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"Notes on Japanese Medical Services" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A report on Japanese military medical services in WWII, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 36, October 21, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Information from Allied Headquarters in India indicates that the organization and general standard of Japanese medical services for the evacuation and treatment of casualties are similar to our own. The strict attention paid to precautions for the prevention of diseases likely to be contracted by troops in a theater of war shows that the Japanese do not overlook the damage which the incidence of such diseases can inflict on the morale and efficiency of an army in the field.

In addition to units of the army medical corps there are detachments of medical officers and men assigned to all regiments. These men are distributed so that there is a medical man with each platoon as well as a small medical section with the regiment. The duties of the platoon medical men include preliminary treatment of the wounded, in most cases amounting to the application of the first field dressing carried by every man, and the continuation of treatment of cases returned from hospital. It is also apparent that they are to insure that very strict prophylactic discipline is observed to counter epidemics and other avoidable diseases.

One medical orderly attached to a platoon in the Buna area, in addition to his personal belongings, carried an ordinary soldiers' knapsack containing the following:

Peptic tablets (for stomach trouble)    Adhesive plaster
Aspirin tabletsBandage
Morphine solutionGauze
Tincture of iodineScissors
Iodoform (an antiseptic)Thermometer
Zinc oxideBoric acid
AtabrinRivanol solution (a disinfectant)
Quinine sulphateSyringe
BenzoinSodium bicarbonate
Knife, saw, etc., (to make a stretcher)Absorbent cotton

In Burma malaria has been the greatest problem of the medical services. The Japanese have used mosquito nets large enough for a whole squad, antimosquito cream and spray being available for sentries and others who have to be outside the net. Atabrin or quinine are also taken every day by all who have not had malaria. In spite of these precautions every man in one Japanese regiment had had malaria at least once.

Apart from malaria the Japanese have taken great care to prevent epidemics from impure drinking water. The platoon medical orderly is responsible for water hygiene and whenever the army medical authorities have not been able to lay in a supply of pure water, recourse is had to the water purification outfit (chlorinating vials) carried by every man.

In addition to anti-malaria and water precautions, pills are taken by every man however healthy, one type every ten days while five of another type containing vitamin B are taken every day, presumably to maintain general health.

Incidence of venereal disease which is low is kept to a minimum by the establishment of army organized houses, entrance to which involves first obtaining a medical certificate. However, no punishments are inflicted on those who become infected.

The Japanese are strict about inoculation and vaccination. Every time a patient is about to leave a hospital he is inoculated and battalions are inoculated en masse.

The most forward army medical unit for the treatment and evacuation of casualties is the advance dressing station of the divisional medical unit. There the patients are classified and their preliminary dressings checked. They are then evacuated by means of the ambulance company of the same unit to one of the division field hospitals. There is usually one of these with each first line regiment and they are equipped to perform reasonably extensive surgical treatment. From the division field hospitals patients are further evacuated to line of communication hospitals, reserve hospitals or base hospitals in the home areas or are released to rejoin their units. Evacuation is effected by combination of stretcher, horse-cart ambulance, motor ambulance, ambulance trains, river craft and by hospital ships.


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