My grandfather, W. E. Hanberry, gave me a clipping about my grand uncle, James Leonard Hanberry from an unknown newspaper in South Carolina, possibly Columbia. He received it from someone in Houston, TX in October of 1959. The article follows.
He Was a Human 'Guinea Pig'
Hanberry of Orangeburg
Helped Win Battle Against Yellow Fever
When He Volunteered Himself For Tests
By Dean B. Livingston
A distaste for whisky and alcoholic beverages led James L. Hanberry of Orangeburg to volunteer as a human "guinea-pig" in Dr. Walter Reed's search for the cause and cure of yellow fever, popularly known as "yellow jack" during the Spanish-American War.
Hanberry, the last survivor of the Spanish and American volunteers who faced death so that the disease might be conquered, today looks upon his heroic deed as "the thing to do" back in 1901 at the U.S. Army's Columbia barracks on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba.
"Maj. Reed told us that 'booze' and yellow fever don't mix," said Hanberry, who will celebrate his 85th birthday in December. [12 Dec 1960] "many of the other fellows indulged now and then, so I figured I'd be better off than them as a yellow fever victim."
A tall, lean Army private from Bamberg county at the time the terrible disease gripped the American forces in Cuba, Hanberry was one of about 20 who stepped forward when Reed issued the call for volunteers.
Reed's plan was to approve[sic] or disapprove [sic] a Havana physician's theory that the disease was caused by the common house mosquito.
Soldiers and civilians dropped every day from the disease. A headache, high fever, "the black vomit" and death was the course which Reed hoped to halt with experiments on the volunteers.
There was also another theory that Reed wanted to study-that the fever was transmitted by clothing and bedding of dead victims. Hanberry agreed to subject himself to both tests.
"First, I underwent the clothing and bedding tests," said Hanberry. "We were put in a tightly screened hut which was built for the experiment. The doctors brought in filthy, vomit-stained sheets and sleeping clothes of some men who had died a few days before.
"For 21 nights we slept in the yellow fever infected atmosphere and not one of us developed the disease. This led Dr. Reed to conclude that it must be transmitted by mosquitos because there were none during our entire stay in the hut.
Still a healthy man just a little weak from his stay in the infected hut, Hanberry prepared for his next ordeal to which he voluntarily submitted.
Pointing to a spot just above his knuckles, the Orangeburg medical hero said: "That's where I was bitten by a mosquito which the doctors had captured in a test tube after it fed on the yellow body of a dying victim.
"This time there was no doubt about it - I had yellow fever. For the first five days I was so weak that I couldn't tell what was going on. My temperature rose to 105 degrees. I had once heard that on the fifth day you would know whether or not you were going to live, and sure enough, on my fifth day I began to come around."
He said he was unable to eat until that day. "then Dr. Ames (one of Reed's associates) came up to my bed and offered me some chicken soup. I didn't think I'd be able to swallow it, but after the first spoonful, I knew I was going to live."
During his bout with the fever, which began Feb. 1901, and ended on March 12, Hanberry lost 40 pounds.
Hanberry's heroic deeds have been featured in many of the nation's leading publications and he has received many outstanding commendations, the highest being the Medal of Honor.
But to go into his home today you could never tell that you were conversing with one of America's truly great heroes. On his living room wall is a certificate of commendation from the Cuban government. the rest of his awards are stored away.
He prefers to relate stories about Dr. Reed, Dr. Ames and the other volunteers rather than about himself. He doesn't look or act like a hero. He takes pride in having served his country in such a worthwhile manner, but he gives all the credit to Dr. Reed.
However, Hanberry does realize what effects the experiments in which he participated have had upon humanity. Day after day during the war he saw scores of his fellow soldiers die from the dreaded yellow fever. The cause of the deaths was a mystery until he and other gallant "yellow jacket fighters" brought enlightenment to the world.
[end of article]
There is more information about Dr. Reed, his experiments and a brief mention of James at http://wrair-www.army.mil/welcome/reedHistory.htm.
There was also an article about James and the yellow fever experiments in Life Magazine April 23, 1951.
Thanks to Katherine Belknap, James' granddaughter and Chuck Hanberry for filling in some of the blanks.