A Short History of the 1964 Boy Scout Jamboree





(Jerry)                                              (Mack)


Every three or four years since 1937 American Boy Scouts have gathered in different locations throughout the Nation to hold a Jamboree. For one week, from 17 through 23 July, 1964, 52,000 Scouts and their adult leaders camped at Valley Forge State Park, Pennsylvania; 2068 acres of rolling wooded hills and open fields twenty miles west of Philadelphia for the Sixth National Jamboree.

In addition there were ten troops from Canada, and representative Scouts from forty other Nations of the International Boy Scout Movement. Webster defines .jamborees as “1. A hilarious party; a noisy revel. 2., A large, especially international assembly of Boy Scouts.” The Sixth Jamboree satisfied that definition on all counts.


The Scouts were kept busy all day doing the things that Boy Scouts do. There was archery, map making (orienteering), hiking, tracking, knot tying, carving, first aid training, running obstacle courses, and fly fishing. There were rifle and shotgun ranges. Two hours were left free every afternoon--for writing to the folks at home. napping, or visiting other Troops. The Camp was set up to encourage mixing--a Troop from central California might find itself surrounded by Troops from Maine. Florida. Arizona, and Michigan.

One of the highlights of the week was the visit of the President. All 52,000 campers assembled, filling a huge natural amphitheater. President Johnson arrived by White House Helicopter; he spoke for about twenty minutes and immediately took off again. The helicopter landing and taking off right in front of the boys was by far the most exciting thing about the President’s visit.


This may not come as news to many of you, who may well have attended a jamboree in the past, but every Boy Scout Jamboree has been supported by the Federal Government. Public Law 88-41. of the 88th Congress. 30 March, 1964, directed the Public Health Service and Department of the Army of the United States to provide such support for the Sixth National Jamboree.

Included were medical services during the Jamboree, and also Post Exchange and Commissary privileges for Boy Scout Troops while traveling to and from Valley Forge. Pennsylvania. Thus they could be treated at Army Hospitals and also shop for food and P.X. items en route.


When finally assembled the Sixth National Jamboree was the sixth largest cit in the State of Pennsylvania, occupying an area of about two square miles. The camp was divided into thirty administrative sections, each with about 1,700 Scouts, and each with its own supply section and postal service. Each had its own first aid station, manned by three or four volunteer physicians from their home communities, many of whom had served at previous Jamborees.


The United States Public Health Service provided overall supervision of the health and sanitation of the Jamboree. In addition to those duties the Public Health staff had responsibility for communication with the families of ill or injured Scouts. Ten long-distance telephones were installed, several manned around the clock.

The Army Surgeon General assigned the 36th Evacuation Hospital, permanently stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland, to the Jamboree.

The 36th Evacuation Hospital was a ‘moth-balled” unit. All of its medical equipment, tents, and kitchen gear, ambulances and trucks were kept in storage, ready at all times for rapid mobilization. For the Jamboree a hospital of 150 beds was established, under canvas, with operating room, laboratory, and X-Ray departments. a kitchen and tents for the staff. (Four Hundred beds could have been provided). It was permanently staffed while in garrison at Ft. Meade by a small cadre of Medical Service Corps officers, one Army Nurse, and a dozen medical technicians. Every summer the 36th was mobilized. Doctors, nurses. dentists, medical corpsmen, laboratory and X-Ray technicians. and administrators, all members of a Reserve Unit would be assigned for their two weeks annual training. The 229 1st U.S. Army Hospital from Columbus, Ohio was so selected for the Sixth National Jamboree.

At the time we--Mack Smith and Jerry Scott--were selected for temporary duty from our regular stations to serve as Chief Medical Officer of the Jamboree and Commanding Officer of the 36th Evacuation Hospital respectively. Lt. Col. Frank Lucas, its regular commander and his staff had everything set up and running smoothly before the first Boy Scout Troop arrived at Valley Forge. The doctors, nurses, and others of the 229 Vs staff were all highly trained, skilled professionals in private practice; several had served at Jamborees in the past.

An excellent relationship between these groups--Public Health Service, the Reserve and Regular Army personnel---was quickly established, and we worked well together to provide medical care for sick and injured Scouts. Mr. Donald Higgins, Director of Health and Safety. National Council of the Boy Scouts of America had attended many State and National Jamborees in the past: his advice was invaluable.

Minor illnesses and injuries were treated in Troop Dispensaries. More serious problems were referred to the 36th Evacuation Hospital, and the most serious problems sent to Valley Forge Army General Hospital four miles away.


It might sound simple to you, but the logistical problems were enormous. Picture, if you will, a city of 52,000 people. Over a period of one week how much food would they need? Have you thought about potable water, refrigeration, a communication system, lighting, postal service, waste disposal, and general sanitation? I thought not. Without going into too much detail, all of those problems were solved by the staff of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America in cooperation with Valley Forge State Park, and support of a battalion of Army Engineers from Ft. Meade; a unit of the Post Signal Section strung several miles of telephone wire. The State Park provided water and electric power. Five hundred Porta-potties were installed. Excellent prior planning saw that everything was in place and ready to go two weeks before arrival of the first Boy Scout on 17 July.


Let’s consider the food problem in brief detail. During the Jamboree one ton of peanut butter was consumed. On the second night hot dogs were provided--laid end to end they would have stretched for three miles. Every morning 75,000 eggs were fried or scrambled for breakfast; 20,000 quarts of milk were drunk every day. Menus were varied and the food always fresh and of Grade A quality. Groceries were delivered by refrigerator trucks to the thirty Troop Supply Sections every night. Every morning Scouts picked up their Troop’s daily rations which they cooked themselves over open camp fires.


An attempt was made to anticipate how many and what kinds of medical problems would be faced. In a city of 52,000 how many appendectomies might be done, how many sprained and broken ankles, how much diarrhea, how many colds and other infectious diseases might occur? Prior planning again paid off. Daily contact by the Public Health Service (PHS) medical staff with Troop Dispensaries and general inspections kept the Camp safe and healthy.

Poison ivy was common in the wooded areas of the State Park and had caused trouble at previous Jamboree. A vigorous herbicide and weed pulling program was therefore carried out during the weeks prior to the Jamboree. However, thirteen Scouts managed to find the few patches of poison ivy that were missed, though some of them may have gotten it enroute to the Jamboree as they camped their way across country. The problem could have been much worse.

The ubiquitous Boy Scout knife and the ‘Exacto-blade” wood carving knives accounted for dozens of cuts. The few requiring sutures were handled in the 36th Evac’s operating room. Most were treated at the Troop dispensaries. Sprained ankles were common; x-rays were made at the hospital; the few fractures were put in plaster on the spot. Two with significant bone displacement were sent to Valley Forge General Hospital for reduction under anesthesia. There were 56 cases of diarrhea admitted to the 36th Evac; each was evaluated carefully, stool cultures were taken, but no significant pathogenic bacteria were isolated. Thirteen cases of German measles and three of mumps were diagnosed and were hospitalized briefly in the Isolation tent. There were many upper respiratory infections (common colds), and two of probable influenza. The Public Health staff carefully evaluated all of these and also the cases of diarrhea, anticipating the possibility of an epidemic; nothing of the sort occurred.

Fourteen Scouts and one adult Scoutmaster developed appendicitis; they were transferred to Valley Forge General Hospital for surgery.

A total of 494 campers were admitted to the 36th Evacuation Hospital: 114 of those were transferred to Valley Forge Hospital for admission or consultation.


The only neuropsychiatric problem was acute homesickness. Usually a quiet talk with one of our doctors or nurses and a fellow scout did the trick, perhaps followed by a phone call home. It didn’t seem to be working in one case. The boy only became more agitated as he spoke with his mother.

Then Dad, a doctor from Idaho, came to the phone. His exact words could not be heard, but they were loud and forceful. We found out later that the lad was the youngest of eight siblings---Dad said that “it’s time he grew up a bit--don’t you dare send him home!” He returned to his Troop and we didn’t see him again--- he made it through the rest of the Jamboree.


Perhaps the most annoying problem was caused by a small Scarabid beetle, common throughout Eastern United States, and known locally as a ‘June Bug”. ft had a predilection for the warm, cozy external ear canals of sleeping Boy Scouts and adult Scouters while they slept on the ground in their pup tents. Forewarned by previous experiences at former Jamborees every Troop was alerted and everyone was advised to plug their ears with cotton every night. But there are always some who don’t get the word or choose to ignore it: there were forty eight instances of “bug in the ear”.

Nothing will awaken a Scoutmaster out of a sound sleep faster that the full voiced screaming of one of his young charges at 2:00 A.M. Initial attempts to extricate the insect with small twigs and even the bore blade of a Boy Scout knife were always unsuccessful and the victims were brought to the Emergency Tent. It was essential that the patient lie perfectly still while the beetle was crushed with forceps under direct vision and the remains washed out of the ear canal.

When first seen the patient often wore a facial expression suggesting that he anticipated, in fact would welcome, immediate death by decapitation. As the bug flapped its wings in its struggle to escape, reactions varied depending on how close it was to the sensitive ear drum. Most boys required only two or three medical corpsmen to restrain them. Others demonstrated total, maniacal hysteria, and several had to be sent to Valley Forge Hospital for removal of the insect under general anesthesia. The most spectacular was a twenty five year old, 225 pound Assistant Scoutmaster--a former All American line backer from Ohio State. He handily threw three of our huskiest corpsmen out of the tent before he was subdued, tied up and transferred to Valley Forge where a general anesthetic was necessary to remove the beetle. At first we tried to kill the little beasts by pouring 100 proof alcohol or a few drops of ether into the ear. But a drunk beetle is even more active than a sober one and their tolerance for the hard stuff was amazing. Preliminary spraying had satisfactorily reduced the populations of mosquitoes, ants, spiders and other potential pests in the Park. It was thought that the beetles had been similarly controlled. But a week of heavy rain just before the Jamboree caused hatching of a second crop of beetles and there were lots of them around looking for ear canals into which to crawl.


The weather was hot and humid and 46 instances of heat exhaustion occurred. They were hospitalized in a special “Heat Exhaustion” tent where one of the nurses invented a tent air conditioner. She had holes bored in a large crate, filled it with ice and using the fans of several tent heaters with the heating elements turned off, was able to lower the temperature by several degrees on the other side where the patients were placed. It really worked!


Unfortunately there were three deaths--not surprising in a population of 52,000 in a one week period. One Scoutmaster was found dead in his tent one morning due to a heart attack; a second died in the ambulance en route to Valley Forge Hospital despite vigorous cardiopulmonary resuscitative (C.P.R) efforts. The third was a fifteen year old Boy Scout who, running between two parked cars, crashed headlong into a bus moving only ten miles an hour, the speed limit in the Park during the Jamboree. C.P.R. failed to revive him.


The Sixth National Boy Scout Jamboree was proof that different Civilian and Federal agencies can get along together and do an outstanding job for a good cause. We made lots of new friends and later we were both stationed in San Francisco where we both retired from Active Duty. We made our homes in San Francisco, joined the Bohemian Club and have remained fast friends ever since.

The Jamboree was a great experience and we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was sort of like a Bohemian Grove Encampment---without the booze.