Illustration of a bleeding soldier.

Medical Perspectives on World War 2

By Crystal Smith ~

It’s with great pleasure that I introduce you to a treasured new addition to National Library of Medicine (NLM) Digital Collections: World War 2, 1939-1949. To date, NLM has scanned over 500 books and pamphlets of the over 1000 selected for this digital collection. All materials digitized for the World War 2 collection were published by federal, state or local governments and consequently are in the public domain.

Chemical Warfare Service Field Manual, 1941
National Library of Medicine #1308028R

World War 2 began on September 1, 1939 and ended on September 2, 1945; but it wasn’t until the Japanese bombed the American Fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 that the United States entered the conflict. During the War, the United States military documented extensively all their activities both on the international front and at home.  The World War 2, 1939-1949 collection tells the story (from the history of medicine prospective) of the United States’ involvement during the war and documents many aspects of the day to day activities of military’s medical personnel. It provides a variety of data and insights into the types of diseases they encountered, the living conditions, and the daily life that those brave military personnel experienced.

Safety for Seamen, 1943
National Library of Medicine #101542783

As the world’s largest medical library (and formerly the Army Medical Library and Armed Forces Medical Library) NLM holds an extensive collection of both government and non-government publications on World War 2.  The books and pamphlets included in the World War 2 collection include all branches of military service that were functional at the time of publication, although the Army’s coverage is by far more comprehensive.

First Aid for Soldiers, 1946
National Library of Medicine #1308003R

To help you find items of interest, NLM Digital Collections is keyword searchable with the option to refine your search results by collections, subjects, authors, titles, formats, languages, genre, recently added, and by selecting a date range.  For example, if you want to see which languages are represented, click on ‘languages’ to reveal a list. You can also browse through each collection or category.  And the items in this collection, like ALL books in NLM Digital Collections are scanned from cover to cover and available in PDF format. You can read the entire book online, or download it to the device of your choice.

What’s the score in a case like mine?, 1945
National Library of Medicine #14321220R

Leadership documented all aspects of the conflict and now, after declassification, this history is now accessible to all. We hope to never repeat the experience of war on this scale, but the documentation of this war and others helps to inform and prepare scholars, civilians, soldiers and leadership for addressing events to come.

Portrait of Crystal Smith at her desk.Crystal Smith is Reference Librarian in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.



  1. For me History of medicine are really interesting to study. Thanks to Crystal Smith for sharing this one.

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