As the start of the federal government’s most ambitious vaccination program approaches, it is worth taking a second look at the history of similar campaigns in the past. Since most of the media and government health officials constantly laud vaccine successes, this article will dwell more on the stories that are not as widely disseminated.
September, 9 A.D., Kalkriese Hill, northern Germany: the Germanic warriors waited in grim silence. Three Roman legions, commanded by General Publius Quintilius Varus, advanced across the Rhine into Anglo-Saxon territory. The Romans hoped to expand Roman power, Roman law, and Roman culture. The Germans hoped to preserve their Teutonic laws and institutions and their way of life.
May 1917 was a time of troubles. In France the titanic Battle of Arras was raging. The United States, which had declared war on Germany the previous month, was in the process of drafting millions of men, more than 100,000 of whom would lose their lives. The great empire of Russia was in turmoil, its Czar, Nicholas II having abdicated the throne in February in response to the first of two revolutions. The second revolution — the October bloodbath that would thrust those living under Russian rule under the heel of Bolshevism — lay only months away.
Most Americans today would probably still recognize the stirring words from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn”: “By the rude bridge that arched the flood,/ Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,/ Here once the embattled farmers stood,/ And fired the shot heard round the world.” Most of us are still aware that those embattled farmers won for us the freedoms we too often take for granted today.