On November 2nd, I received a brief email from a fellow named Dan taking me up on my offer. He said he had an example of an exceptionally successful vaccination program, adding that it was “possibly too successful.” My first thought was “Whoa! What is this about? How in all my research could I have missed a vax campaign that was ‘possibly too successful’? I hope I’m not on the hook for thirty grand!” He asked me if I was interested and I said yes, please send me your information, which he did the next day. I read it over carefully, dug up a few facts on the ’net, and replied on November 9th. He replied in kind the following day.
It’s all laid out below for the reader to judge. While Dan and I agree on some points, it’s obvious our minds operate on different systems. Nevertheless, we were courteous to each other throughout, agreeing to disagree as the saying goes, and I enjoyed our exchange. Thank you, Dan. I also learned a few new facts about that terrible, insane conflict, World War One. In addition, I felt that it fortified my stance on vaccines, but again, that’s for you to judge, and you’re welcome to comment.
I begin with Dan’s complete essay, then my response to it, which is interspersed with his final follow-up remarks in italics.
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Vaccines Made World War One Possible
by Dan _______
My argument simply stated: Vaccines made World War One possible. In other words, no effective vaccines, then no Great War. Vaccines solved the persistent and perennial medicomilitary problems created by placing men in the field, where they would be exposed to disease vectors such as poor sanitation, vermin, dirty drinking water, etc.
Prior to World War One, armies were routinely ravaged by diseases such as typhoid and cholera. According to Britain’s War Office, “Disease carried off an average of 17 soldiers for each one injured in battle.”1 In other words, disease imposed limits on the scope and the intensity of military operations.
Even smaller 19th century conflicts resulted in heavy disease-related casualties. For example, death by disease vs. combat death ratios include: 2:1 in the Boer War; 5:1 in Crimea; 7.5:1 in the Peninsular War; along with, “the appalling wastage of the French Revolutionary wars, during which 24 British soldiers died of disease for every one that died from wounds.”2 In short, conducting larger-scale operations with these kinds of loss ratios, especially for “democracies”, was inconceivable.
As a result, the world’s militaries were interested in vaccines. Military planners understood the strategic value of vaccines in fielding armies less vulnerable to disease. During the late 19th century military officials spent considerable time and effort in developing an effective typhoid vaccine.
The officials were successful. By the early 20th century they had their effective vaccine. They finally had a tool for overcoming nature’s constraints on war. Millions of men could now be fielded without the devastating effects of typhoid, cholera, and other epidemics. A “Great War” could now be planned.
And plan it they did. World War One was a vast medical experiment. Millions of vaccinated men lived, fought and died in filthy, vermin-infested, and slop-filled trenches, while repeated vaccinations kept disease-related losses manageable.
This not to say that soldiers were in perfect health. Typhoid was still endemic; new diseases arose to replace the old ones; and the men were often sick, miserable, and exhausted. But vaccines allowed a “Great War” to proceed, and on this point the vaccination program counted as a success.
In support of my thesis, I use primary and secondary sources. I also write from a Canadian perspective. This is mostly due to me being Canadian. Canada in 1914 was sandwiched between Great Britain and the USA, however. Canada followed their lead. As a result, Canada’s experience can be generalized across these countries, along with other European powers.
I begin by reviewing a 1914 Canadian Senate Standing Committee Report on typhoid vaccines. The Report noted the global military interest in typhoid vaccines, and the then-recent advances in producing an effective typhoid vaccine.
I then look at Canada’s experience in World War One. It includes a look at a federal government 1917 Order-in-Council authorizing mandatory military vaccination. I conclude by noting how the vaccine program may have been too successful, to the point where authorities toned down and obscured the important link between vaccines and the War.
The Canadian Senate Report
On April 29, 1914, the Senate Standing Committee on Public Health and Inspection of Foods invited a certain Professor Starkey to testify on typhoid vaccines. Starkey taught Hygiene at McGill University, and according to Committee Chair Senator De Veber, “had fifteen years ago been in British India for the British Government inquiring into this matter and experimenting.”3
Professor Starkey testified that the typhoid vaccine was both effective and safe. Starkey noted that current vaccine experimental results were “extremely encouraging and satisfactory”; and that, “I do not think there is the least question about the success of the treatment.”4
Regarding safety, Professor Starkey conceded that in the early days of vaccine preparations, “they certainly produced undesirable results.” Starkey continued, however, stating that, “… within the last five years or so great strides have been made in bettering this vaccine or prophylactic, and we no longer see the terrible reactions that were fairly frequent in the very early days.”5
According to Professor Starkey, typical typhoid vaccine reactions were limited to headache, a pain in the back, and rise of temperature. Starkey stated that, “That is all, and it passes off very rapidly. The reaction usually appears in about four to six hours if you do get it at all.”6
Starkey then concluded that the vaccine benefits outweighed its mild side effects, and that, “… the protection conferred is almost complete; that is, where you take a lot of people who have been vaccinated you will find amongst them very, very few who will contract the disease, very few indeed, showing how complete the protection is.”7
Starkey noted that not everyone needed to be vaccinated. For example, “take a town or a countryside where there is absolutely no typhoid; I do not see that there is any object in asking those people to undergo vaccination.”8 Nor was there necessarily a need to vaccinate residents of cities and municipalities where water purification and sewage treatment infrastructure were “in vogue.”9
Instead, Starkey stated that vaccines should be reserved for those not fortunate enough to live in places with state-of-the-art infrastructure. One prominent example was soldiers living in the field. Armed forces would certainly benefit from a typhoid vaccine.
Military Vaccine Experiments
Almost all the data supporting Professor Starkey’s statements were based on military studies, experiments, and reports. The Senate Report quoted extensively from documents authored by the British Royal Army Medical Corps, and the United States Army.
The Senate committee noted that military authorities in Great Britain, Germany, France, in the United States were all testing typhoid vaccines. All were impressed with the results. And all were “pushing” for vaccine implementation.10
For example, Senator De Veber read Colonel Sir William B. Leishman’s lecture notes into the record. Colonel Leishman was a Professor of Pathology at the Royal Army College, and a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps. The Colonel was also involved in testing typhoid vaccines on British troops stationed in India.
Colonel Leishman reported that there were on average 73,000 troops stationed in India; and that between 1890 and 1905, there annually averaged 1500 to 1600 cases of typhoid. The death rate in these cases averaged approximately 25%. “That means we were losing in these years practically half a battalion by death from enteric in India every year.”11
The British Army’s typhoid vaccine program dramatically reduced these numbers. By 1911, “there were only 170 cases and 22 deaths; and in 1912, 118 cases in the whole of India.”12 These reductions represented, “… a gratifying contrast to the large figures recorded in the past.”13
The US Army had a similar experience. In a period between 1903 and 1913, the Army drove the average annual number of typhoid cases from 160 down to zero. As a result, on September 30, 1911, the Secretary of War ordered the compulsory vaccination of every person in the army under 45 years of age, and of all recruits. “This was carried out as promptly as possible and, as a result the United States has today an ‘immunized army’, not a single case of typhoid having thus far been reported among the troops in this country during 1913.”14
The significance of these medical developments was summarized by Mark Harrison: “From a purely military point of view, it signaled that armies need no longer be the passive victims of disease; that they could take control of the environment in which they were deployed. This made sustained campaigning in potentially unfavourable epidemiological conditions possible and it meant that commanders could make realistic estimates of casualties instead of feeling powerless against the vagaries of nature.”15 (emphasis in original)
The military significance of the Senate Report was not lost on the Canadian government.
Vaccinating Canada’s Expeditionary Force
On August 4, 1914, the Governor General declared a war between Canada and Germany. A call for volunteers went out, and an independent Canadian Expeditionary Force was raised. Recruit attestation occurred at Valcartier.
One of the questions in the attestation paper was “Are you willing to be vaccinated or revaccinated?” Recruits were asked to consider an inoculation against smallpox and a typhoid vaccine. While the government did not require compulsory vaccination, any unwilling recruits were refused enlistment.16 So despite being voluntary, the Force’s inoculation rate was 95%.17
Vaccination was a key part of the recruitment process. Major-General Mewburn summarized the process as follows: “The soldier today begins his military career in the depot battalion in his district in Canada. After he’s gone through the preliminary training, medical examination, inoculation, and vaccination, he proceeds to England with a draft and is taken on the strength of the same territorial regiment or battalion there.” The recruitment process was eventually streamlined such that, “Today, within two or three weeks after the recruit is enlisted, vaccinated and inoculated, he should proceed overseas…”18
These vaccinated soldiers arrived in Belgium and France, where they joined a grand medicomilitary experiment: 4,000,000 vaccinated men living rough in 4,000 miles of excavated earthworks, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss border.
The trenches were harsh. One soldier complained, “Nowhere to sit but on a wet muddy ledge; no shelter of any kind against the weather except the clothes you are wearing; no exercises you can take to warm yourself.”19 Rats, lice, and other vermin were present. And of course there was the ever-present dangers of death and injury.
These conditions sickened soldiers. Diseases like typhoid were endemic, even with vaccination.20 In addition, new diseases emerged such as trench fever, trench nephritis, and trench foot. Trench fever was debilitating but not life-threatening, and it would go on to reach epidemic proportions.21
The War Office’s response was to double down on sanitation efforts. But only so much “cleaning” was possible in a mudhole. So the army vaccinated its soldiers even more intensively. In 1917, a federal Order in Council required all Canadian soldiers to submit to vaccination and inoculation, not only against smallpox and typhoid, but also against cholera, dysentery and other infectious diseases. Refusal was thenceforward accompanied by liability to prosecution under the Army Act.22
The measures did little to slow the pace of illness and disease, however. And for the War Office, “the prospect of a major epidemic at the front was a source of constant anxiety but even at endemic levels it caused a significant loss of manpower.”23 Finally, in 1918, in the midst of a trench fever epidemic, a deadly influenza emerged.
The first outbreak occurred in May and June of 1918, and it interfered with military operations.24 For example, Germany’s Kaiserschlacht offensive failed, as both sides were weakened by flu. “As many as three-quarters of French troops fell sick that spring, and more than half the British force. Whole units were paralyzed and makeshift military hospitals were bursting at their canvas seams. … on the German side, 900,000 men were out of action.”25
The outbreak died down in August, only to re-emerge again in September. The army addressed the epidemic the only way they knew how: more vaccines. Vaccinations continued with no beneficial effect. Indeed, “It was the same the world over: the medical profession was helpless either to prevent the spread of the disease or to cure it.”26
And with that, hostilities stuttered, sputtered, and ground to a halt.
The world’s then-most advanced militaries were all interested in vaccines. Military planners understood the strategic value of vaccines, in fielding armies less vulnerable to disease. As a result, during the late 19th century military officials spent considerable time and effort in developing an effective typhoid vaccine.
The officials were successful. Millions of men could now be fielded without the devastating effects of typhoid, cholera, and other epidemics. Thanks to “modern” laboratory medicine a Great War was now possible.
There were drawbacks, however. Drawbacks that kept authorities from bragging about their vaccine achievement; and that instead forced them to obscure the link between vaccines and the War in the public mind. For while vaccines were effective, they were also unnatural, and sordid.
First, it required injections – injections that interfered with normal bodily functions. Despite the medical gloss, there was still something both biologically unnatural and unprecedented going on. Second, vaccines allowed war to be scaled up, and millions of men died in the resulting carnage. Last, the Great War – that grand medical experiment – may have spawned even deadlier diseases. As one writer argued, “The war fostered disease by creating conditions in the trenches of France that allowed the influenza virus to evolve into a killer of global proportions.”27
But the Spanish Flu is a different story for another time.
Dr. Robert L. Atenstaedt, The Medical Response to the Trench Diseases in World War One, (New Castle on Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011)
Canada, House of Commons Debates, 13th Parliament, 1st Session, (Ottawa: Kings Printer, 1918)
Canada, Senate Standing Committee on Public Health and Inspection of Foods, “Anti-Toxin Treatment of Typhoid Fever”, (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1914)
Fortescue Duguid, The Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919 (Ottawa: Minister of National Defence, 1938)
Mark Harrison, The Medical War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)
Laura Spinney, Pale Rider (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2017)
1. Dr. Robert L. Atenstaedt, The Medical Response to the Trench Diseases in World War One, (New Castle on Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011) at 11. (Hereinafter “Atenstaedt”)
2. Mark Harrison, The Medical War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) at 292.
3. The Senate of Canada Standing Committee on Public Health and Inspection of Foods, “Anti-Toxin Treatment of Typhoid Fever”, (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1914) at 3. Accessed online September/22 at: https://parl.canadiana.ca/view/oop.com_SOC_1203_2_1/7; hereinafter “Senate Report.”
4. Senate Report at 3.
5. Senate Report at 4.
6. Senate Report at 7.
7. Senate Report at 7.
8. Senate Report at 8.
9. Senate Report at 3.
10. Senate Report at 6.
11. Senate Report at 16.
12. Senate Report at 18.
13. Senate Report at 20.
14. Senate Report at 26.
15. Mark Harrison, The Medical War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) at 293. (Hereinafter “Harrison”)
16. Fortescue Duguid, The Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919 (Ottawa: Minister of National Defence, 1938) at 71. (Hereinafter “Duguid”)
17. Harrison at 147.
18. Canada, House of Commons Debates, 13th Parliament, 1st Session, (Ottawa: Kings Printer, 1918) at 581.
19. Atenstaedt at 1.
20. Harrison at 138.
21. Atenstaedt at 147.
22. Duguid at 72.
23. Harrison at 132.
24. Laura Spinney, Pale Rider (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2017) at 38. (Hereinafter “Spinney”)
25. Spinney at 39.
26. Harrison at 141.
27. Atenstaedt at 211.
[end of Dan’s essay]
* * *
First of all, I commend you for taking the time to do some research and composing this well-written essay, which I have carefully read twice. Your position is certainly an interesting one that I’d never come across.
Thank you. And thank you for the work you do with your website, and other publications.
But the further I read, your argument ran out of steam. Let me explain.
What you’re saying is, vaccinations administered to WW1 soldiers prevented diseases that had struck down soldiers in great numbers in previous wars, and ironically allowed them to keep slaughtering each other (the final toll was about nine million dead), whereas if they hadn’t been vaccinated, so many would have been incapacitated by diseases, or succumbed to them, that the fighting would’ve ended.
Yes. But more specifically, my point was that diseases like typhoid were a limiting factor on how big wars could be. Typhoid outbreaks could be both unpredictable and devastating. So there was no point in even planning large-scale operations if these diseases could not be adequately managed.
One could just as well say that the great improvement in sanitary conditions for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War of 1853-1856, implemented by Florence Nightingale, who revolutionized the nursing profession, and the pioneering use of antiseptics by Joseph Lister in the 1870s, made World War One possible. But that would be a weak argument too.
I disagree. The military knew that scaling up war risked more wounded soldiers and combat deaths. I think that they felt that they could manage that risk by deploying new weapons, issuing updated equipment, and developing better training, leadership, tactics, morale, etc. Advances in nursing and surgery would also have certainly improved outcomes for the wounded.
The wild card was still disease, however. The military’s main question was: Could nations put millions of men in a field to fight, while living rough with little or nor sanitation, for extended periods, without having a large number of them swept away unexpectedly by disease? With all due respect, advances in nursing and surgery did not address that question.
The first thing that came to my mind was the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648, which I believe is the bloodiest war ever fought on European soil as far as casualties in proportion to the population. This was well before the inception of vaccines. I also searched the internet for a list of the deadliest wars in history, and found that there were quite a few that predated vaccination in which millions were killed (though these are rough estimates and it’s not always clear if the count includes non-combatants). One of these conflicts, the Qing Dynasty conquest of the Ming Dynasty in China, lasted 67 years, from 1616 to 1683, and undoubtedly took place in primitive conditions that fostered disease, the estimated number of dead being 25 million. Another Chinese war much shorter in duration, the An Lushan rebellion of 755-763, may have claimed even more lives. These are just a few examples which, to my mind, undermine your hypothesis.
I think I get what you’re saying – you don’t need vaccines to wage a big war. So why would vaccines matter in WWI?
Without writing a whole other essay, let me just say that WWI was meticulously planned. It was an unprecedentedly global and industrial war. Men, money, materials, industry, political alliances, railroad timetables, shipping, etc. all had to be planned out and put in place in advance.
After all this planning, it seems unlikely that military planners would just throw the dice with respect to a known material risk – the disease wild card – and just march millions of men into a field to see what happens. Instead, militaries spent decades developing vaccines as a tool for managing and controlling typhoid and other diseases.
In the second paragraph of your essay you mention that disease killed far more men in nineteenth century wars than combat did. I don’t doubt this. You focus on typhoid and cholera, which I’m sure were among the top killers. Both diseases surface even today in war zones. You write, “During the late 19th century military officials spent considerable time and effort in developing an effective typhoid vaccine. The officials were successful. By the early 20th century they had their effective vaccine.” Yet a few paragraphs down you tell us that typhoid was still endemic among the soldiers. So how was it effective?
The military wasn’t necessarily trying to eradicate typhoid. If they could then great. But simply managing and controlling outbreaks was also acceptable. Recall in my essay how Colonel Leishman “went from losing half a battalion by death from enteric in India every year” down to negligible numbers by 1912. Leishman did not eradicate Typhoid, but he had certainly tamed it. So, by military standards, the typhoid vaccine was “fit for purpose” effective.
WWI still had typhoid cases. But the case numbers were manageable, which by military standards meant that the vaccine was effective.
On pages 3 and 4 you quote various figures in academia, government and the military, and cite statistics that support your position. It’s the myth that never ends – once vaccines were introduced, disease rates plummeted. Anybody can pull numbers out of a hat. I learned long ago in my research to disregard such information, because it’s almost all confirmation bias or rank dishonesty. For example, to supposedly prove that Jonas Salk’s vaccine wiped out polio in the 1950s, cases of polio in the vaccinated were recorded under different names like aseptic meningitis or Guillain-Barre syndrome. And just recently, positive results from the fraudulent PCR test were used to grossly inflate the number of Covid-19 cases and scare the public into getting inoculated. I put no credence in the numbers you quoted, and I also avoid statistics published by people on my side of this issue whom I believe are honest, because I consider them the least reliable kind of evidence.
I agree with your analysis, and I share many of your views about the polio and other vaccines. There are important differences in this WWI case, however.
The distinctions were set out in the 1914 Senate Report. The most important is that the typhoid vaccine development was a military project. The military:
· Had clear operational goals and requirements
· Tested and developed their vaccines in-house
· Controlled production and distribution
In addition, vaccines were dirt cheap to produce, so there were slim profit margins for contractors and suppliers. Also, vaccine performance was measurable – it would be hard to hide a vaccine failure.
I do grant that Colonel Leishman and others could have faked their data. But I can also see significant downsides in producing a fraud. Faking would mean that Leishman would have been telling lies to some very serious people planning a very serious war.
Say Leishman lied about his data, the army goes into the field, only to be wiped out by typhoid. At the very least Leishman’s reputation would be ruined. At worst, he could be considered a traitor. And where would Leishman go? Where would he hide? Would he really take that kind of risk – and what would be his reward?
It’s one thing to sell garbage harmaceuticals to the gullible public; there is little risk (what are the goyim going to do? Sue you? Hahaha) and great reward. But it is quite another to convince a state to go to war based on fake vaccine data, and risk an army falling apart in the field.
On page 5, after mentioning the horrific conditions of filth, cold, vermin and stress endured by soldiers, you again state, “Diseases like typhoid were endemic, even with vaccination.” You then inform us that the Canadian War Office piled on more vaccines the troops were required to take – against cholera, dysentery and other infectious diseases, in addition to smallpox and typhoid – but that “[these] measures did little to slow the pace of illness and disease.” And out of all this, a deadly influenza emerged in 1918, which also afflicted British, French and German soldiers to the point that “whole units were paralyzed” and military operations disrupted. Yet after that, even more vaccines were administered with no beneficial results.
As I read this, Dan – and I don’t mean to sound insulting – by way of mental gymnastics and Orwellian doublespeak, you end up proving the very opposite of what you set out to prove. Then in your conclusion, you go back and forth again, ending in an assertion with which I fully agree – that this “grand medical experiment” as you aptly call it, of over-injecting soldiers as if they were expendable pin cushions, “may have spawned even deadlier diseases,” namely the Spanish Flu.
I am not insulted.
My thesis is that vaccines allowed militaries to control and manage disease risk. Vaccines were “fit for purpose” as a disease management and control tool. The tool made the war possible.
It is also important to note that vaccines were tested under peacetime conditions. I am sure they expected similar results in war. But what would happen if the Great War ground on and on, year after year? What did in fact happen was that: Old diseases were still around; new diseases emerged; vaccine effectiveness waned; people were exhausted. Finally, the “Spanish Flu” materialized, and the whole enterprise fell apart.
I want to add a few words of my own to that. Although I had long suspected a vaccine link to the deadly pandemic misnamed the Spanish Flu, which spread across the planet for a few years beginning in 1918, I had never really looked into it. Now I have. To this day, it’s something of a mystery, with numerous competing theories as to its origin, which anyone can explore on the internet. One theory that gets no discussion on mainstream sites is the most plausible one, as you yourself suggested: vaccine overkill. Unfortunately, there are gaps in the data which invite conjecture on some points, but looking at the Big Picture, which I always try to do, it’s not difficult to connect the dots. Before examining the correlation, I’ll just mention that the estimates of those who died from this illness range from 20 to 100 million, which is why I’m always wary of statistics. I have no idea what the actual death toll was, but I’m fairly certain that it ranks as the second or third worst plague in history, though it stands to be surpassed by the fallout from the Covid jab.
To begin with, this pandemic was the first one in history global in scope, and it came on the heels of the first war that was global in scope. The Great War was truly a world war. Although nearly all the fighting took place in France and Belgium, more than a hundred countries were drawn in, with some 70 million men under arms, conscripted in large part from the vast African and Asian colonial territories of France and Great Britain. We can only surmise that most of these men were as heavily vaccinated as their White counterparts, and perhaps took the disease back home and spread it through shedding, especially sexual activity. Significantly, countries that were not militarily involved, such as China, and all the nations of South America except Brazil, seem to have been much less affected. Equally significant is that the greatest number of victims by far, at least in the early phase, were young men of military age, an oddity because this cohort is usually the healthiest (though it’s also true that trench warfare conditions weakened their immune systems.) And the first reported outbreak, in March 1918, was at an army base in Kansas, where presumably young draftees were being recklessly shot up before being shipped to the killing fields of Europe. It would be impossible to determine what went into all those bloodstreams, but we know that multiple vaccines can set off all kinds of adverse reactions, and it’s safe to say that this was the most nefarious medical experiment ever carried out before the age of Covid.
I agree with your comments.
What puzzles me is why governments downplayed the Spanish Flu’s connection with the War, and the mass vaccinations. Why not come clean, court martial people like Colonel Leishman, and reevaluate and learn from the whole sorry experience?
One answer that makes most sense to me is that WWI represented a crucial watershed moment in medical history. Prior to the War, there were all sorts of competing medical philosophies and schools of thought. The War changed this, however.
The War demonstrated that people could be kept in a state of constant ill-health. Medicine would not cure people; it would not cultivate true health. It would instead manage and control illness and disease – just like during the War. People would go about their everyday lives, which would now include repeated visits to doctors.
People would clamour to see doctors. They would be happy to be seen. And they would be grateful for their “healthcare.”
This illness management “healthcare” model would displace all the other medical models. Illness management was simply too profitable. It had a formula for creating repeat customers. It had room for both effective and junk pills, potions, and other therapies, including vaccines. By downplaying the War, governments basically green-lit the new medical paradigm.
Needless to say, Dan, your composition, though submitted in good faith, does not qualify you for the reward I offered. My logic might bewilder you, as yours bewilders me, and I don’t say that disparagingly. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to put your full essay on my site (with your last name redacted) along with this response. I welcome a trial in the court of public opinion.
OK – see above.
I am glad that you see my essay as having been submitted in good faith. I hope that my comments above are seen in the same light. And while I haven’t persuaded you, I hope that examining the history helps both us and readers better understand our current predicament.
Thanks again for writing and I look forward to your reply.