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Memorandum for Major General N. T. Kirk
June 7, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
I should like you to give me a statement regarding the various prophylaxes now administered by the Medical Department. What I am interested in is an appreciation of what might be called the factor of safety involved in relation to the inconvenience and the loss of man hours.
For example, I noticed when I was in China that the requirements for various prophylaxes which were required to be given to men returning home, though they had been given them before leaving San Francisco on their way out, resulted in an appreciable accumulation of man hours lost. Also, as I recall, at one time the typhoid prophylaxis was not given after a certain age. Now in effect you want to give it every time we turn around. I am wondering if in an endeavor to have a 100% record you are not inflicting a great deal of inconvenience as well as discomfort on the officers and men. It will be a fine thing, of course, from the Medical point of view to have a 100% record on typhoid or some other disease but the avoidance of a few cases, it seems to me, is not justified by a heavy overdose of the punishment.
We accept hazards in military operations. To what degree does the Medical Corps accept hazards in this?1
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Norman T. Kirk, the surgeon general, replied that the inconvenience and loss of man hours were trivial compared to the difficulties created by the spread of infectious diseases. “In overseas theaters, especially in the Pacific area where sanitary measures cannot be applied thoroughly, malaria and dysentery, for which we do not have prophylactic inoculations, are causing more casualties than the enemy has inflicted.” The Medical Department was not “trying to make a hundred percent record for the sake of the record,” and he insisted that the immunization policies were based upon medical theory and the objective of maintaining maximum troop efficiency. “Failure to provide protection when it is known that protection can be gained by immunization would not only mean failure of the Medical Department in its specified duty but would also mean added difficulties for military operations,” Kirk told the chief of staff. Typhus was not a problem for our troops in North Africa and Italy, amid a typhus outbreak in Italy, because they had been vaccinated adequately. “Typhus immunization of our military personnel saved more man hours at Naples alone than has been expended through our entire immunization program since 1940.” (Kirk Memorandum for General Marshall, June 27, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 720.3].) For more information regarding the typhus problem, see Marshall Memorandum for the President, June 30, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-430 [4: 499-500].
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), p. 471.