weaponized Penicillin

Weaponized medicine can be thought of as the opposite of chivalric medicine where traditionally it was hoped that medical care was directed directed ,as it were, at "woman and children first", ie those weak and poor as well as being acutely sick --- being treated before those strong, well off and also acutely sick.

In fact, weaponized medicine does not just treat the 1As before the 4Fs, it  often doesn't intend to treat the 4Fs at all.

Rarely this is justified by frankly admitting that it is felt that treating the 4Fs is too expensive for too little return --- this was the internal reason the Nazi Aktion T4 gave for their medical murders, but even they declined to be equally frank with the general German public about the purpose of this program.

More likely, it is claimed that the medical community would just  love to treat the 4Fs , but in a Total War there is simply not enough money and the priority has to be  to 'our fighting lads dying overseas'.

 This was the usual guff from the Allied governments for not devoting enough war resources to produce penicillin for all who potentially needed it --- which by 1943 was the entire population, as the Sulfa drugs were rapidly losing their ability to stop deadly bacteria.

 A third reason given, again internally but this time by the Allies, was that providing miracle cures to the civilians would generate the sort of news stories that would alert the enemy to this drug and allow them to use it on the battlefield at the same time the Allied did, negating the Allied advantage of "medical surprise".

Can a 'sin of omission' be a War Crime ?

Until the Fall of 1943, the as yet virtually unknown penicillin was intended to be a secret weapon of war.

Just as the equally unknown DDT was to be.

(One of penicillin's chief virtues - at least to the military mind -  was the fact that , unlike the alternative sulfa drugs,  it remained virtually unknown, 15 long years after first being discovered.)

All the evidence available to the Allied military-scientic establishment suggested that penicillin and DDT were something of great potential benefit to all of humanity, particularly in the current world filled with hunger and sickness.

Despite this, they decided that would only go to Allied front line troops.

This was to give the Allied generals at least the advantage of superior numbers of combat-fit (ie healthy) men when facing enemy that fought so much better than their own, even when they were outgunned, sick and hungry.

It isn't really known that the Nazis had DDT and in fact were using it before us. The fact that most of the people under the tender care of the Germans and Japanese were starving can not be laid at the feet of a lack of DDT.

But they did not have penicillin : like the Allies the only  equivalent of today's wide array of  life-saving antibiotics were a handful of synthetic drugs based around the sulfa molecule.

From 1937 till 1942, the sulfa drugs had served the world well : they were cheap to make and cured the worst of mankind's bacterial diseases.

And there seemed a new more wonderful sulfa drug coming out of the chemists' labs every six months or so.

But eventually no more changes could be rung (wrung ?) out of the sulfa molecule.

Worst news was at hand ---- bacteria was becoming quickly and highly resistant to the drug.

One traditional response - up the dosage - started killing people as sulfa is moderately toxic at even low dosages.

And its big promise - that it would work as a local antiseptic ( when poured directly into the gaping wounds of modern warfare) - was revealed as untrue.

If the sulfa drugs were becoming useless to 20 million frontline troops, it is important to recall they were equally useless to 2 billion  civilians and rear sector troops.

There were no alternative anti-bacterial medications unlike today.

A major world wide epidemic - like the 60 million people who died of bacterial pneumonia after the Spanish viral flu of WWI - might find the sulfas no longer up to the task.

After four or more years of war, people world wide were tired from overwork, often hungry and cold, and literally sick from worry.

The world was past overdue seeing the kind of mass killing that even high tech killers like Hitler and Stalin couldn't pull off : those traditional epidemics of opportunity that traditionally kill most people during long drawn out wars.

The events of 1944 to 1948 suggest that millions more might have been added to WWII's grim total of dead, but for the wide availability of penicillin and other antibiotics.

As with the famines in Bengal, Greece and the Netherlands I do not claim that the Allies committed a sin of commission in their proposal to weaponized penicillin and deny it to civilians , rather that they committed a sin of omission.

If millions had died in the Allied world and Allied-controlled world post-1944, because penicillin hadn't been available to prevent potential epidemics from running wild, I believe the results would have been a war crime , one committed by the Allies leadership.

Luckily ,it never went that far.

But how did  antibiotics cease to be secret weapons of war, only for frontline allied combat troops , and become instead the universal symbol for hope in a hopeless world , the only good news to ever come out of a bad news war ?

You'll just have to read the book to find out !

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