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 educational poster is just one example. Playing on Anopheles, the Latin name of the malarial mosquito, it 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 thematic 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. The two men also collaborated on a booklet with the title “This Is Ann / She’s Dying to Meet You,” featuring graphics in a similar vein (though no map) and more extensive text.
Printed on the reverse side of the poster is the “Newmap” 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 quite rare, with OCLC locating examples only at the National Library of Medicine and Hennepin (Minnesota) County Library (though as of September 2017 I find others at the David Rumsey Collection, Navy Department Library, and Yale.) 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 impression of that variant may be viewed here.)
Rumsey #11241. OCLC #248336765 and 989856320. 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.