Friday, January 4, 2013

OPRD and Dawson vs OSRD and Florey : social or war penicillin ?

If America was to win the war for the Allies by being becoming a ponderous and relentlessly-slow grinding mill of the gods ( a veritable "Arsenal of Democracy" as President Roosevelt proclaimed) than sometimes Vannevar Bush's OSRD (Office of Scientific Research and Development) worked hard against that objective, never more so than with Penicillin (and DDT).

In Total War, attrition (greater weight of arms and men) rather than generalship (the better use of the elements of secrecy and surprise) is felt to be - in the long run - the truly dominant factor.

The OSRD obviously disagreed, as did Hitler's High Command and the Japanese War Cabinet.

These three agreed amongst themselves that it didn't really matter that both sides shared the same 105mm howitzer and that so the side with the best rate of production of that artillery piece and its ammunition would win in the long run.

That was so old-school, so World War One style thinking.

No, the OSRD would win a quick clean war, by speed and secrecy of new weapon invention and by taking the offensive role at every turn in the war of new weapon invention : as the British would say, WWII was to be a war between sciences : a Boffin's war, not a foot soldier's war like WWI.

But you could also see this as classic "chicken hawk" style thinking  : stoutly favouring bold offensive operations, albeit from the cosy safety of an comfy armchair.

Because seemingly the only requirement for rising in the OSRD hierarchy was that you had successfully avoided combat when you were young and fit enough to do so, but now that you were now old and fat and balding and safely beyond the age of conscription your bellicosity had returned full on.

The German, Japanese and British military agreed with the OSRD - preferring to invent more truly new and superior - secret- weapons even when they knew this meant that fewer units of existing conventional weapons would be produced.

(By contrast, the Russians tended to want to produce greater numbers of a far fewer and far less technically sophisticated range of weapons - working in some minor incremental improvements over long, long production runs.)

So if the OSRD "took up" the development of Penicillin and DDT it would come with some heavy and hidden costs : for these two would now be developed strictly be for use as  secret and new "instruments of war" (weapons).

How we "almost lost penicillin" : it got captured by the OSRD

Penicillin being "captured" by the OSRD in the summer of 1941 when Howard Florey took it to his old pal ( OSRD heavyweight Dr A N Richards) wasn't as bad as being captured by the Gestapo , but it was a close run thing.

By contrast, the War Production Board (WPB) and its OPRD (Office of Production Research and Development) took a more sophisticated view of war work in a Total War situation : understanding completely that if civilians don't eat or are home sick, both old-fashioned howitzers and new-fashioned atomic bombs don't get built.

So if the epidemic of lung infections in America in the winter of 1944 among war workers had become a pandemic and shell production had been cut in half, just when the Battle of the Bulge needed more 105 mmm shells not less, the OPRD would have been ready, with massive amounts of civilian penicillin for ailing war plant workers.

But the OSRD would be left touting its claim that fewer of our wounded men in the Ardennes were languishing in hospital beds than in the case of the Germans, thanks to our Allied frontline military hospitals having most of the world's scarce supply of natural penicillin.

Artificially scarce , by government fiat, only because the OSRD and its British counterpart were STILL working on trying to make top secret synthetic penicillin and didn't want to warn the Germans of penicillin's potential by letting civilian doctors use it and then talk up miracle cures.

Dawson's unexpected SBE cures with stolen government penicillin leading to dying Baby Patricia Malone's widely publicized 'stealing' of penicillin beyond the OSRD's direct jurisdiction, brought the public and the OPRD into the picture and finally got us wartime penicillin en masse : for frontline Ardennes soldier and home front civilian alike .....

No comments:

Post a Comment