Eradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia: Peace Corps Volunteers’ Accounts of Their Adventures, Challenges and Achievements
Editors: Gene L. Bartley (Ethiopia 1970-72, 1974-76), John Scott Porterfield (Ethiopia 1971-73), Alan Schnur (Ethiopia 1971-73), James W. Skelton, Jr. (Ethiopia 1970-72)
Peace Corps Writers
486 pages
November 26, 2019
$ 19.95 (paperback)


This book contains a wide variety of unique and perceptive stories about the experiences of the Peace Corps Volunteers who worked in the Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP) in Ethiopia between 1970 and 1975. There are 21 chapters, written by 15 former PCVs, Dr. D. A. Henderson, the Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global SEP, and Dr. Ciro de Quadros, WHO Epidemiologist in charge of field operations in Ethiopia.

All of the stories provide insights into the personal, practical and technical aspects of the work. The PCVs’ stories include vivid, first-hand descriptions of the living and working conditions in Ethiopia during the implementation of the SEP.

The reader is given an insider’s view and understanding of what the PCVs were experiencing, accomplishing and thinking during the days when Ethiopia was reporting more smallpox cases than any other country in the world. Many of the authors also include stories about the inspired leadership of public health giants like Dr. Ciro de Quadros and Dr. D.A. Henderson.

This book will be of interest to public health historians, as well as those working in the fields of public health, infectious diseases and sociology, and people who are curious about this historic achievement and the conditions in Ethiopia at the time. Editors: Gene L. Bartley (Ethiopia 1970–72), John Scott Porterfield (1971–73), Alan Schnur (Ethiopia 1971–73), James W. Skelton, Jr. (1970–72)

The contributors are:

Warren Barrash (Malaysia 1970–72, Ethiopia 1973–74),
Gene L. Bartley (Ethiopia 1970-72, 1974-76),
David Bourne (Ethiopia 1972–74),
Peter Carrasco (Ethiopia 1972–74),
Stuart Gold (Ethiopia 1973–74),
Russ Handzus (Ethiopia 1970–72),
Dr. Donald Ainslie Henderson,
Scott D. Holmberg (Ethiopia 1971–73),
John Scott Porterfield (Ethiopia 1971–73),
Vince Radke (Ethiopia 1970-74),
Michael Santarelli (Ethiopia 1970-73),
Alan Schnur (Ethiopia 1971–74),
James Siemon (Ethiopia 1970–72),
James W. Skelton, Jr. (Ethiopia 1970–72),
Robert Steinglass (Ethiopia 1973–75),
Marc Strassburg (Ethiopia 1970–72).



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  • This is an incredibly important book. Peace Corps Volunteers were part of the world wide effort which ultimately eradicated small pox. Thank you, John, for publishing this and thanks to everyone who was involved.

    Peace Corps published a report in 2016, acknowledging that PCVs all over the world worked to eradicate small pox. But focused on efforts in Africa Here is the link:

  • Yes, indeed, an important book, although the essays are a bit uneven, most very well done, a few others, not so much. But the book tells a wonderful story of PCVs, acting as PCVs should: hard working, madcap, off for adventure — and doing very important work in the remotest parts of Ethiopia. Super PCVs, some used to call them. Yes, kudos to John and über-editor and book-designer Marian Beil for getting this gem of a book to press. The cover art alone is worth the price of admission.

    Barry Hillenbrand
    Debre Marcos, Ethiopia

  • Dear John,

    Perhaps the most significant chapter in Global Public Health has been the eradication of smallpox, a disease that has plagued humanity since the dawn of time. And–it stands today as the only example of a joint program with the USSR that subsequently affected the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. DA Henderson was its Director, on loan from the CDC to WHO/Geneva. He and his colleagues perfected the technique of training thousands of non-physician personnel over a period of a few weeks, often under the shade of a tree, in the administration of an immunization that resulted in the eradication of smallpox.
    Field workers with rudimentary training, like the Volunteers in Ethiopia, were the key to what stands today as the sole example of a disease that has been eradicated world-wide.

  • Greetings can someone relay this message to John Scott Porterfield (Ethiopia 1971–73), thank you

    Greetings John, are you still looking for info on your father. I am the grandson of a 65th infantry vet. not sure if this email still works if so please reply
    504th Parachute Regimental Combat Team

    I just discovered your www page today. My father served in the Army in
    Korea. I have spent years trying to find out more about his unit and
    the action they saw. Thanks for developing this great information

    Thanks for your reply. My father John D. Porterfield Jr., was killed
    in action two days after he was officially relieved. He was showing
    the New commander the terrain. No one was aware that the chinese had
    moved up one of the 120mm mortars during the night.

    I found a reference to this action in one of the Korean trilogies
    written long ago. And I have spent most of my adult life trying to
    talk to someone who knew him. He was promoted to First Lieutenant
    after he was killed. He left two sons and a 22 year old widow.

    I believe he was in A company 504th. He was career military having
    served in the WWII. He rode the second plane to land in occupied Japan.

    John Scott Porterfield

    —from KWP—-

    Lt Porterfield was assigned to the 65th INF RGT
    KIA – Oct 28, 1951
    Promoted to Capt.

  • Dear PC Worldwide readers:
    Although I’m far from being objective about this book, I had hoped someone would write a comment saying kudos to the authors and editors of this anthology about the eradication of smallpox in Ethiopia. It was truly a group effort that required a bit more than five and a half years to complete. I believe it’s a unique accomplishment for a large group of RPCV writers who contributed such great stories about their work and lives in the field in Ethiopia. We were also very fortunate to have the opportunity to include two important chapters written by Dr. D.A. Henderson, as well as a reprint of a classic article written by Dr. Ciro de Quadros.
    So there you have it, kudos to the authors and editors!

    • John,
      I said it was an incredibly important book and said thanks to everyone who was involved.

    • I would like to invite you to share this remarkable story in a virtual presentation on Zoom for the Arlington County, Virginia 55+ Programs community. Our participants would be fascinated to learn about the experience of the Peace Corps volunteers who worked so hard to eradicate smallpox from Ethiopia. We may even have some former Peace Corps volunteers in attendance!

      I work for the Arlington County, Virginia Office of 55+ Programs. Our 55+ community centers are closed due to COVID-19, but we are offering a wide variety of virtual educational, fitness, wellness and recreational programs to help keep our 55+ adults active, engaged and connected during these challenging times. Most of our programs are free as this one would be. You can find more information about us and our Spring 2021 55+ Program Guide at

      Our virtual programs are very well-attended and I anticipate that this program would attract a great many people. I’m currently scheduling programs for June, July and August 2021 and hope you will be interested and available to give a virtual presentation in that timeframe.

      I am looking forward to hearing from you. I can be reached at or 703-625-8351 (cell).

      Sheila Kraft Budoff
      Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation
      Office of 55+ Programs
      3829 N. Stafford St.
      Arlington, VA 22207

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