I recently watched a documentary on the use of amphetamines during World War II. Germans were not alone in their use of performance-enhancing drugs during World War II. Allied soldiers were known to use amphetamines (speed) in the form of Benzedrine in order to battle combat fatigue. I had no idea amphetamines were also issued in Vietnam. I served with a short-range recon unit (Charlie Troop 1/9th Blues) so we didn’t need them.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military plied its servicemen with speed, steroids, and painkillers to help them handle extended combat.
Since World War II, little research had determined whether amphetamine had a positive impact on soldiers’ performance, yet the American military readily supplied its troops in Vietnam with speed. “Pep pills” were usually distributed to men leaving for long-range reconnaissance missions and ambushes. The standard army instruction (20 milligrams of dextroamphetamine for 48 hours of combat readiness) was rarely followed; doses of amphetamine were issued, as one veteran put it, “like candies,” with no attention given to recommended dose or frequency of administration. In 1971, a report by the House Select Committee on Crime revealed that from 1966 to 1969, the armed forces had used 225 million tablets of stimulants, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in the Second World War. The annual consumption of Dexedrine per person was 21.1 pills in the navy, 17.5 in the air force, and 13.8 in the army.