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Biological Warfare (The Series): Introduction and Historical Perspectives

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posted on Jul, 10 2005 @ 04:31 PM
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Biological warfare (BW) has gotten quite a bit of press as of late and remains in the forefront of much discussion here on ATS and beyond when we start talking about terrorism. Many of these weapons can be produced even without having an industrialized country with a healthy biotechnology base. Through out this series I intend to provide a history of biological warfare, discuss various aspects of production, and take a look at individual agents, and what the mean from a medical standpoint. I will be taking a look mainly at U.S. efforts. Much of the Soviets research remains secret and speculative at best. China is thought to have a program, but again details are sketchy.
 


Biological Warfare 1346 - 1945

Pre Twentieth Century:

One of the earliest uses of biological warfare occurred in 1346 at the city of Kaffa (now Feodossia, Ukraine). Tartar warriors who had died of the plague were catapulted over the city walls with the intent to spread disease through the defenders. The Genoese defenders were forced to abandon the city when it began to spread. (1). A similar attempt occurred in 1710 during a war between Sweden and Russia. In 1767 and An English general, Sir Jeffery Amherst, provided small pox infected blankets to Native Americans loyal to French forces. The resulting epidemic wiped out the Indian forces and the English were able to successfully take Ft. Carillon after having failed 2 previous times. The fort was renamed Ft. Ticonderoga. (2)

1900 to World War Two

During World War One, German forces were rumored to spread Glanders disease to horses in the United States prior to them being shipped to France. Also affecting mules and donkeys, the intent was to decimate the mounts of the cavalry forces. It appears to have been unsuccessful. (3)

1930-1940 The years between World War I and World War II were quiet ones. Several studies were prepared on BW and military planners were divided on its usefulness. During the 30’s there was a lot of debate as to the effectiveness of these agents. Major Leon Fox, U.S. Army Medical Corps, published a lengthy and defining report for the period which concluded that BW would not be effective because of modern sanitary procedures. He did however warn that the Japanese were already going forward with production of a variety of agents. (4)

1937-1945 Japanese efforts and Unit 731.

Located in Manchuria, around 40 miles south of the city of Harbin, Japan ran a huge biological testing center. Agents researched at the center included anthrax, tularemia, plague, botulism, smallpox, glanders, and typhoid. Protocols used in Unit 731 included human testing on prisoners. The research was terminated in 1945 when a General Ishii ordered that the labs be burned to the ground. Following the end of the war, many scientists that participated in the research for Unit 731 were provided amnesty in return for full disclosure of their research. It has been reported that over 400 kilograms of Anthrax had been prepared by the end of the war. (5) Aside from the research, a 1940 outbreak of plague occurred in China and Manchuria following an over flight by Japanese aircraft. Infected fleas were apparently dropped with grain that attracted rats. The rats then in turn spread the disease. (6)

United States Efforts during World War II

The U.S. involvement into BW began in earnest in 1941 when Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson asked the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the feasibility of biological warfare. (7) The recommendation of the Academy indicated the feasibility of such agents and that research be undertaken as well as ways to reduce the U.S.’s vulnerability. In April 1942 Stimson recommended to President Franklin D. Roosevelt the creation of a civilian advisory group that would coordinate governmental and privately owned institutions in a biological warfare effort.(8) Unbeknownst to Roosevelt, the Army Chemical Warfare Service had already begun research a year earlier. Starting with a budget of $200,000 the War Reserve Service, headed by George W. Merck, was established and attached to the Federal Security Agency, a New Deal agency of the Department of Agriculture.(9). Merck (Of the Pharmaceutical Giant fame) immediately began secret research at 28 top U.S. universities including Harvard and Stanford. With the establishment of this agency, the Army Chemical Warfare Service was able to expand its efforts and between 1942-1943 established Camp Detrick in Frederick, Maryland as its headquarters. In 1944 the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah was established as a test facility to replace a 2000 acre site in Mississippi. In addition a production facility was built in Terre Haute, Indiana in the same time frame. During this time the U.S. worked primarily on anthrax and botulism However, brucellosis, psittacosis, tularemia, and glanders were also studied. There also was an effort to find agents that could affect agriculture with Japanese rice fields being the prime target (10). Following the end of the war, the production facilities in Indiana were sold off to Pfizer for commercial use.



(1) telemedicine.org...
(2) gulfwarvets.com...
(3) www.pbs.org...
(4) Fox LA. Bacterial warfare: The use of biologic agents in warfare. Milit Surg. 1933;72(3):189?207.
(5) gulfwarvets.com...
(6) gulfwarvets.com...
(7) www.vnh.org...
(8) Bernstein BJ. The birth of the US biological-warfare program. Sci Am. 1987;256:116?121.
(9) www.vnh.org...
(10) Bernstein BJ. The birth of the US biological-warfare program. Sci Am. 1987;256:116?121.


[edit on 7/10/05 by FredT]

[edit on 7/13/05 by FredT]




posted on Jul, 10 2005 @ 06:33 PM
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In the previous post in this series we looked at efforts made up to WWII. In this thread we will take a look at the efforts of the United States in the Cold War period through the 1950's
 


Post World War II and the 1950's

Following the war in 1946 the War Department made public its efforts in the realm of Biological Warfare (BW). The War Department went to great pains to point out that extreme care had been taken to ensure that personnel and the public had been protected from these experiments. “As the result of the extraordinary precautions taken, there occurred only sixty cases of proven infection caused by accidental exposure to virulent biological warfare agents which required treatment. Fifty-two of these recovered completely; of the eight cases remaining, all are recovering satisfactorily. There were, in addition to the sixty proven cases, 159 accidental exposures to agents of unknown concentrations. All but one of these received prompt treatment and did not develop any infection. In one instance, the individual did not report exposure, developed the disease, but recovered after treatment.” (1). With the war over and the Cold War looming on the horizon, activities remained very small scale. During the period of 1947 and 1949 Camp Detrick was the site for outdoor testing. Considered to be harmless by the experts, Bacillus globigii (BG), a spore forming microorganism, and Serratia marscens (SM), a vegetative organism, were released to study disbursal and multiplication in an outdoor setting.

In 1948, the Baldwin Report was issued. Drafted by the The Committee on Biological Warfare, which was part of the newly named Defense Department, the reports official title went by “"Report on Special Biological Warfare Operations.". The report concluded that the U.S. was vulnerable to BW agents. Particular emphasis was placed on subversive distribution. The committee recommended that the U.S. develop methods for identifying BW agents, decontamination procedures, and the ability to defend against the agents. Further recommendations include vulnerability testing of the water supply and subway systems. (2) The committee recommends developing agent identification, decontamination, and protection capacities. The committee also endorses vulnerability tests on the water supply and subway systems. Field trials included open-air vulnerability testing, and contamination of public water systems with live organisms such as Serratia marcescens. Covert programs were also conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency. Testing of pathogenic organisms also occurred tested in Florida and the Bahamas in the 1940s. (3)

In 1950 a series of field tests began. The first open sea test occurred during this time using U.S. Navy vessels. The testing took place off the coast of Virginia and used the biological stimulant Bacillus globigii. However a far larger test was to occur later in the year. During September, 1950 planes were used to spray the San Francisco Bay Area using Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens as well as fluorescent particles. The two bacteria were not chosen at random but rather for their properties. Bacillus globigii was known to form spores similar to those found in Bacillus anthracis. Serratia was chose as it was easily identified by its red pigment. There was an unexpected jump in the number of Serratia infections in the region following the spraying (4)

Several tests would be strikingly similar to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis testing that took place between 1932 and 1972. During a 1951 test a large number of African Americans were exposed to the fungus, Aspergillus fumigatus. The purpose of this test was to see if they were more vulnerable to this organism.

In late 1953, production of BW agents begins at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas. Between 1954 and 1967 the Arsenal produces seven different types of agents including: Brucella suis, Pasteurella tularensis, Coxiella burnetti, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Bacillus anthracis, botulinum toxin, and Staphylococcus enterotoxin B. (5)

The program gained even more momentum when in 1956 the Marshall of Soviet forces, Zhukov, announced in a speech before the Soviet Congress that BW and Chemical weapons would be used by its troops in future wars. In response to this, the U.S. revises its “retaliation only” policy and plans get underway to consider their use as a regular part of warfare. Also at this time it was established that release of BW or Chemical agents required presidential approval. Camp Detrick becomes Fort Detrick on February 3, 1956.

In Savanna, Georgia between April and November 1956, a series of experiment's were undertaken to see if insects could serve as disseminators of BW agents. Mosquitoes were released and then residents were contacted to see if they had been bitten. A similar series was undertaken in Florida as well. (6)

In December 1957 Operation Large Area Coverage commenced. The purpose of the test was to measure the feasibility of large scale contamination by aircraft. A plane sprayed Zinc cadmium sulfide particles and their spread was measured. The plane flew from South Dakota to Minnesota and particle was picked up in Canada as well as New York. (7)

References

(1) gulfwarvets.com...
(2) www.stimson.org...
(3) www.vnh.org...
(4) Cole LA. Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield; 1988.
(5) www.stimson.org...
(6) www.stimson.org...
(7) www.stimson.org...


[edit on 7/10/05 by FredT]

[edit on 7/10/05 by FredT]

[edit on 7/13/05 by FredT]



posted on Jul, 12 2005 @ 07:07 PM
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I'm going to read the links you posted, Fred - but as it stands, that was a fine pair of posts, indeed!

I'm just sad I don't have any more votes.

Because heavens to murgatroyd, you deserve one for this!



posted on Jul, 20 2005 @ 05:02 AM
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The Sixties were a time of increased tension and pressure between the two superpowers. Both raced each other in technical advances in both land based and spaced based applications. With Vietnam looming, both countries embarked on an even more ambitious program to develop biological weapons.
 



Project 112

In 1961, a working group in the Defense Department develops a plan that will step up the U.S. biological warfare program. Included in the plan called Project 112 is a recommendation that more field testing is needed. (1) Project 112 would last until 1972. Project 112 was the umbrella program that evaluated the chemical and biological warfare vulnerability of U.S. troops. Located in the state of Utah at Ft. Douglas, it would be closed upon the termination of the project in 1973.

The goal of the program to better determine how to protect troops from these threats. One such sub group of the project is Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) that evaluated protection and detection systems aboard navy vessels. (2) Currently a list of the ships that participated in the tests is available from the military (3) as well as the dates and locations of the series of tests (4). It is interesting to note that a lot of the testing did occur in the open sea in the North Atlantic, Pacific Ocean near the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the California coast. Land-based tests took place in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, Florida, Utah, Georgia, and in Panama, Canada and the United Kingdom. Using a variety of innocuous code names like Eager Belle, Autumn Gold, and Whistle Down,SHAD Test Descriptions nad tested agents including Coxiella burnetii (OU), Francisella tularensis Staphylococcal enterotoxin, Type B (PG2), and Biological Simulants such as Bacillus globigii (BG), Escherichia coli (EM) Serratia marcscens (SM), along with chemical and decontaminant agents. (5) Several navy ships were used for the testing. SHAD Ship List The Veterans administration estimates that approximately 6000 soldiers were exposed during the nearly decade long tests.

In 1963 a change in policy requires that the president sign off on any testing that has any potential environmental effects. And the overall focus moved from agents that kill to agents that can incapacitate. It was also during this time that research on agents such as staphylococcal enterotoxin that could cause food poisoning. (6) Other goals included finding treatment and prophylaxis for agents such as anthrax, glanders, brucellosis, melioidosis, plague, psittacosis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Q fever, coccidioidomycosis, and a variety of plant and animal pathogens (6) Other areas focused on detection of such agents particularly in the field.

In 1965 open air tests were conducted Washington DC's National Airport and Greyhound bus terminal using biological simulates, in this case Bacillus globigii, to determine spread on vulnerability to such agents. A similar test is conducted in 1967 by the Army using New York’s subway system. (1) Later in 1968, some 1000 miles southwest of Hawaii, jets dispensing a powdered biological agent fly over barges containing caged monkeys. More than half the monkeys die from the exposure. (1)

However, in May of 1969, the nations policy towards production of offensive biological agents changes direction. Then president Nixon called upon the National Security Council to review the nations biological and chemical warfare policies. The following November in a speech at Ft. Detrick, the President announced a new policy. No longer would the U.S. stockpile, develop, or produce biological weapons. Only small amounts would be kept in order to continue research and assist with vaccine production. (6) In the wake of the announcement, the US Army Medical Unit changes its name to the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). The focus of USAMRIID shifts to the development of vaccines, protective measures, and detection systems.

(1) www.stimson.org...
(2) www1.va.gov...
(3)deploymentlink.osd.mil...
(4) deploymentlink.osd.mil...
(5) deploymentlink.osd.mil...
(6) www.vnh.org...


[edit on 7/20/05 by FredT]



posted on Nov, 14 2010 @ 08:00 PM
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It is dark right now, but I can still see because of the streetlights. The fog just suddenly turned pink. I shined a flashlight into the fog, and there were little particles inside the beam. Lots of little particles. The pinkness only lasted about ten minutes and then the fog went back to being gray. So I shined my flashlight into it and the particles were gone. What could cause this? Should I be alarmed? It is November 14, 2010, and I live in Langley, B.C., Canada.




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