesser ills or symptoms of lowering vitality and it was not until the conditions became extreme and the men completely incapacitated that the ship’s surgeon (Dr. Perrenon) became seriously alarmed. Some of the men collapsed after they had been out six to eight months but in April, the ninth month, they began going down like tenpins at the rate of two to five a day; some of them keeping up until the last minute and then dropping helpless to the deck; 110 of them were down. Dr. Perrenon found himself totally unable to relieve the suffering of the men. One thing he knew: That he must make a dash for some neutral port at once or they would be out on the high seas manned with 500 dead bodies. Accordingly they headed for America and on April 11, 1915, arrived at Newport News in the James : River after having been out on the high seas just eight months and eight days.
Immediately on their arrival the best medical aid of New York City was called to their relief. Every one else was barred from the ship.
Mr. Alfred W. McCann was at that time working on the New York Globeconducting a campaign to educate the people in food values and food science. Mr. McCann had devoted a lifetime to the study of malnutrition and its causes and was therefore most intensely anxious to get on board the stricken ship. He was close to several high officialsbut although he pulled every wire he knew of both in New York and Washington he could not break the ban. News-paper men were especially barred.
He brooded. Rumor said there was beri-beri or something very closely resembling it on board that ship. What had the men eaten`? Mr. McCann was doing his utmost to fight the white flour evil of America. Was this perhaps the very lesson he needed to prove his point?
His work was in the interest of humanity. He resorted to stratagem. He had a card printed with the name of an eminent physician, hired a launch and climbed on board the ship presenting his card. He was ushered at once into the salon where sat the twelve medical men in consultation.
But almost immediately on entering he was recognized by a New York health officer who sprang to his feet and said: “Gentlemen, this man is not a physicianthis is McCann of the New York Globe.”
Mr. McCann knew that it was not a moment for courtesiesneither was there a moment to lose. He replied that he was McCann and that he was there because he was a student of malnutrition. And if there was beri-beri on that ship why all the hysteria and secrecy when there were hundreds of cases of the same nature in New York Citydue to the same cause.
He said just enough to interest the ship’s surgeon, Dr. Perrenon, who stepped forward and extended his hand saying: “Mr. McCann, I will hear all you have to say when these gentlemen have finished.”
When the doctors had finished their consultation and returned to the city Dr. Perrenon and Mr. McCan discussed the situation in detail. Mr. McCann called the former’s attention to certain findings made by Dr. H. C. Sherman of Columbia University and of other men of equal courage and repute in which it was proven that a diet of demineralized, degerminated foods would bring about a condition of malnutrition of greater or less gravity, depending upon the extent of the cause.
It was then shown in discussion that every item of food which the men had eaten had been acidforming meat, boiled potatoes, canned vegetables, white bread and butter (or oleo), cheese and sweet biscuit. There had been absolutely no alkaline element. The alkaline necessary for the body to function had therefore been taken from the tissues, bones and blood of their own bodies. The blood and tissues of the men had become thoroughly saturated with acid.What then was the remedy?
Dr. Perrenon asked the question. Mr. McCann replied that since the bodies of the men were saturated with acid the logical remedy would be to give them vegetable alkaline as fast and as freely as possible. He therefore suggested that they be given in solution. The men would be able to get the alkalines in greater quantities in this way than by eating. Definitely his suggestions were :
1st. That one hundred pounds of bran be steeped in 200 pounds of water and a large glass of the liquid fed to the men each morning.
2nd. That all kinds of available leaves and vegetables be scrubbed (not peeled), boiled, the liquid fed to the men as soup in generous quantities (vegetables thrown away).
3rd. That potatoes be scrubbed and peeled; the potatoes thrown away, the peelings boiled and the liquid given to the mena small glass once a day.
4th. That the men should have milk, egg-yolk, and fruit in prescribed quantities; also a small amount of whole wheat bread and after a week of above treatment, the vegetables of the soup.
Under no circumstances should they have any acid-forming food.
After due deliberation Dr. Perrenon decided that since the men had thus far resisted all medical treatment it would be wrong to withhold from them the alkaline treatment. This decision was made and the treatment started on April 16th. Up to that time the men were still going down at the rate of 2 to 5 a day.
On April 17th there were no new cases. Neither were there any from that day on. In four days the men showed a marked improvement and in ten days 47 of them were dismissed from the ship’s hospital and one of the completely paralyzed victims was able to stand on his feet without help.
Dr. Perrenon expressed astonishment and satisfaction at the completeness of the cure and said that the lesson in food values would not be lost to Germany.
Mr. McCann reported the facts in detail to the Surgeon-General at Washington believing that here at last was the proof which, if spread broadcast would open the eyes of the public. We were not then at war with Germany and Barnstorm suppressed the incident. Thus the public has not yet learned the danger to their bodily resistance of living on a demineralized, degerminated, denatured diet.
“But”comes the question from someone”Why don’t these typical American meals have an equally disastrous effect on the Americans who eat them?”
The answer is this: We at home who eat the occasional apple, or piece of celery, or lettuce, etc., give to our bodies some alkaline (mineral) element which is greedily taken up by the tissues, thus postponing a breakdown. The acid-forming meals such as the Germans ate (meat, boiled potatoes, canned vegetables, white bread and butter), gradually rob the tissues of resistance. The small amount of alkaline (mineral) element taken prevents complete collapse but leaves us susceptible to every ill that blows.
There is no such thing as “Sudden death.” The process was slowly going on for a long time previous to the collapse.
The Germans had no “offsetting” foods ; and it took just nine months to break them. They didn’t know they were sick until the break came.
Beri-beri is the extreme end of mineral starvation. There are many stopping places this side of beri-beri. What a wonderful race of sturdy upstanding men and women we would be if we ate the foods as Mother Nature prepares them for us containing all food elements in the right proportion.