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Klamath Falls Marine Barracks Treats Tropical Diseases

U.S. Marine Corps Major-Gen. A.A. Vandergrift couldn’t bear watching some 4,000 of his World War II troops deteriorating daily from tropical diseases in the South Pacific.

After expressing his concerns to the top commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific, Army Gen. Douglas McArthur, Vandergrift asked a Congressional committee for $1.5 million to establish a treatment barracks in Klamath Falls, Ore.

The Navy Bureau of Medicine said the town was ideal.  It had a high elevation, decent weather, and a modest population of 30,000, but sufficient to handle Marines on leave.

From 1944 to 1946, the 800-acre treatment and recuperation center treated thousands of Marines and Navy personnel with mosquito-borne tropical diseases, including malaria, filariasis and elephantiasis.  It was rumored filariasis caused sterility, but the Klamath Falls Herald and News reported, “The psychological fears of sterility disappeared when married Marines and their wives had high birth rates double the national average.”  Marine marriages boomed in Klamath Falls.

The Oregon Institute of Technology owns the property today.  The barracks are gone, but a nearby granite headstone at the end of Old Fort Road marks today’s Marine Barracks Memorial Park.

 

Source: Juillerat, Lee. "Getting Answers: What was the Klamath Falls Marine Barracks? Herald and News e-Edition. Pioneer News Group, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. .

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.