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War Surgery and Medicine

2 NZEF in the Pacific

2 NZEF in the Pacific

The 2nd NZEF (IP) was fortunate in that the main base, New Caledonia, was non-malarious. While the New Zealanders were still in New Caledonia malaria reached high proportions among the Americans engaged in operations in the Solomons. During the training period of the New Zealand force the opportunity was taken to send the Consultant in Tropical Diseases, Lieutenant-Colonel Sayers, to Australia and New Guinea. The assistance given by the medical services of the Australian Forces, and by Colonel N. Hamilton Fairley in particular, was invaluable and contributed in no small measure to our success in combating the disease. Lieutenant-Colonel Sayers returned convinced that the solution of the malaria problem was the key to the Pacific war.

From the reports of the United States Marines on Guadalcanal and the early experiences of the Australians in New Guinea, the New Zealand medical services anticipated, and provided for, a malaria incidence of 100 per month per 1000 men in the combat area.

The 3rd New Zealand Division moved up to Guadalcanal in three echelons, the first leaving New Caledonia on 17 August 1943. The main force of just over 11,000 men was assembled in Guadalcanal by mid-September. From the end of October 1943 until the end of April 1944 the total force in the Solomon Islands was over 12,000. The troops took part in three operations—on Vella Lavella, Treasury, and Nissan islands. The combat conditions were soon over in each place and the troops then settled down to static conditions in a garrison role. Their malaria record was good—less than 5 per cent of the troops who entered a malarious area actually developed malaria, and most of these cases occurred in New Caledonia and New Zealand after the cessation of suppressive atebrin.

The low incidence was largely a result of a campaign carefully prepared and painstakingly carried out. Lessons had been learnt from the experience of the Americans, and pre-war data on Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella, and Treasury Islands were available.