On dozens of separate occasions since the Second World War, biological
weapons have been used against innocent U.S. civilians. These actions
were perpetrated not by foreign terrorists but by the U.S. Army
during secret "open-air" biowarfare experiments that used
the American public as guinea pigs.
One of the main sources of information on this history is an unclassified
Special Report to Congress by the U.S. Army called: "U.S. Army
Activity in the U.S. Biological Warfare Programs, 1942-1977. Vols
1 and 2," that was published on February 24, 1977.
In quotations from four sources excerpted below, you'll see that:
* In 1951, African American citizens were deliberately targeted
to determine whether they were more susceptible than whites to disease
caused by certain biological agents.
* The U.S. Army deliberately released biological weapons on thousands
of citizens living in the San Francisco Bay area, California; Tampa
Bay, Florida, Savannah, Georgia; New York City and elsewhere.
* A U.S. court said that the military could not be sued by family
members of a San Fransisco victim who died when deliberately and
unknowingly exposed to bioweapons during a U.S. Army experiment
There is, however, no evidence that anyone has ever been investigated,
let alone charged or convicted, for any of these well-documented
cases in which biological weapons were used against U.S. civilians,
even though written admissions of responsibility for the "experiments"
are readily available on the public record.
1) The U.S. Biological Warfare and Biological Defense Programs
By David Franz, Ph.D, Cheryl Parrott and Ernest Takafuji.
The biological warfare research program in the early 1940s and 1950s
involved antipersonnel, anticrop, and, for a brief period, antianimal
studies.8 Field trials included open-air vulnerability testing,
and contamination of public water systems with live organisms such
as Serratia marcescens. Covert programs were conducted by the Central
Intelligence Agency. Pathogenic organisms were also tested in Florida
and the Bahamas in the 1940s. Chemical anticrop studies evaluated
defoliation and crop destruction. Explosive munitions tests with
pathogens were begun in 1949. In 1950, the first open-air tests
with biological simulants were conducted in various locales, one
of which was off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. This was followed
by limited zinc cadmium sulfide dispersal tests in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, and St. Louis, Missouri, in 1953; and Bacillus subtilis
var niger dispersal in the New York City subway system in 1966.3,4
The Special Operations Division at Camp Detrick conducted much of
the research on possible methods of covert attack and sabotage,
and many environmental studies-often without informing local or
state governmental agencies or the general population.
Between 1948 and 1950, several reviews were conducted by the Research
Review Board of the biological, chemical, and radiological warfare
programs. Recommendations included the creation of a specific biological
warfare production facility, continued field tests with biological
warfare agents and munitions, and expansion of the overall program.
In 1949, an enclosed, 1-million-liter steel test sphere was built
at Camp Detrick, and biological warfare explosive munitions tests
with agents were begun
During the early 1950s, Major General George E. Armstrong, The U.S.
Army Surgeon General (1951-1955) became concerned about medical
defense issues. Lieutenant Colonel Abram S. Benenson, a medical
officer from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, was appointed
medical liaison with the biological warfare laboratories at Fort
Detrick. A joint agreement was signed, and beginning in 1953, studies
on medical defense against biological weapons were conducted cooperatively
by the Chemical Corps and the U.S. Army Medical Department. In 1954,
a congressionally approved medical volunteer program, designated
"Project Whitecoat," was established after a series of
meetings with representatives of the General Conference of the Seventh-Day
Adventist Church and The Surgeon General, U.S. Army.
Field Testing in the United States
The Korean War, which began in June 1950, added justification for
continuing the biological warfare program, when the possible entry
of the Soviet Union into the war was feared. Concerns over the Soviet
Union were justified, for the Soviet Union would pronounce in 1956
that chemical and biological weapons would, indeed, be used for
mass destruction in future wars.9 In October 1950, the secretary
of defense approved continuation of the program, based largely on
the Soviet threat and a belief that the North Korean and Chinese
communists would use biological weapons.10
The first large-scale aerosol vulnerability test was conducted in
the San Francisco Bay area in September 1950, using two species
of bacteria (Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens) and fluorescent
particles. Various Bacillus species were used in many experiments
because of their spore-forming capabilities and their similarities
to Bacillus anthracis. S marcescens was used because its red pigment
made it readily identifiable. What was unexpected was the increased
number of cases of Serratia infections over the next few years in
communities that had been sprayed earlier with the organisms.4 The
military considered the situations coincidental, but many civilian
physicians believed them to be directly related. Other limited-scale
field tests with pathogenic organisms were conducted at Dugway Proving
Ground, Utah. Antianimal studies were conducted at Eglin Air Force
The biological warfare research facilities at Camp Detrick were
expanded, and a biological warfare production facility was created
at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas, in 1951. The first limited, biological
warfare retaliatory capability was achieved when an anticrop bomb
was developed, tested, and placed in production for the U.S. Air
Force. Anticrop-agent production sites were carefully selected for
safety with the coordination and approval of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. This marked the first peacetime biological weapons
production by the United States.11
By 1954, the Pine Bluff laboratory produced Brucella suis (the causative
agent of brucellosis, also called undulant fever) and Francisella
tularensis (tularemia, or rabbit fever). Hardware for antipersonnel
biological cluster bombs was delivered to Pine Bluff for filling
with Brucella suis to support air force requirements. By 1955, the
accelerated program was producing stocks of B suis and F tularensis
as biological warfare agents. While many of the efforts involved
military researchers, others from the Public Health Service, other
Federal departmental agencies, and civilian scientific institutions
were also involved in the research.
The general public was uninformed of these on-going studies, especially
the environmental and open-air experiments that were being conducted.
A controversial environmental test occurred in 1951, when army researchers
deliberately exposed a disproportionate number of black citizens
to the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, to see if African Americans
were more susceptible to such infection, like they were already
known to be to coccidioidomycosis (Coccidioides immitis). Some in
the scientific community believed that such knowledge would assist
in preparing defenses against a more virulent form of this fungus.
Similarly, in 1951, unsuspecting workers at the Norfolk Supply Center,
Norfolk, Virginia, were exposed to crates contaminated with A fumigatus
Needless to say, there was a public outcry several years later when
much of this information was released, and the biological warfare
research program would be forever tainted as operating within "clouds
of secrecy."4 The first lawsuit against the U.S. government
was filed by family members of an individual who had died, allegedly
as a result of the San Francisco experiments in 1950. The court
decided that the U.S. government could not be sued (under the Federal
Tort Claims Act), since the decision to spray S marcescens was a
part of national defense planning. Several of the organisms (such
as S marcescens and A fumigatus), which were considered at one time
to be innocuous, are now recognized to cause infections in humans,
on occasion. Immunocompromised or debilitated persons appear to
be at greatest risk. Early experiments conducted with such organisms
involving subjects or populations who were unaware of the ongoing
experiments may have posed a health risk to highly susceptible persons.
During the two decades following the second World War, laboratories
for biological and chemical warfare research continued to increase
in size, and programs were expanded with a multimillion dollar budget.
The Fort Detrick research program was complemented by contractual
civilian institutions; for example, Ohio State University was tasked
with making vaccines. Human volunteers were used in many of the
studies. Vaccines against diseases, such as Q fever and tularemia,
1. Fox LA. Bacterial warfare: The use of biologic agents in warfare.
Milit Surg. 1933;72(3):189-207.
2. Bernstein BJ. The birth of the US biological-warfare program.
Sci Am. 1987;256:116-121.
3. Department of the Army. Special Report to Congress. U.S. Army
Activity in the U.S. Biological Warfare Programs, 1942-1977. Vols
1 and 2. Washington, DC: DA. 24 Feb 1977. Unclassified.
4. Cole LA. Clouds of Secrecy: The Army's Germ Warfare Tests Over
Populated Areas. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield; 1988.
5. Williams P, Wallace D. Unit 731: Japan's Secret Biological Warfare
in World War II. New York, NY: Free Press; 1989.
6. Report to the Secretary of War by Mr. George W. Merck, Special
Consultant for Biological Warfare, 3 Jan 1946. Cited in: Department
of the Army. Special Report to Congress. U.S. Army Activity in the
U.S. Biological Warfare Programs, 1942-1977. Vol 2, annex 1. Washington,
DC: DA. 24 Feb 1977. Unclassified.
7. Baldwin IL. Special BW Operations. Washington, DC: The National
Military Establishment Research and Development Board; 5 Oct 1948.
Memorandum for Executive Secretary, Research and Development Board.
8. Hersh SM. Chemical and Biological Warfare: America's Hidden Arsenal.
Indianapolis, Ind: Bobbs-Merrill; 1968.
9. Geissler E, ed. Biological and Toxin Weapons Today (Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute). Oxford, England: Oxford
University Press; 1986.
10. Harris R, Paxman J. A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret of
Chemical and Biological Warfare. New York, NY: Hill and Wang; 1982.
11. Cowdrey AE. The Medics' War. Washington DC: Center of Military
History, U.S. Army; 1987.
2) The below quotation is from an online book at the CCCD
website: The Chemical Casualty Care Division (CCCD), located at
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD is a division of the United States Army
Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD). The USAMRICD
is one of six medical research laboratories and institutes operated
by the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command
DOD HAS DEMONSTRATED A PATTERN OF MISREPRESENTING THE DANGER
OF VARIOUS MILITARY EXPOSURES THAT CONTINUES TODAY
Findings & Conclusions:
"According to Dr. Leonard Cole, professor at Rutgers University,
the DOD has denied the possibility of harm from various exposures.
However, in many instances the military belatedly recognized that
some exposures may be causing disease and death. (Note 157) Such
denial, however, delays the availability of medical assistance to
For example, the military has released chemicals and biological
agents through outdoor "open air" tests for over four
decades. Some of these supposedly safe chemicals and biological
agents, referred to as simulants, were also released over populated
areas and cities. (Note 158) Although scientific evidence suggested
that the tests may have caused illnesses to exposed citizens, the
Army repeatedly claimed that these bacteria and chemicals were harmless
until adverse health effects convinced them to change the simulants
used. The death of Edward J. Nevin was associated with the release
of one simulant, Serratia marcescens, over San Francisco in 1950.
(Note 159) A subsequent court trial revealed that on September 26
and 27, 1950, the Army sprayed Serratia marcescens from a boat off
the coast of San Francisco. (Note 160) On September 29, patients
at the Stanford University Hospital in San Francisco began appearing
with Serratia marcescens infections. Although the judge denied the
validity of the plaintiffs' claims that the exposures were related
to the death of Mr. Nevin, the trial raised frightening questions
about the selection of simulants. Serratia marcescens is no longer
used by the military as a simulant.
Dugway Proving Ground has been a site for "open air" testing
of chemical and biological agents for decades. The purpose of the
tests is to determine how the agents spread and survive, and their
effect on people and the environment. Earl Davenport is a veteran
who participated in tests at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, first
as a military employee and later as a civilian employee. He became
ill in 1984 after being exposed to a chemical simulant called DMMP
(dimethyl methylphosphate). He had been spraying the chemical into
the path of a laser beam when a sudden change in wind blew the chemical
all over his face and hair before he was able to put on a protective
mask. Although he was "wheezing and coughing" the next
day, and his symptoms lasted for weeks, the Dugway Army Hospital
merely gave him cough medicine and antibiotics. The Dugway Safety
Office assured him that the chemical was safe. However, by 1988,
officials at Dugway had reevaluated the simulant's danger, and were
becoming concerned that DMMP could cause cancer and kidney damage.
(Note 161) Mr. Davenport is currently attempting to obtain compensation
for his illness from the Department of Labor, since his exposure
occurred when he was employed at Dugway as a civilian.
In 1992, several military personnel from the Arizona National Guard
experienced chemical burns during a summer training exercise at
the Dugway Proving Grounds. According to two physicians, a daughter
from one of the guardsmen also received chemical burns when she
later handled her father's duffle bag. One of these doctors, Dr.
Michael Vance, was contacted by military officials and encouraged
to modify his written findings on the possible cause of the daughter's
injury. (Note 162) He refused.
According to scientists and doctors from the University of Utah,
there is great concern over the potential health consequences not
only for military personnel who work and train at Dugway, but also
for civilians who live in a small town and on an Indian reservation
near the Proving Grounds. Moreover, physicians from the Utah Medical
Society have complained about the lack of information provided to
the medical community about the agents that are used in Dugway,
despite repeated requests. (Note 163)
According to Dr. Cole, the use of potentially harmful chemical and
biological agents continues at Dugway even today. For example, he
testified that the Army uses a simulant called Bacillus subtilis,
"which is fairly harmless in many natural conditions, [but]
is recognized as a potential source of infection and can cause serious
illness in some people when they are exposed to it in large numbers
and they inhale large numbers of those microorganisms." (Note
Dr. Cole also testified about the lack of informed consent at Dugway
in recent months. For example, in November 1993, a test that was
intended to evaluate whether chemical agents could penetrate protective
clothing used informed consent forms that did not mention the chemicals.
Source: The 1994 Rockefeller Report, Examining Biological
Experimentation on U.S. Military
3) Secrets At Sea: Cloud Of Secrecy Lifting On Dugway Navy's Tests
Of Germ And Chemical Agents In The Pacific During Vietnam War
Sunday, October 22, 1995
By Lee Davidson, Washington Correspondent (Registry of Atmospheric
"While the 1960s movie and TV series "The Wackiest Ship
in the Army" poked fun at the idea of the Army sailing ships,
the Army's Dugway Proving Ground and Fort Douglas actually had a
secret navy to test germ and chemical arms in the Pacific.
Unlike the Hollywood comedies about World War II, Dugway's Vietnam
War era work was deadly serious:
- Their ships sailed through clouds of germ and chemical agents,
and some sailors now blame cancer and other diseases they suffer
on it - or on the mix of chemicals used for decontamination.
- While germ and chemical tests usually occurred in remote areas
oft he Pacific for safety and secrecy, at least one test was conducted
in San Francisco Bay.
- Some of the ships had already been contaminated by radiation when
used earlier as test ships during ocean nuclear bomb tests - which
sailors also say may have sickened them.
- The ships also conducted tests designed to see if migratory birds
could be infected far from an enemy's shores to later fly in and
spread diseases - or whether examining birds from afar could show
if enemies were working with deadly germs.
- One of the sailors says he was even sent into Laos and Cambodia
to discharge germ and chemical weapons for tests - which, if true,
likely violated treaties.
The story about Dugway's navy emerges from once-secret documents
obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Deseret News
and from interviews with sailors involved ...."
4) Beyond AIDS: The West's Covert Chemical-Biological Warfare
".... In 1977, for the first time, the U.S. Army admitted carrying
out hundreds of chemical and biological warfare tests since World
War II, including at least 25 that targeted civilian populations.
Previously classified records show that between 1951 and 1967, on
at least 48 occasions the Army used disease-causing microbes in
open-air tests and, that on at least 31 other occasions, anti-crop
substances were knowingly discharged into the environment. Some
especially outrageous highlights were the following:
In 1950, the U.S. Navy secretly sprayed a cloud of Serratia marcescens
bacteria over San Francisco. The Navy later claimed the bacteria
used in the simulated attack were harmless, but many residents came
down with pneumonia-like symptoms and one died. Although the military
did not carry out many follow up studies on these tests, one showed
that nearly every single person became infected with the test organism....
In 1955 the Tampa Bay area of Florida experienced a sharp rise in
Whooping Cough cases, including 12 deaths, following a CIA bio-war
test where a bacteria withdrawn from the Army's Chemical and Biological
Warfare arsenal was released into the environment. Details of the
test are still classified.
Between 1956 and 1958 in the poor black communities of Savannah,
Georgia and Avon Park, Florida, the Army carried out field tests
in which mosquitoes were released into residential neighbourhoods
both from ground level and dropped from planes and helicopters.
Many people were swarmed by mosquitoes, and developed unknown fevers;
some even died. After each test, U.S. Army personnel posing as public
health officials photographed and tested the victims and then disappeared
from town. It is theorized that the mosquitoes were infected with
a strain of Yellow Fever. However, details of the testing remain
From June 7th to 10th 1966, the U.S. Army's Special Operations Division
(SOD) dispensed a bacillus throughout the New York City subway system.
The Army's justification for the experiment was the fact that there
are many subways in the (former) Soviet Union, Europe, and South
America. Although there are no harmful effects known for this release,
details of the experiment are still classified...."
Richard Sanders is the coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the
Arms Trade (COAT).
For more commentary and information on this subject, please refer
to his article: "The History of Bioterrorism in America: White
Power, White Powder and the White House"