World War II anti-malaria poster by Doctor Seuss

[Theodore Geisel and Munro Leaf] / Army Orientation Course, Special Service Division, Army Service Forces, [recto:] THIS IS Ann.. …she drinks blood!  [verso:] NEWSMAP / MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1943. Washington, D.C.: War Department, 1943.  Double-sided poster printed in color halftone, 34 ¾”h x 47”w at sheet edge. Minor smudging at one corner, else excellent.
[with:] [Theodore Geisel, illustrator], This is Anne she’s dying to meet you. Washington, D.C.: War Department, 1943/44. Small pamphlet (5 ¼”h x 4 ¼”w), printed in red and black, 32pp, stapled at spine. Minor soiling to covers, better than very good.

A clever, striking and rather rare pairing of anti-malaria poster and pamphlet produced for members of the American military during World War II, illustrated by Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.  

The Japanese conquest of Indonesia and the Philippines in early 1942 cut the Allies off from their supply of cinchona bark, which provides the active ingredient for the malaria drug quinine.  The results were nearly catastrophic, so much so that in some campaigns casualties from malaria outstripped those from hostile action.  For example, between July 9 and September 10, 1943 no fewer than 21,482 of the American soldiers serving in Sicily were admitted to the hospital with the disease, in contrast to “only” 17,375 battle casualties.  By war’s end however the military had developed the ability to control the disease through aggressive prevention and public health measures.

One element of the anti-malaria campaign was an aggressive effort to educate front-line soldiers, the ones most likely to be exposed to the disease.  The result was a flood of educational material, of which this wonderful pairing of poster and pamphlet is just one example.  Playing on Anopheles, the Latin name of the malarial mosquito, the poster features the punning title “This is Ann ….. she drinks blood!”  The title is flanked by two portraits of Ann herself, in one of which she cheerfully prepares to quaff a glass of blood.  Below the title are three columns of text exhorting the troops: “She [Ann] can knock you flat so you’re no good to your country, your outfit or yourself.  You’ve got the dope, the nets and stuff to lick her if you will USE IT.”  The lower half of the poster is taken up by a large persuasive map using shades of red to indicate relative risks of contracting malaria around the world.  These unfortunately included the islands of the South Pacific and southern Italy, the two regions where American forces were most heavily engaged when this poster was produced at the end of 1943.

Though unsigned, the illustrations are in the unmistakable style of Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), who held the rank of Army Captain during the war and produced educational films and pamphlets for the military.  The text is probably by Munro Leaf, author of The Story of Ferdinand. 

Printed on the reverse of the poster is the “Newsmap” for Monday, November 8, 1943, a weekly War Department publication for soldiers.  This issue features a large bird’s-eye view of Europe as seen from an imaginary point above the North Atlantic Ocean, inset maps, photos, and text summarizing the latest news from the various war fronts.

The poster is accompanied by the rare pamphlet “This is Ann[…] she’s dying to meet you”, a small pamphlet also attributed to Geisel and Munro. It features graphics in a similar vein (though no map) and more extensive educational text in a tone similar to that of the poster. For instance, “This is how she does it. Ann moves around at night, anytime from dusk to sunrise (a real party gal), and she’s got a thirst. No whiskey, gin, beer, or rum coke for Ann . . she drinks Blood”. And later, “Bathing and swimming at night where Ann hangs out really is asking for trouble. Head nets, rolled-down sleeves, leggings and gloves may seem like sissy stuff and not so comfortable—BUT, a guy out cold from MALARIA is just as stiff as the one who stopped a hunk of steel.”

A rare and engaging Second World War pairing, presenting GIs with a deadly-serious public health message in a lighthearted tone, greatly enhanced by Theodore Geisel’s distinct style of illustration.

For the poster, Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #2214, Rumsey #11241 and OCLC #248336765 and 989856320. For the pamphlet, OCLC 461313921 (BNF only). Some background on the World War II fight against malaria from the web site of the Office of Medical History at the U.S. Army Medical Department. OCLC #696324560 lists another poster with the same title and “Newsmap” on the verso, but in place of the map are “seven columns of text interspersed with red and black cartoon images of mosquitoes, G.I.’s, mosquito netting and repellent, and a horse wearing a horse-collar” (An example of this variant may be viewed here.)