JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.
The article of Dr. Lovering in this issue raises certain questions which are worthy of serious consideration. If, after forty years of prohibition, the disability from alcoholism in our Navy is seven or eight times greater than in the British and German navies, it might not seem so illogical to advocate the reintroduction of the grog ration or, at least, and probably much better, the beer-selling canteen. When, however, as Lovering says, the sentiment in favor of temperance is weak, the officers discourage it by their example and by neglecting to discriminate in matters of promotion and privileges between a man who has proved himself untrustworthy by disabling habits of alcoholism and the temperate man, there would seem to be possibly another remedy to be first tried. If officers themselves are not temperate examples, we have in this alone a serious handicap to any temperance regulations for those below them. Objections might easily be made to giving up the use of wines and liquors on account of the alleged necessity for entertaining in foreign ports, etc., but if the absence of liquor was a government regulation the officers themselves could not be blamed and the parties higher up could stand it. It would probably have as a compensation a considerable economy in the mess bills, and it is going a long way to urge that there is any necessity on their own account for even moderate drinking by naval officers. How many disasters and how much money lost are due to drinking habits of American naval officers no one could positively say, but that there have been such disasters and losses in navies no one can deny, and there is an ever-present possibility of such in the existing state of affairs. In former times the idea was that the fighting men in the navies did better for stimulation, and the serving of grog was a regular preliminary to an engagement. At the present day “the man behind the gun” needs all his nervous power at its best. He works with instruments of precision at long range, instead of the old fashion of yard-arm-to-yard-arm gunnery methods, in which the reckless valor induced by alcoholic stimulation seemed to short-sighted officers to be an advantage.
ALCOHOL IN THE NAVY.. JAMA. 2007;297(6):651. doi:10.1001/jama.297.6.651-b