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Medical Services in New Zealand and The Pacific

IX: Lessons of the Pacific Campaign

IX: Lessons of the Pacific Campaign

Malaria: The value of anti-malaria units and measures was proved, as was also the importance of education and strict discipline. An entomologist and an engineer were valuable officers in the Malaria Control Unit.

There is little fear of development of malaria on a large scale four weeks after cessation of atebrin on transfer of troops to a non-malarious area.

Sickness: Cases of malaria and hookworm can be kept and treated in the forward areas, as can most skin cases.

Skin disease was the most common cause of disability. To combat this there should be:


adequate and freely available shower units;


adequate laundry arrangements with drying rooms;


protective clothing;


elimination as far as possible of biting insects;


satisfactory rations with fresh food.

page 90

Most of the anxiety cases occurred at the Base, more from boredom than from action, and action was beneficial in preventing the onset of symptoms.

Hospitals: The Base Hospital in an islands campaign should be sited near the main port and aerodrome for ease of transfer of patients from forward areas and on to the main base (New Zealand). It is a static unit and buildings should be provided early. X-ray apparatus and radiologists should go forward with the general hospital, and also the CCS. Sisters should be sent forward to the CCS and even MDS during active operations when conditions are favourable.

Evacuation: Evacuation by air was very satisfactory, as was evacuation by LSTs from forward areas. Evacuation from the proximity of the enemy in the jungle was dangerous. Stretcher-bearers needed armed protection. Lives were lost by attempting evacuation too soon before an area was cleared of the enemy.

Treatment: For blood transfusion dry plasma was most suitable. Plaster splints proved quite satisfactory in the tropics.

Equipment: Field dressings had to be in waterproof containers – tin or macintosh.

Equipment for landing operations had to be packed in boxes with rope handles for a two-man carry and placed in priorities.

Ambulances with four-wheel drive and low canopies are best.

Tents tended to rot in heavy rainfall areas. Wooden floors were necessary because of the wet conditions. Buildings were preferable and essential for any prolonged periods. Native-built huts were useful.

Prefabricated buildings would be required for: (a) hospitals and camp hospitals; (b) accommodation for sisters and nurses; (c) cookhouses, storehouses, bath-houses, drying rooms, recreation rooms, etc. These should be available as part of normal equipment for any force occupying any island.

Rations: Our troops required meat and fresh foods.

Water: Both filtration and chlorination were necessary. The German type of filter was most satisfactory. Coral islands had a poor supply of water and distillation of sea water was carried out.

Hygiene: Constant efforts are required to ensure first-class sanitation, with the elimination of flies and foci of infection so as to prevent intestinal infections, especially dysentery. Shower units should be simple, light and mobile.

The OC of the Field Hygiene Section (Major R. M. Irwin) recommended that the equipment be supplemented and the strength of the unit considerably enlarged if it was to do an effective job. He recommended that an engineer officer and six sappers be attached, and that to detach sections to each of three brigades and page 91 leave a section at headquarters would require, in addition to the medical officer in charge, three junior non-medical officers and fifty NCOs and men, apart from ASC personnel attached.

Standard of Medical Service

The standard of the New Zealand medical service earned the respect of the American medical administrators of the South Pacific Force. After the Treasuries campaign they asked if they could attach United States naval medical officers to study the forward New Zealand medical organisation and forward surgery in the Nissan Island campaign. The force Consulting Surgeon and Consulting Physician paid a tribute to the standard of work in the operations which had taken place, and also expressed satisfaction with the standard of field sanitation and malaria control and discipline.