Blood sources for U. S. forces during the Vietnam War


An official history from the Army provides some intriguing information about blood supplies that may provide hints about why certain HCV strains are prevalent in Vietnam veterans–and why hepatitis C is endemic in Vietnam veterans.

Source of the quotes below: http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/vietnam/medicalsupport/chapter9.html

First, the need for blood:

“As troop strength grew and combat casualties increased, the task of distributing whole blood, plasma, and related products in South Vietnam developed into the largest blood distribution system ever undertaken by a single organization.”

“…requirements for whole blood would climb slowly but steadily from less than 100 units per month in 1965 to 8,000 units by February 1966, skyrocket to more than 30,000 units per month by 1968, peak at 38,000 units in February 1969, and fall rapidly to less than 15,000 units by mid-1970.”

At first, blood sources came from Asian donors and military donors.

“The primary source for whole blood used in South Vietnam until July 1966 was the 406th Medical Laboratory in Japan. Mobile bleeding teams were dispatched from the laboratory to donor resources in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, and Taiwan. A very valuable donor resource was found in the Yokosuka Naval Base when the Pacific fleet came in, and reserve donor resources also existed in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. With vigorous command support and the dedicated work of blood-drawing teams, supply kept pace with demand until June 1966. Blood collections in PACOM rose from 201 units in January 1965 to 7,426 in January 1966 and 12,984 in June 1966.” 

Then came a big change.  Blood was collected by 42 donor U. S. military centers designated by The Surgeons General of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and shipped by air to Asia.

Only American military personnel (and military-related persons) donate blood to American forces in Vietnam.

“For the first time in U.S. military history, every unit of whole blood used to support the war was donated free of charge by military personnel, their dependents, and civilians employed at military installations.

Donors were not motivated by profit. No high-pressure advertising programs were permitted, yet nearly a million and a half volunteers gave blood. Not once was it necessary to initiate contracts for blood to be supplied by the American Red Cross or the American Association of Blood Banks. Even in the most difficult times, when blood requirements reached 38,000 units a month, the civilian blood collection system was not upset by the additional military requirements to support an ongoing war.”

1.  First Asian blood > transfused into injured American forces in Vietnam.

2.  Then only American military personnel blood (and related persons)> transfused into injured American forces in Vietnam.

My lay theory:  Transfusion-based chains of blood-borne infections occurred because after 1966, the system became,  please excuse this word, incestuous, since no military-related civilians were donors.  It was a closed system.   

 

Blood Transfusion

Vietnam battlefield transfusion in 1967

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5 Responses to Blood sources for U. S. forces during the Vietnam War

  1. HCVet says:

    http://hcvets.com/data/bloodmanagement/articles/1995philadelphia_inquirer.htm

    Interest in plasma was revived in 1950 when an Army-funded team led by J. Garrott Allen, then of the University of Chicago, reported that prolonged heating could kill hepatitis. …By the time Allen’s study was published, the Korean War had begun. Army doctors were treating the wounded with pooled plasma that had been irradiated with ultraviolet light in an attempt to kill hepatitis. It didn’t work: Nearly 22 percent of the men who received plasma contracted hepatitis…

    • Kiedove says:

      Thank you for alerting us to this valuable article. I’ve been trying to learn more about blood products like Factor VIII and Sylvia got my attention with gamma globulin. And Nod with his yellow vaccination book! My vet received a gamma globulin vaccination in Vietnam, according to his med. records. That, I thought,,would be good evidence for HCV risk factor. But when I search the BVA recent decisions using the keywords, “HCV, hepatitis, and gamma globulin” I noticed that there is strong resistance by the VA judges to acknowledge it.
      However, I found some damning info. on the FDA website that I’ll I try to get up on the weekend. The British government has been forced to help people who received HCV from contaminated blood products. U. S. Federal agencies formed a strong phalanx with regard to HCV for many years now. I believe that there may be some allies in state public health agencies.

  2. randy says:

    Sanitary conditions do not always come to mind when facing an enemy hell bent upon your destruction. So many different ways to pass diseases along and pass they did. The basic premise was to save lives at all costs and worry about the tiny critters later.

    • Kiedove says:

      Yes, this is a dramatic image. Such young people doing their best with whatever they had on hand in a very challenging environment.

    • this hep c from korea small critter my foot .I have lived 7 years with my husband who was un knowledgably infected .then unknowingly carried it for 30 yrs and shared it with friends and love ones and then physically and mentally faught it to his death. question for me is did the military know what they were doing then ,why not admit it stop it fix it and prevent it from spreading to millions of civilians its like a woman being raped and the mans defense is she said yes . outraged disabled widow fighting for sc benefits for my husband myself and all veterans and their familes .

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