Details/Information for Canadian Forces (CF) Operation Morocco 1959

CF Overseas Operations have most often operated within the construct of an international mandate. As such, the International Information is presented first in order to provide the context of the Canadian Operation (displayed second). Eventually, all rotations associated with the particular Canadian operation will also be displayed.

Moroco 1959

International Information

International Operation Name: Moroco 1959

International Mission Name: Moroco 1959

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Africa

Location: Morocco

Mission/Operation Notes:

In December 1959, people in the Meknes district of Morocco began to exhibit strange medical symptoms - large numbers of adults and children of all ages became paralyzed. Local physicians were unable to determine the cause. In response to a request from Morocco, the United Nations’ World Health Organization and the International Red Cross requested assistance in determining the cause of the malady and treating the ill.

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Canadian Forces (CF) Information (Moroco 1959)

Mission Date: 21 December 1959 - 2 April 1960

Mission Mandate:

To assist the International Red Cross in determining the cause of the paralysis outbreak and treat the victims.

CF Mission/Operation Notes:

The International Red Cross requested the assistance of Dr. Gustave Gingras of the Université de Montréal. He would become the head of the mission, with medical personnel from over 14 nations, that would seek to treat the victims. As part of the Canadian team, an RCAF surgeon, Flight Lieutenant Dr. D.H. Brooks was appointed as the Deputy Director of the mission. Dr. Brooks left Canada on 21 December, but due to reasons beyond the team’s control, they only arrived in Morocco in early January 1960. The time was not wasted as Dr. Gingras used the period to brief the team on what was expected.

Once in Morocco, the international effort was split into two teams, one in Meknes and one in Sidi Kacem, with the latter team led by Dr. Brooks. The team of physicians were able to determine that the cause of the paralysis was aircraft lubricant that had been introduced into the domestic food market, cut with olive oil and sold as a cooking oil. Over 10,000 people were stricken. After 18 months of effort in rehabilitation and surgery, only 120 were left stricken. Dr. Brooks left Morocco about 2 April 1960.