Crawford F. Sams – Brigadier General, United States Army

The following information is courtesy of the General’s Grandson, Stephen G. Johns, whose great information has gone unattributed for for too long.  We deeply apologize to Mr. Johns for this inadvertent error.  Michael Patterson, 25 January 2010.


I am the Grandson of Brigadier General Crawford F. Sams, who is mentioned in this article. My Grandfather died 6 years ago, and is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The subject of his activities in Japan during both the Occupation, and the Korean War was one, which we discussed frequently. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for the action, which was described in this article, which was also the subject of a magazine article, and a radio program on the Cavalcade Of America program, (the radio transcript of which I still have on 78′ records).

At no time were American Forces involved with experiments using Biological agents, or with their release during the war. I have many times heard his personal account of the action, which involved going behind the North Korean lines. As both a General Officer on MacArthur’s staff, and Chief Of Public Health and Welfare Section, United Nations Forces Korea, if anyone was in a position to know, I think that it is safe to say it was he. Just as an aside, my Grandfathers promotion to Surgeon General Of the United States had been approved by the President, but was later rejected as a result of the President’s wrath at MacArthur.

The claim was that it was Bubonic Plague, but in fact turned out to be a form of hemorrhagic fever. At that time, my Grandfather was one of the few Medical Officers who had ever seen a live case of Bubonic Plague, which was one of the reasons that he elected to go on the mission himself. I have in my possession one of three existing copies of the manuscript of his Autobiography, portions of which have recently been published. This publication deals specifically with the period of time in question, and also covers his mission behind North Korean Lines.

In the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Crawford F. Sams led the most unprecedented and unsurpassed reforms in public health history, as chief of the Public Health and Welfare Section of the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in East Asia. Medic is Sams’ firsthand account of public health reforms during the Occupation and their significance for the formation of a stable and democratic state in Asia following World War II. It also covers Sams’ role in the heroic efforts to control disease among refugees and civilians during the Korean War, which had enormously high civilian casualties. Sams wrote this book between 1955 and 1958, following his retirement from the U.S. Army. He has left a compelling and beautifully written document that reveals the convictions and ideals that guided his generation of military leaders.

Comment(s): [Sams’] account fills an important blank spot in the implementation of U.S. occupation policies in the postwar years. … This account is more than a record of the medical and health problems [Sams] confronted and the measures he introduced; it can be seen as a glimpse into the traditional Japanese institutions, way of life and mores. It also reveals aspects of SCAP administration, and other groups dispatched to advise or observe the policies and measures being implemented. This is a valuable record penned by an officer whose humanitarian accomplishments have hardly been recognized by historians of postwar Japan. — Mikiso Hane, Knox College


Sams’ memoirs are quite readable and should be of interest to military history readers, public health students, and especially to those interested in a first-hand account of Occupation policies. His recollections have obviously been meticulously edited by Zabelle Zakarian. The Midwest Book Review

This book is very highly recommended for its insights into the medical aspects of rebuilding a war damaged country…Sams’ career provides useful insights on the interwar preparation of Army officers for the unanticipated aspects of war and peace. The editor is to be congratulated for her wisdom in selecting this manuscript for publication, and for an outstanding editing job. Johns Hopkins University Press.

The book offers valuable insight into the culture and politics of healthcare and welfare distribution. It is highly recommended reading. Navy Medicine Journal.

General Headquarters Far East Command: General Orders No. 94 (April 20, 1951)


The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Crawford F. Sams, Brigadier General (Medical Corps), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Chief, Public Health and Welfare Section, United Nations Command.

Brigadier General Sams distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Korea on 13 and 14 March 1951.

General Sams acquitted himself with rare distinction as head of a special operations group whose hazardous mission of personally determining the possible presence of a pestilential disease among personnel of enemy forces dictated deep infiltration into enemy-held territory.

Although information had been received from ashore that other landing parties had been captured and the operation was known to the enemy and could result in a trap, General Sams nevertheless continued on his mission. Through rough surf under the cover of darkness and potential threat of enemy shore fortifications and capture by a ruthless foe, General Sams and his party of three embarked in a small boat from an off-shore rendezvous at 2000 on the night of 13 March 1951, later transferring to a four-man rubber raft and arrived ashore three hours later. Reaching the beach, he proceeded inland and interrogated friendly personnel and evaluated vital information obtained the through sustained personal reconnaissance of enemy-held territory, including military hospitals and native villages. At 0230 on 14 March 1951, General Sam’s party returned to the off-shore rendezvous with conclusive information of such significance as to effect the immediate conduct of the United Nations armed effort in Korea.

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