Medicine Doesn’t Discriminate: How Medical Supplies Helped Save Lives During World War II

A pack of German bandages that was carried by a German soldier on D-Day and later recovered by Allied soldiers.

Authored by William Braxton Hicks

World War II was the most destructive conflict in human history. Millions of people lost their lives fighting for or defending against tyranny, some for the right reasons, and others for the wrong ones (Hastings 2012). The bandages in the above photo were made by a German company called Hartmann Group. They were just one of the many companies from all around the world that were required by their government to begin producing materials for war in both the 1910s and the 1930-40s. In short, there were no facets of ordinary life, nor anyone in the world who was not affected in some way by the greatest military conflict of all-time.

All sides, however, made use of medical supplies to ensure that the casualty list was far smaller than it would have been otherwise (Davenport 2012, 55). Advancements in medical technology ensured that the wounded soldier on the battlefield had much greater chances of surviving than in World War II. Items such as bandages and morphine were distributed to soldiers on the frontlines and mainly to medics from companies such as Hartmann or The American Wollen Company (WW2 US Medical Research Center, n.d.), and new surgery techniques helped keep bacteria down in wounds that would normally have become infected.

Even medical supplies made by companies for the German army were worth their weight in gold and even found their way into the hands of allied soldiers, as the above photo demonstrates. Seeing bandages, like the ones pictured above, made by a German manufacturer, fall into Allied hands shows how the supplies produced by both sides during the war do not discriminate in their job of trying to ensure that as many people as possible go home to their families (Bennett 2016, 27-55).

Finally, it must be said that Hartmann wanted nothing to do with Hitler and his Nazi regime. If we take what they said at face value, we can infer that they, like many other companies within Germany’s borders, were pressured into providing aid to the army (Bürgerleben, n.d.). It is, therefore, the height of irony that some of the supplies that the Nazis coerced their companies into making found their way into the hands, and probably saved the lives of, those who would eventually bring about their downfall. These supplies show how even in the face of horror and war, even a small pack of bandages, made by someone in a warehouse who’s story may never be told, can do some good in a world torn apart.


Bennett, Judith A. 2006. “Malaria, Medicine, and Melanesians: Contested Hybrid Spaces in World War II.” Health and History 8 (1): 27–55. Accessed March 7, 2023.

Bürgerleben. n.d. “Hartmann Company – The Oldest German Company to Produce Dressing Materials… And the First German Producer of Sanitary Pads for Women.” Accessed March 7, 2023.

Davenport, Diana. 2012. “The War against Bacteria: How Were Sulphonamide Drugs Used by Britain during World War II?” Medical Humanities 38 (1): 55–55. Accessed March 7, 2023.

Hastings, Max. 2012. Inferno: The World At War, 1939-1945. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

WW2 US Medical Research Center. n.d. “WW2 Medical Equipment Manufacturers and Suppliers.” Accessed March 7, 2023.