In the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Crawford F. Sams led the most unprecedented and unsurpassed reforms in public health history, as chief of the Public Health and Welfare Section of the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in East Asia. "Medic" is Sams's firsthand account of public health reforms in Japan during the occupation and their significance for the formation of a stable and democratic state in Asia after World War II. "Medic" also tells of the strenuous efforts to control disease among refugees and civilians during the Korean War, which had enormously high civilian casualties. Sams recounts the humanitarian, military, and ideological reasons for controlling disease during military operations in Korea, where he served, first, as a health and welfare adviser to the U.S. Military Command that occupied Korea south of the 38th parallel and, later, as the chief of Health and Welfare of the United Nations Command. In presenting a larger picture of the effects of disease on the course of military operations and in the aftermath of catastrophic bombings and depravation, Crawford Sams has left a written document that reveals the convictions and ideals that guided his generation of military leaders.
Brigadier General Sams (1902-1994) believed that control of communicable disease was the handmaiden of democracy, helping to preserve individual worth. He pursued this theory when he served as head of public health and welfare in the military government during the Allied occupation of Japan and then during the Korean War. Sams felt he faced his greatest professional challenge in Japan--to help transform a devastated nation, riddled with disease, into a functioning, productive democratic society. He established a vast reform program in both preventive medicine and medical care, setting into motion immunization programs, establishing nationwide health centers, training and educational facilities, and bringing in the necessary medical supplies. Another challenge came when U.S. troops in Korea began a renewed push northward in early 1951, as wildfire epidemics, reported as "Black Death," were sweeping across Communist-held areas. Sams's account of his secret trip to personally investigate and identify the disease, traveling via destroyer, whaleboat and rubber raft, is riveting, and his ultimate determination is a testament to his plucky know-how. Unfortunately, Sams's memoir, written in the years following his retirement from the army in 1953, is packed with prosaic minutiae and very un-P.C. tough-guy pronouncements about his often unwilling host countries, which undercuts considerably its appeal for a broad readership. Photos not seen by PW.