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Foreword

Table of Contents

Foreword 

In the early 1960's it can be safely assumed that no one could predict that 2 million Americans would, in the ensuing years, be called upon to do combat in a tropical land halfway around the world. Nevertheless it was in this early period that the groundwork was laid for the uniquely successful effort, and the acquisition of new knowledge, outlined in this manuscript. In 1961, the U.S. Army Research and Development Command, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and several civilian university affiliates studied the effect of changing environment on military personnel during Operation Swampfox II in Panama. Significant observations were recorded and these reinforced a major lesson learned in World War II: skin infections in the Tropics were likely to be more prevalent and more severe than those experienced in temperate areas.

The skin as an organ system retains the unique but obvious property of exposure to the occupational environment. The combat soldier is par­ticularly vulnerable when exposed in the tropical heat and humidity. How drastically skin diseases impaired our fighting strength in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II was well documented and warranted continued study following the results of the Swampfox operation. A program of research and development was undertaken by the laboratories of the Letterman and Walter Reed Army Institutes of Re­search. Through the Commission on Cutaneous Diseases of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, the expertise of civilian consultants was mobilized. It was not by serendipity that, when the need arose, in 1967 and 1968 a talented group of dermatologic experts was available. Commanders in many units in Vietnam were experiencing large numbers of men unavailable for duty because of skin disease. The need for medical action was clear. Direct onsite investigation was warranted and provided; an increase in dermatologists assigned to USARV (U.S. Army, Vietnam) hospitals was achieved. Well-designed and -executed research with immediate practical results was carried on even under active combat circumstances by dedicated members of the Army Medical Department and their associates. This story is but one of the many yet to be told, of men of science who pursued worthwhile endeavors under difficult circumstances. Their account needs no further embellishment and stands on merit as an eloquent lesson in the need for continued study and preparation during the interludes of peace.


I see in this document not a reminiscence of comrades who shared exciting and rewarding adventures, but rather a historical reminder to continue their work by forging a strong Army Medical Department dedicated to the fulfillment of the desire to support and sustain the United States soldier.

RICHARD R. TAYLOR, M.D.

Lieutenant General,
The Surgeon General