On August 7th 1898, the American invasion force, crippled by yellow fever, started its evacuation of the island of Cuba. But, the withdrawal was not total. The black Ninth Infantry Regiment stayed behind to continue the occupation. It was believed that because of their race and the fact that many black volunteers came from southern states, they would be protected. These soldiers were nicknamed “Immunes”. However, mosquitos — the vector of yellow fever — are not influenced by skin color. By the end of their garrison duties, 73 of the 984 the soldiers contracted the disease.
Vincent J. Cirillo, Bullets and Bacilli: The Spanish-American War and Military Medicine (Rutgers University Press, 2004).
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.