Malaria Pills


Monday, November 4, 1968

Major Smotherman left under his own power and sat shotgun beside Fernando on the way to the BAS (Battalion Aid Station) in Da Nang. The Major confided his “self-diagnosis” as a case of malaria, but we would never learn his actual illness.

Every week we took an orange malaria pill on Sunday morning after brunch. The pills were BIG and difficult to swallow. It wasn’t uncommon to see someone’s gag reflex triggered by these monster pills. I usually downed a full canteen cup of water when I took mine.

There was a fairly large percentage of Marines who claimed the pill gave them diarrhea for a day. The cooks, along with Fernando, never experienced this, and I wondered if it could be a reaction to alcohol. None of us were beer drinkers, and there was always free beer in the club on Sunday afternoons.

I asked Doc Furman about my theory, and he shrugged it off as coincidence (but it did get him thinking). Furman was an E-5 (Hm-2) and had 7 years of service. He and I bonded in Thuong Duc, sharing our childhood memories in the shade of the medical tent. * As a bachelor (he had never married), his career was his life. In his mind, Darwinism had a stronger influence on life than God . . . it was the clash of evolution vs. creation. Sometimes he obsessed on this subject.

When I asked Furman about how malaria pills and diarrhea could be associated, he paused and thought for a moment. Finally he answered, “I don’t know, but God has nothing to do with it.”

* See previous blog, “Survival of the Fittest” June 19, 1968

Next Edition: An Old Cook Book

3 thoughts on “Malaria Pills

  1. I arrived in Nam Oct 1967 I had taken those big orange malaria pills prior to leaving for the Nam.I arrived at Bearcat October 30th after a couple of days at the 91st, after a few days of jungle training went out on an ambush patrol at a rubber plantation south of the base. We worked our way through to our ambush we set up before it got dark when it started to rain laying down net to the M60 staring out at the claymore some 50 ft away.When I watched a mosquito sucking blood out of my left hand about a week later down in DongTam I came down with a high fever chilled to the bone and every joint in my body aching like hell! Went on sick call the medic took my temp close to 102’ and showed him the razed red bump on my hand, and he tells me you have the flu? I did explain what happened on the ambush patrol and he said I may have bitten by another type of insect I got a few days off, don’t remember much for a few days but I felt better.So for years now I’ve had this mysterious fever chills on my joints aching 106’ temp and not waking up for a few days. What do you think it is the VA won’t do anything unless I come in during the event? The events are now every few years last one I had was 3 years ago!


    1. Too many diseases and afflictions to know 50 years later. I had a recurring fungus, and the VA couldn’t find the right medication. My dermatologist finally treated me with a “Valley Fever” med that knocked it out in three months.


      1. Yes very true , as for trying to deal with the mysterious malaria symptoms I started looking for a natural remedy, and found one used by East Indian malaria patents it differently helped. And I too have had a recurring rash not like in Nam but it does return during the winter, oh and where that mosquito bite was on my hand two years later it leaves along with the itch?


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