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To the People of the United States (USPHS, 1944)


[Music] [General Kirk:] As Surgeon General of your army, I know that the subject of this film is a deadly enemy and a menace to our Armed Forces. For too long we have allowed a social taboo to prevent effective discussion and action. Now, it is high time we met the enemy with all the force and knowledge at our command. I am sure that Doctor Parran agrees with me. [Surgeon General Parran:] I completely agree with what General Kirk has told you. The lifeblood of a democracy is your ability to understand and act upon a problem once the facts are presented to you. The purpose of this motion picture is to give you the facts, and then you, as individuals and citizens of a democracy, must take action. [Pilot 1:] What goes on? Figured you needed a rest? [Pilot 2:] How come you’re not loading up? [Mechanic 1:] Take a look at that lineup, you don’t see Babyface out there, do you? [Pilot 1:] Gee, that’s right. Everybody’s on hand but your crate. [Mechanic 2:] Babyface is no crate. She can fly rings around your Danny Boy with one wing tied behind her back. [Mechanic 1:] Yeah, she’s got a figure like Betty Grable and guns like… [Pilot 2:] Big talk, brother. If she’s such a killer, why isn’t she making the big hop? [Mechanic 1:] Aw, Babyface should be leading the pack. She’s in top shape. We worked on her all night. [Mechanic 2:] Oh, we gave her a manicure and a permanent. Gee, she looked beautiful. [Mechanic 1:] And then this morning the pilot was yanked on us. [Pilot 2:] Are you kidding? Captain Hubbard? He has more hours than anybody in the squad. [Mechanic 2:] Sure, sure, he’s terrific, but he got sick or something. They say he picked up some germ. [Mechanic 1:] And you know how a bomber crew works, they work together like a football team. It’ll take ’em weeks to train another pilot for us. [Pilot 1:] What a break! And after all the work you boys did to get her ready for action. And this is it too. We’re headed for the real hot spots! [Mechanic 1]: Yeah, don’t we know it. [Pilot 2:] Well, so long. We’ll send you a card from a nice Tokyo hotel… “Arrived safely, wish Tojo were here.” [Pilot 1:] Yeah, we’ll see you somewhere, Chunking, Algiers, Siberia, maybe even Berchtesgarten. So long, fellas. [Sound of airplane engines] [Mechanic 2:] I wonder what germ can knock out a flying fortress? Best fighter planes in the world couldn’t do it. [Fighter planes are taking off] [Captain Hubbard:] There they go, Colonel. Babyface could have been up there with them. I kept her out, crew and all. [Colonel Jansen:] Bad luck. You have to work fast and get you back into action. [Captain Hubbard:] Action? I know I’m through flying for good. I know I’m headed either for an asylum, or a seeing-eye dog. I wouldn’t mind it so much getting the works from a Messerschmidt or a Zero, if I had a couple of good pokes at ’em first. But this way… [Colonel Jansen:] Captain, I wouldn’t try to tell you how to handle Babyface. Why tell me how to run my business? [Captain Hubbard:] What do you mean, sir? [Colonel Jansen:] I mean you don’t know a thing about syphilis, except that you’ve got it. Here, take a look at the enemy before we start dropping bombs on them. Focus it. Those little wriggling things, they’re the syphilis germs, the spirochetes. They’ve gotten into your body tissues, but we’re going to kill them before they do any harm. [Captain Hubbard:] Before they do any harm? [Colonel Jansen:] That’s what I said. Medical science has developed a specific cure for syphilis. Anytime we can find them early, we can cure it. And the earlier we find it, the quicker we cure it. And we caught your case right at the start. [Captain Hubbard:] But I’ve always heard… [Colonel Jansen:] From whom? The kid next door? The patent-medicine salesman? Surely not from anyone who knew what he was talking about. [Captain Hubbard:] Colonel, give me the works. I’ve got to get back to that big plane. When do we start treatment? [Colonel Jansen:] You’re starting now. [Captain Hubbard:] How long before I can be around people? [Colonel Jansen:] Less than a week, and you won’t be contagious if you keep up the treatments. [Captain Hubbard:] How many treatments? [Colonel Jansen:] You’re going to have a series of arsenic shots in your arm and bismuth shots in your hip, about 56 altogether. [Colonel Jansen:] Sit down, pull up your left sleeve. Make a fist. [Captain Hubbard:] I’ve heard all about this stuff. Burns like liquid fire, doesn’t it? [Colonel Jansen:] But, does it? [Captain Hubbard:]I don’t feel anything yet, but what about later? [Colonel Jansen:] And you won’t feel it. It’s painless. The whole treatment is painless, won’t even keep you from working. Once you’re not infectious, you can go about your business and do anything you like. [Captain Hubbard:] Look, Colonel, when a pilot’s grounded, it’s like losing his license to breathe, but, well, you’ve renewed my license and I want to thank you. [Colonel Jansen:] It’s all right, Captain. Be sure to keep up the treatments. Don’t miss a single one. Just because the symptoms disappear, don’t think the disease is gone. Working together we’ll clear every spirochete out of your body. [Captain Hubbard:] Colonel, you’re in command, and orders are orders! [Colonel Jansen:] All right. Just one more thing, Captain. [Captain Hubbard:] Yes sir? [Colonel Jansen:] Name the first Zero after me. [Captain Hubbard:] You’re on the beam, sir. [Colonel Jansen:] You want the facts? Well, the first question is the extent of syphilis in America. We measure the numbers. Allow me to introduce several members of a local draft board, who induct hundreds of young American boys every week. May I introduce Mr…Thompson. [Mr. Thompson:] How do you do? [Colonel Jansen:] Mr. Griffith. [Mr. Griffith:] Good morning! [Colonel Jansen:] And Mr. Harrison. [Mr. Harrison:] How do you do? [Colonel Jansen:] Tell them what you learned, Mr. Harrison. [Harrison:] A couple of years ago I would have been embarrassed if anyone had mentioned syphilis in my presence. Now I realize that I was just shutting my eyes to a very serious condition. Henry, you’ve got our figures. [Griffith:] Out of every thousand men who appear before this board for induction, we’ve had to reject 41 because of syphilis. At first we thought there must be something wrong with this district, so we wrote to the Selective Service headquarters in Washington. Tom, tell them what headquarters wrote back. [Thompson:] The national average is 47 able-bodied men rejected for syphilis out of every thousand examined. There are some states in the Union, however, where the average is as high as 170 men rejected for syphilis out of every thousand. [Colonel Jansen:] Thank you, gentlemen. Staggering, isn’t it? Now, let’s visit an Army hospital. Let us check up on the Army itself. Remember, we are still measuring syphilis by numbers. Come along. [Major:] Yes, we’re losing a lot of men to venereal disease, Colonel. Thank you. [Major:] You can see for yourself. Every time there’s a war, the venereal disease rate takes a jump. It’s bad enough in peacetime, but now it’s like a forest fire. No organization of saboteurs could do half this damage to our army. We average 30 venereal disease cases each year out of every 1,000 men in uniform. That means 300,000 men put out of action each year in a ten-million man army and every one of those men is a casualty, as far as combat is concerned. Think of that, 300,000 casualties without even a battle! Well, I’m sorry to have to run out on you, Colonel, but I’m swamped with work. [Colonel Jansen:] Thank you, Major. [Major:] Goodbye. [Colonel Jansen:] Goodbye. Remember, the men of our army come from every walk of life. They are a true cross-section of America, for syphilis is no respecter of wealth or social position. It attacks the Park Avenue millionaire as well as the Bowery tramp. And now let us measure the spread of syphilis in dollars and cents, and cost to the taxpayer. It costs the taxpayer ten million dollars every year to pay for the care of the syphilitic blind in public institutions. There are 23,000 cases of insanity caused by syphilis in state asylums. They cost the taxpayer 14 million dollars annually. Another 31 million is spent annually in private institutions. The Veterans’ Administration spends 82 million dollars every year on hospitalization and disability pensions for syphilis cases. Amazing, isn’t it? [Baby crying in the background] [Colonel Jansen:] Now let us measure the spread of syphilis in heartbreak. Don’t worry. These children are normal, healthy babies. They have a good happy life ahead of them. They’re the lucky ones. You wouldn’t want to see the other side of the picture. [Sound of door opening and closing.] ]Good morning, Doctor. [Doctor:] Good morning, Colonel. [Colonel Jansen:] Would you tell our friends how this problem involves mothers and babies? [Doctor:] Certainly. Last year about 96,000 children were born in this country to mothers with syphilis. 34,000 of the babies were born with congenital syphilis. If we could have discovered the condition of the mothers before the fifth month of pregnancy, we could have treated them, and the children would have been born perfectly healthy. I guess the mothers were ashamed to admit the disease, or they didn’t understand it, or maybe they were just afraid, or they didn’t know they had it. Excuse me, Colonel. [Colonel Jansen:] I’m sorry if he sounded bitter, but then doctors see the heartbreak, the suffering, the tragedy, firsthand. And they know that all of it could be preventable disease. We could put syphilis in the class with typhoid fever, diphtheria, and smallpox. I’m getting all worked up, too. I only mean to present the facts, and we now know fact number one: Syphilis has spread all around America to a staggering extent. Let’s go back to my office. Now that we know the extent of syphilis in America, let us consider what can be done about it. Is it a necessary evil? Is it something science is unable to fight? Or is it simply too powerful for the human race to cope with? I was born in Denmark. Some years ago I went back for a visit. I was amazed at their progress in the field of venereal disease and I took some home movies. You can see for yourself how Denmark attacks the problem. There is one of the big community clinics in Copenhagen, Denmark. There’s a young couple entering the clinic together for blood tests before getting married. There’s no shame attached, no questions of secrecy. When Danes or Swedes or Norwegians hear that syphilis is a naughty word in America, they laugh. They wonder what’s wrong with us, because in their countries syphilis is looked upon the same as any other sickness or disease. This is the inside of a Copenhagen clinic. People get regular blood tests and so the health departments can keep a close check on any spreading of the disease. Thus the disease is caught and treated immediately. The chain of infection, so disastrous to us, is broken at the source. That isn’t censorship or shame cutting that patient’s head off as he gets a shot of arsenic, it’s just my bad movie-shooting. In Copenhagen, it’s no crime to have syphilis. It’s only a crime not to take treatment for syphilis, for then you endanger everyone with whom you come in contact. They don’t sneak down back alleys. They don’t hide the disease. They don’t whisper about it in back of their hands. No, they face the problem openly and honestly. Well, the question is, does their system work any better? Does bringing the discussion of syphilis into the open accomplish anything? Well? Here’s the result. The population of New York State is roughly equal to that of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark combined. Each of the little figures represents 2,000 new cases of syphilis reported a year. So in the last year, before the Nazi invasion, New York State, one of the most progressive states in fighting syphilis, had 50,000 new cases reported. Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, combined, had only 2,000. So now we know fact number two: Syphilis can be stamped out! As widespread as it is in our country today, we could almost completely wipe it out in no time! It’s all very well talking in terms of figures in countries, representing millions of people, but the question is, what can you and I, as individuals, do about it? Well, the first thing you must do is to have a blood test. Yes, I mean you. The need for a blood test means you and me, as well as the village idiot. Go to your family doctor, or if you can’t afford to find a physician, go to your local health clinic. I’ll show you what to do. Come along. We’ll call on a young private doctor I know. Come along. Here we are. Won’t you come in? Don’t be afraid, come on in! [Nurse:] Colonel Jansen to see you, Doctor. [Doctor:] Thank you, Nurse. [Colonel Jansen:] How do you do, Doctor? [Doctor:] Hello Colonel. What’s the matter? Need a prescription for orange juice and castor oil? [Colonel Jansen:] No, I’ve come for a blood test. [Doctor:] Oh, good idea, I had one myself last week. [Colonel Jansen:] I brought some friends along. I want them to see how it’s done. [Doctor:] Splendid. Everybody should know all about blood tests. Will you come this way? [Colonel Jansen:] Well…come on. There’s no more pain than a slight pinprick. The doctor draws off only about a spoonful of blood. [Doctor:] I’ll send this to the laboratory and you should have your report tomorrow afternoon. [Colonel Jansen:] This is what most people call a Wasserman test. Will you explain that, Doctor? [Doctor:] Yes. Actually, our new test is an improvement over the Wasserman. We now have about five or six new, and better, blood tests, absolutely accurate, but the public calls them all the Wasserman test. [Colonel Jansen:] The main thing is that they tell if any spirochetes are in the body. [Doctor:] That’s right. A blood test is the best and most accurate check on spirochetes. Nurse? [Colonel Jansen:] Now you see, that’s all there is to it. And yet think of the millions of dollars, the thousands of tragedies, the millions of wrecked lives which could be saved with so little effort! Thank you. Goodbye, Doctor. Fact number three: The way to stamp out syphilis is for everyone to take blood tests. And wherever syphilis is located, have it treated and cured. It sounds like A, B, C, doesn’t it? Well, it’s that easy and it’s up to you. [Doctor:] I don’t know about you, but I hate the idea of the Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes thinking we’re a bunch of superstitious idiots. Let’s show them we’re as adult and intelligent as they are. Let that be our plan of conquest, the conquest of disease. [Colonel Jansen:] The children who follow us must inherit health, freedom, and happiness. The scourge of disease must be wiped from the land, and then there will be a new day ahead. A day without insidious, lurking, evil sicknesses. A day without a useless hypocritical attitude, which refuses to name a germ, yet permits the horrible devastation caused by it. Syphilis. Say it. Syphilis! Learn about it. Have a blood test to make sure you haven’t got it. And, working together, we will stamp it out! [Surgeon General Parran:] Here, we have told only part of the story of venereal disease control. Untold is the fine work our churches, schools, and social agencies are doing to prevent the promiscuity which spreads infection. It is important to remember that the only sure way for the individual to avoid infection is to avoid exposure. Learn the facts. With knowledge and intelligent action, the people of America can eradicate the venereal diseases. [Music]

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