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32Bravo
02-10-2007, 03:50 AM
What influence had medical/health issues on campaigns and who best dealt with them?

Rising Sun
02-10-2007, 05:11 AM
What influence had medical/health issues on campaigns and who best dealt with them?

Huge, but depends upon the theatre.

In the Pacific theatre and Burma disease disabled far more men on both sides than war wounds. The problem was compounded by the old problem that it takes four men out of the line to carry one completely disabled man on a stretcher to aid.

Simple steps, such as rolling down sleeves before dusk and covering as much skin as possible had useful effects on malaria. Drugs such as Atabrine had better effects on malaria.

Other problems such as scrub typhus and infected non-war wounds as well as forms of trench foot, rampant tinea (it disabled one US commander - a general I think - in ?Papua or New Guinea but I can't recall who), and various other diseases flourished in the tropics. I seem to recall one figure for Australian troops in Papua in 1942 around 30:1 disease to war wounds, although not all those with disease were disabled to the point of being unable to fight.

I don't think any nation dealt with it best. They all learnt as they went.

One good Australian RMO (Regimental Medical Officer) was worth a battalion of infantry if he could keep them in fighting condition, mostly by sanitation and disease prevention rather than medical treatment measures.

I think we can be confident that in the Pacific the Japanese were generally the worst. Their field hygiene was poor. Their medical services, which had been excellent up to WWI, were downgraded. The attitude to sick troops was damaged by notions that strong spirit could overcome disease or that disease reflected weakness in the individual.

I don't know about field conditions, but IIRC British troops in the POW camps on the Burma railway suffered more than Australians because they failed to implement the same simple measures as Australians such as drinking only boiled water and scalding mess tins in boiling water before putting food in them. I think British OR's, who were the ones who suffered most, also had a problem because they had less contact with or care from their officers, including medical officers.

I was quite interested in this aspect many years ago but I'm afraid all I can remember is generalities and random facts (well, I hope they're facts) rather than specific sources.

32Bravo
02-10-2007, 05:50 AM
"Australian troops in Papua in 1942 around 30:1 disease to war wounds, although not all those with disease were disabled to the point of being unable to fight." (Haven't, as yet, mastered selective quotes. :))

I rather hoped for your response. I seem to recall those ratios but, as with yourself, I don't recall from where or when. I'm more than a little rusty on this side of things, hence posing the question. Battle casualties and how best to treat, evacuate and turn them around has always been, and remains, a problem that, in the most part, only seems to make any great leaps forward when in a state of war.

Would be interested to hear of any particular breakthrough in medication which influenced campaigns and battles.

Rising Sun
02-10-2007, 07:41 AM
"Australian troops in Papua in 1942 around 30:1 disease to war wounds, although not all those with disease were disabled to the point of being unable to fight." (Haven't, as yet, mastered selective quotes. :))

To get a quote just click on "Quote" at the bottom of a post, then you can insert your comments between quotes by following the usual HTML rules. (I love saying that - it sounds like I know what I'm doing)

You should be able to make your comment a quote by prefacing it with quote in square brackets, which I'll do by using quote in square brackets to open and then /quote in square brackets to close it, neither of which you'll see in the box below because they create the quote box, then the text you want, which gives this


This is quote box started with quote in square brackets and ended the same way except for the / before quote in the closing statement between square brackets.

It's like maths or parentheses in punctuation. If you open a set you have to close it. If two sets are opened, as in quoting someone and then someone else's response, it needs two closes [/quote] [/quote]

Rising Sun
02-10-2007, 07:59 AM
"Australian troops in Papua in 1942 around 30:1 disease to war wounds, although not all those with disease were disabled to the point of being unable to fight." (Haven't, as yet, mastered selective quotes. :))

I rather hoped for your response. I seem to recall those ratios but, as with yourself, I don't recall from where or when. I'm more than a little rusty on this side of things, hence posing the question. Battle casualties and how best to treat, evacuate and turn them around has always been, and remains, a problem that, in the most part, only seems to make any great leaps forward when in a state of war.

Would be interested to hear of any particular breakthrough in medication which influenced campaigns and battles.

If you're really keen, there's four volumes of Australia's official war medical history here. http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/volume.asp?conflict=2 I sold the full set for a stupid price on eBay about 5 years ago when I decided to get rid of some books, about four years before I discovered internet war history forums where I could really use the books I ditched at silly prices or just gave away. If you look at the space given to the medical history against the other official histories, it gives a pretty fair idea of how important medical services were.

Here's a good summary of WWII drugs http://home.att.net/~steinert/wwii.htm#The%20Discovery%20of%20Sulfanilamide

A footnote on penicillin. I knew a doctor who around 1945 was astounded by penicillin in an Australian hospital. It was so valuable that they tried to (and I think did, but my memory is rusty) recapture it by distilling it from patients' urine.

32Bravo
02-10-2007, 08:07 AM
To get a quote just click on "Quote" at the bottom of a post, then you can insert your comments between quotes by following the usual HTML rules. (I love saying that - it sounds like I know what I'm doing)

Thank you for that....much obliged.

Must get back to England's resurgence in the six nations.

Rising Sun
02-10-2007, 08:48 AM
Thank you for that....much obliged.

Must get back to England's resurgence in the six nations.

Would this be the rugby thingy?

We don't know much about it where I am as we play the local game http://afl.com.au/

I'm assuming you weren't talking about cricket, there being fewer than six nations in it and England not being part of a resurgence this summer. :D

P.S. I will not be offended by any response containing the phrase "you colonial bastard!".

32Bravo
02-10-2007, 08:58 AM
Would this be the rugby thingy?

We don't know much about it where I am as we play the local game http://afl.com.au/

I'm assuming you weren't talking about cricket, there being fewer than six nations in it and England not being part of a resurgence this summer. :D

P.S. I will not be offended by any response containing the phrase "you colonial bastard!".


What's that quear game...I thought it something to do with the pools?

The best remark I ever heard an Australian(hope I've spelled it correctly) make about English cricket: " The English haven't sent a decent Captain here since Captain Cook" LOL :D

Rising Sun
02-10-2007, 09:15 AM
What's that quear game...I thought it something to do with the pools?

Probably not. Most of us can swim, and our competitive swimmers dominate most pools.

Then again, if you meant the pool table, Eddie Charlton wasn't too bad, either.

But if you mean Blackpool. ... Well, you've won. It's unique. ;)

32Bravo
02-10-2007, 11:24 AM
But if you mean Blackpool. ... Well, you've won. It's unique. ;)

No, it's a form of gambling.


Penicillin was being produced by the USA as the British couldn't afford to develop and produce it in large quantities. Even so, it took a while for stocks to be built up and it remained a secret for quite some time during the war, as the limited stocks were only to be made available to combat casualties. However, there was a fire at a cinema (Somewhere in California, I think) where a large number of people received very severe burns and it was thought that they would die from infection. The U.S. government ordered that they be treated with penicillin, and as I recall most were saved. I believe some died as the supplies ran out and they were unable to complete the course of treatment and, subsequently, the infection resurged. Naturally, the incident received plenty of media attention and that was when the rest of mankind became aware of Penicillin.

As a footnote: Today there is much hope being placed on the development of Crococillin.

pdf27
02-10-2007, 11:35 AM
One biggie nobody has mentioned so far: DDT. IIRC all the shirts of allied soldiers were treated with it which removed the problem of lice, and when used in places like Burma in particularly malarial areas removed casualties from the disease completely.
There's much more to medicine than medics...

32Bravo
02-10-2007, 12:09 PM
It's not an area that I'm particularly familiar with. That's why I posted the thread - so that I can learn more about it.

I once read a book titled: The Reluctant Major. The major was serving in Burma, in charge of a company of trucks driven by Indian drivers, whom he had to train first of all, before he could utilise them. Anyway, he describes passing through a particular checkpoint, at a brige, in an area which was particularly infested by mosquitos. As they passed through there, they kept the windows of the vehicle wound up, obviously to cut down on the amount of mosquitos entering the cabin. Well, the first time he passes through, there are five RMP manning the checkpoint. With each subsequent passing the number is reduced by one. Finally, there are no RMP manning the bridge and they just race through.

Which brings me to my questions: When was it that the DDT treated shirts were first issued?

pdf27
02-11-2007, 04:34 AM
I may have got the wrong end of the stick here somewhat looking it up, but it's something I'm sure I read somewhere. Anyway...


After a couple of weeks we were given tents. This was great news! Of course we had to erect them ourselves. When this was completed, before we could occupy them, we were ordered to parade outside our allocated tents “in the nuddie”!!! Along came our Sgt. from sick quarters, equipped with a pace-maker’s stick, (the use of which was obvious), he was accompanied by a Cpl. carrying a large old-fashioned insect spray. All our bodily hair was sprayed with white D.D.T. Powder, our shirts were inspected for lice, and those which were infected ,confiscated. What a life! But it was worth it to get away from our “holes in the ground” and into tents, where our main relaxation was playing Solo. There was nothing else to do with what money we had, but time certainly did not drag.
Source is BBC People's War: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/29/a2246429.shtml

Rising Sun
02-11-2007, 04:51 AM
One biggie nobody has mentioned so far: DDT. IIRC all the shirts of allied soldiers were treated with it which removed the problem of lice, and when used in places like Burma in particularly malarial areas removed casualties from the disease completely.
There's much more to medicine than medics...

Definitely. Good military field hygiene and disease prevention is the same as civilian public health. Civil engineers, plumbers and garbage collectors contribute more to civilian health than doctors by giving us disease-free water and removing sources of disease. Also the motor car. It got rid of tons of horse poo that was a breeding ground for flies and disease. Doctors just deal with the tiny percentage of disease that's left over from public health measures. Most Westerners think things like cholera are tropical or Third World diseases. Cholera from contaminated water killed thousands in London alone in a couple of major epidemics in the 19th century, the last only about 150 years ago.

Back to the topic. Hyperwar is a great internet resource for American WWII documents http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/

Here's a few links on Google to ddt on hyperwar http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=ddt+medical+hyperwar&btnG=Search&meta=