About three years have passed since the filing of the Class Action Lawsuit by the Edgewood Arsenal human test subjects, and others, versus the United States of America, the CIA, et.al. The suit was filed in November of 2010, and alleges almost 7,000 U.S. Army personnel were coerced into being human guinea pigs at the Edgewood Arsenal Medical Research Labs. The labs were a part of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, located in Maryland. These test subjects now suffer from a variety of physiological and psychological effects without compensation or medical care or acknowledgement for the long-term suffering they have endured. The background to this saga provides interesting reading.
The Edgewood Arsenal tests ran from 1952 to 1975. The ramrod behind this operation, for almost a decade during the Cold War, was Col. James S. Ketchum. The research was aimed at finding the ultimate non-lethal Psychochemical weapon along with ancillary chemical weaponry for a variety of usages. The human test subjects numbered approximately 7,000 U.S. Army personnel along with 1,000 civilians.
The test subjects were all volunteers, enlisted to work with new military equipment. After the initial physicals and psychological examinations, the least healthy tested military equipment, and the top 25% were utilized as test subjects for the most dangerous drugs. There were a total of 254 chemical substances tested however, the main focus of the experiments involved, what was called, “mid-spectrum incapacitants,” such as: LSD, PCP, THC derivatives, Benzodiazepines (BZD), and BZ (of these BZ was weaponized).
BZ is 3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate. It is a competitive inhibitor which causes stupor, confusion, and confabulation (distorted memories) along with panoramic illusions and hallucinations. It is also known to trigger involuntary actions like floccillation (compulsive picking at clothing and bedding) and disrobing. This chemical weapon was made to be an airborne agent.
A number of other substances were also tested. There were ‘Riot Control’ irritant and blister agents – CS, CN, PS, etc. There was additional testing on WW I Chemical Agents – Mustard Gas and Lewisite. Examinations of Nerve Gas agents, such as: Sarin, VX and pesticides along with new antidotes were assessed on about 750 human subjects.
The VA website only admits the possibility that long term effects exist. They state: “Long-term Psychological effects are possible from the trauma associated with being a human test subject. If you are concerned about possible effects from exposure during these experiments, please contact your health provider who can assist you in determining possible exposures and health effects.” Direction is then given to the Veterans Administration’s Office of Public Health for more details on these tests.
What is even more disturbing, and has been less publicized, were the tests done on sailors under “Operation SHAD” (Shipboard Hazard and Defense), from 1963 to 1970. There were 134 experiments planned, but 34 completed on approximately 4,300 sailors, under code names like Flower Drum, Autumn Gold, and Shade Grove. It is unknown from naval records if exposures to various agents were intentional and without protective gear or if the sailors’ exposure was with consent, or as guinea pigs.
The agents utilized in the experiments were Sarin Gas, VX Nerve Gas, Tabun Gas, Soman and various bacterial agents like Bacillus Globigii, and SEB (Staphyloccal Entrotoxin B). Some of the sites for these nerve gas and Bacterial agent experimentations have been listed as the USS George Eastman, the USS Granville S. Hall, and the U.S. naval base in the Marshall Islands (Eniwetok Atoll).
It was later revealed, open air land base testing, utilizing bombs and artillery shells, were conducted in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, and Florida, from 1965 to 1967. Big Tom (1965) was one such experiment conducted on Oahu, Hawaii where Bacillus Globigii Bacterium was sprayed by air plane over the area.
Government documents do not indicate whether civilians were exposed in any of these tests. Official records and ship logs show no serious health problems resulted from any of these experiments however, it has been demonstrated the naval experimentations were not as well documented and controlled as the Army’s at Edgewood Arsenal.
It has been estimated that about 14% of the navy personnel, who were exposed to these agents, were contacted by letter requesting they report for physicals regarding the possibility of VA Benefits. No mention of nerve agent or bacterial exposure was mentioned, nor has there been response numbers to the request posted. Human subject testing have been eliminated in the military.
The issues here are both moral and ethical in nature. It is understood that the United States was involved in a race with our enemies over chemical weaponry during the Cold War, and it is true that many medical advances were achieved, but testing on human subjects is just wrong. To deny the test subjects free life-long medical care and/or disability benefits only compounds the degree of immorality. Unfortunately, proof of medical need and/or disability currently lies with those whose lives were affected rather than with those who created and carried out the experimentation.