Chrissy Vu: Final Project


This work focuses on STS issues related to the testing and development of the biological weapons (BW) program in the United States. A brief history and expository information is provided in order to put BW into a US historical context. A couple of examples will be highlighted; for example, the work on project SHAD/Project 112 on US soldiers from 1960s-1970s, whose existence the Army denied until 2000. The paper will focus on issues related to the development of science in light of ethical concerns, how individuals (scientists; participants – willing, not willing, not knowing; the public) shaped the science, and the ramifications of secrecy.

I didn’t use YouTube as a reference in the paper. However, I did add the links from TV programs below (i.e. akin to the history channel/discovery channel shows, no references were provided my original posters).


When discussing biological weapons (BW), especially in the American context, it is important to note that the BW program in the US did not occur in a vacuum. That is the BW program in the US was influenced by a variety of issues including, but not limited to, foreign conflicts (Korean War, Viet Nam War, Cold War); popular opinion; etc.

This study will focus on the BW testing on witting and unwitting individuals from the 1960s-1972. This period was chosen primarily for succinctness and because the availability of open source and/or recently declassified information. Furthermore, this period was chosen because the people who were tested have just begun to come out about these tests and information is becoming more readily available. From the partial research done so far, it appears that there may have been perhaps around 130 BW tests during the 1960s (Enseink, p. 513). Currently, the US Military is attempting to contact around 5,000 people who may have been unknowingly exposed to these tests (Enseink, p. 513).

This study on the testing and development of BW in the US was initiated because it is an oftentimes, glossed-over topic that have many overt and covert ramifications to the American public. Issues of motivators, ethics, and effects on society will be at the forefront.

Concerning motivators, this study will attempt to find the scientific incentives that led US scientists to develop BW. Some scientists argued that the research of these BW actually is beneficial to medicine.

Moreover, many social issues will be explored including the scientific ethics that were involved in testing HUMAN subjects, especially the unknowing human subjects. Many questions can be posed on this topic: Was there a concern over a “lethal” as opposed to an “incapacitating” technology? How did scientists “fidget” with certain definitions in order to test this science? [I.e. Change the definition of “lethal” versus “incapacitating”].

When examining the effects on society, a key issue will be the players involved. It appears as if, sometimes, due to the small nature of the initial BW program, even the highest levels of government (President) were not aware of the minute details of these tests and efforts. The participants, sometimes, were not even aware that they were subjects. Primary sources (i.e. from the Department of the Army, circa 1970) give drastically different reports on the activity as being “limited,” whereas in hindsight we know now that this was not the case.

In a strange way, the covert and overt military BW tested was able to support the dichotomy of “current” cultural beliefs concerning safe human testing and the willingness of some scientists to expose participants to “unsafe” conditions.

Brief Timeline

During the Vietnam War
• 1962-1967 – Dougway Proving Grounds – Tested P. tularensis (Guilleman, Biological Weapons, 109)
• 1965 BG Spores (Bacillus globigii, used for simulating anthrax) were released in Washington CD in two sites – National Airport and a Greyhound station. (Guilleman, Biological Weapons, 109)
• 1966 BG Spores released at a New York City subway
• 1968 BG spores released in California coast near President Nixon’s holiday house.
• SHAD [Shipboard Hazard and Defense]/Project 112 1962 -1970 – organized in Deseret Test Center, Fort Douglas, Utah. Army, Navy and Air Force collaborated with Canadians and the British. Mock anthrax attacks on naval ships. Many question whether this testing was for offensive purposes.
o Perhaps 50 trials
o Limited information available
o 1963-1965 – BG spore tests
o Planes and ships with sprayers
o One naval trial called “Big Tom”
 “Held off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii in May-June 1965, it brought together the Navy and Air Force to ‘evaluate the feasibility of a biological attack against an island complex and to evaluate doctrine and tactics for delivery of such an attack’” (Guilleman, Biological Weapons, 110)
 Navy A-4 Aircraft sprayed liquid BG and a USAF F-105 Sprayed dry BG. Military testers were concerned about the amount of penetration into the jungle canopy.
o 1964 Shady grove, close to Johnston Atoll, real agents tested such as tularemia, Q fever on monkeys that were house on ship decks.
• “Yellow Leaf” focused on jungle targets initially using aerosols staged in the Fort Sherman Military Reservation, Panama, but due to political protests, tests were relocated to the Hawaiian Olaa Forest. (Guilleman, Biological Weapons, 110)
• “Magic Sword” 1965 – released mosquitoes in Pacific could transmit diseases like dengue or yellow fever.

• 1967-1967 “Red Cloud” liquid/dry tularemia tested in cold conditions. Test performed in Fort Greely, Alaska and in the Pacific.
• DTC Test 68-50, 1968, Marshall Islands, Eniwetok Atoll. F4 Phantom jets released staphylococcal enterotoxin, Type B (SEB) and BG from tanks. The knowledge garnered as that only one tank was needed to spread the pathogen to 1,000 square miles. (Guilleman, Biological Weapons, 110)
• 1969 Nixon Speech to end BW Program
• 1972 BW Convention


During the course of this research, I had difficulties focusing on one topic and physically acquiring all the data I wanted. Overall, the hardest obstacle encountered for me was to narrow my topic down. My intent was to work on a topic potentially related to my thesis (I have yet chosen a topic for that either, but I know it’s biology-related), and the topic of biological weapons (BW) in the United States is extremely expansive. I also wanted to cover a topic not widely known, or something that would add further insight into the area of BW. At one point in time, I even changed my topic (sorry, Professor Abbate!). This issue was more or less resolved after I collected a large amount of data which eventually forced me to narrow my topic to something that would fit into 15-20 research pages. I searched (in no particular order) Google, PubMed, ScienceDirect, JSTOR, the public library, the VT library, the NIH library, the NLM Library, and the Library of Congress. In some cases, when I arrived at my research destination, the article was not available, so the drive might/might not have been fully valuable. However, this was overcome, thanks to VT’s wonderful interlibrary loan system, where other books and articles were able to “fill in the gaps” were acquired. Furthermore, a lot of the work was declassified. Even so, it wasn’t readily available. As a workaround, I found that the books below had collections of the original material already in them. One item that I have been looking to find is a 1977 report to Congress entitled “US Army Activities in the US Biological Warfare Program.” If anyone has any leads, please tell me! Thanks!

Related Online Videos

Army Tested Biological Weapons On U.S. Citizens part 1 of 2

Army Tested Biological Weapons On U.S. Citizens part 2 of 2

Experimental Biological & Chemical Weapons

Chemical and Biological Weapons in WWII

Project Whitecoat

The Living Weapon

Subject to change

Primary Sources

#1. (1986). "Biological weapons: new view from the Pentagon." Nature 323(6083).

  • Article that shows the US perspective from the 1980s in order to provide boundary between offensive and defensive research. In addition, addresses concern with new (at the time) science of recombinant technologies.

#2. Budiansky, S. (1982). "NIH urged to act on germ war." Nature 297(5867).

  • Article that records the fear during the 1980s of using cloning in order to make biological weapons.

#3. Clarke, M. (1985). "US biological weapons: protests over US Army lab." Nature 317(6036).

  • Article that reports on fear of a US aerosol test facility in Utah.

#4. IL, J. B. (1970). "The significance of chemical and biological warfare for the people." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 65(1).

*Article and speeches that describe the “current” (as of 1970) understanding of BW and the thoughts of scientists during that time.

#5. Palca, J. (1986). "US biological weapons: New test facility defended." Nature 321(805 ).

  • Article recording the Army’s perspective on a new BW test facility.

#6. Sidel, V. (1966). "Chemical and biologic weapons—a primer." The New England journal of medicine 274(1).

  • Not yet received from Interlibrary loan service.

#7. Smith, R. (1985). "Army agrees to new study of biowarfare laboratory." 227(4687).

  • Not yet received from Interlibrary loan service.

#8. U.S. General Accounting Office, G. (2004). "Chemical and biological defense [electronic resource] : DOD needs to continue to collect and provide information on tests and potentially exposed personnel : report to the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services." U.S. General Accounting Office.

  • Government report that describes Project 112/SHAD and attempts to provide information to those who were test subjects.

Secondary Sources

#1. (1988 ). "Conflicting views on the safety of US biological weapons." Nature 333(6170).

#2. Aken, J. v. (2002). "Closing loopholes in the Biological Weapons Convention." Medicine, conflict, and survival 18(2).

#3. Alberts, B. (2002). "Scientist support for biological weapons controls." Science 298(5596).

#4. Anaya-Velázquez, F. (2002). "Bioethics, bioweapons and the microbiologist." Revista latinoamericana de microbiologia 44(1): 38-45.

#5. Bruce, A. and R. M. May (2002). "Editorial: Scientist Support for Biological Weapons Controls." Science, New Series 298(5596 ).

#6. Bruwer, A. (2001). "The United States and biological warfare: secrets from the early cold war and Korea." Medicine, conflict, and survival 17(4): 355.

#7. Bunn, G. (1970). "Gas and germ warfare: international legal history and present status." 65.

#8. Caplan, A. (2002). "Human subjects in weapons research." Science 298(5595).

#9. Colin, N. (1988). "Biologists Eschew Weapons Research." Science, New Series 241(4866 ).

#10. Cushman, J. (1986). Research on biological warfare is challenged. The New York times.

#11. Frisina, M. (1990). "The offensive-defensive distinction in military biological research." The Hastings Center report 20(3).

#12. Guillemin, J. (2005). Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism. New York, Columbia University Press.

#13. Guillemin, J. (2005 ). "Biological weapons and secrecy" FASEB Journal 19(13): 1763-1765.

#14. Hasegawa, G. (2008). "Proposals for chemical weapons during the American Civil War." Military medicine 173(5).

#15. Hendricks, M. (1988). "Germ wars." Science news 134(25): 392.

#16. Hersh, S. M. (1968). Chemical and Biological Warfare; America's Hidden Arsenal. New York, Bobbs-Merrill.

#17. Huxsoll, D. (1989). "Medicine in defense against biological warfare." JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association 262(5).

#18. Jacobs, M. K. (2004). "The history of biologic warfare and bioterrorism." Dermatologic Clinics 22(3).

#19. Kahn, L. (2004). "Biodefense research: can secrecy and safety coexist?" Biosecurity and bioterrorism 2(2).

#20. Lamb, A. (2001). "Biological weapons: the facts not the fiction." Clinical medicine 1(6).

#21. Marty, A. (2001). "History of the development and use of biological weapons." Clinics in laboratory medicine 21(3).

#22. Metcalfe, N. (2002). "A short history of biological warfare." Medicine, conflict, and survival 18(3).

#23. Press, N. (1985). "Haber's choice, Hobson's choice, and biological warfare." Perspectives in biology and medicine 29(1): 92.

#24. Rappert, B. (2003). "Biological weapons, genetics and social analysis: emerging responses, emerging issues." New genetics and society 22(2).

#25. Regis, E. (1999). The Biology of Doom: The History of America's Secret Germ Warfare Project. New York, Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

#26. Roffey, R. (2002). "Biological warfare in a historical perspective." Clinical microbiology and infection 8(8).

#27. Shanker, T. (2002). U.S. troops were subjected to a wider toxic testing. The New York times. New York, The New York times.

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