Vol. XX No. 9 — September 1942

Your Unknown Soldier

Wallowing in a dirty sea, her side smashed with a torpedo, the U.S.S. Kearny struggled slowly towards port. It would take many hours to reach. And a crewman lying in the emergency first aid station did not have many hours. One or two, maybe. . . .

A radio call; a suddenly dispatched plane; a waterproof package dropped near the Kearny, brave men risking their lives to pick it up; then quick work by the ships surgeon and the dying sailor gets a bit of color in his cheek. He opens his eyes and asks for a cigarette!

From some unknown man or woman has come the blood plasma which saved the sailor’s life.

Suppose the sailor was a brother of the Ancient Craft? How would you like to think it was your blood which kept him alive, to ship on another destroyer, to fight another day, to strike another blow for America and freedom and Freemasonry’s right to exist?

Somewhere, fighting, is your son, your son’s friend, your friend. If he should die from wounds because there was no blood plasma. . . . Here is how one brother [C. H. Claudy] of the Ancient Craft poignantly puts it:

I scarcely feel the needle in my arm
Nor see the doctor standing at my side;
I only know a tenderness, long-lost,
And mingled with it, fierce American pride.

A tenderness — that this small part of me
May help one of my fellow men to live.
The pride — that though I cannot be with them,
Yet here at last is something I can give.

For, ever in my mind I see them pass,
Those school-friend faces now across the seas,
And who shall call me selfish if I pray
My blood, if they should need, might go to these?

But, oh, one face is missing from their ranks,
One well-loved voice again I’ll never know —
And ever cries my heart — he might have lived
Had you fulfilled this duty long ago!

All over the world are hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, marines. Many of them are brethren. Many of the brethren will be shot, blown up by bombs, destroyed by mines, killed in the thousand and one ways in which war works its awful will.

But less of them will die in proportion to the number wounded than died in World War I, because of the advance of science, the discovery that blood can be reduced to plasma. Plasma is preserved as a powder which keeps indefinitely, which does not deteriorate with either high or low temperature, and which can be used, even in the trenches if necessary, to save an American boy from dying of traumatic shock.

It sounds like a miracle. Before these discoveries were made, blood transfusions were made from man to man. As there are four types of blood and the blood of victim and donor must match in type (otherwise the result may be death), it was difficult, if not impossible, to give blood transfusions on the field of battle, or in emergency stations immediately behind the lines.

Blood in bottles, typed and ready, can be kept only a few days where refrigeration is possible and facilities at hand, but troops in battle do not carry refrigerating apparatus!

Hence thousands of brave men died in World War I who could have been saved, had we but known enough.

Now we do know. Blood from a healthy individual is spun in a separator — much like a cream separator, in which centrifugal force separates the heavy milk from the lighter cream — and all the blood cells extracted. What remains is the liquid of the blood — plasma, the doctors call it.

The plasma is dried. When the water content is driven off, the straw-colored powder which remains keeps indefinitely. It need only be remixed with the proper amount of sterile distilled water to be again liquid plasma, ready to do its merciful work.

The general conception of the necessity for a blood transfusion is that the blood of the donor replaces that which the victim may have lost as a result of a wound upon or within the body. But as a matter of fact a man may die as the result of an injury in which there is no bleeding and relatively little damage to the tissues.

Following any injury, plasma diffuses both to the injured part and throughout the body tissues, reducing the circulating blood volume and blood pressure, so that the work of the heart is greatly increased. The heart rate becomes rapid and the pulse is fast and thready. If this condition is severe enough, there may be so little circulating blood that the heart is unable to beat efficiently and death may result.

Formerly sugar and salt solutions were given in the veins to attempt to correct this condition, but they diffused into the tissues again so rapidly that there was but little temporary benefit.

Transfusion of blood, of plasma made liquid on the spot by remixing the plasma powder with distilled water, gives the tired heart enough liquid to work on. It slows up and a life is saved.

Marvelous though these discoveries are, science has yet to learn how to create plasma. The only known source is from human bodies — human blood.

The army and navy have asked for 3,000,000 pints of human blood by July 1, 1943. The requests may be greatly increased as the war grows; as more and more American men face bomb and mine and machine gun and tank and wound and death.

These needs are being supplied by the American Red Cross. In eighteen cities are Blood Donor Centers, where blood can be given, and from which the blood may be promptly shipped (it must go within twelve hours) to one of eight laboratories where the process of reducing red blood to the powdered plasma is carried on.

Blood is a commercial article and maybe bought and sold on the open market. Professional blood donors for years have picked up extra money by selling a pint of blood perhaps for twenty-five or fifty dollars. But all the blood of all the professional blood donors in the nation would literally not be a drop in the bucket which the Red Cross holds out to those who have blood to spare!

From the fraternal standpoint the need of the Red Cross for blood donors and more blood donors and repeat blood donors and still more, more, more, gives brethren of the Ancient Craft the most dramatic opportunity ever put before us for service and aid to brethren in distress.

Alas, it is an inflexible rule that a man may not give more than a pint of his blood once in eight weeks, We cannot go, and go, and go again day after day. The giving of one pint of blood requires time to make up — not in liquid, which will be regained in less than twelve hours — but in red blood cells, which are manufactured in the bone marrow. As a result, one man can give but six pints of blood in a year. For three million pints, a minimum of five hundred thousand men, each willing to donate his blood every eight weeks, is required.

Not all men can go every eight weeks. Not all are willing to take the time and trouble to go. A great many who would like to cannot, because living too far from a Center. And perhaps only one man in every hundred understands the vital burning need which requires that all who can, must go!

With every man and woman in the country, Freemasons share the patriotic desire to aid, the duty to give, the responsibility to save life where we can; common denominators for every American — the high and low, the rich and poor.

As men professing brotherhood, first with all mankind, next with those of our own Craft, the obligation laid upon us is more solemn than for any other American group.

What is a brother? He is a man born of the same mother’s flesh as we are, conceived from the same father. Blood brothers literally have in their bodies the same blood; blood which came from the same source; originally made by the same marrow in the same mother’s bones. “Blood is thicker than water” runs the old saying, meaning that there is no closer bond between men than to have come from the same womb, to have suckled at the same breast, flesh of one another’s flesh.

From this intimate and dearly personal bond which we call brotherhood has come the concept of a Brotherhood of Man under a Fatherhood of God. At the same altar, every Mason in the world has taken upon himself the same solemn obligations. These obligations are real to us — or they are not. If they are real — and to the vast majority of Freemasons they are the most sacred things in life save only family and church — then the duty becomes plain, and the reason for this Bulletin needs no exposition.

Many grand masters have put this opportunity before the lodges in their grand jurisdictions. Some have had no reason to do so because their grand lodges are too far from any of the eighteen Blood Donor Centers to make a response a practical matter.

Many who will read these lines will not be able to help by becoming blood donors because of the bar interposed by distance. But all can help by keeping the subject alive in the minds of those who can give. Tell the story. Write a letter to your brother who is within reach of a Center. Make the tale known in your service club, your church, your immediate circle of friends. Every word spoken carries some weight; every mention of this science-sent opportunity for us all to have a living part in the fight for freedom, for the American way, for Freemasonry, is a help.

“Keep ’em flying!” is a Victory slogan. So is “Keep ’em rolling!”

Can there be a more inspiring slogan for Freemasons than “Keep ’em living?”

The process of giving blood is simple, painless, interesting. A would-be blood donor is well advised if he calls up the Red Cross or writes in advance and makes an appointment. On the day he is to go he must eat only toast, without butter, and drink fruit juices and coffee without cream for his breakfast. On arrival, he will answer certain questions; age, health, when was last sickness, if a tooth has been extracted within two weeks, if he has given blood before, etc. Then he is asked about his meals that day. He must NOT have had anything fat within six hours; butter, cream in coffee, fried food etc., are strictly out of the picture — should it be written “out of the stomach?” — for a blood donor, lest the fat get into the blood and curdle it before it can be processed.

His blood is then tested for hemaglobin content. This involves a needle prick on one finger; about as painful as a mosquito bite, lasting only an instant. If the test is satisfactory (as it usually is with healthy people) the giver is taken to a bed on which he lies (takes off shoes, only). A doctor gives an injection of local anesthetic in the crook of the elbow, a small hollow needle is pushed into the vein and blood flows through a small tube into a bottle in which a partial vacuum has previously been made. The blood runs for perhaps five minutes. When the needle is withdrawn, a patch of adhesive tape is laid over the tiny wound, the giver rests for fifteen minutes, and then a Red Cross Grey Lady serves the cup of coffee with or without cream he did not have for breakfast!

There is no pain unless a needle prick is to be called painful. There is no after-effect in ninety-nine out of a hundred cases. One in a hundred complains later of feeling a little tired. Many doctors think that this reaction, when it occurs, is psychological rather than physical.

And then a Red Cross Staff Assistant will pin in your coat lapel a Donor Button. Within a week will come a card certificate stating the fact and noting the date; it is useful in that it states the type of your blood and also cuts some red tape when you go back for the second or third gift. After the third gift of blood you will receive a silver emblem in place of the bronze.

All very simple, very easy, very commonplace . . . but in that visit, Brother Donor-to-be, lies romance, and drama, and patriotism, and a strange peace of soul worth infinitely more than the hour’s time, the small personal inconvenience suffered.

This feeling grows. Today you have given your blood. Tomorrow it will be plasma. Soon it may be on its way to Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia; may be already on some battleship, cruiser, torpedo boat, submarine. Two, three weeks after, it may be in the veins of a wounded man you will never see. You will never know his name, this soldier or sailor whose life you may have saved. He will never know from whom came the life-giving powder that kept him a fighting man. He will never know, as he fights again, that he is striking a blow to keep alive the oldest fraternity in the world.

On a hillside in Arlington Cemetery, the nation’s burying ground just across the Potomac River from the Capital City, is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. No one ever knew his name, no one ever can know his name. He may have been old or young; married or single; private or officer. All that is known of him is that he died for his country.

Your Unknown Soldier may be old or young; married or single; a member of the Craft or a profane; private or officer. He will never know of you; you can never know of him. But in the most real sense he is your brother, for your blood is in his veins. In the most secret of thoughts he is literally yours, since your blood, your sacrifice, your very life, saved his.

Of course, there is One who knows both giver and recipient. . . . In His own Great Light, the Great Architect said:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that ma- keth an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11) Perhaps He was but speaking to the Children of Israel of their custom of making a burnt offering; perhaps He foresaw the day when the blood of brethren symbolically laid upon a Masonic altar might be an atonement of some comfort to them for their inability to bear arms in the field.

The Masonic Service Association of North America