The Evolution of Venereal Disease Policy of the U.S. Armed Forces


  • John Skelton Wichita State University


venereal disease (VD), sexuality transmitted disease (STD), soldier morality, prostitution, civil law, military law, history of STDs


A prostitute calls down to a soldier from a balcony, "Come on up here and I'll give you something you've never had before!" The soldier dryly replies, "What's that, leprosy?"24

This joke was passed on from a Korean War veteran who said it was old when he heard it. How old is debatable, but the long association of venereal disease with the common soldier certainly is not. This relationship, mingled with the public's moral perceptions and common fears of standing armies, has proven as difficult an impediment for the Armed Forces to overcome as many of the battles they have fought. Over the centuries, few populations have been so empathetic as to consider that their soldiers, drawn from the common essence, were deserving of civil understanding. The litany of double standards, well expressed by Rudyard Kipling in 'Tommy," where the townsfolk cared not a whit for his bad food or loneliness, but inquired, "Tommy, how's your soul?'' was demonstrated by the tolerance of red light districts in most of their municipalities.25


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