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"Notes on the Burma Campaign" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following medical notes from the Burma campaign are taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 6, August 27, 1942.

[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.]


The following observations are based on the campaign in Burma. Aside from such interest as they may have for the Medical Corps, they may also be of value to other branches of the service.

The difficulties of transporting patients from hospitals, and arranging for transportation and accommodation in areas other than those of the actual battle zone, require unusual staying power and courage on the part of those responsible. Retreats present an especially difficult problem for the medical services.

In the case of Burma, it was pointed out that units must have organic transport; pooled transport can never be spared for "medical" at really urgent periods, and some form of unit transport appears to be essential.

The value of nursing service personnel in all medical units needs no special emphasis. It was found that lack of trained nursing orderlies in the Indian and Burma Hospital Corps made it necessary to secure the services of all the available sisters, nurses, and volunteer ambulance drivers and place them in every non-divisional unit. The results here were most beneficial.

One particular point brought out in the report was the real usefulness of motor training for all higher medical personnel. Time and again the need was apparent that all officers and higher medical personnel should be trained, not only to drive motor vehicles, but to repair and service them as and when required. In the early stages, ambulances were lost because the drivers left with the keys and no one present knew how to connect the wiring. In the later stages, those units always managed best that had real mechanics among their officers or higher non-commissioned officers.

There was a tendency to label every severe illness "cholera" when this disease was about, and to neglect cerebral malaria or acute dysentery in the diagnosis.

In the last two weeks of the Burma Campaign malaria was making itself evident. It was roughly estimated that 85 per cent of the men would eventually show infections.

The following general points are worth noting:

In an episode such as the Burma situation, a clear demonstration was given of the fact that all personnel of all units must be fit physically and mentally and must keep fit by marching and exercise. Many officers, particularly service and departmental officers, overlooked the obvious fact that it is part of their duty to maintain their own physical fitness and that of the personnel under their charge, no matter what their age or job. It is in emergencies such as this retreat that the unfit show up so markedly.

The modern habits of cocktail-drinking, bar-lounging, and chain-smoking cannot be said to lend themselves to physical and mental fitness. Even the so-called sedentary work of office or hospital requires physical fitness since the job may well entail 10 to 12 or even 14 hours per day.

Because of individual cases where age seemed to have its effect on personnel unable to "take it", the need was stressed for the requirement of a rigid examination of older officers. Time and again, says the report, "we were affected by elderly officers and other ranks cracking up at awkward times; not only medical but personnel of all branches."


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