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1964_04_25--72-73-These_Americans_Must_be_Gods

team in the Far East. troops in the Far East. Also, the health of the civilian population in a combat area can be militarily decisive. "If we hadn't checked the typhus epidemic among Egyptian stevedores unloading war material back in 1942," recalls Phillips, "we might have lost the battle of El. Alamein." Son of a small-town Iowa physician, Phillips received his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and from there went into research and teaching at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Cornell. In 1942, while Phillips was serving at the Naval Air Training Station in Pensacola, President Roosevelt ordered the creation of a U.S. Typhus Commission. A few months later, as Montgomery and Rommel were battling for North Africa, a typhus epidemic broke out in Egypt and threatened the Allied cause. The Typhus Commission rushed a team to Cairo to fight the plague, and Phillips went along. When the war ended, the Typhus Commission decided to close down its laboratories in Egypt, but yielded to protest and agreed to turn them over to another American organization—provided one could be found within seven days. Delegated to turn up a new sponsor, Phillips rushed back to Washington and made his pitch for support to every likely agency. Only the Navy was flexible enough to take over, and in 1947 it formed a Medical Research Unit in Cairo. Phillips, until then a reserve officer, was commissioned a lieutenant commander in the regular Navy and ordered to take command. In 1955, when the Navy decided to expand its medical activities into the Far East, he was put in charge. Phillips and his wife, Hope, a charming Vassar graduate whom he met while she was working at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, are by now among the senior American residents of Formosa, and their six children, aged 3 to 16, are as integrated into the Oriental environment as Western kids can get. Three have attended Chinese schools, are fluent in Mandarin and speak English with a noticeable Chinese accent. Phillips himself lives in his research, working 12 hours a day, commuting throughout the Far East from epidemic to epidemic. Despite the range of its services, the cost of the NAMRU in the Far East is extremely low—less in one year than the U.S. spends every day on the war in Vietnam. The unit's budget runs to about one million dollars annually, roughly two thirds of it derived from the sale of surplus American grain to the Chinese Nationalists on Formosa. Occasionally Phillips is asked if we are getting good value for our money. "Well," he says, "if it hadn't been for our operation perhaps eighty of the 400 patients in our Saigon wards would have died of cholera. Maybe thousands more Vietnamese would have died of cholera in other parts of this town. How much is a life worth?" THE END Mending cholera victim rests her grateful gaze on Capt. Robert Phillips, clad in civvies to free his team from problems of rank.


1964_04_25--72-73-These_Americans_Must_be_Gods
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