Pentagon reveals weapons tests

June 30, 2003, 10:07PM
Pentagon reveals weapons tests

Chemical, biological arms secretly tried on service members

By ROBERT GEHRKE
Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon used potentially dangerous chemical and biological agents in 50 secret tests involving military personnel in a decadelong project to measure the weapons’ combat capabilities, according to Pentagon findings released Monday.

The tests were done between 1962 and 1973 and involved 5,842 service members. Many were not told of the tests, some of which involved releases of deadly nerve agents in Alaska and Hawaii.

The information released Monday disclosed eight new tests that primarily used nonlethal bacteria and in some cases caustic chemicals. And it revealed for the first time experiments to find ways to use submarines to distribute biological weapons.

“Project 112” and “Project SHAD,” as they were called, were developed in 1961 to study the combat uses of biological and chemical weapons and methods to protect U.S. troops from such attacks. Initially it was believed that only simulated agents were used, but last year the Defense Department admitted that some of the tests used real chemical or biological weapons.

Most of the tests made public Monday used the benign bacteria bacillus globigii to simulate how biological weapons agents would spread through a hold of a ship.

“It bespeaks the time, the early ’60s, when we were in the Cold War, and we were concerned that Russia and perhaps China had chemical and biological capabilities that could be used against American troops and against us in the homeland,” said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Deployment Health Support Directorate.

The United States scrapped its biological weapons program in the late 1960s and agreed in a 1997 treaty to destroy all its chemical weapons.

Ship logs reported no outbreaks of illness at the time, Kilpatrick said, but to date 260 service members have reported illnesses to the Veterans Administration that they believe are related to their presence at the test sites.

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