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Us Admits Germ Warfare Tests During Cold War



  • HadIt.com Elder

09 Oct 2002 21:37

US admits germ warfare tests during Cold War

By Charles Aldinger

WASHINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - The United States acknowledged

on Wednesday it carried out a sweeping Cold War-era test program

of chemical and germ warfare agents on American soil and in Britain

and Canada.

An unknown number of civilians were exposed at the time to "simulants,"

or what were then thought to be harmless agents meant to stand in for

deadlier ones, the Defense Department said. Some of those were later

discovered to be dangerous.

"We do know that some civilians were exposed in tests that occurred in

Hawaii, possibly in Alaska and possibly in Florida," said William

Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

Also exposed or possibly exposed were civilians in or around Vieques,

Puerto Rico, and an unknown number of U.S. service personnel, said

Michael Kilpatrick of the Pentagon's Deployment Health Support


As many as 5,500 members of the U.S. armed forces were involved,

including 5,000 who took part in previously disclosed ship-board

experiments in the Pacific in the 1960s, the Pentagon said.

So far, more than 50 veterans have filed claims related to symptoms

they associate with exposure to the tests, the Department of Veterans

Affairs said.

The tests of such nerve agents as Sarin, Soman, Tabun and VX were

carried out from 1962 to 1973 both on land and at sea "out of concern

for our ability to protect and defend against these potential threats," a

Pentagon statement said. The tests were coordinated by an outfit called

the Deseret Test Center at Fort Douglas, Utah.

The reports amounted to an acknowledgment of much wider Cold War

testing of toxic arms involving U.S. forces than earlier admitted by the


"During this period there were serious and legitimate concerns about

the Soviet Union's chemical and biological warfare program,"

Winkenwerder added at a Pentagon news briefing.

But the tests also had applications to the offensive chemical and

biological weapons stocks then maintained by the United States,

he said. President Richard Nixon ordered an end to U.S. offensive

chemical and biological weapons programs in 1970.

Britain and Canada joined the United States in a series of tests on

their military proving grounds from July 1967 to September 1968, a

document released by the Pentagon said.

These joint exercises, known as Rapid Tan 1, 2 and 3, were designed

to investigate "the extent and duration of hazard" following a Tabun,

Soman or other nerve agent attack, a fact sheet said. These agents,

along with VX, were sprayed in both open grassland and wooded

terrain at Britain's Chemical Defence Establishment in Porton Down,

England, the document said.

Similar tests took place at the Suffield Defence Research Establishment

in Ralston, Canada, the Pentagon said.

"The weapons systems germane to this test were explosive munitions

(Soman-filled), aircraft spray, rain-type munitions (using both Tabun

and Soman), and massive bombs (Tabun- and Soman-filled), the fact

sheet said.


Both Canada and Britain made public information about these tests

years ago, Kilpatrick said, citing word received from their governments

as part of the process of coordinating the U.S. release of information.

But in Ottawa, Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum told reporters

he had just learned of the experiments.

"My understanding is that this was ... for the purposes of defense

against biological or chemical weapons ... My understanding also is

that no human beings were deliberately exposed to any of these

agents." he said.

The department said it had contracted with the Institute of Medicine,

a private group with ties to the National Academy of Sciences, to

carry out a three-year, $3 million study of potential long-term health

effects of the tests conducted aboard U.S. Navy ships.

The reports on the U.S. land tests in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland and

Florida did not all involve deadly agents and were used to learn how

climate and a battle environment would affect the use of such arms,

the Pentagon said.

The information was released amid U.S. charges that Iraq has

continued building weapons of mass destruction despite disarmament

requirements at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

Iraq flatly denies having such weapons programs.

Within minutes, Sarin can trigger symptoms including difficult

breathing, nausea, jerking, staggering, loss of bladder-bowel control

and death.

Extremely lethal VX is an oily liquid that is tasteless and odorless and

considered one of the most deadly agents ever made by man. With

severe exposure to the skin or lungs, death usually occurs within 10

to 15 minutes.


October 9, 2002




The Department of Defense today released another 28 detailed

fact sheets on 27 Cold War-era chemical and biological warfare

tests identified as Project 112. Project 112 was a

comprehensive program initiated in 1962 out of concern for our

ability to protect and defend against these potential threats.

This is in addition to the 12 fact sheets for 10 tests released

in September 2001 and January and May this year. Release of the

information is part of an on-going effort to provide information

needed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to respond to some

veterans' claims that tests conducted in the 1960s and early

1970s may have affected their health. The new fact sheets cover

tests performed both at sea and on land. A DoD investigative

team found that actual chemical and biological warfare agents

and simulants for these agents were used in some of these tests.

Equipment and Terrain Testing

From 1962 to 1973, the Deseret Test Center, headquartered at

Fort Douglas, Utah, conducted a series of chemical and

biological warfare vulnerability tests in support of Project

112. The Deseret Test Center planned 134 tests with 46

confirmed to be conducted and 62 canceled. Currently, DoD

investigators are searching for final reports on five tests, an

additional four tests are pending review, and the status of 26

other planned tests is still under investigation.

The purpose of the tests done under Project Shipboard Hazard and

Defense was to identify U.S. warships' vulnerabilities to

attacks with chemical or biological warfare agents and to

develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining

a war-fighting capability. The purpose of the land-based tests

was to learn more about how chemical or biological agents behave

under a variety of climatic, environmental and use conditions.

Today's release:


includes fact sheets about two tests conducted off the coast of

California, two tests conducted in the coastal waters of Hawaii,

one test conducted in Puerto Rico, and one test conducted on

Baker Island as part of Project SHAD. The remainders are

land-based tests conducted in Alaska (11), Florida (one), Hawaii

(three), Maryland (one), Utah (three), Canada (one), and one

test done jointly in the U.K. and Canada. Of the 28 fact sheets

released today, 12 detail the use of simulants and 16 detail the

use of live chemical or biological agents in the tests.

Veterans' Concerns

The Department of Defense began investigating the shipboard

hazard and defense tests in September 2000, after the Department

of Veterans Affairs asked the DoD for information needed to

clarify claims information from servicemembers who believed they

might have been exposed to harmful substances during their

participation in tests. The VA claims experts needed to know

what substances veterans may have been exposed to and who might

have been exposed. DoD agreed to deliver that information when

it could be found.

An investigative team located and searched classified records to

identify which ships and units were involved in the tests, when

the tests took place, and to what substances their crews and

other personnel may have been exposed. This required

declassification of test-related ship and location information,

without release of information that remains classified for valid

operational security reasons.

As DoD's investigators continued their examination of the facts

associated with these tests, it became clear that an

investigation of all the tests conducted by the Deseret Test

Center was necessary. Consequently, early this year the

investigation of shipboard hazard and defense tests was expanded

to include all tests conducted by the Deseret Test Center.

Health and Safety

While some may be concerned about a possible connection between

an exposure in the 1960s or 1970s and a later illness, DoD

investigators have not identified a link to these tests and

adverse health consequences. Documents show that these were

comprehensive tests that carefully considered the health and

safety of the personnel involved in conducting the tests and

protecting the environment. The DoD investigation into Deseret

Test Center tests continues, and DoD is committed to releasing

as much information as possible on all tests conducted.

Veterans who believe they were involved in Deseret Test Center

tests and desire medical evaluations should call the VA's

Helpline at (800) 749-8387. Veterans who have DoD related

questions, who have information to contribute, or who are DoD

beneficiaries and have medical concerns or questions, should

call DoD's Deployment Health Support Directorate's contact

center at (800) 497-6261. All Deseret Test Center fact sheets

are available on the DeploymentLINK Web site at


gulflink@yahoogroups.com is a service

of <http://www.gulflink.org.>

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