Medicine and Obedience: Canadian Army Morale, Discipline and Surveillance in the Second World War, 1939-1945.

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In the Second World War Canadian Army, medicine and discipline were inherently linked in a system of morale surveillance. The Army used a wide range of tools to monitor morale on medical lines. A basic function of Canadian medical officers was to keep units and formations up to strength, not only by attending to their basic health, but also by scrutinizing ailments under suspicion of malingering. Mental health was a broad category linked to morale surveillance where experts of psychiatry and psychology consulted in aid of the Canadian Army in its disciplinary regime. Mental ability and stability became key ways to classify and categorize men in relation to their utility to the Army. Psychiatrists participated to various degrees in the screening process during the war, and treated those who were suffering from combat stress reaction, or as it was known during the war, “battle exhaustion”, considered a medical indicator of poor morale interrelated with discipline. Venereal disease was another medical factor monitored out of concern for its detrimental effect on manpower, morale and motivation. Treatment could take men out of the line for weeks, and contracting sexually transmitted infections proved disobedience of Army regulations which extended to the most intimate moments of a soldier’s leave. Provost and venereal disease control officers alike extended venereal disease surveillance from Canadian soldiers to their sexual contacts in Europe. The study of the morale monitoring system exposes a great deal about the Army and how it interacted with the medical profession and soldiers’ health. Using bureaucratic means to codify and quantify soldiers and their behaviour, the Army used a wide range of surveillance techniques to gather data on personnel. It is clear that as the Canadian Army was professionalized, enhancing its powers of observation, that the medicalization of morale was a key aspect of this process.
History--Canadian, History--Military, Military Studies
Pratt, W. (2015). Medicine and Obedience: Canadian Army Morale, Discipline and Surveillance in the Second World War, 1939-1945. (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/26871