DDT, Aerosol Cans and WWII

Pacific Paratrooper

With millions of troops moving into tropical and subtropical campaigns, WWII military leaders and planners sought ways to fight diseases endemic to these regions. Two WWII era innovations were combined to save the lives of many combatants during the war years. Malaria was the primary concern at the time.

Malaria was commonly avoided by prophylactic treatments with quinine. Larger doses could be given to those known to be infected. Quinine came from the bark of a South American shrub that came to be grown on commercial plantations in the South Pacific. The Japanese occupied these plantations early in the war, and substitutes for it were less effective.

In 1939, Paul Hermann Muller discovered that dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) effectively killed insects.. In 1943 tests showed it to be effective against the mosquitoes that carried malaria, and the US Military started using it. At first they used hand pumps that pressurized a canister…

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