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BG Crawford F. Sams' Contribution to Child Health in Japan during U.S. Occupation

On April 14, I had the opportunity to take part in a ceremony commemorating the opening of the BG Crawford F. Sams US Army Health Clinic, an outpatient clinic in Camp Zama, a U.S. Army base located on the outskirts of Tokyo. The clinic is named after Brigadier General Crawford Sams, who served as Chief of Public Health and Welfare under MacArthur's Supreme Command of the Allied Powers (SCAP) after WWII.

For six years until he returned to the U.S. in 1951, Sams implemented a number of public health measures in line with Allied Occupation policies under MacArthur, including prevention of infectious disease, school lunch programs, and developing the public health system. The high health standards enjoyed by all Japanese people today, from children to adults, owe much to Sams' wide-ranging contributions in the fields of medical education, medical and dental health care, public hygiene, prevention of illness, and pharmaceutical administration.

I was a student when Sams was active, and what I first remember of those times was the spraying of DDT under the orders of the GH that took place all over town to eradicate lice and thereby prevent contagious disease. In the chaos of the postwar period, Tokyo lacked a working sewage system. Under these conditions, many children died due to rampant infectious disease, diarrhea, respiratory infections, polio and other diseases. DDT spraying was one measure to wipe out these diseases. I vividly recall the photographs of children whose heads are covered with the white DDT powder.

Malnutrition was a problem that fostered infection, and in this area, Sams worked to improve the quality of school lunch program. Japan's excellent school lunch program today is the product of the discussions between Sams and the Ministry of Education. Bread from the United States and powdered milk were a source of energy and protein that improved the health of children.

By strengthening the public health functions and hygiene education, Sams also focused his efforts on revamping Japan's public health centers that were modeled on the prewar British system. They have served as the basis for Japan's health care system today.

Needless to say, Sams was working for the interests of the Allied Occupation, but he carried out his work as Chief of Public Health and Welfare under the GHQ as a humanitarian doctor with respect for fellow human beings. As a result, Japanese people, and Japanese children in particular, have benefited very much from his all work and contributions to Japan's public health.

I came across your comments in connection with websites pertaining to the BG Crawford F. Sams Army Health Clinics in Japan. As the editor of General Sams's memoirs, entitled Medic: The Mission of an American Military Doctor in Occupied Japan and Wartorn Korea, published by M E Sharpe Publishers, Armonk, NY, 1998, I am pleased to read your comments acknowledging Dr. Sams's contributions. I personally met with Dr. Sams in 1991, while researching and editing the manuscript he granted to the Hoover Archives at Stanford University, so I have an interest in his legacy. Best regards, Zabelle Zakarian

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