Fact Check

Tampon Wound Dressing

Tampon used to stanch deadly wound saves Marine's life?

Published Aug 14, 2007

Claim:   Tampon used to stanch deadly wound saves Marine's life.

Status:   Multiple:

  • Tampons have been used by U.S. Army medics as emergency wound care dressings:   True.
  • This particular story about a wounded Marine saved by a tampon included in a misdirected care package from home is factual:   Undetermined.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2005]

Tampons come to the rescue in Iraq!!

(Don't worry, it's a good story)

(Letter from a mom):

He told me how wonderful the care packages were and wanted me to tell everyone thank you. He said that one guy, we'll call Marine X did get a girl care package and everyone was giving him a hard time. My son said, "Marine X got some really nice smelling lotion and everyone really likes it, so every time he goes to sleep they steal it from him." I told my son I was really sorry about the mistake, and if he wanted I would send Marine X another package. He told me not to worry about Marine X because every time I send something to him, Marine X thinks it's for him too. He said when my husband and I sent the last care package Marine X came over to his cot picked up the box, started fishing through it, and said, "What'd we get this time?"

My son said they had the most fun with Marine X's package. He said he wasn't sure who we were sending the pack to, but the panties were size 20, and he said one of the guys got on top of the Humvee and jumped off with the panties over his head and yelled, "Look at me, I'm an Airborne Ranger!!!!". He said one of the guys attached the panties to an antenna and it blew in the wind like a windsock. He said it entertained them for quite awhile. Then of course, they had the tampons. When he brought this up my imagination was just running wild, but I let him continue.

My son said they had to go on a mission and Marine X wanted the chapstick and lotion for the trip. He grabbed a bunch of the items out of his care package and got in the Humvee. As luck would have it he grabbed the tampons, and my son said everyone was teasing him about "not forgetting his feminine hygiene products". My son said things were going well, and then the convoy was ambushed. He said a Marine in the convoy was shot. He said the wound was pretty clean, but it was deep. He said they were administering first aid but couldn't get the bleeding to slow down, and someone said, "Hey use Marine X's tampons". My son said they put the tampon in the wound.

At this point my son profoundly told me, "Mom did you know that tampons expand?" "Well, yeah!" They successfully slowed the bleeding and got the guy medical attention. When they went to check on him later the surgeon told them, "You guys saved his life". If you hadn't stopped that bleeding he would have bled to death. My son said, "Mom, the tampons sent by the Marine Moms by mistake saved a Marine's life." At this point I asked him, "Well what did you do with the rest of the tampons?" He said, "Oh, we divided them up and we all have them in our flak jackets, and I kept two for our first aid kit".

I am absolutely amazed by the ingenuity of our Marines, and can't believe that something that started out as a mistake ended up saving someone's life. My sister said she doesn't believe in mistakes. She said that God had a plan all along. She believes that female care package was sent to Marine X to save our Marine. Either way ladies our efforts have boosted the morale of many Marines, provided much needed items for our troops, AND saved the life of a Marine! God bless each of you for your efforts and hard work, and God bless our Marines! Army, Navy, Air Force, and every one!


Origins:   This story about feminine care products used to save the life of a fallen Marine began landing in the snopes.com inbox in January 2005. It was originally posted in July 2004 to a message board hosted by the Houston Marine Moms, a group that sends packages to soldiers serving in the field. The message board post was edited into the form it has now taken, e.g., the original contained details not part of the version that has come to be circulated in e-mail, including the name of "Marine X" plus a bit about the soldiers' throwing "Channel 11" footballs at one another after lights out.

We'll maintain the "Undetermined" status regarding the story for now because although we can vet where and when the original post was made, to verify the tale itself would entail talking with the Marines or doctors who witnessed the incident. However, the tale's premise

isn't all that outlandish. Predating the e-mail's appearance, an April 2003 news story about odd uses soldiers stationed in Iraq were finding for non-military items said, "In the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, many soldiers carry tampons to plug bullet holes in case they are shot." (That same article announced of those men, "They stick condoms on the muzzles of .50-caliber machine guns to keep out dust, and shoot right through the latex when the time comes to fire.")

Numerous soldiers have told us that yes, tampons are indeed carried in med kits and are used on bullet wounds in the field. Medics with years of combat experience say they consider tampons excellent for penetration trauma because not only do they absorb a lot of blood, they are sterile, packaged with easy-to-use applicators, and leave a "tail" protruding from the wound that aids doctors in easily removing them.

As to how old this practice is, one of our correspondents says he saw tampons used in this fashion during the Vietnam War.

Materials used in the manufacture of feminine products are especially well suited to wound care. Cellucotton, the substance used in Kotex (sanitary napkins), was devised for the purpose of improving bandages in World War I. In an odd way, with tampons being employed as emergency wound dressings in the field in Iraq, these products have come full circle.

Barbara "circular logic" Mikkelson

Last updated:   7 October 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Dart, Bob.   "Inventive GIs Make Do in the Desert."

    Cox News Service.   30 April 2003.

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