Military STD posters, WWI-II

On How to Be a Retronaut, a collection of military STD posters from the end of WWI and through WWII.

Update: These appear to be drawn from a larger set at Mental Floss.

Military STD Posters, 1918-1945


  1. interesting  fun fact: prior to the end of WWI, American feminists had campaigned unsuccessfully for the right to access birth-control. After WWI, contraception and thus birth-control were made readily available as a means of stemming the tide of VDs from returning soldiers.

    1. Oh that person suffered. Their teeth are even deformed, do you think they were born with it? 

      Any other info on this image? 

      1. Syphilis attacks every tissue in the body.  The National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed had an extensive collection of military STD educational material and specimens, including eroded skulls like this.  I think one was from a character mentioned in the travel journals of some famous author as the cheerful village idiot, and the museum had the skull all eroded by syphilis.  A person is more or less insane at that point.  Another picture was of a fellow’s body before and after he’d had a topical treatment with mercury or something, and in the before picture the outline of his body was completely obscured.  He just looked like a pile of bath sponges. 

  2. It’s easy to laugh at kitschy stuff like this and think that everyone back then was simple-minded and repressed. 

    But in fairness, the use of bald eagles trained to attack couples engaged in illicit sexual activity was quite controversial at the time.

      1.  Don’t be ridiculous. Bald Eagles are endangered. We use drones now. It’s not like we are backwards savages.

        1. Ah right. Gotta spend the mney that would’ve gone to NASA /SOMEHOW/ Otherwise you’ll get people that’re respected and popular with the young folk asking where their science money’s at.

      1. Well, there’s the fact that he’s an eight year-old boy from the elbows up and a full-grown man from the elbows down. I guess that you could argue that the important bits are at the right stage of development, but it’s still freaky.

        1. Well… they send boys to do a man’s work .

          I was thinking of a boy around 17 when I saw the picture… he sure doesn’t look 8 to me (my daughter is 8, and the boys in her class sure don’t look like that!). Although now that you mention it the arm is seriously drawn wrong… seems to be coming out of the sides. But Cheapfobs said “never”.

  3. An incidental part of Katherine Anne Porter’s story “Pale Horse Pale Rider” documents the heat put on workers to buy war bonds to defeat the Hun. The primary subject was the 1918 flu pandemic. 

      1. Actually, I put a lot of work in to get them all from the Library of Congress and The National Library of Health to ensure they were all public domain. Not to mention, I write the posts, but don’t schedule them on Mental Floss -that one was actually completed on the sixth, so I couldn’t have gotten them from that post.

      2.  Not to mention, my article and the one BB linked to both have images not in that article…of course, the one Corey linked to doesn’t have any that weren’t in my article, which I find pretty telling.

  4. The last poster reminds me of KMFDM’s song Juke Joint Jezebel.

    I for one didn’t realize Carmen San Diego was a prostitute early in her career.

  5. I have the “Fool the Axis, Use Prophylaxis” poster hanging in one of my bathrooms.  My grandfather, a WWII Air Force veteran, had it hanging in his bathroom when I was a kid.  It is a bit gross for the uninitiated so I won’t include an image, but it is the first poster shown on

  6. I just saw that exact poster in an episode of Boardwalk Empire last night.  Neat!
    (I’ve been watching the first season on DVD.)

    Ettie is remembered with great affection by many of the soldiers she met and helped yet her actions and her matter-of-fact response to venereal disease made her an object of infamy in New Zealand and overseas. She was called “the wickedest woman in England” by a bishop in the House of Lords and raised outrage in New Zealand among politicians, moralists and the press

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