from danger room: For decades, the U.S. military has been accused of exposing service members and the public to chemical and biological warfare agents and simulants. Fears have been stoked by the Cold War's Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) project, which, in the process of determining the characteristics of large-area CB agent delivery mechanisms, may have exposed troops to dangerous simulants and nerve agents. Then there's the the Bari incident, when soldiers and sailors were swimming in mustard agent when Germans bombed U.S. ships in that Italian harbor. And let's not forget the late-50's field testing of LSD and other hallucinogens like Agent BZ.
The Department of Defense (DOD) release of information on such efforts has been slow, sporadic, and uncoordinated at times. But now, the DOD is trying to consolidate this information, and ensure that the public -- especially those folks who may have been exposed to bad stuff -- can learn more about these efforts from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The DOD Force Health Protection & Readiness Policy and Program Office is sponsoring an easy-to-use web site that provides information on testing and potential exposure cases associated with chemical and biological warfare agents and simulants. The site breaks out the history into three periods - World War II, Project 112/SHAD cases, and other Cold War cases (which covers testing sites such as Fort Detrick, Edgewood Arsenal, and Dugway Proving Ground). Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, strategic communications director for the Military Health System, explained their intent:
“This is a new Web site that we have created to put together for all those who may have interest in everything that we have been able to uncover and understand about the chemical and biological testing of warfare agents done from probably the early 1940s up through 1975,” said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick... “The CB [chem-bio] exposures Web site explains why the testing was done, where it was done, what was used in the testing, and really what DoD learned from the testing,” he said.
The DOD medical community is doing their best to identify all unclassified information on past CB warfare testing and the personnel involved. And they're using all forms of communication to get the word out on it. That's a pretty rare combo, in the Defense Department. As a history freak who enjoys getting an inside view on how the military developed its CB weapons capability, I'm loving it.
Now some may say that DOD was forced to reveal this information due to Congressional pressure. That may be. But much of this test information was, for a long time, kept clandestine for good reason. These were weapon development activities in which the Soviet Union was very interested. And even today, there's nothing quite as good as the traditional CB warfare agents developed during the Cold War. It could save another nation or terrorist group a good deal of research if the wrong data were released. One might also point out that there's no discussion of the Gulf War illness controversy. But, technically, there's been no agreement that these illnesses were caused by exposure to CB warfare agents. So put aside the critical comments and enjoy the sunshine on these fascinating records.