The Imposter General: Bernard Montgomery’s D-Day Body Double

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery speaks to Allied war correspondents following the Normandy invasion. M. E. James’ impersonation of Monty was credited with fooling the Germans into thinking D-Day would take place in Southern France rather than the Normandy coast. Image by Morris (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit.

It was the role of a life time. Portray one of history’s most famous generals – Field Marshal Bernard “Monty” Montgomery – on a stage that spanned two continents. The casting, however, had one small drawback. A bad review could cost thousands of lives. A good one could cost your own.

Yellow Fever: Warfare’s Ancient Enemy

Yellow fever killed 2000 soldiers during the Spanish American War and the occupation that followed. The disease still has a fatality rate of about fifty percent. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Yellow fever was an ancient scourge of 18th and 19th century battlefields, causing more fatalities than bullets, cannon, or swords. The dreadful disease, which was brought from Africa to the tropical Americas by the slave trade, struck military camps without warning, decimating entire armies.

The Continuing War on Yellow Fever

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits the yellow fever virus from one person to another. Control of the mosquito greatly aids control of the disease. Image courtesy of the US CDC.

Mosquito abatement programs pioneered by William Gorgas in Cuba and Panama led to immediate relief from yellow fever. Later, his discoveries played a major role in WWII, and still help with control of the disease today. We have a vaccine, developed by Max Theiler, but there is still no cure and outbreaks occur.

Walter Reed and the Yellow Fever Experiments

Major Walter Reed constructed two huts (arrows) - one contaminated with fomites, the other clean but filled with mosquitoes - to determine how yellow fever was transmitted.Credit: National Library of Medicine

The loss of many lives to yellow fever during the 1898 Spanish American War prompted an investigation into how people caught the disease. Major Walter Reed is credited with proving, through a series of experiments with volunteers, that mosquitoes, not contaminated objects, are to blame.

The First US Army Medics – Treating the Wounded at Wounded Knee

A single gun shot set off the Battle of Wounded Knee with tragic results, especially for the Sioux. This depiction of the opening volleys is by Frederick Remington.

It started with a single gunshot. Next, the air was raked with rifle and cannon fire, leaving the field strewn with wounded and dead. Army medics raced out under fire, rescuing comrade and enemy alike, patching their wounds, and moving them to field hospitals for further treatment.