United States of America Typhus Commission (USATC) (1942-1945)

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During World War II, US troops were struggling with a rapid spread of Typhus – a disease transmitted to humans by mites infected with the micro-organism Rickettsia. On December 8, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt released Executive Order 9285 creating the United States of America Typhus Commission (USATC) “for the purpose of protecting the members of the armed forces from typhus’ fever” and to “arrange for the analysis, study and publication of scientific data obtained in [the] field.” Under the direction of Brigadier General Leon A. Fox and Dr. Fred Lowe Soper, the USATC’s goal was to create an efficient way to prevent the spread of typhus by testing the insecticides DDT and army lice powder MYL on infected communities. The USATC recorded entomology reports until 1944, when an investigation of the flora around infected areas led by the Smithsonian’s E.D. Merrill and his staff caught their attention. Fox and Soper established the Botany Section in Burma for the purpose of collecting plant life from infected villages to determine if Rickettsia had a specific floral niche in which it thrived. Gervasi E. Juan, a student of Merrill’s, was placed in charge of the Botany Section which consisted of many drafted graduate students and professional botanists.


  • Bayne-Jones, S. “Typhus.” The American Journal of Nursing 44 (Sept. 1944): 821-823.
  • National Library of Medicine. “Fred L. Soper Papers” National Institute of Health, n.d. http://profiles.nlm.nih.gove/VV/views/Exhibit/narrative.
  • Howard, Richard A. “The Role of Botanists during World War II in the Pacific Theatre.” Botanical Review 60 (April-June 1994): 197-255.

Date Range

1942 - 1945


  • Entomology
  • Plants
  • Botany


  • Myanmar
  • Egypt
  • Italy


Expedition name