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September 23, 1939


JAMA. 1939;113(13):1230. doi:10.1001/jama.1939.02800380048015

In practically every war for which accurate records are available, disease has always caused more deaths than military maneuvers and engagements. Typhus, plague, cholera, typhoid, dysentery, pneumonia and influenza do more damage under military conditions than can be brought about by dynamite, torpedoes, gun powder and poison gas. As Dr. Hans Zinsser has said, "Epidemics get the blame for defeat; generals the credit for victory. It ought to be the other way around."

In many a great war of the past, epidemic has come to terminate the conflict. According to Lieut. Col. Nelson Mercer,1 the Persians under Xerxes were defeated in their invasion of Greece by plague and dysentery. In 1741 the French captured Prague because of a typhus epidemic among the Austrian defenders. Napoleon's campaign failed in Russia because of typhoid, typhus and pneumonia. In the Mexican War of 1846-1847, 100,000 soldiers went to Mexico; of these 10,986