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Mental Effects

In addition to being a physical strain on the participants' bodies, the semi-starvation period had a pronounced effect on the men's mental health and abilities. The following are excerpts from oral history interviews with volunteers Henry Scholberg and Jasper "Jay" Garner. Think about the following as you read the excerpts:

  • How did these men cope with the semi-starvation diet?
  • How did the lack of food effect the men's mental health?

Excerpt from oral history interview with Henry Scholberg.

What I wasn't expecting was the effect it would have on the mind; the total feeling of, I guess, depression, the total occupation with the idea of food.  Someone would say, "food for thought," and expressions like that, and they mentioned the word "food," you know what I mean?

I remember being a little bit critical of guys in the early part who would lick their plates.  I thought that was really pretty crude, but by the time we were into about the second month of it, I was doing it myself.  You just needed every single calorie you could get your hands on.

Excerpt from oral history interview with Jasper "Jay" Garner.

We could have up to nine cups of tea or coffee a day.  And what we enjoyed doing was to see other people eat.  We would go into a restaurant and order just a cup of coffee and sit and watch other people eat.  And it bothered us to see people come in and maybe only eat half of their food and the other, just leave it.

The most gum I ever chewed in one day, I believe, was 18 packs.  And my mouth got raw on the inside.  One of the fellows, as I remember the number, had had somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 packs a day.  May have explained one of the reasons why he had problems losing weight.


The Starvation Study Medical Care at Fort Snelling Minnesota Home Front Induction Military Intelligence Service Language School