Establishing Blood Protocol
Prior to May 1965, no formal military blood program existed in Vietnam. Transfusion requirements were met with shipments of 10 units of Group O blood from Japan approximately every 10 days. Laboratory support, including blood supply, was provided by the 406th Mobile Medical Laboratory, Camp Zama, Japan.
As the war escalated and additional medical units were sent to Vietnam, the need was recognized for an organized and well-developed blood distribution system to supply blood to the medical units. In May 1965, the 406th coordinated with the U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka, Japan to provide blood products. In June 1965, the 406th arranged shipments of blood for medical units serving the Marine combat units.
The initial organization of the Vietnam Blood Program was based on four guiding principles:
- All blood requirements would be handled through the same system from one central blood bank.
- Drawing blood by medical units in Vietnam was to be discouraged for the following reasons:
- Possible combat role of potential donors.
- Difficulty of titering Group O blood.
- Possible transmission of hepatitis, malaria or syphilis.
- Medical Corps Officers experienced in blood banking and transfusion were considered essential.
- Responsibility for blood supply would continue to be the mission of the 406th.
The central blood bank was established at the 3rd Field Hospital adjacent to the Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon. The commander of the 406th was designated Blood Program Officer for Vietnam and reported to the Surgeon U.S. Army Vietnam with the following responsibilities:
- Calculate estimates of blood requirements.
- Establish blood depot facilities.
- Coordinate available air and land delivery systems for blood.
- Establish procedures for assuring appropriate utilization of blood.
- Consolidate monthly reports and prepare a monthly blood bank report for Vietnam.
- Conduct periodic inspections of medical treatment facilities using blood.