Venereal Disease in WWII: The Sad Story of Old Joe

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by:

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Venereal Disease in WWII: The Sad Story of Old Joe

In WWII, venereal disease was a common but often unmentioned problem faced by soldiers and military commanders.

From 1942-1945, the Army recorded 881,386 cases of syphilis and gonorrhea of which 465,000 cases were reported by soldiers stationed in the United States. During WWII, African-American soldiers suffered the highest rate of VD. In September 1942 (the only year this data is available), the African-American 93d Infantry Division suffered 107 cases of venereal disease, a rate two and a half that of other divisions and from October to November 1942, the US First Air Force reported 40 percent of its VD patients were African-American soldiers, who at that time totaled only 11 percent its strength.



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Matchbook warning of the risks of VD

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Don’t take chances with pickups!

 

To combat the problem of VD, the Army stepped up its campaign of sex education. It created informational (and often graphic) films, pamphlets and posters explaining the dangers of unprotected sex while ordering its Officers, Doctors and Chaplains to routinely lecture the men of the risks they faced. The Army also set up medical stations and offered treatment and chemical prophylactic kits to any soldiers who might be involved with “loose” women.    

Although the total number of venereal disease cases was high during WWII, it was not disproportional compared to previous wars. In the Civil War, the Union Army treated over 180,000 soldiers for syphilis and gonorrhea. The problem was so severe that the Union army opened its own regulated brothels in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee and tried, albeit unsuccessfully to send away women “of vile character”.

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She may look clean-but…

At the height of WWI, the US Army recorded nearly 18,000 VD cases per day, even medically discharging 10,000 servicemen whose case was severe enough to permanently incapacitate them.

Posters via  National Library of Medicine, History of Medicine Collection

Below is the story of Old Joe, an ex-Navy salt who failed to heed the warnings of VD. Read it and pass it on, the life you save, may be your own.



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The Story of Old Joe

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The Story of Old Joe Page 1

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The Story of Old Joe Page 3

 

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The Story of Old Joe Page 4

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The Story of Old Joe Page 6



 

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The Story of Old Joe Page 7

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The Story of Old Joe Page 9

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