The World War II battle against STDs

Not all of World War II’s battles were public. Venereal disease was a major front in the war.

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Venereal disease has long been an issue for militaries, but during World War II, the problem became bigger and more global. That required unusual tactics and unorthodox strategies to beat syphilis and gonorrhea during the war. In this episode of Vox Almanac, Phil Edwards explores some of the ways the United States military fought this epidemic.

Starting with Bousbir in Casablanca, it’s a tour of the uneasy relationship the military had with prostitution, recreational sex, and the venereal diseases that soldiers contracted. Both in America and around the world, it was a significant problem that resulted in health troubles and days lost on the battlefield.

This piece uses numerous sources, but the most useful resource might be the history found here: collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-1278003R-mvset

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