Social Hygiene in War Time
William F. Snow
It is generally recognized that the problems of prostitution and venereal disease bear an important relation to the military efficiency, and that it is imperative to deal effectively with these problems as they arise in connection with the military training camps now in existence or soon to be established in this country. More serious, because more far-reaching in their results upon national interests as well as upon individual welfare, are the problems of the infected person himself, of the sources of such infection, and of the possible results when men who may have become infected with venereal disease and not cured before discharge return to civil life.
The governmental agencies for dealing with these problems include the War Department's Commission on Training Camp Activities, recently established, with Mr. Raymond B. Fosdick as chairman, and charged with watching the moral conditions in training camps and the zones surrounding them and with coordinating the many agencies which are seeking opportunity for service in connection with the training camps.
The medical departments of the army and navy and the United States Public Health Service are faced by the task of providing facilities for the diagnosis of syphilis and gonococcus infections among candidates for enlistment and for medical advisory and treatment facilities for those admitted to the military and naval service, as well as for the control of venereal diseases in the cities and communities accessible to the military camps.
The Secretary of War in his recent letter to the governors of the several states made public his determination that the training camps, as well as the surrounding zones within an effective radius, shall not be places of temptation and peril and pointed out the patriotic opportunity and responsibility of state and local authorities for the maintenance of clean conditions, concluding with the following significant expressions: "As I say, the War Department intends to do its full part in those matters, but we expect the cooperation and support of the local communities. If the desired end cannot be otherwise achieved, I propose to move the camps from those neighborhoods in which clean conditions cannot be secured."
If any plans for the repression of these evils are to be effectively carried out, there will be opportunity and need for widespread and active co-operation on the part of persons and organizations in civil life. just what form of work may best be undertaken by any particular agency cannot be determined until the location of the training camps is known and the powers of the military authorities are definitely fixed. But the government will look largely to the civil authorities to repress prostitution, the use of alcohol, and other vicious conditions in the towns to which the soldiers in training have access in their leisure time. In spite of the progress of public opinion in respect to methods of dealing with prostitution, there are still towns where segregated districts are tolerated and military training camps may be located near some such communities. It is also likely that even in towns where conditions are now satisfactory vicious forces may become active when the military training camps are established. It is possible that official action may need the stimulation of private initiative to meet such situations.
Aside from removing the opportunities for indulgence in vice those who desire to be of service in promoting the moral and physical welfare of the troops in training will without doubt have opportunity to help provide wholesome forms of recreation. The Commission on Training Camp Activities, through the Y.M.C.A. and perhaps other agencies, will have charge of such facilities within the camp precincts, but it is not to be expected that the men in training will be continuously confined within military limits. It is easy to foresee a vigorous demand on their part for amusement of one form or another. For the sake both of the men in training and of the civil population there should be an intelligent and effective organization of the best forces in all of the communities to which the men have access, to see to it that recreational and social activities are adequate, suitable, and properly conducted.
The American Social Hygiene Association has placed its services at the disposal of the national government to assist in carrying out this general program and is specifically interested in the repression of vicious conditions in communities accessible to training camps, educational activities both for men in training and for
(46) the general public, including the preparation and distribution of pamphlets and circulars of information, the stimulation of public opinion to the support of practical measures for dealing with conditions which favor the spread of venereal diseases, the securing of an adequate supply of salvarsan, the creation of facilities for the treatment of infected persons in the civil population, and the like.
WILLIAM F. SNOW
AMERICAN SOCIAL HYGIENE ASSOCIATION