File No. 763.72112/203

The Chairman of the Central Committee of the American Red Cross (Davis) to the Assistant Secretary of State

Sir: Responding to your verbal inquiry of this morning respecting the denomination of medical and hospital supplies as related to questions of contraband of war, the best I can do is to tell you of the shipments that the Red Cross has made and is making in response to requests from the Red Cross and hospital organizations in the belligerent countries (see List A herewith).

But this does not by any means exhaust the class of articles that belong to the category of medical and hospital supplies. In the former group should be included all pharmaceutical preparations, of which a summary is included, and another of articles for use in hospitals (see List B herewith):

There are certain articles used for medicinal purposes that are compounded of materials which in other forms would be contraband of war. For example, many hospital dressings are made of cotton in some form; so, too, as a basis for an explosive, cotton is also used, known as guncotton. The preparation of the two are entirely separate and distinct, and the one could never be taken for the other. The same remark applies to gauze dressings saturated with picric acid, used to alleviate suffering from burns; this same material in another form is a high explosive.

And I presume this remark, relating to these two articles, may have application to others.

Yours sincerely,

George W. Davis



Articles which have been supplied by the American Red Cross

Hospital supplies, dressings, etc.: Stretchers; absorbent cotton; non-absorbent cotton; absorbent gauze; starched (crinoline) gauze; picric-acid gauze; gauze and muslin bandages; adhesive plaster.

Surgical instruments and accessories: Artery forceps; scissors; sutures for sewing wounds—silk, catgut, silkworm gut; rubber gloves; hypodermic syringes.

Medicines: Tincture of iodine.

Anesthetics: Chloroform; ether.


Similar articles coming under same headings as in List A

Hospital equipment: Beds; bedding; pajamas and nightshirts.

Operating-room furniture: Sterilizers; instrument stands; instrument cases; operating tables and chairs; electric batteries.

Surgical supplies—dressings: Absorbent cotton; non-absorbent cotton; absorbent gauze; starched gauze; bandages; gutta percha tissue; oiled silk; adhesive plaster.

Surgical instruments and accessories: Instruments; sutures for sewing wounds; rubber gloves.

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Medicines and chemicals: Iodine; cocaine; strychnine; calomel; phenacetin; trional; sodium bicarbonate; sodium salicylate; sodium bromide; potassium bromide; menthol; oil of mustard; camphor; sulphate [of] iron;carbolic acid; boric acid; citric acid; bismuth subnitrate; opium; morphine; codeine; quinine; antipyrin; salol; sulfonal; sodium phosphate; sodium sulphate; potassium iodid; potassium permanganate; oil of peppermint; bichloride of mercury; sulphate [of] copper; magnesia; lactic acid; phosphoric acid; tannic acid; bismuth subgallate; alcohol; petrolatum; sulphate [of] zinc; mustard; ergot; digitalis; oxide [of] zinc; protargol; belladonna; capsicum.