The Enemy in Your Pants

The military’s decades-long war against STDs.
The Enemy in Your Pants

Army medical records dating back to the Revolutionary War show significant soldier losses due to venereal diseases. In a two-year period during the Civil War, the Union Army documented 100,000 cases of gonorrhea. During World War I, the Army lost 7 million person-days and discharged more than 10,000 men because they were ailing from STDs. Once Penicillin kicked in in the mid-1940s, such infections were treatable. But as a matter of national security, the military started distributing condoms and aggressively marketing prophylactics to the troops in the early 20th century.

The military took its prophylactics campaign seriously, but that didn't mean its VD posters couldn't have a little fun. One US Navy training film from 1942, USS VD: Ship of Shame, urged sailors to "put it on before you put it in." Click through for some of our faves, and find all kinds of venereal disease propaganda gems here.