This Month In Repressed History
U.S. Uses Bio-Weapons on Their Own People

August 25, 2003 Repressed History article
From Houston FREE PRESS
Issue #7, September 1, 2003
By Warren Sheible

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America's Veterans

Too often, important events fall through the cracks of common knowledge. More often, they are shoved there. Forgotten history usually gets that way when it is repressed, again and again, by the mass media. You might not know that this month in history

September 13, 2001. After several years of urging by the department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) issued a press release admitting that it had conducted a series of tests under the title "Project 112" in which American servicemen were intentionally dosed with chemical and biological weapons. The project was so named because it was then-Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara's 112th management initiative.

These tests, which have become known generally as "Project SHAD" (Shipboard Hazard and Defense), used dozens of harmful agents like VX, Sarin gas, E-coli bacteria and Bacillus globigii (a cousin to anthrax and bubonic plague) during both naval and land-based exercises whose "participants" were completely unaware and unprotected from the potentially fatal effects. Strategically scheduled just two days after the mind-numbing attacks on the Pentagon, White House and World Trade Center, this announcement was given little to no attention by the national media.

The initial September release was also a severely understated one. It spoke of just two tests in which low-level versions of the deadly agents were exposed to two ships full of men who had been informed, trained, and protected for the tests. DOD spokesmen now admit that SHAD consisted of over a hundred planned tests from 1962 to '73 on thousands of enlisted servicemen. Of these estimated 10,000 people (excluding support crew and civilians), the DOD has yet to uncover a single case in which a "participant" was given protective clothing, a breathing apparatus or information about any possible danger involved. Before you get out of your seat, let me just explain that this kind of government testing is by no means unprecedented.

One of the earliest and most well known cases of U.S. government experiments using human guinea pigs began in 1932. During the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service), 399 black men were diagnosed with the disease but not informed of it or treated in any way. For 40 years, their doctors sat idly by, waiting for cadavers, and allowing each of them to die in order to study the progression of syphilis in African Americans.

This story finally surfaced in 1972 to the thunderous outcry of Americans still hyped by the civil rights movement. Some of them may have even been aware of the 400 Chicago inmates who had been infected with malaria in 1940 to test potential vaccines (this was mentioned as a defense for Nazi scientists during the Nuremberg trials). However, few of them would have suspected then that such inhuman experimentation had already extended from poor convicts and sharecroppers, to enlisted servicemen and the general public. The U.S. government admitted to testing chemical and biological warfare agents (CBWs) on unwilling Americans for the first time during Senate hearings in 1977. Over the course of that investigation, it was revealed that various branches of our military and intelligence agencies had conducted no less than 48 separate CBW test series' since WWII.

Immediately after the war, the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) had begun to aggressively recruit Nazi scientists for assistance in various weapons programs (Project Paperclip) in exchange for complete immunity from judgment at Nuremberg. The competition with the Soviet Union was so fierce in this area that JIOA was snatching up these scientists faster than DOD could find projects for them. This was done so that the Soviets would be denied access to any potentially valuable German information, and eclipsed the goal of seeking out accountability for war crimes. JIOA director Bosquet Wev addressed the situation by saying, "so far as German scientist are concerned, Nazism should no longer be a serious consideration…the far greater threat of Communism is now threatening the entire world."

Since the DOD had already conducted mustard gas experiments on 4,000 servicemen in 1942, it is presumable that some of these possible Nazi war criminals were put to work on the dozens of similar CBW projects like SHAD. In fact, the U.S. had already granted full immunity and new identities to a number of Japanese scientists who were known to have used American POWs for bio-warfare experiments in the 1930s. In exchange, they trained our scientists on germ warfare. This allowed them to begin testing explosive pathogenic germ bombs at Fort Detrick, MD in 1949. These explosions were reasonably close to densely populated areas that could have been contaminated via the wind.

The first large-scale open air CBW test, took place on September 26 and 27 of 1950. As an attack "simulation", the U.S. Army sprayed biological agents including Serratia marcencens (an infectious bacteria with symptoms like pneumonia) inland from boats off the coast of San Francisco. Two days later, a record number of S. marcencens victims poured into Stanford University Hospital. One of them, Edward J. Nevin, succumbed to the illness and died.

When the Army revealed that they were the cause, nearly 30 years later, Nevin's family launched the first ever lawsuit against the U.S. government. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the judge decided that the government could not be sued for actions pursuant to defense planning. To this day, our government continues to make consistent use of this act to deny damages to test victims.

Echoing the Tuskegee experiments, a case in 1951 saw Army doctors dosing a disproportionate number of black civilians with Aspergillus fumigatus (an infectious fungus) to find out if they were more susceptible than whites. That same year, the black warehouse workers at Norfolk Supply Center, VA were infected with A. fumigatus after being given several crates contaminated with the spores to handle.

The government was not directly implicated in delivering the contaminated cargo, and no deaths were recorded. In the scope of bio-weapons victims on American soil, those workers were relatively lucky. Just 4 years later, a confirmed CIA test of the Army's CBW inventory released harmful bacteria into the air above Tampa Bay, FL. The immediate result was a record number of hospitalized whooping cough victims. 12 of them died.

Though not mentioned with the others in 1977, Project SHAD was probably the longest-running CBW test series conducted before Nixon ordered the destruction of the Army's stockpile (there is little evidence to suggest that this was done successfully). Most of these tests were designed to find out exactly how deadly agents would travel through U.S. ships to infect servicemen in the event of a chemical or bio-weapon attack.

The agents were sprayed into the paths of Naval vessels by planes or aircraft carriers. Even though informing the crews and giving them extra protection would have skewed the results, DOD briefs stated that all "volunteers" would be given special training and gear. In reality, no one involved so far can recall receiving any specialized protection, and only 1 out of 10 ship captains who participated had even heard of the operations when later interviewed.

Apparently, the test conductors were interested in discovering how badly crewmen could be infected by agents traveling through shipboard ventilation systems. If an assault by CBWs occurred, DOD had to be sure that Navy ships could still carry out their objectives.

Other land-based tests in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Utah, Canada, Panama and England had a variety of purposes. Some had soldiers firing ammunition laced with VX and depleted uranium at mannequins and other dummy targets. Some seem to be designed to test basic readiness of soldiers to chemical attacks. Still others seem to have had no purpose at all.

One Vietnam veteran told how he and others were surreptitiously dosed for no reason in Panama while training rookies for jungle warfare. "Little did we now that we were in this Operation SHAD. When we landed we had A4 Skyhawks flying overhead simulating close air support, or so we were told…what actually occurred was that we were all sprayed with different chemicals…the DOD is not allowing us to talk about much of it, as per their letter I recently received."

Many SHAD experiments exposed soldiers to low doses of highly toxic agents like Sarin and VX. These are nerve agents that bind irreversibly to enzymes in the central nervous system, often causing extreme convulsions and death within seconds of inhalation. Studies have shown that the same symptoms can occur over long periods of time in slight cases of exposure.

In many cases, these deadly agents were replaced with seemingly benign stand-ins like BG (Bacillus globigii), OU (Coxiella burnetii), and UL (Pasteurella tularensis). These agents have been proven to produce long-term health problems such as fever, headache, muscle pains, arthritis, dry cough, diarrhea, vomiting, hepatitis, pneumonia, eye infections, soft tissue infections (open, bleeding sores) and ulcerating lesions.

Similar tests of these "low-level" toxins were also being conducted on American civilians at that time. In 1966, the Army's Special Operations Division filled light bulbs with Bacillus subtilis variation niger and dropped them onto ventilation grates of the New York subway system. They said that they wanted to find out how airborne bacteria would travel through subway systems in Russia and Europe. The estimated number of exposed civilians was over one million.

So what ever happened to the test subjects? The vast majority of people involved in SHAD tests and other CBW experiments still have no idea that they have been exposed. They may have been treated immediately for illnesses caused by the agents, but their doctors were unaware of that cause, or assumed that they became infected through more natural means.

Others did not exhibit any instant reaction to the agents, but are now suffering from the side effects. Doctors used by the DOD say that most of the agents used are not commonly known to produce aftereffects when they don't manifest immediately. However, they do admit that there is "a casual relationship" between the low-level exposure of some agents and long-term aftereffects.

In either case, the victim's claim is usually tossed out because their medical history has not been sufficiently "controlled". The VA assumes that their illnesses are caused by something they may have come in contact with after their service, instead of the agents they definitely were dosed with during Project SHAD.

To further prevent the veteran from proving their case, the medical records from their service 20 to 40 years ago are classified, along with nearly all test information. The VA requires that veterans provide those records in order to file a claim.

The truth about exactly what happened to U.S. soldiers during the extraordinary SHAD tests remains concealed behind a smokescreen of DOD "initiatives". In June of 2003, the DOD concluded a 3-year "significant effort" toward uncovering the mystery of these operations and helping the afflicted veterans. According to their press release, "the investigation began in August of 2000, when the VA's acting secretary sent a letter to the secretary of defense asking for medically relevant information from [SHAD] testing".

Since then, the DOD has released a number of statements about the progress of that investigation, which are all essentially the same: they say that the information is hard to find. Some of the reasons cited for this difficulty were that records sought were very old, that most of the documents were classified and that they were scattered throughout multiple agencies. Basically, what any SHAD veteran could have told you years before.

Midway through the "effort", DOD investigators experienced a "major breakthrough" when they found a few semi-annual progress reports for the Desert Test Center, which had been established at Fort Douglas, Utah in 1962 to oversee Project 112. The next series of announcements told the increasing number of tests that were found to have been planned, but cancelled.

Before the end of investigation, 56 fact sheets were made available that listed names of the operations, agents used, test dates and locations. Then, the DOD announced that it would remain committed to helping SHAD veterans, and promptly closed the investigation. After complaints from Congress, they changed the status from "closed," to "inactive". The result was the same.

What the DOD released after their 3-year investigation loosely qualifies as the "medically relevant information" that the VA asked for. It is still unclear why they used those words, instead of just requesting the DOD to declassify veterans' personal medical records so they could continue to process their claims.

Today, Shawn Pittman & Ass. are attempting to sue the DOD for those medical records. As usual, this legal battle promises to be an extremely extended one. Meanwhile, veterans who could be collecting damages with that information continue to suffer and die while those named in the lawsuit collect bonuses. Even if their case is proven after their death, the families of the victims get nothing from the government.

Though the VA says they have improved their claims system from it's highly adversarial past, Attny. Doug Rosinski (handling the DOD lawsuit) told me that a veteran had been denied his claim as recently as three weeks ago because the VA representative said that Project SHAD had never existed. "If anything, it's more adversarial," said Doug. "As a matter of law, you have absolutely no recourse if they throw your claim in the trash." He and his associates continue to fight the VA and DOD, who claim that there is no medical information available from the tests.

The simple fact is, to say that the U.S. government spent millions of dollars on CBW tests in the 60s, but cannot find information on exactly what happened during those tests is a ridiculous lie. It is completely implausible to presume that these highly paid and professional scientists were going to such amazing lengths to produce studies on the effects of harmful agents on humans, and then pitching them into a communal cardboard box to be stuffed away somewhere without being reviewed or cataloged. Though a relatively recent development, the September 2001 disclosure of the SHAD experiments has started a slow process that will certainly lead to one of the most shocking and important investigations in U.S. history. For now, it continues to be repressed.