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April 25, 1980

Cecil Coggins and the War in the Shadows

JAMA. 1980;243(16):1653-1655. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300420037023

THIS precept—as sincere as it was moralistic, as forthright as it was naive—verbalized, epitomized, and, to a certain extent, reinforced the American attitude toward intelligence-gathering that characterized the two decades after World War I. But the contrived innocence of the first decade became the enforced isolation of the second as economic malaise spread over the land. It was a time when many newly graduated physicians were happy to have the opportunity to drive cabs in New York City and when only the cream of each class could compete for commissions as medical officers in the army or navy. In such an atmosphere of national introspection, on a bright day in July 1933, a tall and spare lieutenant (junior grade), somewhat older than his peers and with three years of active service already behind him, reported for duty in the obstetrical department at US Naval Dispensary, Long Beach, Calif.

Cecil Henry