AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Military Service


SPC Men in the Turkish Army (l-r):  Manasseh M. Hannush (BA 1913); Hanna Zakaria; George Luttouf;  Saman Rasi; Emil Dumit (BA 1920); Abraham Makkof (S.C.C. 1926); Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB



As the war progressed, the Ottomans suffered many casualties: the need for additional troops made itself felt: subordinates were called for military service. SPC, with its student and Faculty population who, for the most part were Ottoman citizens, had to respond to the draft call. Many alumni and students from different schools and departments joined the Turkish Army as Officers. Graduates of the Medical School were called to serve as medical assistants and doctors, locally as well as within various parts of the Ottoman Empire; many were attached to the Ottoman troops as army doctors. President Bliss did his best to defer the decision to draft students whenever possible, but he also made a point of complying, whenever a solid case could not be made, with the Ottoman demands. He wrote to Dr. Dodge in November 1914, stating that: "a few, but only a few, of our students have sought to escape military duty. Most of them dread it but hold up bravely in the face of it. Our policy of perfectly frank dealing with the government in this matter of military service has made our relations in all these calls for men, cordial and mutually helpful."

Stephen Penrose, That They May Have Life : the Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866-1941, (Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1970),  p: 156






Medical Class of 1918, 1st row L-R: Drs. Henry Watson Smith, Harry Gaylord Dorman, Charles A. Webster, Harris Graham, President Howard Bliss, Walter Booth Adams, James Alfred Patch, Ni'Meh Khalil Nucho, Arthur Ryton Dray and William Thomson Van Dyck. 2nd row L-R: Drs. Faraj Atallah, Amin Bishai, Najib Saad, George Ayoub, Tadrus Zayrah, Khalil Musfi, Abdel Aziz El-Bindari, Sharif Ussayran. 3rd row L-R: Drs. Izzat Tannous, Henry Yenikomishian, Moses Kopelian and Zahi Haddad, Archives and Special collections, Jafet Library, AUB

These difficult experiences had a profound effect on SPC's fresh graduates, and on its young rising professionals: in a few cases, students dropped out, hoping to resume their studies in calmer and saner times, but most stayed on, forging ahead. Several students and alumni reflected on their military experience in writing, describing the professionalism of the SPC team, and the great schooling they had received at the College, which had armed them to deal with complex and challenging cases in the battlefields, under tremendous pressure: Dr. Raif Bellama, MD 1915, wrote to the student and alumni magazine, al Kulliyah, quoting the doctor-in –chief of their division, Major Hashim Bey: “What I admire mostly in the graduates of your College is the experience and the ability they have in all branches of Medicine. When we are short of specialists in Ophthalmology, in dermatology or even Surgery, I call always on an SPC graduate and always feel free that the work will be satisfactorily done.”

Bellama, Raif, "War Experiences"; Al Kulliyah, Jan. 1921, p. 33-36. 


Letter by Dr. Amin Abou Fadel August 20,  1919.jpg
Letter from Dr. Amin Abu Fadil, August 20, 1919, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Much later on, in 1919, Acting President Edward Nickoley sent letters to SPC graduates asking for their own reflections regarding their war experience. The Archives holds around forty such letters from medical graduates; in one such letters, Dr. Amin Abu Fadil, MD 1907, describes his military experience in the following terms: “After one month I was sent to Rayak to be the doctor of the hospital and the station there. I increased and arranged the hospital and had a very hard work there, so that I was busy every hour of the day and part of the night. I saw there the misery of the Armenians and the first case of typhus among them and insisted on having a quarantine and constructing there better and more hygenically sanitarium so that the disease may not spread in the country...”

Amin Abu Fadil, MD 1907, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB


Medical Class of 1917, Graduates included Drs. Muhammad Abdul-Majid,  Albert Apelian, Judah Barsal, Alexandre Bezjian, Boghos Boghossian, Nassib Haddad,  Yusuf Hitti, Kamil Jabbur, Abdalla Kasir, Movses Koumrian, Matta Mitri, Suleiman Najjar, Vartan Piran, Telemacos Rossides,  Iskandar Rufayil,  Iskandar Saad, Philip Shidyak,  Jurji Tannus and  Youssef Ubayd, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Philip Shidiac M. D. (1917) recounts his experience during the last years of the war: "I was taken prisoner at the second Es-Salt attack on May 1st, 1918, and freed on the 15th of May and put in charge of Ramellah. Palestine is now divided into dis­tricts and each district had its Gov­ernor and his Staff. On the Staff there is a Medical Officer who has charge of everything medical in his district and comes under the Direc­tor of Public Heath of Palestine, who is in Jerusalem. I had the Ramallah district before the complete con­quest of all Syria, but when the army advanced I was asked to take up the Tul Keram district and organize it. The district has 40,000 inhabi­tants, four towns and 45 villages. I have a government hospital in Tul Keram of which I am the sur­geon and the physician, and control at the same time the sanitary work­ings of five municipalities in the district, and public health and sani­tation in the remaining villages, my office and personnel being at Tul Keram. In this way, the medical officer serves on every committee, educational, because schools are being built in the district and no building are to be erected, es­pecially schools, unless the Public Health approves the plan. Also I confer with the municipal councils to discuss drainage, sanitary arran­gements, public markets, public latrines, slaughter houses, etc. Life here is work, work, work ! Early to the hospital, perhaps operations, then to the office at eleven, work till two, then lunch, back to the office, and out at six or seven or later to the villages. I go in a car if the village is on the plain or on horse­back if the village is on the ridge."

Philip Shidiac, Al Kulliyah, v.6, no.7, April 15, 1920, p:52