The tests included releasing
deadly nerve agents in Alaska and spraying bacteria over Hawaii,
according to the documents obtained Tuesday.
The United States also tested nerve agents in Canada and Britain
in conjunction with those two countries, and biological and chemical
weapons in at least two other states, Maryland and Florida.
The summaries of more than two dozen tests show that biological
and chemical tests were much more widespread than the military has
The Pentagon released records earlier this year showing that
chemical and biological agents had been sprayed on ships at sea. The
military reimbursed ranchers and agreed to stop open-air nerve agent
testing at its main chemical weapons center in the Utah desert after
about 6,400 sheep died when nerve gas drifted away from the test
But the Pentagon never before has provided details of the
Alaskan, Hawaiian, Canadian and British tests. The Defense
Department planned to formally release summaries of 28 biological
and chemical weapons tests at a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee
The documents did not say whether any civilians had been exposed
to the poisons. Military personnel exposed to weapons agents would
have worn protective gear, the Pentagon says, although the gas masks
and suits used at the time were far less sophisticated than those in
Troops involved in biological weapons testing were vaccinated
ahead of time, said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., the Pentagon's top
health official. In prepared testimony for the House panel,
Winkenwerder acknowledged that some service members involved in the
tests "may not have known all the details of these tests."
He said some service members participating in tests using
simulated chemical or biological weapons may not have been informed
about the tests at all.
The head of the House Veterans Affairs panel called for further
investigation of the tests.
"Our focus must be on quickly identifying those veterans who were
involved, assessing whether they suffered any negative health
consequences and, if warranted, providing them with adequate health
care and compensation for their service," said Rep. Chris Smith,
The tests were part of Project 112, a military program in the
1960s and 1970s to test chemical and biological weapons and defenses
against them. Parts of the testing program done on Navy ships were
called Project SHAD, or Shipboard Hazard and Defense.
The United States scrapped its biological weapons program in the
late 1960s and agreed in a 1997 treaty to destroy all of its
Some of those involved in the tests say they now suffer health
problems linked to their exposure to dangerous chemicals and germs.
They are pressing the Veterans Affairs Department to compensate
Earlier this year, the Defense Department acknowledged for the
first time that some of the 1960s tests used real chemical and
biological weapons, not just benign stand-ins.
The Defense Department has identified about 5,000 service members
involved in tests at sea and another 2,100 involved in the tests
detailed Wednesday, said Dr. Jonathan Perlin of the Department of
Veterans Affairs (news
sites). He said 53 veterans had filed health claims for their
exposure during the tests. The VA has sent letters to 1,400 veterans
involved in the tests at sea, Perlin said.
VA and Pentagon officials acknowledged at a July hearing that
finding the soldiers has been difficult.
The tests described in the latest Pentagon documents include:
_ Devil Hole I, designed to test how sarin gas would disperse
after being released in artillery shells and rockets in aspen and
spruce forests. The tests occurred in the summer of 1965 at the
Gerstle River test site near Fort Greeley, Alaska. Sarin is a
powerful nerve gas that causes a choking, thrashing death. The Bush
administration says it is part of Iraq's chemical arsenal.
_ Devil Hole II, which tested how the nerve agent VX behaved when
dispersed with artillery shells. The test at the Gerstle River site
in Alaska also included mannequins in military uniforms and military
trucks. VX is one of the deadliest nerve agents known and is
persistent in the environment because it is a sticky liquid that
evaporates slowly. Iraq has acknowledged making tons of VX.
_ Big Tom, a 1965 test that included spraying bacteria over the
Hawaiian island of Oahu to simulate a biological attack on an island
compound, and to develop tactics for such an attack. The test used
Bacillus globigii, a bacterium believed at the time to be harmless.
Researchers later discovered the bacterium, a relative of the one
that causes anthrax, could cause infections in people with weakened
_ Rapid Tan I, II, and III, a series of tests in 1967 and 1968 in
England and Canada. The tests used sarin and VX, as well as the
nerve agents tabun and soman, at the British chemical weapons
facility in Porton Down, England. Tests at the Suffield Defence
Research Establishment in Ralston, Canada, included tabun and soman,
the records show.
Tabun and soman are chemically related to sarin and produce
On the Net:
Descriptions of some of the tests: http://rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/ap/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/inlinks/*http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml