Jonathan R. C. Green (Thailand) has published FIGHTING MALARIA ON THE RIVER KWAI
During World War II, 12,000 Allied prisoners of war died while constructing a bridge over the river Kwai in western Thailand, and then a railway through the thick jungles of the Kwai Valley all the way to Burma.
Decades later, during the Vietnam War, Jonathan R.C. Green enlisted as a medic in the U.S. Army, expecting to take care of wounded Americans and Asians, but was kept in a Stateside assignment instead, much to his frustration. So, shortly before his enlistment expired, he applied for the Peace Corps and asked to serve in Southeast Asia.
Six weeks after leaving the Army, he arrived in Thailand as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His job assignment was to fight malaria by controlling the mosquito populations in remote jungle villages in the valley of the infamous River Kwai.
Besides the hazards posed by snakes, scorpions and centipedes in the jungle, he ran the risk of contracting malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases, while suffering severe bouts of dysentery. He often had to live on a monotonous diet of rice, bamboo shoots and hot sauce three times a day, with the only reasonably safe drinking water coming from rain barrels teeming with mosquito larvae.
While becoming accustomed to a rugged lifestyle in the jungle, he had to quickly learn a complex language and exotic culture. An inadvertent misstep in manners could have damaged his credibility, and hence the outcome of his undertaking, as badly as catching the disease he was supposed to be fighting.
Fighting Malaria on the River Kwai
A Peace Corps Memoir
By Jonathan R.C. Green (Thailand 1974–75, South Africa 2015–17, Liberia 2017–18)
$ 53.95 (paperback); $3.99 (Kindle)
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Must be a great book … even though I share two countries with the author, I never saw a paperback Peace Corps memoir that costs more than $50!!
It’s not a regular paperback book. It is made of high quality, slick paper, 81/2″ x 11″ in size, with lots of photos. It is more like a coffee table book. I grant you, it is still a tad expensive, but if you don’t want to spend that much money, you can get it as an e-book. I published it not so much to make money, although it has sold fairly well, but mostly for my family and friends, to help them understand what my experiences were like, and how they shaped my character afterward.
I also served in a malaria eradication program in Thailand as a Peace Corps Volunteer 1966-68. Is it possible to send a message to Jonathan Gree regarding his book, FIGHTING MALARIA ON THE RIVER KWAI? Thank you, Barent Springsted, Bangkok, Thailand.
Hi, Barent. I can be reached at email@example.com
Hello Jonathan, It was a pleasure to come across your March 22 message. I have tried in vain for some time to make some contact with you. I was a PCV 1966-68 Group#17 in Thailand in the Malaria Eradication Program stationed in Chachoengsao. Unbeknown to me at the time that was a significant event in my life. I am now 78 living full time as a retiree in Bangkok. Your book really tweaked my interest initially because there was a man involved in the malaria eradication program named John Green in TH 68-70. I quickly thought that you were that man who I had long since lost track of, a fact proven wrong soon after. I did check the PC office in Bangkok to see if they had a copy of your book in their library but they do not. I never received any response to my initial contact to you in Nov. 2020 so I just resigned myself to a dead end. I did find one Internet site with a page that had the full text of the first 2 chapters of your book but follow-up efforts with the page owner was nil. At this time it is not possible to know when travel to the US will be on my schedule but we are holding our own during this pandemic. Odd side point, a fellow RPCV here in Bangkok at this time was also in group #17. If your future travels ever include Bangkok please add me to your to see list. Again, a real pleasure to hear from you. Barent Springsted, Bangkok 66 81612-1604 firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a question: Was DDT used against the mosquitos?
Yes, we did indeed use DDT to spray on interior walls of residences. I know that DDT is a very controversial subject, so I will try to address some concerns you may have. Yes, DDT is horrible for the environment, notably because it cause birds to lay eggs with fragile shells, which then break open prematurely. But we were not using DDT for agriculture, we were not spraying it in the environment. We were spraying only the interior walls of people’s houses to kill Anopheles mosquitoes which bite at night to spread malaria. Before DDT came into use after World War II, malaria was the Number One cause of death in Thailand. We asked all persons to leave their homes while we sprayed, and we covered all food and eating utensils before beginning to spray, so the residents’ exposure to DDT was minimal, if any. Although DDT definitely has harmful effects on the environment if used indiscriminately, it has yet to be proven to have any harmful effects on humans. I was routinely exposed to DDT as I supervised the spraying during my 2 years’ service in the Peace Corps. Now, nearly 50 years later, I am still in excellent health. We can never say that anything is 100% safe, but in practice we often must make choices based on the best information we have. Would it have been right to refuse to use DDT because it might cause some sort of long-term health effects, while knowing that this would condemn many people to die of malaria in the short term?
Jonathan’s explanation of the spraying process was spot-on. The question as to how do we know that the mosquitos would land where the DDT was sprayed. Mosquitos after engorging on their victim’s blood increase their weight almost 2 fold so they instinctively fly to the closest perpendicular wall space for a rest period. If the area the mosquito rest on has a residual of DDT powder (from the spraying activity) its system will pick up the chemical which will then cause them to die relatively soon after. Barent n’ BGK
There is research that exposure to DDT for women at certain ages will increase the risk of breast cancer. I was exposed to DDT as an army brat in Japan in the late forties and fit the profile of early breast cancer, which I had. I will post the link to that research:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17938728/
I agree of course that DDT was very important in controlling malaria. I also have always been told that without DDT the US would not have won WWII in the Pacific.
I believe that we in the United States and other industrial countries live with a high risk/high gain technology. We do not have real generational studies on our technology.
For Peace Corps Volunteers who worked in the fields of health, environment and agriculture, in particular, it is imperative that we be aware that many of the chemical solutions we introduced in traditional cultures did have unforeseen negative effects. In our First World, we have remedies which helped us with these unforeseen negative consequences. Peopl in the Third World may not
If Peace Corps, the agency, is aware of this, I have not seen any evidence. Many times, we of the First World Culture believed those in the Third World were resistent to change or superstitious. That was not true.
Hi Jonathan, When in contact with PCV’s from my Malaria Eradication group I am periodically asked by some them where to find a copy of your book. Understandably you should be rewarded for your labor in writing the book but there will be an element of readers (mostly RPCV’s like myself) who live abroad so acquiring your book is next to impossible. Are you familiar with the INTERNET ARCHIVE Website https://archive.org/ As a resource to an endless number of publications it can not be missed. The book section does focus on old publications long out of print. Periodically I come across a selection of more current publication in which case on-line viewing is limited to 1 hr. and copies can not be made. I believe that this is a decent amount of protection for writers. I do presume that the managers of the “Internet Archive Website” are diligent in protecting online copying. The Website does not sell any publications/books. It has literally million of publications in its data base. I believe that their master center is in the San Francisco area. This may not interest you to have your book shown on their Website but I do hope that you can give it some consideration so that our small scattered contingent can access your book. Thank you from Bangkok, Barent