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To Andrew J. May
December 3, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Dear Mr. May:
The writer of the editorial you sent me has very decided opinions on the subject of military sanitation. Actually we have been under tremendous pressure from the advocates of both sides of the prophylaxis question and the forces seem to be about equally divided although the opponents of venereal prophylaxis are normally less drastic in their demands than Dr. Howard. We have encountered a great deal of opposition on religious grounds to some of our preventive measures, but few critics have objected to the establishment of medical prophylaxis stations.1
On the other hand the American Medical Association and the various nation-wide organizations engaged in fighting venereal infection would submerge us in a storm of protest if we were to accede to demands to abandon our medical preventive measures. We make every effort by means of moral, educational and recreational measures to keep our men away from the possibilities of infection. Local commanders frequently place establishments and areas off limits for soldiers. Moreover, the War Department stands ready to invoke the provisions of your Act the moment it is apparent that local authorities cannot satisfactorily handle conditions in their communities that are harmful to the health of our soldiers. We have not, however, neglected the sound advice of our own surgeons and of the American Medical Association to provide all possible medical means of prevention for those men who expose themselves to infection in spite of our efforts.
Notwithstanding statements to the contrary the Army venereal rate is lower than that of any other armed service, and considerably lower than that of civilian communities corresponding in size to our large camps. We propose to keep it that way. I must ask you to accept my assurance that we are giving careful consideration to the proposals of both parties to the controversy.2
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Congressman Ulysses S. Guyer, Republican from Kansas, had inserted into the Congressional Record (vol. 87, pt. 14, pp. A5090-91) an editorial by Dr. Clinton N. Howard in the November 1941 issue of Progress—the official organ of the International Reform Federation—which included “a shocking revelation” of the “incentive to sin” resulting from the army’s handling of prostitution near bases and from its policies on prophylactic measures.
2. Congressman May replied: “My whole purpose in writing you was to keep you posted as to the situation in Congress and the possibility of a storm of criticism from a few fellows who want to demagogue.” (May to Marshall, December 5, 1941, GCMRL/G.C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 691.