Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Jungle I.

This is coolbert:

As I have blogged about before, Senior U.S. military officers, retired and active [the active ones had to hold their tongues], had serious doubts about American involvement in the Vietnam War from the start.

These doubts centered around three concerns:

* This was not our kind of war. Tanks could not be used. [that was not true, but that WAS the perception.]

* NO ground war in Asia. After Korea, the U.S. military decided the risks of a ground war in Asia were too great. You faced a determined communist enemy who was profligate in the use of overwhelming manpower.

* Jungle warfare. Bad experiences with jungle warfare from World War Two [WW2] had convinced the U.S. military planners that the last place you want to fight is in the jungle.

With regard to the latter, this was true. Absolutely.

The U.S. military in WW2 had fought a number of jungle campaigns in the Pacific theatre. Hard fought and difficult victories at a high price.

It was realized very quickly that the jungle ITSELF posed severe limitations and restrictions on modern warfare.

It did not matter who the combatants were, everyone suffered from the jungle.

Jungle diseases were the main culprit here.

Diseases for which the western trained doctors of the American military were not accustomed to diagnosing and treating. Treatment being possible if medications were available, which they were not often NOT!!

"The battle casualties tell only part of the struggle fought out against nature in the jungle wilds. Men on both sides collapsed, exhausted from the debilitating tropical heat and humidity; soldiers shook violently from malarial chills or from a drenching in tropical downpours. Others simply went mad. The neuropsychiatric rate for American soldiers was the highest in the Southwest Pacific theater (43.94 per 1,000 men). The same monotonous field ration of bully beef and biscuits for the Australians, C-rations for the Americans, left soldiers undernourished and susceptible to the uncountable tropical diseases that flourished in the warm, moist jungle."

Heat - - humidity - - malaria - - drenched - - madness - - undernourished.

Sickness meant the men could not drink proper amounts of water [if clean potable water was available!!] to hydrate the body, and could not eat or hold down what they could eat when they were able to. Nutrition was lacking from inadequate food supply. This all contributed to a far worse condition if proper water in quantities and food were available. NONE of this was!!

"Disease thrived on New Guinea. Malaria was the greatest debilitator, but dengue fever, dysentery, scrub typhus, and a host of other tropical sicknesses awaited unwary soldiers in the jungle. Scattered, tiny coastal settlements dotted the flat malarial north coastline, but inland the lush tropical jungle swallowed men and equipment."

Malaria - - dengue fever - - dysentery - - scrub typhus.

"After heavy rains trees and bushes became so heavily laden with blood-sucking leeches that one officer described the foliage as looking like a "wheat field waving in the wind". Vicious, biting, stinging, rapacious insects - from mosquitoes to mites to ticks - descended on the fleshy bounty the warring armies provided them."

Leeches - - insects.

NOR were conditions in Burma any better.

[American and British forces fought together in Burma. The famous Merrill's Marauders suffered terribly at the hands of jungle diseases.]

"Soldiers suffered from malaria, dengue fever, cholera, scabies, yaws, scrub typhus and dysentery. At one point casualties from tropical illness outnumbered those from combat wounds by a ratio of 14:1, with malaria accounting for 90 per cent of the cases."

Malaria - - dengue fever - - cholera - - scabies - - yaws - - scrub typhus - - dysentery.

"In a letter to his wife, Gen Joseph Stilwell described the situation as: 'Rain, rain, rain. Mud, mud, mud, typhus, malaria, dysentery, exhaustion, rotting feet, body sores.'"

Mud - - typhus _- - malaria - - dysentery - - exhaustion - - rotting feet - - body sores.

"In the sweltering jungle, the temperature climbed steadily every day and the humidity grew to be overpowering. Fungi and bacteria multiplied, breeding rot and disease. Even healthy soldiers found breathing difficult, and sleep became almost impossible."

Temperature - - humidity - - fungi - - bacteria - - rot - - disease - - breathing - - sleep.


"The men not only had to contend with Burma's physical obstacles, but its abundant microscopic life as well. The jungles of Burma are host to virtually every tropical disease known in the world. Living and fighting in the mud and water, American, Chinese and Japanese came down with trench foot, jungle rot an ailment called Naga Sores - painful ulcers that sometimes ate through to the bone."

Trench foot - - jungle rot - - Naga Sores.

"By far the most common and deadliest sickness was malaria. It is caused by a single-celled organism called Plasmodium (there are four varieties) and is transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes. The disease causes fever, chills, sweats and swelling of the spleen and liver and kills up to 20 per cent of its victims. The patient is prostrated for days or weeks at a time. Malaria swept through all the units engaged on both sides. At one point the British were evacuating 120 men per day due to malaria, compared to ten due to wounds."

[Twelve times the casualty rate from malaria alone, compared to battle wounds!!!]

"Scrub typhus - a mite-borne variant of louse- borne typhus was prevalent as well. Occurring in epidemic fashion, the disease causes a pneumonia-like illness and fever of about 14 days duration."

"During the 44-45 campaign, the British 14th Army suffered some 5,400 cases of scrub typhus, of which about 10 per cent ended in death. At the same time, US forces suffered 6,685 cases, of which 243 were fatal. But overall Allied loses to this disease were actually lower than had been expected because of the liberal use of DDT. The rate of illness and death among the insecticide-less Japanese is unknown, but must have been higher."

[NOT necessarily LETHAL, but extremely debilitating!!]

"During the siege of Myitkyina, 80 per cent of US forces there had dysentery. Some cases were so acute the men cut their pant-seats open to be able to relieve themselves instantly. Between 75-100 Maruaders were evacuated out daily. Under pressure to keep men in the line, medical officers refused to evacuate any man who had not run a fever of 102 degrees for three consecutive days and had not passed a review board of doctors certifying his illness."

[a slit was cut in the bottom of the pants so that the man did not have pull his pants down when he had to go to the bathroom. [of course there was NO bathroom] The soldier could just squat where ever he was and let fly with a liquid discharge.]


Units being rotated out of the jungle combat found themselves so decimated by losses from jungle disease and associated illness that they could not be considered, even with extensive replacement, to be combat ready. A prolonged period of rest and recuperation was needed. Survivors had to regain their health and build up their strength, if they could. Merrill's Marauders, for instance, at the end of their Burma campaign, had only sixteen men standing and fit for further service of two thousand that entered the battle!!!

The physical aspects of war, never a picnic under any circumstances, was extemely exacerbated by the jungle conditions found in the Pacific theatre of WW2!



Anonymous JSBolton said...

If it is true that the virulent falciparum malaria never existed in Japan, then the susceptiblity to it, may have been equal on both sides.
The Japanese did not have DDT, but that only started being used towards the end of the war, I thought.
Given the very high casualties from malaria, why didn't proxies get used more, from populations less susceptible?

2:30 AM


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