In the English language Wikipedia article on the Recreation and Amusement Association, an organization for prostitution to Allied troops occupying Japan after World War II, it's claimed that sexually transmitted disease was rampant amongst the troops occupying Japan:

From the beginning of the Occupation, some Allied military officials cooperated with the Japanese government's system. According to the governors of Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, American commanders contacted them in September 1945 and requested the establishment of brothels for their troops, offering US military police help if necessary. American medical officers established prophylactic stations in red-light districts and inside the larger brothels that distributed tens of thousands of condoms a week.[29][30]

Despite these precautions, the problem of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs; primarily gonorrhea and syphilis) became a serious public health issue. By early 1946, nearly a quarter of all US occupation forces were estimated to be infected, and nearly half of some units. The Australian 34th Infantry Brigade had a rate of 55% infection.[31] [emphasis added]

In response, GHQ imposed strict STD check procedures for prostitutes, placed certain brothels with high rates of infection off-limits to troops, and helped re-establish clinics and laboratories (many of which had been destroyed during the war) to diagnose infections. Most importantly, the 8th Army authorized the free dispersal of penicillin to infected prostitutes despite a serious shortage of the drug in the US and orders from Washington that it only be given to Japanese "as a life saving measure."[32]

Citation 31 is "Tanaka Yuki (2002). Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II and the U.S. Occupation. Routledge.". This book received a mixed review at http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/morris_review.html . Not universally bad, not universally good.

I'm skeptical that infection rates were as high as was claimed. (This is regarding allied troops from western countries such as Australia and the United States, not the Soviet Union)

For the high rates to occur, a very high proportion of soldiers would be having sex with someone who they weren't married to, and either not be using condoms, or have had their condoms fail on them.

Sex outside of marriage, let alone sex with a prostitute, would go against the Christian or Jewish religious norms of most western allied troops of that era. In addition, unless condoms were failing at a massive rate, a high infection rate would indicate that a lot of soldiers were choosing not to use sexual protection even with women who have a lot of partners.

The motivation I suspect for inflated numbers is to make western countries look bad, and also to make Japan's actions during World War II seem not so bad in comparison.

Was the rate of sexually transmitted disease as high as 55% in allied troops from western countries?

  • 2
    When you take a young man far from home and loved ones, put him in a stressful situation where he thinks there's a good chance he may not ever go home, and he's not going to let a little thing like Christian Morals get in the way of sexual gratification. My uncle served in a MASH unit in Korea, I asked him if it was anything like the MASH TV show, and he said that in real life there was a lot more sex (and drinking), and not nearly as discrete as they try to keep it on the show.
    – Johnny
    Apr 17, 2013 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


The story is plausible for two reasons:

1) Most enlisted military personnel at a time of war up to the 1950's were young sexually-active males. This has long been the case and applies to the military of many countries, not just the USA.

2) In some cities in Japan, prostitution was legalised and the prostitutes had rates of STD infection of up to 95%.

Promoting Health During the American Occupation of Japan The Public Health Section, Kyoto Military Government Team, 1945-1949

Prostitution in Kyoto had been supervised by the prefectural government, which licensed organized brothels in several delineated districts. Prostitutes were registered and required to report for weekly venereal disease examinations. If they were found to be infected they received treatment, but contact tracing was not required. The examination, conducted by prefecture-registered gynecologists, was hardly rigorous; more than 90% of those examined were released with a health certificate. The postwar culture of sexual abandon led to the swift spread of sexually transmitted infections to the occupation forces. ... although the weekly examinations revealed a 5% to 8% infection rate, the actual infection rate [in registered prostitutes] was 75% to 95%, according to worldwide research by the US Public Health Service

US Army medical Department - The Pacific: August 1944 Through 1946

A base venereal disease control officer was particularly necessary, for in the early days of the occupation the rise in incidence of venereal disease among American troops in Japan presented a major problem.

Stars and Stripes - STDs and the military: Busting the myths

Today, gonorrhea and syphilis barely cause blips in lost duty time, unlike World War I days when the Army alone lost 7 million person days to what was then commonly called venereal disease, according to a 2005 report on military contributions to the study of STDs.

Department of Defense - STDs Still a Real Threat, Even at Home

"A large percentage of the military population is sexually active young adults," said Bill Calvert, chairman of the DoD's STD Prevention Committee. "With 333 million new cases of STDs globally and 15.3 million new cases in the United States each year, our service members are certainly at risk for exposure to STDs."

Calvert said younger adults are at higher risk of being exposed to STDs, placing the military population at higher risk than the general public -- two to five times higher, according to the Navy Environmental Center, Norfolk, Va., in its recent paper on condom availability in the Navy and Marine Corps. "In time of military conflict the difference can be 50 times higher or more," the report said.


Calvert also said military culture makes people more susceptible to risky behavior, noting that risk-taking is a common thread among successful service members.

"We want young service members who are risk takers. They work hard and they play hard," he said. "We're talking about people who jump out of planes for a living. We're dealing with young adults, many of whom are away from home for the first time, and you can't put chastity belts on them."

(my emphasis)

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