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Watch the Government Test Gas Masks on Children During the Cold War

Watch the Government Test Gas Masks on Children During the Cold War

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History Flashback takes a look at historical “found footage” of all kinds—newsreels, instructional films, even cartoons—to give us a glimpse into how much things have changed, and how much has remained the same.

Since chemical warfare exploded on the scene with lethal and terrifying force at the Second Battle of Ypres during WWI, nations have been attempting to create defenses for both soldiers and civilians against weapons that are largely invisible and indiscriminately deadly. Gas masks have been on the front lines of this effort.

During the 20th century, authorities were particularly concerned with how to protect the youngest generation from the sins of their fathers. During both World Wars and the Cold War, they created school drills and new mask designs that tried to make the experience less frightening and more protective for the little ones. Except, that is, for that time in the 1960s when the U.S. government decided to use children as gas mask guinea pigs.

Gas masks were a miner’s best friend.

Today, we mostly think of gas masks as a defense against the threat of chemical warfare, but the invention has its roots in a more functional—though no less harrowing—place. Throughout history, certain workers have braved the dangers of smoke and noxious gasses while on the job. In ancient Greece, sponges were used as a form of protection; during the plagues of the 17th and 18th centuries, doctors donned beak-like masks filled with sweet smelling herbs and spices, which they thought would protect them from both contagion and foul odors.

But the more modern ancestor of what we today know as the gas mask began appearing around the turn of the 19th century, when protective gear was first invented for miners. Over the next hundred years, these early masks would go through a series of improvements. Charcoal was added to purify the incoming air, a respirator system was invented, and the masks were made increasingly lighter and more effective in their fit. Each of these changes occurred with an eye towards keeping civilians like firemen, rescue divers and miners safe in the workplace.

And then, World War I broke out.

In 1915, the need for gas masks abruptly changed when the Germans first dispersed chlorine gas across the battlefield of Ypres. The Allies were wholly unprepared for this new form of warfare. While scientists and medical professionals quickly rushed to find a protective solution, soldiers were encouraged to cover their noses and mouths with urine-soaked socks or handkerchiefs as a last ditch effort at protection.

In 1916, the British Small Box Respirator was invented and it quickly became a ubiquitous part of a soldier’s kit. A 1917 article in The New York Times reported that it cost $156.30 to equip an American soldier, with the $12 gas mask listed right next to the $5 for bullets and $3 for a steel helmet. By the time WWII came around, gas masks were standard issue for both soldiers and civilians, with the British government distributing over 40 million masks to its citizens.

Don’t forget to protect the kids.

During WWII, gas masks were commonplace in both the U.K. and the U.S. At home, civilians were not only encouraged to carry this protective gear around at all times, they were also told to regularly practice using it.

A BBC recording from the time captures the drills schoolchildren used to go through. After making sure her students have put on their gas masks properly, the teacher says, “I want you to get your knitting out and settle down comfortably at your desks. And then I want to see just how long you can sit there with your gas masks on. And when you’re quite quiet I’m going to read you a story.”

The scene of elementary school students quietly knitting and listening to a story while wearing their bulky gas masks was no doubt an eerie one. But some thought there may be a way to make it a little less scary. In 1942, the Sun Rubber Company, with the cooperation of Disney, produced a prototype of 1000 Mickey Mouse gas masks designed for kids aged 18 months to four years. For reasons that remain unknown, they were never mass produced. And by the 1960s, as this video shows, kids were back to lounging around in the same beak-like grey gas masks as their elders, although theirs were helpfully made kid-sized.

The History Behind the Invention of Gas Masks

Inventions that aid and protect the ability to breathe in the presence of gas, smoke or other poisonous fumes were being made before the first use of modern chemical weapons.

Modern chemical warfare began on April 22, 1915, when German soldiers first used chlorine gas to attack the French in Ypres. But long before 1915, miners, firemen and underwater divers all had a need for helmets that could provide breathable air. Early prototypes for gas masks were developed to meet those needs.

Cleaning Up Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Some of the first atomic veterans were servicemen who were sent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help clean up the two cities after the atomic bombings. Three units were sent to Hiroshima from October 6, 1945 to March 6, 1946: the 186th Infantry Regiment of the 41st Division the X Corps of the Sixth Army and the 34th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division. The 2nd Marine Division and the 10th Marine Regiment were sent to Nagasaki from September 11, 1945 to July 1, 1946. Approximately 255,000 troops were involved in the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [3]

Some veterans noticed effects quickly. Marine Corporal Lyman Eugene Quigley, who was sent to Nagasaki, recalled that “When I got back, I had burning, itching, running sores on the top of my head and the top of my ears.” [4] Furthermore, he had sores that looked suspiciously similar to the sores developed by atomic bomb survivors. The doctors who examined him during his discharge examination in 1945 claimed that the sores were caused by a fungus. [5] Nearly a year later, Quigley began developing stomach tumors that caused him massive amounts of pain. This was only the beginning of his deteriorating health, which included lipoma, or cancer of the fatty tissue. [6] In another case, Marine Harry Coppla, who was sent to Nagasaki 44 days after the “Fat Man” bomb was dropped, believed that the multiple myeloma he developed resulted from his time in Nagasaki. [7]

The US government estimates that the Marines in Nagasaki were externally exposed to 1.25 rem of radiation, which is the equivalent of receiving an abdominal and pelvic CT test (0.8-1.5 rem). [8] As for the occupation forces in Hiroshima, the “[p]otential exposure. was markedly lower due to radioactive decay prior to the delayed October 6, 1945, entry into the city.” [9] However, these estimates were based on external exposure and not the potential exposure of inhaled or ingested plutonium and uranium particles.

Being in the presence of plutonium-239 or uranium-235 does not necessarily cause harm to a living organism. Both elements undergo alpha decay, in which an alpha particle (an atom with two protons and two neutrons) is released. These alpha particles cannot penetrate the skin. However, if plutonium or uranium is inhaled or ingested, then it can lead to health complications, such as cancer and tumors.

Secret Cold War tests in St. Louis cause worry

ST. LOUIS Doris Spates was a baby when her father died inexplicably in 1955. She has watched four siblings die of cancer, and she survived cervical cancer.

After learning that the Army conducted secret chemical testing in her impoverished St. Louis neighborhood at the height of the Cold War, she wonders if her own government is to blame.

In the mid-1950s, and again a decade later, the Army used motorized blowers atop a low-income housing high-rise, at schools and from the backs of station wagons to send a potentially dangerous compound into the already-hazy air in predominantly black areas of St. Louis.

Local officials were told at the time that the government was testing a smoke screen that could shield St. Louis from aerial observation in case the Russians attacked.

But in 1994, the government said the tests were part of a biological weapons program and St. Louis was chosen because it bore some resemblance to Russian cities that the U.S. might attack. The material being sprayed was zinc cadmium sulfide, a fine fluorescent powder.

Lisa Martino-Taylor AP Photo/Courtesy Lisa Martino-Taylor

Now, new research is raising greater concern about the implications of those tests. St. Louis Community College-Meramec sociology professor Lisa Martino-Taylor's research has raised the possibility that the Army performed radiation testing by mixing radioactive particles with the zinc cadmium sulfide, though she concedes there is no direct proof.

Trending News

But her report, released late last month, was troubling enough that both U.S. senators from Missouri wrote to Army Secretary John McHugh demanding answers.

Aides to Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt said they have received no response. Army spokesman Dave Foster declined an interview request from The Associated Press, saying the Army would first respond to the senators.

The area of the secret testing is described by the Army in documents obtained by Martino-Taylor through a Freedom of Information Act request as "a densely populated slum district." About three-quarters of the residents were black.

Spates, now 57 and retired, was born in 1955, delivered inside her family's apartment on the top floor of the since-demolished Pruitt-Igoe housing development in north St. Louis. Her family didn't know that on the roof, the Army was intentionally spewing hundreds of pounds of zinc cadmium sulfide into the air.

Three months after her birth, her father died. Four of her 11 siblings succumbed to cancer at relatively young ages.

"I'm wondering if it got into our system," Spates said. "When I heard about the testing, I thought, `Oh my God. If they did that, there's no telling what else they're hiding."'

Mary Helen Brindell wonders, too. Now 68, her family lived in a working-class mixed-race neighborhood where spraying occurred.

The Army has admitted only to using blowers to spread the chemical, but Brindell recalled a summer day playing baseball with other kids in the street when a squadron of green Army planes flew close to the ground and dropped a powdery substance. She went inside, washed it off her face and arms, then went back out to play.

Over the years, Brindell has battled four types of cancer -- breast, thyroid, skin and uterine.

"I feel betrayed," said Brindell, who is white. "How could they do this? We pointed our fingers during the Holocaust, and we do something like this?"

Martino-Taylor said she wasn't aware of any lawsuits filed by anyone affected by the military tests. She also said there have been no payouts "or even an apology" from the government to those affected.

The secret testing in St. Louis was exposed to Congress in 1994, prompting a demand for a health study. A committee of the National Research Council determined in 1997 that the testing did not expose residents to harmful levels of the chemical. But the committee said research was sparse and the finding relied on limited data from animal testing.

It also noted that high doses of cadmium over long periods of exposure could cause bone and kidney problems and lung cancer. The committee recommended that the Army conduct follow-up studies "to determine whether inhaled zinc cadmium sulfide breaks down into toxic cadmium compounds, which can be absorbed into the blood to produce toxicity in the lungs and other organs."

But it isn't clear if follow-up studies were ever performed. Martino-Taylor said she has gotten no answer from the Army and her research has turned up no additional studies. Foster, the Army spokesman, declined comment.

Martino-Taylor became involved years ago when a colleague who grew up in the targeted area wondered if the testing was the cause of her cancer. That same day, a second colleague confided to Martino-Taylor that she, too, lived in the test area and had cancer.

Martino-Taylor decided to research the testing for her doctoral thesis at the University of Missouri. She believes the St. Louis study was linked to the Manhattan Atomic Bomb Project and a small group of scientists from that project who were developing radiological weapons. A congressional study in 1993 confirmed radiological testing in Tennessee and parts of the West during the Cold War.

"There are strong lines of evidence that there was a radiological component to the St. Louis study," Martino-Taylor said.

Blunt, in his letter to the Army secretary, questioned whether radioactive testing was performed.

"The idea that thousands of Missourians were unwillingly exposed to harmful materials in order to determine their health effects is absolutely shocking," the senator wrote.

McCaskill agreed. "Given the nature of these experiments, it's not surprising that Missouri citizens still have questions and concerns about what exactly occurred and if there may have been any negative health effects," she said in a statement.

Martino-Taylor said a follow-up health study should be performed in St. Louis, but it must involve direct input from people who lived in the targeted areas.

"Their voices have not been heard," Martino-Taylor said.

First published on October 3, 2012 / 9:58 PM

© 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Children and World War Two

Children were massively affected by World War Two. Nearly two million children were evacuated from their homes at the start of World War Two children had to endure rationing, gas mask lessons, living with strangers etc. Children accounted for one in ten of the deaths during the Blitz of London from 1940 to 1941.

World War Two was the first war when Britain itself was the target of frequent attacks by the enemy. With the success of the Battle of Britain and the suspension of ‘Operation Sealion’, the only way Germany could get at mainland Britain was to bomb it. This occurred during the Blitz and seemed to reinforce the government’s decision to introduce evacuation (what the government of the time described as “the biggest exodus since Moses”) at the start of the war. On August 31st, 1939, the government issued the order “Evacuate Forthwith” and ‘Operation Pied Piper’ was started the very next day.

The impact of evacuation on children depended to an extent on which social strata you were in at the time. Parents who had access to money invariably made their own arrangements. Children at private schools based in the cities tended to move out to manor houses in the countryside where children at that school could be, in the main, kept together. But 1.9 million children gathered at rail stations in early September not knowing where they were going nor if they would be split from brothers and sisters who had gathered with them.

‘Operation Pied Piper’ was a huge undertaking. Six cities had been deemed vulnerable to German bombing – memories of Guernica were still fresh – and in London alone there were 1,589 assembly points for children to gather at before they were moved on. Those children who were evacuated were given a stamped postcard to send from their billet address to inform their parents where they were.

‘Operation Pied Piper’ planned to move 3.5 million children in three days. In the event, the 1.9 million who were evacuated was a remarkable achievement though some children stayed with their parents as evacuation was not compulsory.

With such numbers involved, it was to be expected that some children would have a smooth passage to their reception area while some would not. Anglesey expected 625 children to arrive and 2,468 did. Pwllheli, North Wales, was not allocated any evacuees – and 400 turned up. Children already experiencing a stressful situation were put in an even more difficult situation. Elsewhere, children who had been used to being in school in the same class were spilt up.

“I have had few worse hours in my life than those I spent watching the school being taken off in drizzling rain and gathering gloom to those unknown villages, knowing I was powerless to do anything about it.”Dorothy King, teacher

What impact this had on the children involved was never overly studied at the time as the government simply wanted to herald evacuation as an overwhelming success. That some children continued their education in pubs, church halls or anywhere else there was the space to accommodate them was seen as the accepted face of a requirement that had been foist on the government.

The clash of cultures experienced by many children must have also been difficult. The children from the cities had been tarred by a reputation that was undeserved – but many of those in rural England expected children to be riddled with parasites and to engage in anti-social behaviour. Such was the perception at the time.

“I noticed a woman looking at evacuees’ hair and opening their mouths, but one of the helpers said, “They might come from the East End, but they’re children, not animals.” R Baker, evacuee from Bethnal Green.

However, many mothers brought their children home during the ‘Phoney War’ when it seemed clear that the danger of bombing had been exaggerated. By January 1940, about 60% of all evacuees had returned to their home. The return of these children was not in the government’s plan. Many schools remained shut in city centres and a social problem occurred that had no obvious cure – so-called ‘dead-end kids’ who were left unsupervised for most of the day as their fathers were away with the military and their mothers were at work in the factories. It is difficult to know whether this problem was overstated or not but while these children remained in city centres they were a potential casualty of German bombing. London was obviously targeted during the Blitz, but other cities were also badly bombed – Plymouth and Coventry being obvious examples. In London, ‘trekkers’ took their children out of the centre at night (during the Blitz) and went to the nearest open ground that might represent safety. The government did not recognise the existence of ‘trekkers’ as their understandable response to bombing did not fit in with the ‘stiff upper lip’ that the government portrayed in their propaganda films. Whereas the American film ‘Britain can take it’ represented Londoners as people with huge resolve, the reality was different.

However, by the end of 1941, city centres, especially London, became safer. Life for children regained a degree of monotony. Rationing ensured that everyone got their food. Life could never be normal in a wartime situation but the fear of gas attacks had all but gone and the attacks by the Luftwaffe was a memory. Though cinemas were meant to be shut, many opened.

The seeming normality of life on the Home Front was shattered in 1944 when the first of the V1’s landed. Once more, London was targeted and children were victims. The danger faced in London was greatly increased when the V2 attacks started and the casualty figures mirrored those of the Blitz.

The attacks by both V1’s and V2’s only ended as the Allies advanced up through Western Europe after the success of D-Day.

What damage did the war do to those children who survived it? This is difficult to know as physical damage was visible and could be dealt with but the psychological damage some must have suffered was difficult to measure – even if anybody tried to do this. In the immediate aftermath of VE Day and VJ Day, returning soldiers were given priority and an emphasis was placed on the return of ‘family’. Children and their welfare seemed to come lower down the list of priorities – the return of a father, according to some, would be enough to restore classic family virtues to society. Psychological assessments were far more basic in 1945 and in the immediate years after the war. ‘Pulling yourself together’ and the ubiquitous ‘stiff upper lip’ were frequent solutions to both adult and child problems. There is also little doubt that the government wanted to portray Britain as a country that had won the war and was harvesting the benefits of it. Fragile family bases did not fit in with this.

The above deals solely with children from Britain and not the rest of Europe. Children living under occupation must have lived in a manner few can comprehend unless an individual has been through similar situations. Children in Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France etc would all have experienced the terror produced by Blitzkrieg. Occupying troops could be brutal as the children at Oradur-sur-Glane and Lidice found out. Young German boys were used by the Nazi Party in the final days of the Battle of Berlin. What is thought to be the final picture of Hitler was taken when he pinned Iron Crosses onto the uniform of child soldiers in the garden of his bunker in Berlin. The bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed thousands of children. The crimes committed during the Holocaust involved countless thousands of children. The first experimental ‘gas chambers’ were used on German children who were mentally incapacitated. Josef Mengele specifically targeted children for his experiments at Auschwitz.

12. The US Military Spread Deadly Chemicals In Fog

Anyone who’s spent time in San Francisco will be familiar with its famous creeping fog. Covering the city in a dense cloud, it makes for some spectacular images. But it also helped the US military conduct a simulated germ warfare attack on 800,000 people. The tests began in 1950, when the US military sprayed vast quantities of Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii into the fog advancing towards San Francisco. They thought the airborne agents were harmless, but it’s thought that one person died and others were hospitalized. It marked the beginning of 20 years of germ warfare testing across the USA. Bacteria was released in the New York subway, over an airport and major highways. The bacteria Serratia marcescens has been connected with several health crises in the Bay Area in the years since the tests were carried out.

Watch the Government Test Gas Masks on Children During the Cold War - HISTORY

After the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb in 1949, the American public was understandably nervous. They were aware of the destruction that individual atomic bombs did to the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the general public did not know a lot yet about the dangers of radiation and fallout.

So, a new Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) was set up in 1951 to educate – and reassure – the country that there were ways to survive an atomic attack from the Soviet Union. They commissioned a university study on how to achieve "emotion management" during the early days of the Cold War.

One of their approaches was to involve schools. Teachers in selected cities were encouraged to conduct air raid drills where they would suddenly yell, "Drop!" and students were expected to kneel down under their desks with their hands clutched around their heads and necks. Some schools even distributed metal "dog tags," like those worn by World War II soldiers, so that the bodies of students could be identified after an attack.

The next logical step was to promote these "preparedness" measures around the country, and the FCDA decided the best way to do that was to commission an educational film that would appeal to children. In 1951, the agency awarded a contract for the production to a New York firm known as Archer Films.

Archer called in teachers to meet with them and got the endorsement of the National Education Association. An administrator at a private school in McLean, Virginia, mentioned that they had participated in the "duck and cover" drills. That was the first time the producers had heard the drills called that, and they thought the phrase would work as a title.

The producers went to work on a script that would combine live actors and an animated turtle to encourage kids to duck down to the ground and get under some form of cover – a desk, a table or next to a wall – if they ever saw a bright flash of light. The flash would presumably be produced by an atomic blast. The hero of the film was the animated Turtle named Bert who wore a pith helmet and quickly ducked his head into his shell when a monkey in a tree set off a firecracker nearby.

At the time, not that much was generally known about the effects of radiation sickness and radioactive fallout away from Ground Zero of a nuclear blast. In addition, the first atomic weapons were produced by a fission reaction. In the early bombs, uranium was compressed into a "critical mass," where enough radioactive material came together to create a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Millions of free neutrons would hit uranium or plutonium atoms and break them apart, releasing more neutrons. An explosion resulted.

The resulting explosion of this fission reaction was the equivalent of at least 15,000 tons of TNT – the most powerful conventional explosive. In the parlance of the time, the Hiroshima bomb was a 15-kiloton weapon. Most people were concerned with the tremendous heat and blast damage that atomic bombs produced, not with the relatively small amount of radiation produced.

So, when Duck and Cover was completed in January 1952, its admonition perhaps could have saved some lives in the event of an atomic-bomb attack. Civil Defense officials liked the animated turtle and his monkey tormentor so much that they included the film in the "Alert America Convoy." The convoy had 10 trucks and trailers that toured he country for nine months in 1952. Each vehicle contained civil defense dioramas, posters, 3-D models and a film theatre showing Duck and Cover and other educational movies. The theme was practical ways individuals could "beat the bomb." According to the FCDA, 1.1 million people eventually saw the convoy exhibits.

At the same time, Duck and Cover was premiered to educators at a gala screening at a Manhattan movie theatre. From there, it was distributed to schools around the country by one of the largest educational film distributors. It was shown on television stations around the country, and some educated guesses put the TV audience in the tens of millions.

Many baby boomers like Alex Martin (left) remember duck and cover drills in their schools. "It was a little bit like a fire drill except you don't run outside," Alex says. "So, the Cold War, that's past now, and today people who were born in the last 20 years probably can't appreciate that. But we were not on very friendly terms with Russia at the time, to say the least."

JFK's special counsel, Ted Sorensen (right), also remembers duck and cover drills, but admits that even fallout shelters probably wouldn't have done much good. "If they were truly air tight, and if you could truly stay done there for weeks and weeks until the nuclear fallout had passed, some people might have survived that way. But, in the meantime they would have been fighting off their neighbors and maybe perishing from eating rotten food. Who knows?"

Then came the fusion- or hydrogen-bomb.

H-bombs are a lot more powerful than A-bombs. In fact, the H-bomb uses a smaller A-bomb just to ignite the fusion material. The Hiroshima bomb was the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT. The first H-bomb produced the equivalent of 10,400,000 tons of TNT. That's 10.4 megatons of energy – over 450 times more power than the 15 kilotons of the Hiroshima bomb.

The second H-bomb was tested in February 1954 at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands (in the background of photo illustration above). It yielded 15 megatons of energy, and something else very unexpected – massive amounts of radioactive fallout that contaminated over 7,000 square miles. A Japanese fishing boat nearby wasn't affected by the blast or the heat, but got a dusting of fallout in a snow-like mist. The boat, the "Fifth Lucky Dragon," made it to port but members of the crew were suffering from skin burns and radiation sickness. One died. The fish they caught were contaminated.

Nearby islands in the Marshall chain were also contaminated and islanders had to be evacuated. Many islands are still uninhabitable.

The huge destructive power of hundreds of H-bombs along with the growing knowledge of the dangers of radioactive fallout made the simple "duck and cover" drills cruelly ironic. By the mid-60s at least, there were not many who believed they, or the world, could survive a nuclear war, and the film Duck and Cover became a sardonic icon of nuclear propaganda.

All of this is important to rural America because the nuclear arms race required the military to test hundreds of weapons, most in the rural desert of Nevada. Recently, the National Cancer institute produced a map (left, above) showing high levels of radiation exposure – in the form of Iodine-131 – from the Nevada nuclear tests concentrated in the Great Plains and farming regions of the Midwest.

In addition, FEMA recently produced a map (below) of where they would expect radioactive fallout to be deposited in the event of a large nuclear exchange. Again, the highest levels are concentrated in the Great Plains and upper Midwest.

Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2007. A partial bibliography of sources is here.

Secret World War II Chemical Experiments Tested Troops By Race

These historical photographs depict the forearms of human test subjects after being exposed to nitrogen mustard and lewisite agents in World War II experiments conducted at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory hide caption

As a young U.S. Army soldier during World War II, Rollins Edwards knew better than to refuse an assignment.

When officers led him and a dozen others into a wooden gas chamber and locked the door, he didn't complain. None of them did. Then, a mixture of mustard gas and a similar agent called lewisite was piped inside.

"It felt like you were on fire," recalls Edwards, now 93 years old. "Guys started screaming and hollering and trying to break out. And then some of the guys fainted. And finally they opened the door and let us out, and the guys were just, they were in bad shape."

About This Investigation

This is Part 1 of a two-part investigation on mustard gas testing conducted by the U.S. military during World War II. The second story in this report examines failures by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide benefits to those injured by military mustard gas experiments.

NPR News Investigations

The VA's Broken Promise To Thousands Of Vets Exposed To Mustard Gas

Edwards was one of 60,000 enlisted men enrolled in a once-secret government program — formally declassified in 1993 — to test mustard gas and other chemical agents on American troops. But there was a specific reason he was chosen: Edwards is African-American.

"They said we were being tested to see what effect these gases would have on black skins," Edwards says.

An NPR investigation has found evidence that Edwards' experience was not unique. While the Pentagon admitted decades ago that it used American troops as test subjects in experiments with mustard gas, until now, officials have never spoken about the tests that grouped subjects by race.

For the first time, NPR tracked down some of the men used in the race-based experiments. And it wasn't just African-Americans. Japanese-Americans were used as test subjects, serving as proxies for the enemy so scientists could explore how mustard gas and other chemicals might affect Japanese troops. Puerto Rican soldiers were also singled out.

Rollins Edwards as a young soldier in 1945 at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Courtesy of Rollins Edwards hide caption

Rollins Edwards as a young soldier in 1945 at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

Courtesy of Rollins Edwards

White enlisted men were used as scientific control groups. Their reactions were used to establish what was "normal," and then compared to the minority troops.

All of the World War II experiments with mustard gas were done in secret and weren't recorded on the subjects' official military records. Most do not have proof of what they went through. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. And they were sworn to secrecy about the tests under threat of dishonorable discharge and military prison time, leaving some unable to receive adequate medical treatment for their injuries, because they couldn't tell doctors what happened to them.

Army Col. Steve Warren, director of press operations at the Pentagon, acknowledged NPR's findings and was quick to put distance between today's military and the World War II experiments.

"The first thing to be very clear about is that the Department of Defense does not conduct chemical weapons testing any longer," he says. "And I think we have probably come as far as any institution in America on race. . So I think particularly for us in uniform, to hear and see something like this, it's stark. It's even a little bit jarring."

NPR shared the findings of this investigation with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who sits on a House subcommittee for veterans affairs. She points to similarities between these tests and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, where U.S. government scientists withheld treatment from black sharecroppers in Alabama to observe the disease's progression.

"I'm angry. I'm very sad," Lee says. "I guess I shouldn't be shocked when you look at the syphilis studies and all the other very terrible experiments that have taken place as it relates to African-Americans and people of color. But I guess I'm still shocked that, here we go again."

Segregated troops practice movement in protective gear at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland in the early 1940s. Army Signal Corps via National Archives hide caption

Lee says the U.S. government needs to recognize the men who were used as test subjects while it can still reach some, who are now in their 80s and 90s.

"We owe them a huge debt, first of all. And I'm not sure how you repay such a debt," she says.

Mustard gas damages DNA within seconds of making contact. It causes painful skin blisters and burns, and it can lead to serious, and sometimes life-threatening illnesses including leukemia, skin cancer, emphysema and asthma.

In 1991, federal officials for the first time admitted that the military conducted mustard gas experiments on enlisted men during World War II.

According to declassified records and reports published soon after, three types of experiments were done: Patch tests, where liquid mustard gas was applied directly onto test subjects' skin field tests, where subjects were exposed to gas outdoors in simulated combat settings and chamber tests, where men were locked inside gas chambers while mustard gas was piped inside.

Even once the program was declassified, however, the race-based experiments remained largely a secret until a researcher in Canada disclosed some of the details in 2008. Susan Smith, a medical historian at the University of Alberta in Canada, published an article in The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics.

U.S. troops in Panama participate in a chemical warfare training exercise with smoke during World War II. Howard R. Wilson/Courtesy of Gregory A. Wilson hide caption

U.S. troops in Panama participate in a chemical warfare training exercise with smoke during World War II.

Howard R. Wilson/Courtesy of Gregory A. Wilson

In it, she suggested that black and Puerto Rican troops were tested in search of an "ideal chemical soldier." If they were more resistant, they could be used on the front lines while white soldiers stayed back, protected from the gas.

The article received little media attention at the time, and the Department of Defense didn't respond.

Despite months of federal records requests, NPR still hasn't been given access to hundreds of pages of documents related to the experiments, which could provide confirmation of the motivations behind them. Much of what we know about the experiments has been provided by the remaining living test subjects.

Juan Lopez Negron, who's Puerto Rican, says he was involved in experiments known as the San Jose Project.

Military documents show more than 100 experiments took place on the Panamanian island, chosen for its climate, which is similar to islands in the Pacific. Its main function, according to military documents obtained by NPR, was to gather data on "the behavior of lethal chemical agents."


One of the studies uncovered by NPR through the Freedom of Information Act was conducted in the Spring 1944. It describes how researchers exposed 39 Japanese American soldiers and 40 white soldiers to mustard and lewisite agents over the course of 20 days. Read the study.

Lopez Negron, now 95 years old, says he and other test subjects were sent out to the jungle and bombarded with mustard gas sprayed from U.S. military planes flying overhead.

"We had uniforms on to protect ourselves, but the animals didn't," he says. "There were rabbits. They all died."

Lopez Negron says he and the other soldiers were burned and felt sick almost immediately.

"I spent three weeks in the hospital with a bad fever. Almost all of us got sick," he says.

Edwards says that crawling through fields saturated with mustard gas day after day as a young soldier took a toll on his body.

Rollins Edwards, who lives in Summerville, S.C., shows one of his many scars from exposure to mustard gas in World War II military experiments. More than 70 years after the exposure, his skin still falls off in flakes. For years, he carried around a jar full of the flakes to try to convince people of what happened to him. Amelia Phillips Hale for NPR hide caption

"It took all the skin off your hands. Your hands just rotted," he says. He never refused or questioned the experiments as they were occurring. Defiance was unthinkable, he says, especially for black soldiers.

"You do what they tell you to do and you ask no questions," he says.

Edwards constantly scratches at the skin on his arms and legs, which still break out in rashes in the places he was burned by chemical weapons more than 70 years ago.

During outbreaks, his skin falls off in flakes that pile up on the floor. For years, he carried around a jar full of the flakes to try to convince people of what he went through.

But while Edwards wanted people to know what happened to him, others — like Louis Bessho — didn't like to talk about it.

His son, David Bessho, first learned about his father's participation as a teenager. One evening, sitting in the living room, David Bessho asked his dad about an Army commendation hanging on the wall. David Bessho, who's now retired from the Army, says the award stood out from several others displayed beside it.

"Generally, they're just kind of generic about doing a good job," he says. "But this one was a bit unusual."

The commendation, presented by the Office of the Army's Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service, says: "These men participated beyond the call of duty by subjecting themselves to pain, discomfort, and possible permanent injury for the advancement of research in protection of our armed forces."

Attached was a long list of names. Where Louis Bessho's name appears on Page 10, the list begins to take on a curious similarity. Names like Tanamachi, Kawasaki, Higashi, Sasaki. More than three dozen Japanese-American names in a row.

"They were interested in seeing if chemical weapons would have the same effect on Japanese as they did on white people," Bessho says his father told him that evening. "I guess they were contemplating having to use them on the Japanese."

(Left) A portrait of Louis Bessho from 1969. (Right) Military orders from April 1944 for Japanese-American soldiers, including Bessho, who were part of the military's mustard gas testing at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Left: Courtesy of David Bessho / Right: Army Service Forces, Headquarters Camp Wolters Texas, Courtesy of Marc Bessho hide caption

Documents that were released by the Department of Defense in the 1990s show the military developed at least one secret plan to use mustard gas offensively against the Japanese. The plan, which was approved by the Army's highest chemical warfare officer, could have "easily kill[ed] 5 million people."

Japanese-American, African-American and Puerto Rican troops were confined to segregated units during World War II. They were considered less capable than their white counterparts, and most were assigned jobs accordingly, such as cooking and driving dump trucks.

Susan Matsumoto says her husband, Tom, who died in 2004 of pneumonia, told his wife that he was OK with the testing because he felt it would help "prove he was a good United States citizen."

Matsumoto remembers FBI agents coming to her family's home during the war, forcing them to burn their Japanese books and music to prove their loyalty to the U.S. Later, they were sent to live at an internment camp in Arkansas.

Matsumoto says her husband faced similar scrutiny in the military, but despite that, he was a proud American.

"He always loved his country," Matsumoto says. "He said, 'Where else can you find this kind of place where you have all this freedom?' "

NPR Investigations Research Librarian Barbara Van Woerkom contributed reporting and research to this investigation. NPR Photo Editor Ariel Zambelich and reporters Jani Actman and Lydia Emmanouilidou also contributed to this story.

Living In The Atomic Age: Remember These Images?

For young people today, the Fukushima disaster in Japan could be their Nuclear Moment.

Since the 1940s, we have been living in the Atomic Age. Each decade has produced images and imaginings that, when stitched together, add up to our ambivalent relationship with nuclear power.

In a positive light, nuclear power is seen by some as cleaner, greener and less expensive than many other energy options. "I actually think we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix," presidential candidate Barack Obama said in 2007.

In a negative light, our dreams of peace and prosperity are periodically shocked by a nuclear nightmare and reminders that our abundance of nuclear power plants and weaponry could result in a worst-case scenario for humankind.

Now there is Fukushima, a potential catastrophe. And no one knows the ultimate extent of the danger.

Officials check the level of radiation on a woman in Fukushima prefecture. Wally Santana/AP hide caption

Officials check the level of radiation on a woman in Fukushima prefecture.

The Fukushima disaster "seems like a fairly random accident," says Reid Detchon of Energy Future Coalition, a nonpartisan public policy group. "But the trouble with nuclear power is that the potential consequences are so terrible. It's great as long as it works right, but you can't engineer away every possible calamity."

Knowing that we have lived with these potential consequences for more than 60 years, we posed this query to NPR followers on Facebook: We want to know the image that first forced you — as a child — to think about the possibility of nuclear annihilation. Mushroom cloud? Bomb shelter? Chernobyl?

We received more than 3,700 replies, including some who chastised us for fear mongering and emphasizing disaster. That was not our intention. We wanted to examine certain Nuclear Moments in recent world history that shocked our consciousness. Here is what we learned:

Nearly everyone who replied carries a nuclear image. It is something we live with.

Sometimes our Nuclear Moments come from actual events — such as Hiroshima or Chernobyl. Or they come from fictional accounts — such as the 1957 novel On the Beach by Nevil Shute or the 1983 made-for-TV movie The Day After. Or they come from preparedness efforts — such as backyard bomb shelters and yellow-and-black Fallout Shelter signs.

A look, then, at Nuclear Moments through the decades, accompanied by selected responses from Facebook correspondents.

1940s, Atomic Bomb Tests
Janet Poling Toth, Ohio: Probably the mushroom cloud. I was born in 1940, and I remember our calculating how close we lived to a major city (Pittsburgh, in my case) that could be a target for THE BOMB.

A mushroom cloud rises from the waters of Bikini Lagoon during the first series of underwater atomic tests in August 1946. Keystone/Getty Images hide caption

A mushroom cloud rises from the waters of Bikini Lagoon during the first series of underwater atomic tests in August 1946.

1950s, Classroom With Gas Masks
Dawn Graff-Haight, Oregon: I was in first grade. It was 1956. We watched a film showing us the "duck and cover drill." Some days later, a blaring alarm screamed in the hall, and the teacher instructed us to crawl under our desks and cover our heads. and even though I was only 5 years old, I KNEW that if a bomb dropped on my school, I could kiss my a** good bye.

On Feb. 14, 1950, the headmistress of the village school in Shropshire, England, supervises the children in their monthly gas mask drill. Central Press/Getty Images hide caption

On Feb. 14, 1950, the headmistress of the village school in Shropshire, England, supervises the children in their monthly gas mask drill.

Central Press/Getty Images

1960s, Bomb Shelter
Corinne Bozin-Grizzell, Ohio: In elementary school outside of Detroit (1961-'65) I remember having drills on a regular basis, they were like tornado drills but the sound of the alarm was different and we had to go deep into the basement of the school to the "bomb shelter" — sit on the floor with legs crossed and hands locked over our heads until we got an all clear.

The family of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Thomas W. Robinson prepares to enter an underground bomb shelter on Nov. 4, 1960, at Parks Air Force Base near Pleasanton, Calif., where they were to remain for 48 hours to test life in the shelter. AP hide caption

The family of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Thomas W. Robinson prepares to enter an underground bomb shelter on Nov. 4, 1960, at Parks Air Force Base near Pleasanton, Calif., where they were to remain for 48 hours to test life in the shelter.

1970s, Fallout Shelter Sign
Summer Gotschall, Georgia: I grew up in the 1970s and my dad was a Ph.D. student in physics for most of my childhood — he often took me to his university lab in a basement, right next to the building's fallout shelter — the symbol for a fallout shelter is deep in my memory. I can draw one now without Googling. :)

A fallout shelter sign graces the Madison County Courthouse in Huntsville, Ala., in 2007. The county is working on a plan to identify shelters that can house up to 300,000 people in the event of a nuclear incident. Dave Martin/AP hide caption

A fallout shelter sign graces the Madison County Courthouse in Huntsville, Ala., in 2007. The county is working on a plan to identify shelters that can house up to 300,000 people in the event of a nuclear incident.

1970s, Three Mile Island
Midori Green, Minnesota: I was a kid in the '70s, and it was watching all the reruns of '50s American and Japanese movies on Saturday afternoons that focused on this endlessly. Godzilla, film noir, Ultra Man, the endless references to uranium and glowing in the dark or changing into a freak of nature. I used to be afraid of glow-in-the-dark dials on wristwatches. Then add Three Mile Island on the news to that and all those fallout shelter signs that were still in the classroom. It's a bunch of things. I still don't own a microwave.

A cooling tower of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa., looms behind an abandoned playground on March 30, 1979, two days after the initial reactor emergency. Barry Thumma/AP hide caption

A cooling tower of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa., looms behind an abandoned playground on March 30, 1979, two days after the initial reactor emergency.

1980s, The Day After
Dianne Pater, New Mexico: I grew up in Albuquerque, and I remember after the TV movie The Day After, the local news showed graphics indicating that the Air Force base here would be a prime target, and showed what neighborhoods would be annihilated by a nuclear attack . including mine. As a 9-year-old, I was terrified.

A still from The Day After, a 1983 made-for-TV movie. ABC/Photofest hide caption

A still from The Day After, a 1983 made-for-TV movie.

1980s, Chernobyl
Anna Howard, Florida: I was 4 years old living in Ukraine when Chernobyl happened. At the time, my parents' panic to get me out of the city and out to the Black Sea was nothing but a fun vacation. However getting back to the city (Kiev) in the fall changed a lot. . As an outdoor child, I really felt the difference in not being able to play outside, to wear dust masks and not touch anything. Wash hands rigorously even if after just getting the mail. If the rain began, the entire city would disappear inside, instantly, and the puddles were avoided like little ponds of molten lava.

A nurse at a children's health clinic in Warsaw administers an iodine solution to a 3-year-old girl held in her mother's arms in Poland, May 1986, as a protective measure against possible radiation poisoning after the Chernobyl disaster. Czarek Sokolowski/AP hide caption

A nurse at a children's health clinic in Warsaw administers an iodine solution to a 3-year-old girl held in her mother's arms in Poland, May 1986, as a protective measure against possible radiation poisoning after the Chernobyl disaster.


Throughout the 1840s, J. Marion Sims, who is often referred to as "the father of gynecology", performed surgical experiments on enslaved African women, without anaesthesia. The women— one of whom was operated on 30 times— eventually died from infections resulting from the experiments. [5] However, the period during which Sims operated on female slaves, between 1845 and 1849, was one during which the new practice of anesthesia was not universally accepted as safe and effective. [6] In order to test one of his theories about the causes of trismus in infants, Sims performed experiments where he used a shoemaker's awl to move around the skull bones of the babies of enslaved women. [7] [8] It has been claimed that he addicted the women in his surgical experiments to morphine, only providing the drugs after surgery was already complete, in order to make them more compliant. [9] A contrary view is presented by the gynecologic surgeon and anthropologist L.L. Wall: "Sims' use of postoperative opium appears to have been well supported by the therapeutic practices of his day, and the regimen that he used was enthusiastically supported by many contemporary surgeons." [10]

In 1874, Mary Rafferty, an Irish servant woman, came to Dr. Roberts Bartholow of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio for treatment of a lesion on her head. The lesion was diagnosed as a cancerous ulcer and surgical treatments were attempted. Bartholow saw Rafferty's condition as terminal but felt there was a research opportunity. He inserted electrode needles into her exposed brain matter to gauge her responses. This was done with no intention of treating her. Although Rafferty came out of the coma caused by the experiment three days later, she died from a massive seizure the following day. Bartholow described his experiment as follows:

When the needle entered the brain substance, she complained of acute pain in the neck. In order to develop more decided reactions, the strength of the current was increased . her countenance exhibited great distress, and she began to cry. Very soon, the left hand was extended as if in the act of taking hold of some object in front of her the arm presently was agitated with clonic spasm her eyes became fixed, with pupils widely dilated lips were blue, and she frothed at the mouth her breathing became stertorous she lost consciousness and was violently convulsed on the left side. The convulsion lasted five minutes and was succeeded by a coma. She returned to consciousness in twenty minutes from the beginning of the attack, and complained of some weakness and vertigo.

In the subsequent autopsy, Bartholow noted that some brain damage had occurred due to the electrodes but that she had died due to the cancer. Bartholow was criticized by fellow physicians and the American Medical Association formally condemned his experiments as he had caused direct harm to the patient, not in an attempt to treat her but, solely to gain knowledge. Additional issues were raised with the consent obtained. Although she gave "cheerful assent" to the procedure, she was described as "feeble-minded" (which may have been in part due to effects of the tumor on her brain) and likely did not fully understand. Bartholow apologized for his actions and expressed regret that some knowledge had been gained "at the expense of some injury to the patient". [11]

In 1896, Dr. Arthur Wentworth performed spinal taps on 29 young children, without the knowledge or consent of their parents, at Children's Hospital Boston (now Boston Children's Hospital) in Boston, Massachusetts to discover whether doing so would be harmful. [12]

From 1913 to 1951, Dr. Leo Stanley, chief surgeon at the San Quentin Prison, performed a wide variety of experiments on hundreds of prisoners at San Quentin. Many of the experiments involved testicular implants, where Stanley would take the testicles out of executed prisoners and surgically implant them into living prisoners. In other experiments, he attempted to implant the testicles of rams, goats, and boars into living prisoners. Stanley also performed various eugenics experiments, and forced sterilizations on San Quentin prisoners. [13] Stanley believed that his experiments would rejuvenate old men, control crime (which he believed had biological causes), and prevent the "unfit" from reproducing. [13] [14]

Late 19th century Edit

In the 1880s, in Hawaii, a Californian physician working at a hospital for lepers injected six girls under the age of 12 with syphilis. [12]

In 1895, New York City pediatrician Henry Heiman intentionally infected two mentally disabled boys—one four-year-old and one sixteen-year-old—with gonorrhea as part of a medical experiment. A review of the medical literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries found more than 40 reports of experimental infections with gonorrheal culture, including some where gonorrheal organisms were applied to the eyes of sick children. [12] [15] [16]

U.S. Army doctors in the Philippines infected five prisoners with bubonic plague and induced beriberi in 29 prisoners four of the test subjects died as a result. [17] [18] In 1906, Professor Richard P. Strong of Harvard University intentionally infected 24 Filipino prisoners with cholera, which had somehow become contaminated with bubonic plague. He did this without the consent of the patients, and without informing them of what he was doing. All of the subjects became sick and 13 died. [18] [19]

Early 20th century Edit

In 1908, three Philadelphia researchers infected dozens of children with tuberculin at St. Vincent Orphanage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, causing permanent blindness in some of the children and painful lesions and inflammation of the eyes in many of the others. In the study, they refer to the children as "material used". [20]

In 1909, Frank Crazier Knowles published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association describing how he had deliberately infected two children in an orphanage with Molluscum contagiosum—a virus that causes wart-like growths but usually disappears entirely—after an outbreak in the orphanage, in order to study the disease. [12] [21]

In 1911, Dr. Hideyo Noguchi of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in Manhattan, New York City injected 146 hospital patients (some of whom were children) with a syphilis extract. He was later sued by the parents of some of the child subjects, who allegedly contracted syphilis as a result of his experiments. [22]

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment ("Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male") [23] was a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama, by the U.S. Public Health Service. In the experiment, 399 impoverished black males who had syphilis were offered "treatment" by the researchers, who did not tell the test subjects that they had syphilis and did not give them treatment for the disease, but rather just studied them to chart the progress of the disease. By 1947, penicillin became available as treatment, but those running the study prevented study participants from receiving treatment elsewhere, lying to them about their true condition, so that they could observe the effects of syphilis on the human body. By the end of the study in 1972, only 74 of the test subjects were alive. 28 of the original 399 men had died of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children were born with congenital syphilis. The study was not shut down until 1972, when its existence was leaked to the press, forcing the researchers to stop in the face of a public outcry. [24]

1940s Edit

In 1941, at the University of Michigan, virologists Thomas Francis, Jonas Salk and other researchers deliberately infected patients at several Michigan mental institutions with the influenza virus by spraying the virus into their nasal passages. [25] Francis Peyton Rous, based at the Rockefeller Institute and editor of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, wrote the following to Francis regarding the experiments:

It may save you much trouble if you publish your paper. elsewhere than in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. The Journal is under constant scrutiny by the anti-vivisectionists who would not hesitate to play up the fact that you used for your tests human beings of a state institution. That the tests were wholly justified goes without saying. [26]

Rous closely monitored the articles he published since the 1930s, when revival of the anti-vivisectionist movement raised pressure against certain human experimentation. [27]

In 1941 Dr. William C. Black inoculated a twelve-month-old baby with herpes who was "offered as a volunteer". He submitted his research to the Journal of Experimental Medicine which rejected the findings due to the ethically questionable research methods used in the study. Rous called the experiment "an abuse of power, an infringement of the rights of an individual, and not excusable because the illness which followed had implications for science." [28] [29] [30] The study was later published in the Journal of Pediatrics. [31]

The Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study was a controlled study of the effects of malaria on the prisoners of Stateville Penitentiary near Joliet, Illinois, beginning in the 1940s. The study was conducted by the Department of Medicine (now the Pritzker School of Medicine) at the University of Chicago in conjunction with the United States Army and the U.S. State Department. At the Nuremberg trials, Nazi doctors cited the precedent of the malaria experiments as part of their defense. [32] [33] The study continued at Stateville Penitentiary for 29 years. In related studies from 1944 to 1946, Dr. Alf Alving, a nephrologist and professor at the University of Chicago Medical School, purposely infected psychiatric patients at the Illinois State Hospital with malaria so that he could test experimental treatments on them. [34]

In a 1946 to 1948 study in Guatemala, U.S. researchers used prostitutes to infect prison inmates, insane asylum patients, and Guatemalan soldiers with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases in order to test the effectiveness of penicillin in treating the STDs. They later tried infecting people with "direct inoculations made from syphilis bacteria poured into the men's penises and on forearms and faces that were slightly abraded . or in a few cases through spinal punctures". Approximately 700 people were infected as part of the study (including orphan children). The study was sponsored by the Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, the Pan American Health Sanitary Bureau (now the World Health Organization's Pan American Health Organization) and the Guatemalan government. The team was led by John Charles Cutler, who later participated in the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. Cutler chose to do the study in Guatemala because he would not have been permitted to do it in the United States. In 2010 when the research was revealed, the U.S. officially apologized to Guatemala for the studies. [35] [36] [37] [38] A lawsuit has been launched against Johns Hopkins University, Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Rockefeller Foundation for alleged involvement in the study. [39]

1950s Edit

In 1950, in order to conduct a simulation of a biological warfare attack, the U.S. Navy sprayed large quantities of the bacteria Serratia marcescens – considered harmless at the time – over the city of San Francisco during a project called Operation Sea-Spray. Numerous citizens contracted pneumonia-like illnesses, and at least one person died as a result. [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] The family of the man who died sued the government for gross negligence, but a federal judge ruled in favor of the government in 1981. [46] Serratia tests were continued until at least 1969. [47]

Also in 1950, Dr. Joseph Stokes of the University of Pennsylvania deliberately infected 200 female prisoners with viral hepatitis. [48]

From the 1950s to 1972, mentally disabled children at the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York, were intentionally infected with viral hepatitis, for research whose purpose was to help discover a vaccine. [49] From 1963 to 1966, Saul Krugman of New York University promised the parents of mentally disabled children that their children would be enrolled into Willowbrook in exchange for signing a consent form for procedures that he claimed were "vaccinations". In reality, the procedures involved deliberately infecting children with viral hepatitis by feeding them an extract made from the feces of patients infected with the disease. [50] [51]

In 1952, Chester M. Southam, a Sloan-Kettering Institute researcher, injected live cancer cells, known as HeLa cells, into prisoners at the Ohio State Penitentiary and cancer patients. Also at Sloan-Kettering, 300 healthy women were injected with live cancer cells without being told. The doctors stated that they knew at the time that it might cause cancer. [52]

In 1953, Dr. Frank Olson and several other colleagues were unknowingly dosed with LSD as part of a CIA experiment. Olson died nine days later after falling to his death from a hotel window under suspicious circumstances.

The San Francisco Chronicle, December 17, 1979, p. 5 reported a claim by the Church of Scientology that the CIA conducted an open-air biological warfare experiment in 1955 near Tampa, Florida, and elsewhere in Florida with whooping cough bacteria. It was alleged that the experiment tripled the whooping cough infections in Florida to over one-thousand cases and caused whooping cough deaths in the state to increase from one to 12 over the previous year. This claim has been cited in a number of later sources, although these added no further supporting evidence. [53] [54]

During the 1950s the United States conducted a series of field tests using entomological weapons (EW). Operation Big Itch, in 1954, was designed to test munitions loaded with uninfected fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis). In May 1955 over 300,000 uninfected mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) were dropped over parts of the U.S. state of Georgia to determine if the air-dropped mosquitoes could survive to take meals from humans. The mosquito tests were known as Operation Big Buzz. The U.S. engaged in at least two other EW testing programs, Operation Drop Kick and Operation May Day. [53]

1960s Edit

In 1963, 22 elderly patients at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, New York City were injected with live cancer cells by Chester M. Southam, who in 1952 had done the same to prisoners at the Ohio State Prison, in order to "discover the secret of how healthy bodies fight the invasion of malignant cells". The administration of the hospital attempted to cover the study up, but the New York medical licensing board ultimately placed Southam on probation for one year. Two years later, the American Cancer Society elected him as their vice president. [55]

From 1963 to 1969 as part of Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD), the U.S. Army performed tests which involved spraying several U.S. ships with various biological and chemical warfare agents, while thousands of U.S. military personnel were aboard the ships. The personnel were not notified of the tests, and were not given any protective clothing. Chemicals tested on the U.S. military personnel included the nerve gases VX and Sarin, toxic chemicals such as zinc cadmium sulfide and sulfur dioxide, and a variety of biological agents. [56]

In 1966, the U.S. Army released Bacillus globigii into the tunnels of the New York City Subway system, as part of a field experiment called A Study of the Vulnerability of Subway Passengers in New York City to Covert Attack with Biological Agents. [53] [57] [58] [59] [60] The Chicago subway system was also subject to a similar experiment by the Army. [53]

Researchers in the United States have performed thousands of human radiation experiments to determine the effects of atomic radiation and radioactive contamination on the human body, generally on people who were poor, sick, or powerless. [61] Most of these tests were performed, funded, or supervised by the United States military, Atomic Energy Commission, or various other U.S. federal government agencies.

The experiments included a wide array of studies, involving things like feeding radioactive food to mentally disabled children or conscientious objectors, inserting radium rods into the noses of schoolchildren, deliberately releasing radioactive chemicals over U.S. and Canadian cities, measuring the health effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear bomb tests, injecting pregnant women and babies with radioactive chemicals, and irradiating the testicles of prison inmates, amongst other things.

Much information about these programs was classified and kept secret. In 1986 the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report entitled American Nuclear Guinea Pigs : Three Decades of Radiation Experiments on U.S. Citizens. [62] In the 1990s Eileen Welsome's reports on radiation testing for The Albuquerque Tribune prompted the creation of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments by executive order of president Bill Clinton in order to monitor government tests it published results in 1995. Welsome later wrote a book called The Plutonium Files.

Radioactive iodine experiments Edit

In a 1949 operation called the "Green Run", the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) released iodine-131 and xenon-133 into the atmosphere near the Hanford site in Washington, which contaminated a 500,000-acre (2,000 km 2 ) area containing three small towns. [63]

In 1953, the AEC ran several studies at the University of Iowa on the health effects of radioactive iodine in newborns and pregnant women. In one study, researchers gave pregnant women between 100 to 200 microcuries (3.7 to 7.4 MBq) of iodine-131, in order to study the women's aborted embryos in an attempt to discover at what stage, and to what extent, radioactive iodine crosses the placental barrier. In another study, they gave 25 newborn babies (who were under 36 hours old and weighed from 5.5 to 8.5 pounds (2.5 to 3.9 kg)) iodine-131, either by oral administration or through an injection, so that they could measure the amount of iodine in their thyroid glands, as iodine would go to that gland. [64]

In another AEC study, researchers at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine fed iodine-131 to 28 healthy infants through a gastric tube to test the concentration of iodine in the infants' thyroid glands. [64]

In 1953, the AEC sponsored a study to discover if radioactive iodine affected premature babies differently from full-term babies. In the experiment, researchers from Harper Hospital in Detroit orally administered iodine-131 to 65 premature and full-term infants who weighed from 2.1 to 5.5 pounds (0.95 to 2.49 kg). [64]

In Alaska, starting in August 1955, the AEC selected a total of 102 Eskimo natives and Athapascan Indians who would be used to study the effects of radioactive iodine on thyroid tissue, particularly in cold environments. Over a two year span, the test subjects were given doses of I-131 and samples of saliva, urine, blood, and thyroid tissue were collected from them. The purpose and risks of the radioactive iodine dosing, along with the collection of body fluid and tissue samples was not explained to the test subjects, and the AEC did not conduct any follow-up studies to monitor for long-term health effects. [64]

From 1955 to 1960, Sonoma State Hospital in northern California served as a permanent drop-off location for mentally disabled children diagnosed with cerebral palsy or lesser disorders. The children subsequently underwent painful experimentation without adult consent. Many were given spinal taps "for which they received no direct benefit." Reporters of 60 Minutes learned that in these five years, the brain of every child with cerebral palsy who died at Sonoma State was removed and studied without parental consent. [65]

In an experiment in the 1960s, over 100 Alaskan citizens were continually exposed to radioactive iodine. [66]

In 1962, the Hanford site again released I-131, stationing test subjects along its path to record its effect on them. The AEC also recruited Hanford volunteers to ingest milk contaminated with I-131 during this time. [64]

Uranium experiments Edit

-- April 17, 1947 Atomic Energy Commission memo from Colonel O.G. Haywood, Jr. to Dr. Fidler at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee [67]

Between 1946 and 1947, researchers at the University of Rochester injected uranium-234 and uranium-235 in dosages ranging from 6.4 to 70.7 micrograms per kilogram of body weight into six people to study how much uranium their kidneys could tolerate before becoming damaged. [68]

Between 1953 and 1957, at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. William Sweet injected eleven terminally ill, comatose and semi-comatose patients with uranium in an experiment to determine, among other things, its viability as a chemotherapy treatment against brain tumors, which all but one of the patients had (one being a misdiagnosis). Dr. Sweet, who died in 2001, maintained that consent had been obtained from the patients and next of kin. [69] [70]

Plutonium experiments Edit

From April 10, 1945, to July 18, 1947, eighteen people were injected with plutonium as part of the Manhattan Project. [71] Doses administered ranged from 95 to 5,900 nanocuries. [71]

Albert Stevens, a man misdiagnosed with stomach cancer, received "treatment" for his "cancer" at the U.C. San Francisco Medical Center in 1945. Dr. Joseph Gilbert Hamilton, a Manhattan Project doctor in charge of the human experiments in California, [72] had Stevens injected with Pu-238 and Pu-239 without informed consent. Stevens never had cancer a surgery to remove cancerous cells was highly successful in removing the benign tumor, and he lived for another 20 years with the injected plutonium. [73] Since Stevens received the highly radioactive Pu-238, his accumulated dose over his remaining life was higher than anyone has ever received: 64 Sv (6400 rem). Neither Albert Stevens nor any of his relatives were told that he never had cancer they were led to believe that the experimental "treatment" had worked. His cremated remains were surreptitiously acquired by Argonne National Laboratory Center for Human Radiobiology in 1975 without the consent of surviving relatives. Some of the ashes were transferred to the National Human Radiobiology Tissue Repository at Washington State University, [73] which keeps the remains of people who died with radioisotopes in their body.

Three patients at Billings Hospital at the University of Chicago were injected with plutonium. [74] In 1946, six employees of a Chicago metallurgical lab were given water that was contaminated with plutonium-239 so that researchers could study how plutonium is absorbed into the digestive tract. [68]

An eighteen-year-old woman at an upstate New York hospital, expecting to be treated for a pituitary gland disorder, was injected with plutonium. [75]

Experiments involving other radioactive materials Edit

Immediately after World War II, researchers at Vanderbilt University gave 829 pregnant mothers in Tennessee what they were told were "vitamin drinks" that would improve the health of their babies. The mixtures contained radioactive iron and the researchers were determining how fast the radioisotope crossed into the placenta. At least three children are known to have died from the experiments, from cancers and leukemia. [76] [77] Four of the women's babies died from cancers as a result of the experiments, and the women experienced rashes, bruises, anemia, hair/tooth loss, and cancer. [61]

From 1946 to 1953, at the Walter E. Fernald State School in Massachusetts, in an experiment sponsored by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the Quaker Oats corporation, 73 mentally disabled children were fed oatmeal containing radioactive calcium and other radioisotopes, in order to track "how nutrients were digested". The children were not told that they were being fed radioactive chemicals they were told by hospital staff and researchers that they were joining a "science club". [76] [78] [79] [80]

The University of California Hospital in San Francisco exposed 29 patients, some with rheumatoid arthritis, to total body irradiation (100-300 rad dose) to obtain data for the military. [81] [ better source needed ]

In the 1950s, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia performed experiments on severe burn victims, most of them poor and black, without their knowledge or consent, with funding from the Army and in collaboration with the AEC. In the experiments, the subjects were exposed to additional burning, experimental antibiotic treatment, and injections of radioactive isotopes. The amount of radioactive phosphorus-32 injected into some of the patients, 500 microcuries (19 MBq), was 50 times the "acceptable" dose for a healthy individual for people with severe burns, this likely led to significantly increased death rates. [82] [83]

Between 1948 and 1954, funded by the federal government, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital inserted radium rods into the noses of 582 Baltimore, Maryland schoolchildren as an alternative to adenoidectomy. [84] [85] [86] Similar experiments were performed on over 7,000 U.S. Army and Navy personnel during World War II. [84] Nasal radium irradiation became a standard medical treatment and was used in over two and a half million Americans. [84]

In another study at the Walter E. Fernald State School, in 1956, researchers gave mentally disabled children radioactive calcium orally and intravenously. They also injected radioactive chemicals into malnourished babies and then collected cerebrospinal fluid for analysis from their brains and spines. [80] [87]

In 1961 and 1962, ten Utah State Prison inmates had blood samples taken which were mixed with radioactive chemicals and reinjected back into their bodies. [88]

The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission funded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to administer radium-224 and thorium-234 to 20 people between 1961 and 1965. Many were chosen from the Age Center of New England and had volunteered for "research projects on aging". Doses were 0.2–2.4 microcuries (7.4–88.8 kBq) for radium and 1.2–120 microcuries (44–4,440 kBq) for thorium. [62]

In a 1967 study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, pregnant women were injected with radioactive cortisol to see if it would cross the placental barrier and affect the fetuses. [89]

Fallout research Edit

In 1957, atmospheric nuclear explosions in Nevada, which were part of Operation Plumbbob were later determined to have released enough radiation to have caused from 11,000 to 212,000 excess cases of thyroid cancer among U.S. citizens who were exposed to fallout from the explosions, leading to between 1,100 and 21,000 deaths. [90]

Early in the Cold War, in studies known as Project GABRIEL and Project SUNSHINE, researchers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia tried to determine how much nuclear fallout would be required to make the Earth uninhabitable. [91] [92] They realized that atmospheric nuclear testing had provided them an opportunity to investigate this. Such tests had dispersed radioactive contamination worldwide, and examination of human bodies could reveal how readily it was taken up and hence how much damage it caused. Of particular interest was strontium-90 in the bones. Infants were the primary focus, as they would have had a full opportunity to absorb the new contaminants. [93] [94] As a result of this conclusion, researchers began a program to collect human bodies and bones from all over the world, with a particular focus on infants. The bones were cremated and the ashes analyzed for radioisotopes. This project was kept secret primarily because it would be a public relations disaster as a result parents and family were not told what was being done with the body parts of their relatives. These studies should not be confused with the Baby Tooth Survey, which was undertaken during the same time period. [95]

Irradiation experiments Edit

Between 1960 and 1971, the Department of Defense funded non-consensual whole body radiation experiments on mostly poor and black cancer patients, who were not told what was being done to them. Patients were told that they were receiving a "treatment" that might cure their cancer, but the Pentagon was trying to determine the effects of high levels of radiation on the human body. One of the doctors involved in the experiments was worried about litigation by the patients. He referred to them only by their initials on the medical reports. He did this so that, in his words, "there will be no means by which the patients can ever connect themselves up with the report", in order to prevent "either adverse publicity or litigation". [96]

From 1960 to 1971, Dr. Eugene Saenger, funded by the Defense Atomic Support Agency, performed whole body radiation experiments on more than 90 poor, black, advanced stage cancer patients with inoperable tumors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center during the Cincinnati Radiation Experiments. He forged consent forms, and did not inform the patients of the risks of irradiation. The patients were given 100 or more rads (1 Gy) of whole-body radiation, which in many caused intense pain and vomiting. Critics have questioned the medical rationale for this study, and contend that the main purpose of the research was to study the acute effects of radiation exposure. [97] [98]

From 1963 to 1973, a leading endocrinologist, Dr. Carl Heller, irradiated the testicles of Oregon and Washington prisoners. In return for their participation, he gave them $5 a month, and $100 when they had to receive a vasectomy upon conclusion of the trial. The surgeon who sterilized the men said that it was necessary to "keep from contaminating the general population with radiation-induced mutants". Dr. Joseph Hamilton, one of the researchers who had worked with Heller on the experiments, said that the experiments "had a little of the Buchenwald touch". [99]

In 1963, University of Washington researchers irradiated the testicles of 232 prisoners to determine the effects of radiation on testicular function. When these inmates later left prison and had children, at least four of them had offspring born with birth defects. The exact number is unknown because researchers never followed up on the status of the subjects. [100]

Nonconsensual tests Edit

From 1942 to 1944, the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service conducted experiments which exposed thousands of U.S. military personnel to mustard gas, in order to test the effectiveness of gas masks and protective clothing. [101] [102] [103] [104]

From 1950 through 1953, the U.S. Army conducted Operation LAC (Large Area Coverage), spraying chemicals over six cities in the United States and Canada, in order to test dispersal patterns of chemical weapons. Army records stated that the chemicals which were sprayed on the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, included zinc cadmium sulfide, which was not thought to be harmful. [105] A 1997 study by the U.S. National Research Council found that it was sprayed at levels so low as not to be harmful it said that people were normally exposed to higher levels in urban environments.

To test whether or not sulfuric acid, which is used in making molasses, was harmful as a food additive, the Louisiana State Board of Health commissioned a study to feed "Negro prisoners" nothing but molasses for five weeks. One report stated that prisoners did not "object to submitting themselves to the test, because it would not do any good if they did." [19]

A 1953 article in the medical/scientific journal Clinical Science [106] described a medical experiment in which researchers intentionally blistered the skin on the abdomens of 41 children, who ranged in age from 8 to 14, using cantharide. The study was performed to determine how severely the substance injures/irritates the skin of children. After the studies, the children's blistered skin was removed with scissors and swabbed with peroxide. [89]

Operation Top Hat Edit

In June 1953, the United States Army formally adopted guidelines regarding the use of human subjects in chemical, biological, or radiological testing and research, where authorization from the Secretary of the Army was now required for all research projects involving human subjects. Under the guidelines, seven research projects involving chemical weapons and human subjects were submitted by the Chemical Corps for Secretary of the Army approval in August 1953. One project involved vesicants, one involved phosgene, and five were experiments which involved nerve agents all seven were approved. [107] [108]

The guidelines, however, left a loophole they did not define what types of experiments and tests required such approval from the Secretary. Operation Top Hat was among the numerous projects not submitted for approval. It was termed a "local field exercise" [107] by the Army and took place from September 15–19, 1953, at the Army Chemical School at Fort McClellan, Alabama. The experiments used Chemical Corps personnel to test decontamination methods for biological and chemical weapons, including sulfur mustard and nerve agents. The personnel were deliberately exposed to these contaminants, were not volunteers, and were not informed of the tests. In a 1975 Pentagon Inspector General's report, the military maintained that Operation Top Hat was not subject to the guidelines requiring approval because it was a line of duty exercise in the Chemical Corps. [107] [108]

Holmesburg program Edit

From approximately 1951 to 1974, the Holmesburg Prison in Pennsylvania was the site of extensive dermatological research operations, using prisoners as subjects. Led by Dr. Albert M. Kligman of the University of Pennsylvania, the studies were performed on behalf of Dow Chemical Company, the U.S. Army, and Johnson & Johnson. [109] [110] [111] In one of the studies, for which Dow Chemical paid Kligman $10,000, Kligman injected dioxin — a highly toxic, carcinogenic compound which is found in Agent Orange, which Dow was manufacturing for use in Vietnam at the time — into 70 prisoners. The prisoners developed severe lesions which went untreated for seven months. [17] Dow Chemical wanted to study the health effects of dioxin and other herbicides, in order to discover how they affect human skin, because workers at its chemical plants were developing chloracne. In the study, Kligman applied about the same amount of dioxin as that to which Dow employees were being exposed. In 1980 and 1981, some of the people who were used in this study sued Professor Kligman because they were suffering from a variety of health problems, including lupus and psychological damage. [112]

Kligman later continued his dioxin studies, increasing the dosage of dioxin which he applied to the skin of 10 prisoners to 7,500 micrograms of dioxin, which is 468 times the dosage that the Dow Chemical official Gerald K. Rowe had authorized him to administer. As a result, the prisoners developed inflammatory pustules and papules. [112]

The Holmesburg program paid hundreds of inmates a nominal stipend in order to test a wide range of cosmetic products and chemical compounds, whose health effects were unknown at the time. [113] [114] Upon his arrival at Holmesberg, Kligman is claimed to have said, "All I saw before me were acres of skin . It was like a farmer seeing a fertile field for the first time." [115] A 1964 issue of Medical News reported that 9 out of 10 prisoners at Holmesburg Prison were medical test subjects. [116]

In 1967, the U.S. Army paid Kligman to apply skin-blistering chemicals to the faces and backs of inmates at Holmesburg, in Kligman's words, "to learn how the skin protects itself against chronic assault from toxic chemicals, the so-called hardening process." [112]

U.S. government research Edit

The United States government funded and performed numerous psychological experiments, especially during the Cold War era. Many of these experiments were performed to help develop more effective torture and interrogation techniques for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, and to develop techniques for Americans to resist torture at the hands of enemy nations and organizations.

Truth serum Edit

In studies running from 1947 to 1953, which were known as Project CHATTER, the U.S. Navy began identifying and testing truth serums, which they hoped could be used during interrogations of Soviet spies. Some of the chemicals tested on human subjects included mescaline and the anticholinergic drug scopolamine. [117]

Shortly thereafter, in 1950, the CIA initiated Project BLUEBIRD, later renamed Project ARTICHOKE, whose stated purpose was to develop "the means to control individuals through special interrogation techniques", "way[s] to prevent the extraction of information from CIA agents", and "offensive uses of unconventional techniques, such as hypnosis and drugs". [117] [118] [119] The purpose of the project was outlined in a memo dated January 1952 that stated, "Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self preservation?" The project studied the use of hypnosis, forced morphine addiction and subsequent forced withdrawal, and the use of other chemicals, among other methods, to produce amnesia and other vulnerable states in subjects. [120] [121] [122] [123] [124] In order to "perfect techniques . for the abstraction of information from individuals, whether willing or not", Project BLUEBIRD researchers experimented with a wide variety of psychoactive substances, including LSD, heroin, marijuana, cocaine, PCP, mescaline, and ether. [125] Project BLUEBIRD researchers dosed over 7,000 U.S. military personnel with LSD, without their knowledge or consent, at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Years after these experiments, more than 1,000 of these soldiers suffered from several illnesses, including depression and epilepsy. Many of them attempted suicide. [126]

Drug deaths Edit

In 1952, professional tennis player Harold Blauer died when he was injected with a fatal dose of a mescaline derivative at the New York State Psychiatric Institute of Columbia University by Dr. James McKeen Cattell. The United States Department of Defense, which sponsored the injection, worked in collusion with the Department of Justice and the New York State Attorney General to conceal evidence of its involvement in the experiment for 23 years. Cattell claimed that he did not know what the army had ordered him to inject into Blauer, saying: "We didn't know whether it was dog piss or what we were giving him." [127] [128]

On November 19, 1953, Dr. Frank Olson was given a dosage of LSD without his knowledge or consent. After falling from a hotel window nine days later, he died under suspicious circumstances. Until the Project MKUltra revelations, the cause of Olson's death was covered up for 22 years. [129]

MKUltra Edit

In 1953, the CIA placed several of its interrogation and mind-control programs under the direction of a single program, known by the code name MKULTRA, after CIA director Allen Dulles complained about not having enough "human guinea pigs to try these extraordinary techniques". [130] The MKULTRA project was under the direct command of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb of the Technical Services Division. [130] The project received over $25 million, and involved hundreds of experiments on human subjects at eighty different institutions.

In a memo describing the purpose of one MKULTRA program subprogram, Richard Helms said:

We intend to investigate the development of a chemical material which causes a reversible, nontoxic aberrant mental state, the specific nature of which can be reasonably well predicted for each individual. This material could potentially aid in discrediting individuals, eliciting information, and implanting suggestions and other forms of mental control.

In 1954, the CIA's Project QKHILLTOP was created to study Chinese brainwashing techniques, and to develop effective methods of interrogation. Most of the early studies are believed to have been performed by the Cornell University Medical School's human ecology study programs, under the direction of Dr. Harold Wolff. [117] [132] [133] Wolff requested that the CIA provide him any information they could find regarding "threats, coercion, imprisonment, deprivation, humiliation, torture, 'brainwashing', 'black psychiatry', and hypnosis, or any combination of these, with or without chemical agents." According to Wolff, the research team would then:

. assemble, collate, analyze and assimilate this information and will then undertake experimental investigations designed to develop new techniques of offensive/defensive intelligence use . Potentially useful secret drugs (and various brain damaging procedures) will be similarly tested in order to ascertain the fundamental effect upon human brain function and upon the subject's mood . Where any of the studies involve potential harm of the subject, we expect the Agency to make available suitable subjects and a proper place for the performance of the necessary experiments.

-- George Hunter White, who oversaw drug experiments for the CIA as part of Operation Midnight Climax [134]

Another of the MKULTRA subprojects, Operation Midnight Climax, consisted of a web of CIA-run safehouses in San Francisco, Marin, and New York which were established in order to study the effects of LSD on unconsenting individuals. Prostitutes on the CIA payroll were instructed to lure clients back to the safehouses, where they were surreptitiously plied with a wide range of substances, including LSD, and monitored behind one-way glass. Several significant operational techniques were developed in this theater, including extensive research into sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and the possible use of mind-altering drugs in field operations. [134]

In 1957, with funding from a CIA front organization, Donald Ewen Cameron of the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, began MKULTRA Subproject 68. [135] His experiments were designed to first "depattern" individuals, erasing their minds and memories—reducing them to the mental level of an infant—and then to "rebuild" their personality in a manner of his choosing. [136] To achieve this, Cameron placed patients under his "care" into drug-induced comas for up to 88 days, and applied numerous high voltage electric shocks to them over the course of weeks or months, often administering up to 360 shocks per person. He would then perform what he called "psychic driving" experiments on the subjects, where he would repetitively play recorded statements, such as "You are a good wife and mother and people enjoy your company", through speakers he had implanted into blacked-out football helmets that he bound to the heads of the test subjects (for sensory deprivation purposes). The patients could do nothing but listen to these messages, played for 16–20 hours a day, for weeks at a time. In one case, Cameron forced a person to listen to a message non-stop for 101 days. [136] Using CIA funding, Cameron converted the horse stables behind Allan Memorial into an elaborate isolation and sensory deprivation chamber where he kept patients locked in for weeks at a time. [136] Cameron also induced insulin comas in his subjects by giving them large injections of insulin, twice a day, for up to two months at a time. [117]

-- John D. Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, Chapter 8 [137]

Concerns Edit

The CIA leadership had serious concerns about these activities, as evidenced in a 1957 Inspector General Report, which stated:

Precautions must be taken not only to protect operations from exposure to enemy forces but also to conceal these activities from the American public in general. The knowledge that the agency is engaging in unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles .

In 1963, the CIA had synthesized many of the findings from its psychological research into what became known as the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation handbook, [139] which cited the MKULTRA studies and other secret research programs as the scientific basis for their interrogation methods. [136] Cameron regularly traveled around the U.S. teaching military personnel about his techniques (hooding of prisoners for sensory deprivation, prolonged isolation, humiliation, etc.), and how they could be used in interrogations. Latin American paramilitary groups working for the CIA and U.S. military received training in these psychological techniques at places such as the School of the Americas. In the 21st century, many of the torture techniques developed in the MKULTRA studies and other programs were used at U.S. military and CIA prisons such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. [136] [140] In the aftermath of the Congressional hearings, major news media mainly focused on sensationalistic stories related to LSD, "mind-control", and "brainwashing", and rarely used the word "torture". This suggested that the CIA researchers were, as one author put it, "a bunch of bumbling sci-fi buffoons", rather than a rational group of men who had run torture laboratories and medical experiments in major U.S. universities they had arranged for torture, rape and psychological abuse of adults and young children, driving many of them permanently insane. [136]

Shutdown Edit

MKULTRA activities continued until 1973 when CIA director Richard Helms, fearing that they would be exposed to the public, ordered the project terminated, and all of the files destroyed. [130] But, a clerical error had sent many of the documents to the wrong office, so when CIA workers were destroying the files, some of them remained. They were later released under a Freedom of Information Act request by investigative journalist John Marks. Many people in the American public were outraged when they learned of the experiments, and several congressional investigations took place, including the Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission.

On April 26, 1976, the Church Committee of the United States Senate issued a report, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operation with Respect to Intelligence Activities, [141] In Book I, Chapter XVII, p. 389, this report states:

LSD was one of the materials tested in the MKULTRA program. The final phase of LSD testing involved surreptitious administration to unwitting non-volunteer subjects in normal life settings by undercover officers of the Bureau of Narcotics acting for the CIA.

A special procedure, designated MKDELTA, was established to govern the use of MKULTRA materials abroad. Such materials were used on a number of occasions. Because MKULTRA records were destroyed, it is impossible to reconstruct the operational use of MKULTRA materials by the CIA overseas it has been determined that the use of these materials abroad began in 1953, and possibly as early as 1950.

Drugs were used primarily as an aid to interrogations, but MKULTRA/MKDELTA materials were also used for harassment, discrediting, or disabling purposes. [120] [142] [143] [144] [145]

Experiments on patients with mental illness Edit

Dr. Robert Heath of Tulane University performed experiments on 42 patients with schizophrenia and prisoners in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The experiments were funded by the U.S. Army. In the studies, he dosed them with LSD and bulbocapnine, and implanted electrodes into the septal area of the brain to stimulate [146] it and take electroencephalography (EEG) readings. [147] [148]

Various experiments were performed on people with schizophrenia who were stable, other experiments were performed on people with their first episode of psychosis. They were given methylphenidate to see the effect on their minds. [149] [150] [151] [152] [153] [154]

Torture experiments Edit

From 1964 to 1968, the U.S. Army paid $386,486 to professors Albert Kligman and Herbert W. Copelan to perform experiments with mind-altering drugs on 320 inmates of Holmesburg Prison. The goal of the study was to determine the minimum effective dose of each drug needed to disable 50 percent of any given population. Kligman and Copelan initially claimed that they were unaware of any long-term health effects the drugs could have on prisoners however, documents later revealed that this was not the case. [112]

Medical professionals gathered and collected data on the CIA's use of torture techniques on detainees during the 21st century war on terror, in order to refine those techniques, and "to provide legal cover for torture, as well as to help justify and shape future procedures and policies", according to a 2010 report by Physicians for Human Rights. The report stated that: "Research and medical experimentation on detainees was used to measure the effects of large-volume waterboarding and adjust the procedure according to the results." As a result of the waterboarding experiments, doctors recommended adding saline to the water "to prevent putting detainees in a coma or killing them through over-ingestion of large amounts of plain water." Sleep deprivation tests were performed on over a dozen prisoners, in 48-, 96- and 180-hour increments. Doctors also collected data intended to help them judge the emotional and physical effects of the techniques so as to "calibrate the level of pain experienced by detainees during interrogation" and to determine if using certain types of techniques would increase a subject's "susceptibility to severe pain". In 2010 the CIA denied the allegations, claiming they never performed any experiments, and saying "The report is just wrong" however, the U.S. government never investigated the claims. [155] [156] [157] [158] [159] [160] Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen ran a company that was paid $81 million by the CIA, that, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, developed the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used. [161] In November 2014, the American Psychological Association announced that they would hire a lawyer to investigate claims that they were complicit in the development of enhanced interrogation techniques that constituted torture. [162]

In August 2010, the U.S. weapons manufacturer Raytheon announced that it had partnered with a jail in Castaic, California, in order to use prisoners as test subjects for its Active Denial System that "fires an invisible heat beam capable of causing unbearable pain." [163] The device, dubbed "pain ray" by its critics, was rejected for fielding in Iraq due to Pentagon fears that it would be used as an instrument of torture. [164]

Academic research Edit

In 1939, at the Iowa Soldiers' Orphans' Home in Davenport, Iowa, 22 children were the subjects of the so-called "monster" experiment. This experiment attempted to use psychological abuse to induce stuttering in children who spoke normally. The experiment was designed by Dr. Wendell Johnson, one of the nation's most prominent speech pathologists, for the purpose of testing one of his theories on the cause of stuttering. [165]

In 1961, in response to the Nuremberg Trials, the Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram performed his "Obedience to Authority Study", also known as the Milgram Experiment, in order to determine if it was possible that the Nazi genocide could have resulted from millions of people who were "just following orders". The Milgram Experiment raised questions about the ethics of scientific experimentation because of the extreme emotional stress suffered by the participants, who were told, as part of the experiment, to apply electric shocks to test subjects (who were actors and did not really receive electric shocks).

In 1971, Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo conducted the Stanford prison experiment in which twenty-four male students were randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. The participants adapted to their roles beyond Zimbardo's expectations with prison guards exhibiting authoritarian status and psychologically abusing the prisoners who were passive in their acceptance of the abuse. The experiment was largely controversial with criticisms aimed toward the lack of scientific principles and a control group, and for ethical concerns regarding Zimbardo's lack of intervention in the prisoner abuse. [166]

At Harvard University, in the late 1940s, researchers began performing experiments in which they tested diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogen, on pregnant women at the Lying-In Hospital of the University of Chicago. The women experienced an abnormally high number of miscarriages and babies with low birth weight (LBW). None of the women were told that they were being experimented on. [167]

In 1962, researchers at the Laurel Children's Center in Maryland tested experimental acne medications on children. They continued their tests even after half of the children developed severe liver damage from the medications. [89]

In 2004, University of Minnesota research participant Dan Markingson died by suicide while enrolled in an industry-sponsored pharmaceutical trial comparing three FDA-approved atypical antipsychotics: Seroquel (quetiapine), Zyprexa (olanzapine), and Risperdal (risperidone). Writing on the circumstances surrounding Markingson's death in the study, which was designed and funded by Seroquel manufacturer AstraZeneca, University of Minnesota Professor of Bioethics Carl Elliott noted that Markingson was enrolled in the study against the wishes of his mother, Mary Weiss, and that he was forced to choose between enrolling in the study or being involuntarily committed to a state mental institution. [168] Further investigation revealed financial ties to AstraZeneca by Markingson's psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen C. Olson, oversights and biases in AstraZeneca's trial design, and the inadequacy of university Institutional Review Board (IRB) protections for research subjects. [169] A 2005 FDA investigation cleared the university. Nonetheless, controversy around the case has continued. A Mother Jones article [170] resulted in a group of university faculty members sending a public letter to the university Board of Regents urging an external investigation into Markingson's death. [171]

The 1846 journals of Walter F. Jones of Petersburg, Virginia, describe how he poured boiling water onto the backs of naked slaves afflicted with typhoid pneumonia, at four-hour intervals, because he thought that this might "cure" the disease by "stimulating the capillaries". [172] [173] [174]

In 1942, the Harvard University biochemist Edwin Joseph Cohn injected 64 Massachusetts prisoners with cow blood, as part of an experiment sponsored by the U.S. Navy. [175] [176] [177]

In 1950, researchers at the Cleveland City Hospital ran experiments to study changes in cerebral blood flow: they injected people with spinal anesthesia, and inserted needles into their jugular veins and brachial arteries to extract large quantities of blood and, after massive blood loss which caused paralysis and fainting, measured their blood pressure. The experiment was often performed multiple times on the same subject. [89]

In a series of studies which were published in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers from the University of California Department of Pediatrics performed experiments on 113 newborns ranging in age from one hour to three days, in which they studied changes in blood pressure and blood flow. In one of the studies, researchers inserted a catheter through the babies' umbilical arteries and into their aortas, and then submerged their feet in ice water. In another of the studies, they strapped 50 newborn babies to a circumcision board, and turned them upside down so that all of their blood rushed into their heads. [89]

The San Antonio Contraceptive Study was a clinical research study published in 1971 about the side effects of oral contraceptives. Women coming to a clinic in San Antonio, Texas, to prevent pregnancies were not told they were participating in a research study or receiving placebos. Ten of the women became pregnant while on placebos. [178] [179] [180]

During the decade of 2000–2010, artificial blood was transfused into research subjects across the United States without their consent by Northfield Labs. [181] Later studies showed the artificial blood caused a significant increase in the risk of heart attacks and death. [182]

In the 2010s, Facebook breached ethical guidelines by conducting a research experiment to manipulate 700,000 users' emotions without their consent. [183]

During the Nuremberg Medical Trials, several of the Nazi doctors and scientists who were being tried for their human experiments cited past unethical studies performed in the United States in their defense, namely the Chicago malaria experiments conducted by Dr. Joseph Goldberger. [17] [55] Subsequent investigation led to a report by Andrew Conway Ivy, who testified that the research was "an example of human experiments which were ideal because of their conformity with the highest ethical standards of human experimentation". [184] The trials contributed to the formation of the Nuremberg Code in an effort to prevent such abuses. [185]

A secret AEC document dated April 17, 1947, titled Medical Experiments in Humans stated: "It is desired that no document be released which refers to experiments with humans that might have an adverse reaction on public opinion or result in legal suits. Documents covering such fieldwork should be classified Secret." [64]

At the same time, the Public Health Service was instructed to tell citizens downwind from bomb tests that the increases in cancers were due to neurosis, and that women with radiation sickness, hair loss, and burned skin were suffering from "housewife syndrome". [64]

In 1964, the World Medical Association passed the Declaration of Helsinki, a set of ethical principles for the medical community regarding human experimentation.

In 1966, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office for Protection of Research Subjects (OPRR) was created. It issued its Policies for the Protection of Human Subjects, which recommended establishing independent review bodies to oversee experiments. These were later called institutional review boards.

In 1969, Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Steinfeld dissented in Strunk v. Strunk, 445 S.W.2d 145. He made the first judicial suggestion that the Nuremberg Code should be applied to American jurisprudence.

In 1974 the National Research Act established the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects. It mandated that the Public Health Service come up with regulations to protect the rights of human research subjects.

Project MKULTRA was first brought to wide public attention in 1975 by the U.S. Congress, through investigations by the Church Committee, and by a presidential commission known as the Rockefeller Commission. [186] [187]

In 1975, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW) created regulations which included the recommendations laid out in the NIH's 1966 Policies for the Protection of Human Subjects. Title 45 of the Code of Federal Regulations, known as "The Common Rule", requires the appointment and use of institutional review boards (IRBs) in experiments using human subjects.

On April 18, 1979, prompted by an investigative journalist's public disclosure of the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (later renamed to Health and Human Services) released a report entitled Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research, written by Dan Harms. It laid out many modern guidelines for ethical medical research.

In 1987 the United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Stanley, 483 U.S. 669, that a U.S. serviceman who was given LSD without his consent, as part of military experiments, could not sue the U.S. Army for damages. Stanley was later awarded over $400,000 in 1996, two years after Congress passed a private claims bill in reaction to the case. [188] Dissenting the original verdict in U.S. v. Stanley, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated:

No judicially crafted rule should insulate from liability the involuntary and unknowing human experimentation alleged to have occurred in this case. Indeed, as Justice Brennan observes, the United States played an instrumental role in the criminal prosecution of Nazi scientists who experimented with human subjects during the Second World War, and the standards that the Nuremberg Military Tribunals developed to judge the behavior of the defendants stated that the 'voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential . to satisfy moral, ethical, and legal concepts.' If this principle is violated, the very least that society can do is to see that the victims are compensated, as best they can be, by the perpetrators.

On January 15, 1994, President Bill Clinton formed the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE). This committee was created to investigate and report the use of human beings as test subjects in experiments involving the effects of ionizing radiation in federally funded research. The committee attempted to determine the causes of the experiments and reasons that the proper oversight did not exist. It made several recommendations to help prevent future occurrences of similar events. [189]

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