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Foreword

Contents

Foreword

Imagine if you can the entire population of the city of New York suddenly dispersed around the world, dependent upon the U.S. Army for medical attention under every conceivable circumstance, and you will begin to comprehend the magnitude of the medical supply operation in World War II. Then, remember that the medical materiel used to care for these 8 million people was only the end-product. The process began with forecasting requirements for global war, and planning procurement. It included the acquisition of raw materials in the face of unprecedented competition, the construction of factories, and the creation of entire industries. It included transportation from mine or farm or forest to processing plants, from plants to depots, and from depots to the far corners of the earth, wherever American troops were stationed. It included the classification and selection of items and the packaging of these into an incalculable number of hospital assemblies, dispensaries, medical and dental chests, kits, and packets designed for individual use. It entailed the continuous flow in enormous quantities of more than 7,000 standard medical items and many, many more that were not standard: billions of Atabrine tablets, millions of surgical needles, thousands of X-ray machines. It included huge storerooms piled high with hospital beds, vaults filled with narcotics, refrigerators by the tens of thousands filled with antibiotics and vaccines, and planes carrying penicillin and whole blood packed in Dry Ice. The individual items ranged from the simple, inexpensive wooden tongue depressor to the costly and delicate electroencephalograph. In overall terms, more than a billion pounds of medical supplies were purchased between 1 July 1941 and 30 June 1945, at a total cost of a billion dollars. Packed in freight cars, the items purchased over this 5-year span would fill a train 400 miles long.

The following account of the U.S. Army medical supply system as it existed during World War II is neither strictly chronological nor wholly functional, but a combination of both, balanced to show so far as possible how completely interrelated were the various aspects of the system. The account is based on hundreds of documents-reports, correspondence, directives, and statistical records-generated as the war progressed; and on the recollections and personal narratives of scores of individuals who participated in the various supply activities, at home and in the theaters of operations. If passage of time has dimmed and softened memories, it has also brought a sense of perspective, expressed in a more considered view of the triumphs and the failures than would have been possible immediately after the events had taken place.

With all due allowance for the inadequacies of documents hastily prepared in the midst of combat, for memories modified by time, and for the understandable bias of each Medical Supply Officer in favor of his own operation, it is an impressive and inspiring story. The unstinting labors, unending sacrifices, and limitless devotion of medical supply personnel around the world provided the means of treating and caring for some 14 million hospital patients


and of dispensary cases beyond the counting. However fine the doctor or skilled the surgeon, both were helpless without the drugs and instruments flowing uninterruptedly through the smoothly organized channels of medical supply.

LEONARD D. HEATON, 
Lieutenant General, 
The Surgeon General.

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