The Armed Services Blood Program
Addressing a critical, worldwide need
A combat-wounded soldier in World War II had approximately a 70 percent chance of survival. Those odds increased the sooner he reached an Allied hospital and received life-saving blood, according to a 2005 article in Science Daily by surgeon and writer Atul Gawande. As a result, during the war, military leaders and medical professionals quickly realized that the ability to provide blood for wounded service members as quickly as possible was an absolute necessity.
With more than 400,000 casualties, the second-deadliest war in American history saw the Red Cross initiate a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for military use. In 1942, the Walter Reed General Hospital recognized this need for blood products and established the first military blood bank. Having its own supply on site was invaluable for the Walter Reed staff, because it helped them supplement blood donations from civilian collection agencies and provide more timely urgent care.
By the end of 1944, several other hospitals developed a means to collect and store whole blood as a result.
At the height of the Korean War, however, the military realized it didn't receive enough of a supply from civilian collection agencies. In 1952, the Department of Defense formally established the Armed Forces Blood Donor Program.
"It was very, very instrumental during the Korean War for distributing blood and blood products for our Korean War veterans," said Navy Capt. Roland Fahie.
The Armed Forces Blood Donor Program evolved into what is now known as the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP), a joint operation that brings together Army, Navy, Air Force and combatant command blood programs. With 22 blood donor centers and 81 transfusion centers across the globe, the ASBP supplies military medical treatment facilities with blood products for regular operations, while collecting for contingencies as well.
The ASBP is able to separate whole blood donations into red blood cells, platelets and plasma. This process allows laboratories to provide only the specific parts a patient may need, and saves the rest for use elsewhere. Whether it be red blood cells for a loss of blood or certain types of anemia, platelets to aid in cancer treatment or plasma to help with clotting, the ASBP ensures each donation treats as many patients as possible.