Major General Raymond W. Bliss, the Army Surgeon General during all of World War II, practiced and advocated preventive medicine throughout his entire professional career. Because of his leadership Army privates and corporals during that most necessary of wars were promptly issued Halazone water-disinfection tablets, replacing the canteen-capfuls of chlorine solution previously dispensed by squad leaders. Also, all ranks received the effective insect repellent “612” and were given improved training in self-help means for reducing the incidence of tropical diseases. Thanks to General Bliss, tens of thousands of Individual Jungle Medical Kits were produced for and issued to the Army’s jungle soldiers to enable individuals to treat themselves. (See Fig. 18-1 on the following page.) A jungle infantryman also carried a first aid dressing in its waterproof container, usually in a pouch on his cartridge belt.

The Office of Strategic Services had a similar but much larger Medical Kit, carried in a water-resistant light canvas roll with 18 separate pockets for different medical items appropriate to the theater. It weighed 2½ pounds, according to OSS Special Weapons and Equipment, by H. Keith Melton. Each independent operator was provided with the necessary supplies for self-administered medical aid. Supply must have been erratic, for while serving in China with OSS I neither saw nor heard about any individual medical kit. I was issued several self-help medicines, which I carried in a Waterproof Food Bag. Chinese found amusing my having a strong medicine to keep awake, and another to enable me to go to sleep promptly even if stimulated.

Fig. 18-1. A copy of the best designed World War II Individual Jungle Medical Kit. A strip of cloth with pockets contained a small bottle of ½-strength Frasier’s Solution for skin diseases, Atabrine tablets to prevent and treat malaria, Mercurochrome, adhesive tape, and a small bar of all-purpose germicidal soap. (An early version had tincture of iodine until it was found to injure hot, sweaty skin.) Also in the issued kit were small extra bottles of Halazone water-disinfecting tablets, salt tablets, and “612” insect repellent. The complete kit weighed a little over 1 pound.

Useful additions often carried in the same waterproof food bag were a small bandage roll and an issued 1-oz. Individual Sewing Kit with its oiled needles.


Individual first aid kits, designed for use in all climates and not to be confused with the Army’s Individual Jungle Medical Kits, also were developed during World War II. They were most widely used by the Marines. In addition to an antiseptic, six yards of gauze bandage, a first aid dressing, a package of Band-Aids, water purification tablets, and sodium chloride/sodium bicarbonate tablets, the Marines’ first aid kit contained three small bottles with either snap-on or screw-on caps, in which to carry medicines appropriate to the theater. All those items were carried on the soldier’s cartridge belt in a cotton duck pouch measuring 5¼ x 5 x 2½ inches, weighing slightly more than 4 ounces when empty and dry.

Use of individual first aid kits by Army infantrymen was very limited. I did not see even one of them in Panama, Burma, or China during World War II, or much later in Vietnam. Reportedly, an updated, larger individual first aid kit still was an item of issue in 1993.

The Army had phased out Individual Jungle Medical Kits by the time its soldiers were fighting in Korea. Individual first aid kits still were in the Army supply system, but seldom were issued to soldiers. In contrast, U.S. Marines in Korea carried the Corp’s individual first aid kits on their cartridge belts. They used and appreciated them. Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Oliver, USMC (Ret.) told me that in the Korean War the Marines’ issue kit contained Mercurochrome for the disinfectant and Atabrine tablets in two of the kit’s three small screw-cap bottles. Additional medicines, bandages, and first aid equipment were carried by the two or three Navy medical corpsmen who accompanied each Marine combat infantry platoon.