The origin of the term "Short Arm Inspection"

Mark Conley

Active member
After the aftermath of World War I, the army medical compiled notes of its disease and non-battle injury (DNBI's) rates and found that the leading illness that caused the most marked effect against the troops was gonorrhea, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases. During the next conflict it was decided that more attention to the education and early detection of these type disease's would be implemented.

Sure enough, when America entered the conflict in WWII, the doctors were ready. The US army entered the soft porn industry by making and exhibiting the dreaded "Hygiene films". (Count Spirochete was a real packing actor). Troops were issued a sexual intercourse prophey pack containing after contact antiseptic washes, balms and condoms, before entering a war theater from the U.S. As a further precaution, a physical inspection was devised to ensure that the signs of venereal disease was spotted early.

The inspection consisted of a mass line up of all the males of the group (platoon, company ect), usually at two-week intervals, (usually in conjunction within the times of incubation after a visit to towns or areas where the ole houses of ill repute were. To ensure they got everyone at the same time, the inspections were called in the early morning hours, say about 3 or 4 in the morning, when most people were asleep in their beds. Further reasoning for this was a half sleepy person wasnt as resistant as they would if the person was wide awake in the daylight hours. It was also reasoned by the higher authorities that if the inspection occured at this hour, it lowered the chances for an accidental erection, and a possible manly disgrace to occur. A uniform, consisting of only the wear of boots, overcoat and helmet liner, was proscribed for conformity and ease in the inspection. Procedures were written and regulations issued, delegating this task to the units medical officer or assistant.

The men were formed into ranks, and given the command to go to attention. The doctor or his designee would then proceed down the lines to perform the inspection.

The doctor had a proscribed regime of spoken orders to the now shivering inspected. On the order to "present", the man was to undo his great coat and allow the man to inspect him for sores or other outward signs of infection. On the order to "Strip it down” each man was to grasp the base of his ***** and using a stripping motion, run the hand to its tip. This was to see if anything foreign, such as drainage from an unseen infection were to be found in the urethra. If nothing was found, the man was told to 'recover" and so he tucked himself back into his greatcoat and returned to the position of attention.

These inspections were first performed at the Army staging centers in New York state. Now the men noticed how much these inspections followed the formality of a regular inspection. The inspection terms used avoided embarrassment by using words common for inspecting weapons, to ensure function and ability to fire when needed. And because in the profession of arms. weapons were divided into divisions such as side arms (Pistol and swords), quarter arms (knives and cutlasses), some unknown wag created a weapons divison of ...Short Arms. And a Short Arm Inspection it became.

The army did away with these type of group inspections shortly after Viet Nam (so they say. ) Did they do much to control the VD problem? Maybe.

But according to my Dad, all they proved was just how far the military would go in making regulations...right down to how you did a pecker check.

Wiat a second... are you sure they got rid of them? We had thm ever Tuesday and Friday but the DS back in Basic.
Captain Bligh of Bounty Mutiny fame was way ahead of US military. He notes in the Bounty logbook for Oct. 25, 1788 (just before they were to land in Tahiti):

"As I have some reason to suppose the Otaheitans [Tahitians] have not been visited by any ships since Captn. Cook, I hope they may have found means together with their natural way of living, to have eradicated the Venereal disease. To prove this and free us from any ill founded Suppositions, that we might renew the Complaint, I have directed the Surgeon to examine very particularly every Man and Officer & to report to me his proceedings.

"This was accordingly done and he reported every person totally free from the Venereal complaint."

Of course, he was more concerned with being blamed for introducing VD to the island then he was with the health of the crew, but the Bounty had a short-arm inspection.

It is not known whether he himself was checked, probably not.