A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical and B

Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:16 pm

Part 1 of 2

FIVE: The War That Never Was

... it may be several weeks or even months before I shall ask you to drench Germany with poison gas, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent. In the meanwhile, I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here now there.

-- Winston Churchill in a 'Most Secret' minute to the Chiefs of Staff. 6 July 1944. [1]


Hours after war was declared, in September 1939, the British ambassador in Berne paid a brief visit to the Swiss Foreign Ministry. He delivered a short message from the British and French governments to be passed on to Hitler. The two countries promised to abide by the Geneva Protocol and refrain from using poison gas and germ warfare, provided the Nazis undertook to do the same. A few days later the German ambassador signalled his country's agreement.

Neither side placed much faith in the bargain. Mention the word 'gas' to any British man or woman over the age of fifty and you are likely to trigger off a series of memory associations: the voice of Neville Chamberlain at the time of the Munich crisis, the sight of children and babies in respirators, the suffocating feeling of first trying on the standard civilians gas mask, the inconvenience of having constantly to carry this strange metal and rubber object in its fragile cardboard box. Crouched in the dark, through innumerable air raids, they waited for a gas attack which in the end never came. At the end of the war, the British alone had manufactured 70 million gas masks, 40 million tins of anti-gas ointment and stockpiled 40,000 tons of bleach for decontamination; 10 million leaflets had been prepared for immediate distribution in the event of chemical attack, and by a long-standing arrangement the BBC would have interrupted programmes with specially prepared gas warnings. [2] Contingency planning ran down to the smallest details. Civilians 'lightly contaminated by gas spray or mustard gas bombs' would have been advised 'to go home, discard their clothes, take a bath and put on a complete change of clothing'. More serious casualties would be sent to special clearing stations, undressed and 'issued with a simple form of garment to enable them to reach home and would be given a small bag in which to take their personal valuables'. Their contaminated clothes would be sent to dry cleaners - specially requisitioned for the purpose - decontaminated and returned. [3]

Over forty years later it is difficult to appreciate just how great the fear of gas was. It was not a fanciful 'terror weapon' - virtually everyone in the country knew someone who had been gassed in the First World War, and knew also that the modern bomber now made it possible for the frightfulness of Ypres to be delivered into the living room. In the early months of enemy bombing, when no one knew what to expect, gas was the most dreaded horror of all.

Chemical warfare loomed equally large in military minds. Right from the start each side worked on the assumption that the other would initiate chemical warfare. When the British Expeditionary Force went to France at the beginning of the war, the General Staff reckoned the Germans would use 160 heavy bombers to deliver 18,000 gallons of mustard gas every twenty-four hours; a third of the entire force was expected to be contaminated daily.4 Throughout the war, chemical weapons and stocks of anti-gas equipment were moved on to every major battlefield: there were gas dumps in France in 1940, in North Africa, in the Far East, the Middle East, in Italy, on the Russian Front and finally in 1944 in France once again. For six years the introduction of gas warfare continued to be regarded as a day to day possibility by both sides. As a result, poison gas factories swallowed up the war effort of tens of thousands of scientists, technicians and skilled workers. Production never slackened, and by 1945 the world's major powers had amassed around half a million tons of chemical weapons, five times the amount used in the whole of the First World War. Why these enormous reserves were never used has intrigued soldiers and historians ever since. Contrary to most expectations, in this one aspect of warfare - often by the thinnest of margins - the world managed to preserve a precarious peace.

The success of the German Blitzkrieg through the Low Countries and northern France in May 1940 at first made worries about gas warfare irrelevant. It did not fit into the strategy of rapid armoured thrusts supported by air strikes which the Germans used to win the Battle of France: gas slows down armies by forcing them to don respirators and decontaminate their vehicles constantly. Using chemical weapons would in fact have favoured the British and the French, but there is no evidence to suggest that they ever considered doing so. Their stocks could not have lasted for more than a few days, and their commanders - still reeling in shock at the scale of the Wehrmacht's successes - were in no state to add further to the chaos by introducing gas. The campaign ended in four weeks without either side resorting to gas. Only against the stricken British army on the beaches of Dunkirk would an aerial attack using mustard have made sense, but by then Hitler was eager to arrange a peace treaty; gassing helpless soldiers would have destroyed the chances of any negotiations before they even started.

It was the British, in the summer of 1940, who drew up the first serious plans for using gas. On 15 June 1940, only two days after Dunkirk, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir John Dill, circulated one of the most explosive memoranda of the war. Restricted to a few of the country's top military commanders, shrouded in secrecy for over thirty years, it was entitled 'The Use of Gas in Home Defence's - a brief and cogent military argument in favour of spraying an invading German army with mustard gas.

'So far during this campaign,' began to Dill, 'Germany has not used gas. We may assume that this omission is not from humanitarian reasons but because up to the present it would not have been to her advantage to do so ... ' In the event of an invasion this might well change, and Dill suggested that the War Cabinet be asked to allow the armed forces 'to anticipate the use of the gas by the enemy, by ourselves taking the initiative in our defence against invasion, even if Germany or Italy has not by that time started chemical warfare.'

There are strong military arguments in favour of such action. Enemy forces crowded on the beaches, with the confusion inevitable on first landing, would present a splendid target. Gas spray by aircraft under such conditions would be likely to have a more widespread and wholesale effect than high explosives. It can moreover be applied very rapidly, and so is particularly suitable in an operation where we may get very little warning.

. . . Besides gas spray, contamination of beaches, obstacles and defiles by liquid mustard would have a great delaying effect. The use of gas in general would have the effect of slowing up operations, and we believe that speed must be the essence of any successful invasion of this country.

There are of course grave objections to taking this step ...


Dill mentioned two 'grave objections' in particular. 'We have bound ourselves not to use gas except in retaliation. To break our word may tend to alienate American sympathy.' In addition, British use of gas would 'immediately invite retaliation against our industry and civil population.' Dill nevertheless considered the risks worth taking and he ended his advocacy of the initiation of gas warfare in ringing tones:

While the probable repercussions must be fully realised I consider that the military advantages to be gained are sufficient to justify us in taking this step. We must expect the Germans to spring one or more surprises on us as part of their invasion plan. We may be sure that every detail of that plan has been meticulously worked out. Some unexpected action on our part, taken promptly and vigorously, might throw all their arrangements out of gear. At a time when our National existence is at stake, when we are threatened by an implacable enemy who himself recognises no rules save those of expediency, we should not hesitate to adopt whatever means appear to offer the best chance of success.


Desperate though the British plight was in June 1940, Dill's proposal ran into a wall of opposition from the military establishment. The Director of Home Defence, on the same day he received the memorandum, scrawled Dill a curt handwritten note:

I do not agree that this is a sound suggestion.

We should be throwing away the incalculable moral advantage of keeping our pledges and for a minor tactical surprise; & the ultimate effects of retaliation by the enemy would be very serious in this overcrowded little island. [6]


Even stronger condemnation came from one of Dill's own staff, Major-General Henderson, who described it as a 'dangerous' proposal: 'such a departure from our principles and traditions would have the most deplorable effects not only on our own people but even on the fighting services. Some of us would begin to wonder whether it really mattered which side won.' [7]

In the face of such strong opposition, Dill withdrew his memorandum. But two weeks later, on 30 June, his views suddenly found the backing of the most powerful man in the country - Winston Churchill. After the war, in considering what might have happened if the Germans had invaded, Churchill wrote: 'They would have used terror, and we were prepared to go to all lengths.' [8] 'All lengths', recently declassified documents show, would have included initiating gas warfare:

Let me have [he instructed General Ismay] a report upon the amount of mustard or other variants we have in store, and whether it can be used in air bombs as well as fired from guns. What is our output per month? It should certainly be speeded up. Let me have proposals. Supposing lodgements were effected on our coast, there could be no better points for application of mustard than these beaches and lodgements. In my view there would be no need to wait for the enemy to adopt such methods. He will certainly adopt them if he thinks it will pay. Home Defence should be consulted as to whether the prompt drenching of lodgements would not be a great help. Everything should be brought to the highest pitch of readiness, but the question of actual employment must be settled by the Cabinet. [9]


It is conceivable that Churchill's instruction was the result of a private approach from Dill; at any rate, the anti-gas lobby were immediately swept aside. Within a week, Britain had scraped together her meagre stocks of gas and had them loaded into aircraft spray tanks and bombs at more than twelve RAF bases from Scotland to the South Coast: all were operationally ready to mount a chemical attack by the end of the first week of July. [10]

Had the German invasion come it would have been met by squadrons of Lysander, Blenheim, Battle and Wellington bombers loaded with spray tanks holding between 250 and 1,000 lb of mustard. 'Low spray attacks,' wrote the Inspector of Chemical Warfare, 'on an enemy approaching our shores in open boats or after landing are likely to be effective if frequently repeated, and will ultimately result in 100 per cent casualties among the men hit by the spray. If the enemy are not wearing eyeshields, a considerable number will be blinded unless they cover their eyes. They cannot do this and use their weapons at the same time. Low spray attacks are therefore likely to reduce the risk to other low-flying aircraft in bombing and machine gunning.' [11]

Britain had only 450 tons of mustard gas in stock (less than one-twentieth of the amount held by the Germans) and the effort would have been concentrated on trying to deliver the whole amount in a single day, to drive the invading Germans straight back into the sea. It was thought that the Germans would not be coming ashore with any spare clothes: 'repeated low spray attacks will leave him defenceless against blistering'. The RAF thus planned to mount the maximum possible number of sorties in a single day. Having made its bombing run over the beach-head and released its gas, it was calculated that each aircraft 'should be able to return the empty tanks to a landing ground near the charging station, and pick up full tanks without delay. Refilling of tanks should only be a matter of hours.' [12]

In addition to spray, 30 lb and 250 lb gas bombs would have been used against 'quays or other areas where stores are being landed'. Although there would be some shelling using gas, and there were 6,000 Livens drums ready to be fired, the main effort would have been delivered by air. 'I consider the results to be obtained from air attack to be so much greater than any other method that, with the limited quantities of gas now available, every gallon should be used for the air arm.' [13]

Dill told Churchill that from the 5 July onwards Britain would be able to mount an aerial gas attack 'on a considerable scale for a limited period' - in all, Bomber Command could carry enough mustard 'to spray a strip 60 yards wide and some 4,000 miles long'. Apart from around 50 tons of phosgene, this represented the whole of Britain's offensive capability, and Dill estimated the spring of 1941 as the earliest possible date on which the country could wage a chemical war using land weapons. [14] In other words, had an invasion actually been mounted by the Germans and Churchill had carried out the plan to use gas, he would have been staking everything on one throw of the dice: he would have to defeat the Wehrmacht in a single day. If he failed the Germans would be able to use chemical weapons without fear of retaliation, possibly as a terror weapon against civilians to try and break the country's will to carry on fighting.

For Churchill it was an intolerable situation. As far back as 1938 the Cabinet had asked for a productive capacity of 300 tons of mustard gas per week and a reserve of 2,000 tons. On 13 September 1939 this target has been reaffirmed by the War Cabinet of which he had been a member. Now he was being told that the RAF had stocks for only one or two days' action. The situation, he wrote, caused him 'grave anxiety': 'What is the explanation of the neglect to fulfil these orders, and who is responsible for it?' [15] The Chiefs of Staff blamed the Ministry of Supply, and Churchill promptly ordered an inquiry. 'I feel this is a very great danger ... I am determined to proceed against whoever was responsible for disobeying War Cabinet orders without even reporting what was going on.' [16]

The inquiry was headed by Clement Attlee, leader of the Labour Party and Lord Privy Seal in the coalition government. He traced the fault to Sir William Brown, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, but wrote that 'it would not be right to attribute to anyone individual the responsibility for failure'. Brown kept his job. [17] Instead - in a move which showed the importance Churchill attached to a ready supply of poison gas - the Prime Minister ordered weekly reports of gas production to be submitted personally to him. Every Friday the Secretary to the Cabinet brought the Prime Minister a set of typed figures. For more than two years, Churchill anxiously scanned them, generally scrawling a comment on the bottom sheet: 'Press on' (IS November 1940); 'Press on. We must have a great store. They will certainly use it against us.' (20 November); 'Presson' (13 February 1941); 'Those concerned should be beaten up' (5 April). [18] By January 1941 production of mustard was still only running at 130 tons a week, a third of full capacity, and Churchill asked Lord Beaverbrook, the dynamic Minister for Aircraft Production, to ginger things up. Beaverbrook sacked one official and stopped all holidays. In July 1941, after yet another fall in production, Churchill wrote in exasperation:
The absolute maximum effort must be used with super priority to make, store and fill into containers, the largest possible quantities of gas. Let me know exactly who is responsible for this failure. At any moment this peril may be upon us. [19]


By the autumn of 1941, although the threat of invasion had receded, the production of chemical weapons, under Churchill's relentless pressure, began to accelerate. By 31 October, Britain had built up a reserve of 13,000 tons of poison gas. To boost production further, Beaverbrook authorized an additional expenditure on gas installations of £3,500,000. [20] There were soon to be almost 6,000 people employed in researching and manufacturing chemical weapons in Britain.

They worked in four main centres, protected by military guards and armed factory police. The chief mustard gas plant was at Randle, near Runcorn in Cheshire - hundreds of tons of mustard were stored in five-ton steel 'pots' encased in concrete. Phosgene was manufactured at the nearby Rocksavage works and stored 'in drums in splinter-proof trenches'. Runcorn and Rocksavage are in well-populated areas, and were vulnerable to air attack. The Government even issued the local inhabitants with special army gas masks. To try and reduce the danger, a third great storage depot was tunnelled into the Welsh hills in the county of Flint: the installation was codenamed 'Valley'.

A second Welsh chemical warfare establishment was at Rhydymwyn, near Mold in Clwyd. Here, the Ministry of Supply built a gas factory which was joined, in 1942, by an even more secret installation: an isotope-separation plant, part of the British project to create an atom bomb. The atomic plant employed over one hundred people, supervised by twenty Oxford scientists from the Clarendon Laboratory. Employees from one site were not allowed into the other, but as workers at both had to carry gas masks it was assumed by the local inhabitants that they were all engaged on the same project; this, it was rumoured, was a scheme to manufacture synthetic rubber.

While thousands of munition workers toiled in the factories, Porton Down designed new weapons:

... there was the 'Flying Cow', a gliding bomb which rained gobbets of thickened mustard gas on the ground during its flight (another version with unthickened mustard gas was known as the 'Flying Lavatory'); the 'Frankfurter', an elongated mortar bomb for smoke; the 'Squirt', a portable high pressure projector which threw 2 gallons of liquid hydrogen cyanide in a jet to a range of about 25 yards ... Perhaps the most ingenious of all the offensive devices was an anti-tank projectile which first pierced a small hole through armour-plate by means of a hollow charge of explosive and then squirted through the hole into the tank enough liquid hydrogen cyanide to kill all the crew. (No acceptable nickname was ever found for this unsporting weapon). [21]


All the while, Churchill continued to pound the Ministry of Supply with threats, instructions, exhortations and advice, normally in the form of 'Action This Day' memoranda. By the end of 1941 he had transformed the situation. The Chiefs of Staff were told on 28 December that Britain could now take offensive action with mustard gas at five hours' notice. [22] Four Blenheim and three Wellington squadrons were trained in the use of aerial spray. 15 per cent of the British bomber force could be employed in chemical warfare. By the spring of 1942 - thanks chiefly to the extraordinary time and trouble Churchill had gone to - Britain had almost 20,000 tons of poison gas.

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1. Casualties of one of the first German chlorine attacks, April 1915. The victim could take anything up to two days to die, coughing up pint after pint of yellow liquid - hence the basin by the patient's side.

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2. The first British respirators, May 1915. Each man carried a bottle of soda solution with which he was supposed to moisten the flannel. The masks were little protection: on 24 May, 3,500 men were gassed in a single four-hour attack.

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3 & 4 The British chemical weapon which the Germans feared most. Above, Livens Projectors, fired in batteries of 25 at a time; each sent a drum of 30 lbs of liquid phosgene hurtling into the enemy's lines. Below, on impact a burster of TNT releases a dense cloud of gas. At the Battle of Arras in 1917, the British fired over 2,000 Livens bombs simultaneously in one mass attack.

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5. Ambulance men drilling in the standard British gas mask, the 'P Helmet', July 1916. The bag of flannel made the face sweat and the chemical which impregnated it then ran, stinging the eyes and trickling down the neck. In addition to the discomfort, the masks often leaked, the eyepieces cracked, and a lethal amount of carbon dioxide could build up inside the helmet.

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6. The Battle of the Somme, July 1916. Machine gunners were frequently issued with oxygen cylinders to enable them to withstand a long gas attack and mow down the first waves of the enemy's assault troops.

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7 & 8 The men who pioneered the Allies' wartime germ weapons programme. Above, a rare photograph taken near the Scottish isle of Gruinard in 1942, where the scientists first tested the anthrax bomb. L to R: David Henderson, Donald Woods, O. G. Sutton and W. R. Lane. Right, Dr Paul Fildes, leader of the British biological warfare team.

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9 & 10 Opposite, in a large shed at Porton Down in 1942, munitions workers using specially designed equipment were to fill five million small cattle cakes with anthrax - almost certainly the world's first mass-manufactured germ weapon. These photographs are at odds with Britain's 1980 claim never to have possessed 'biological agents ... in quantities which could be employed for weapon purposes'.

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11, 12, 13 & 14 Civilians prepare for gas warfare. Opposite top, German High School students are given a lesson in gas precautions. Opposite bottom, a dance marathon in a bomb shelter in London's East End provides useful publicity for civil defence. Above, Windmill girls rehearse wearing gas masks, April 1941. Right, a child's gas mask. The British also developed 'cot respirators' for babies and hood-type gas masks for invalids.

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15 & 16 Right, the unprimed grenade recovered by the Nazis in May 1942 after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. The twin of this specially modified British anti-tank grenade was the weapon which killed Heydrich. Did it contain a filling of lethal germs? Above, Heydrich's bomb-damaged Mercedes a few hours after the attack. The Nazi leader suffered relatively minor splinter wounds, but mysteriously died a week later.

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17 & 18 The justification for continuing biological and chemical warfare research after the Second World War. Above, a Soviet soldier on exercise in anti-gas suit and mask, and left, Hungarian troops training against gas. Western intelligence believed the Warsaw Pact was prepared to use gas and germ warfare in any future confrontation.

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19, 20, 21 & 22 Four of the diseases chosen as weapons. Opposite top, the effects of anthrax. Had the Second World War continued into 1946, the Allies expected to be capable of saturation anthrax bombing of six major German cities. Opposite bottom, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, one of the most severe of infectious diseases, and extensively researched during the 1950s and 1960s. Above, facial paralysis caused by encephalomyelitis, several forms of which were refined as 'humane' weapons. Left, an early symptom of plague. As the Black Death it had killed nearly one third of the population of Western Europe: during the 1960s it was still being developed as a weapon.

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23, 24 & 25 The 1950s and 1960s saw a resurgence of gas and germ research. Opposite top, in one of thousands of experiments at Edgewood Arsenal designed to discover a method of waging 'war without death', a dog is injected with an LSD-type chemical. Opposite bottom, the effect of only one drop of mustard gas administered to a volunteer at Porton Down. Above, a 1960s test of suit and gas mask designed to resist nerve agents. In the UK and USA thousands of servicemen were used to test potential new weapons.

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[i] 26. Decontaminating a casualty during British exercises in Germany. Nerve agents developed during the 1940s and 1950s are capable of penetrating through the skin itself to attack the nervous system. Casualties - even of bullet wounds - must be 'dusted' all over before being admitted to field hospitals.

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[i]27 & 28 Chemical warfare in Vietnam. Top, part of Operation Ranch Hand, the huge defoliation campaign which was intended to strip the jungle bare. Bottom, a 'tunnel rat' emerges from a Viet Cong bunker. US forces used CS gas to flush out the enemy, arguing that, like the defoliation campaign, this was not, despite appearances, chemical warfare.


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29. A CIA poison dart gun produced during 1975 Senate hearings into why the agency had disobeyed presidential orders to destroy stocks of biological weapons.

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30. British soldiers training against gas attack, 1980. The new gas training range at Porton Down was evidence of mounting alarm at the prospect of chemical warfare in Europe.

Churchill forged the production programme and Churchill rewrote the country's gas policy. In January 1941, during the 'Victor' anti-invasion exercise, the War Cabinet sanctioned the use of gas. [23] In March 1942, an official minute to the Chiefs of Staff laid down the British position quite clearly: 'It has been accepted that we should not initiate the use of gas unless it suited our book to do so during the invasion.' [24]

The events of 1940 and 1941 showed that when a country has its back to the wall it is unlikely to put obligations like the Geneva Protocol ahead of military expediency. If a nation's survival is at stake this is perhaps understandable. But as Britain's military position improved, Churchill's willingness to use gas did not diminish. On the contrary - within two years he would actually be pressing for the initiation of gas warfare.

As in every other sphere in the Second World War there was close cooperation between Britain and the United States over chemical warfare. Long before she entered the war, back in the winter of 1940, the Americans secretly began to supply poison gas to the United Kingdom. To preserve her image of neutrality the gas was manufactured in private US plants (which were financed by the British) and then carefully shipped to Europe in foreign-registered vessels; technically the American Government's only official connection was the granting of export licences. At least 200 tons of phosgene a month were being made available to the British using this ruse by the summer of 1941. [25]

It was a remarkable political gamble by the Americans for the deal would have been a propaganda gift to the Germans if they had discovered what was going on. Churchill had opposed the initial approach to the US fearing the repercussions on American public opinion if he should have to use the US gas to repel a German invasion. He was, however, assured that there was strong support in Washington for gassing an invading German army. 'The initial defensive use of gas,' wrote Colonel Barley, the British officer who negotiated the phosgene deal, 'would receive almost universal approbation in America ... The argument that we had signed a convention did not appear to be a good one either to army officers or prominent industrialists.' [26] Barley's report convinced Churchill. Britain took the gas.

The Americans had a different attitude to chemical warfare from the British. Every city in Europe was vulnerable to gas attack, and millions of civilians learned to live with the fear that one day what the enemy's bombers brought might not be high explosive, but mustard gas, phosgene or some new 'super gas'. America was out of range of bomber attack - safe from the fear of airborne chemical retaliation against her cities, the US could contemplate the use of poison gas more dispassionately. Unlike Britain, Germany and Russia there were no legal restraints upon the US to prevent her using gas - the Senate had still not ratified the Geneva Protocol. At the same time the existence of an independent Chemical Warfare Service meant that a powerful pressure group was always around to put its case for an increased Congressional appropriation. In 1940 the US spent $2 million on its Chemical Warfare Service; in 1941 when the chemical rearmament programme was launched, this was increased more than thirty-fold, to over $60 million; in 1942 expenditure reached a staggering $1,000 million. There was a corresponding increase in personnel- from 2,000 to 6,000 to 20,000 in 1942. If the Army, Navy and Air Force were all getting more money, so the argument ran, the CWS should surely get some too. As a result America soon had a poison gas-producing capacity vastly in excess of anything she really needed.

In the three years from 1942 to 1945, the US opened thirteen new chemical warfare plants. The most ambitious was the $60 million Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas. Construction work began on 2 December 1941, five days before Pearl Harbor, on a 15,000 acre site. Within eight months an army of labourers and construction experts had laid miles of road and railway track, built factories, storage depots, laboratories, shops, offices, a hospital, a fire station, a police building, water, gas and electricity supplies and a telephone exchange.

After a time, the statistics of the size and scope of the American poison gas programme begin to glaze the eye. [27] Pine Bluff alone, at its peak, employed 10,000 men and women; it even made use of the labour supplied by a nearby prisoner of war camp. From 31 July 1942 when it first went into production, through to 1945, the Arsenal produced literally millions of grenades, bombs and shells filled with chemical agents, as well as thousands of tons of chlorine, mustard gas and Lewisite. At the end of the war most of it had to be dumped in the sea; its manufacture had cost the American taxpayer $500 million.

In 1942 another $60 million installation was opened near Denver in Colorado. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal occupied 20,000 acres, employed 3,000 people and produced 87,000 tons of toxic chemicals by the end of the war. The same year, the Americans opened a test site worthy of their vast investment in chemical warfare - one of the largest gas weapons trial areas in the world, more than a quarter of a million acres on the edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert, in Utah. Known as the Dugway Proving Ground, it was forty times the size of Porton Down and housed test facilities that were a veritable dream for the men of the CWS. Replicas of German and Japanese houses were constructed to examine how well they could withstand chemical attack. Caves were dug into the mountains to see how a well-entrenched enemy might survive a gas shell and bomb barrage. The Americans also acquired from the British an interest in spraying mustard gas from the air; Dugway was so vast there was even room for the USA AFto experiment with high altitude spray. The tests were successful, and the United States, which had entered the war with 1,500 spray tanks, ended it with 113,000.

The Chemical Warfare Service's empire grew huge despite the opposition of the President. Unlike Churchill, Roosevelt had a particular aversion to poison gas, regarding it as barbaric and inhuman. His attitude was well expressed by Admiral Leahy, his senior naval advisor and later President Truman's Chief of Staff. Using gas, said Leahy, would 'violate every Christian ethic I have ever heard of and all of the known laws of war'. [28] Right up until Roosevelt's death, the CWS complained that any proposal they put forward for using poison gas would not be 'seriously considered', but 'immediately rejected due to personal bias' by the President. [29]

Roosevelt was prevailed upon to authorize the giant US programme only because of the widely-held fear that Japan was prepared to initiate gas warfare. Like America, Japan had not ratified the Geneva Protocol, and reports from China continued to suggest that the Japanese were using gas against Chinese soldiers and civilians. One account suggested that 'up to the end of June 1941 the Japanese had used gas 876 times' in their war against Chiang Kaishek.  [30] In October 1941, for example, during a battle in the suburbs of the city of Ichang, Japanese planes were said to have dropped more than 300 gas bombs, many filled with mustard, killing 600 Chinese soldiers and wounding more than 1,000. Photographs of the casualties were published in American newspapers.

Gas atrocity stories make good propaganda, and throughout the war there were regular calls by the US press for America to use gas in revenge. Public opinion polls suggested that as much as 40 per cent of the population favoured the use of gas against Japan, and newspaper headlines screamed their support: 'We Should Gas Japan' (1943); 'You Can Cook 'Em Better With Gas' (1944); 'Should We Gas the Japs?' (1945). [31]

Roosevelt resisted the pressure, although he did issue a series of stern warnings to Japan. 'I desire to make it unmistakably clear,' he stated in June 1942, 'that if Japan persists in this inhuman form of warfare against China or against any other of the United Nations, such action will be regarded by this Government as though taken against the United States, and retaliation in kind and in full measure will be meted out.' [32] The warning was reissued the following year to embrace Germany as well, and expressed in even more sombre language:

I have been loathe to believe that any nation, even our present enemies, could or would be willing to loose upon mankind such terrible and inhumane weapons ... We promise to pay any perpetrators of such crimes full and swift retaliation in kind and I feel obliged now to warn the Axis armies and the Axis people in Europe and in Asia that the terrible consequences of any use of these inhumane methods on their part will be brought down swiftly and surely upon their own heads. [33]


It was not to be until the end of the war that the Americans discovered just how exaggerated had been their fears of Japanese gas stocks. Japanese offensive work had actually reached its peak in 1935. After that it had gone into decline, until by 1941 it had virtually stopped. In 1942 all offensive training at the Narshino Gas School was ended. In 1944 all stocks of gas were recalled by the Japanese High Command. US investigators reported that Japan had developed no gases other than those 'which had been known to the world for 20 years', they had used haphazard research methods, been given no help by the Germans, and that both offensively and defensively the country's supplies were 'inadequate for waging gas warfare on a modern scale'. [34]

At the end of the war, set against just 7,500 tons of Japanese poison gases, the Americans had 135,000 tons: 20,000 tons more than the combined total used by every nation fighting in the First World War. Early in November 1943, First Lieutenant Howard D. Beckstrom of the US 70Ist Chemical Maintenance Company based at Baltimore received orders to prepare to go abroad. He was one of an elite group of chemical warfare experts. Trained at a special centre at Camp Sibert in Alabama, it was one of Beckstrom's jobs to supervise the movement of chemical munitions. His destination on this occasion, he was informed, was the main supply point for the Allied armies in Italy: the Adriatic port of Bari. His cargo was part of the vast American chemical stockpile: 100 tons of mustard gas.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:17 pm

Part 2 of 2

Beckstrom's mission was not uncommon. Throughout the war, the British and Americans moved stocks of poison gas around the world, keeping large dumps close to the various fighting fronts. The Axis powers did the same. Each side shrouded the existence of these stocks in great secrecy for fear that the enemy would discover them and use them as a pretext to initiate chemical warfare. Thus when the British lost Singapore in 1942 the local commander was telegraphed by the War Office in London that it was 'essential no (repeat no) CW artillery ammunition or RAF equipment should fall into Japanese hands'. [35] Supply ships carrying gas bombs at or on their way to Singapore dumped their cargoes in the sea; stocks on land were burnt or thrown into nearby marshes.

Only the senior commander and a handful of his staff ever knew of the existence of gas stocks in his own particular area. It was this policy of strict secrecy which was to lead to the tragedy at Bari.

Beckstrom supervised the loading of the mustard gas at Baltimore onto the SS John Harvey, a 10,000 ton merchantman commanded by Captain Elvin Knowles, a veteran of the Murmansk convoys. In all the John Harvey carried 2,000 M47A1 100 lb chemical bombs. Just over four feet long and eight inches in diameter, each held 60-70 lb of mustard, enough to contaminate an area of forty square yards. With Beckstrom on the voyage were five other members of the Chemical Warfare Service. They had plenty to occupy them. American mustard gas was notoriously unstable, made by the cheap and speedy Levinstein H process. Each bomb contained 30 per cent impurities - gases which could build up and cause an explosion. The bombs had to be regularly vented, and the casings checked over for evidence of corrosion.

The John Harvey arrived at Bari from Sicily on 28 November. Captain Knowles found the harbour choked with Allied shipping. Officially even he was not supposed to know the nature of the cargo he was carrying; it was therefore impossible for him to plead with the port authorities to give the unloading of his ship priority. Instead he was ordered to moor at Pier 29 to await his turn.

Four days later, early on the evening of 2 December 1943, the air raid sirens began to wail. That same afternoon, British Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham had called a press conference to announce what he considered to be the total Allied air supremacy over southern Italy. 'I would regard it,' he told the reporters, 'as a personal affront and insult if the Luftwaffe was to attempt any significant action in this area.' [36] Now, at 7.30 pm, one hundred Ju 88 German bombers roared in to inflict what proved to be the worst seaport disaster suffered by the Allies since Pearl Harbor.

The attack lasted for twenty minutes. At the end of it, seventeen ships carrying around 90,000 tons of supplies had sunk or were sinking; another eight were seriously damaged. Explosions ripped through the tightly-packed harbour, and shortly after eight o'clock a petrol ship blew up with such force it shattered windows in houses seven miles away. A few minutes later, a second explosion tore through the John Harvey. The ship listed and began to sink.

Some of the gas began to burn, some went straight to the bottom of the sea. The rest began to leak out of the ruptured hold and spread through the debris-filled harbour. It mingled with the hundreds of tons of oil floating on the surface to form a deadly mixture. Over the whole scene hung the characteristic odour of garlic - so strong that the men on one ship actually put on their respirators for half an hour. A dense black cloud of smoke mingled with gas began to roll across the harbour and over the town of Bari.

The men who were to be the worst casualties however were not those breathing in the fumes but those floating in the harbour, standing in puddles of oil in life boats, or hanging from life rafts: their entire bodies were being immersed in a lethal solution of mustard gas.

Neither the rescue squads operating at the port and in Bari's hospitals, nor the men themselves had any idea they had been exposed to mustard gas. No one knew what cargo the John Harvey had been carrying apart from Beckstrom and his men, and they had been killed along with Captain Knowles in a frantic attempt to scuttle the ship. The hospital was attempting to cope with 800 wounded men (more than 1,000 were already dead) and assumed that most were suffering from nothing more serious than exposure. Still wet, covered in crude oil, they were wrapped in blankets and given warm tea. Most sat quietly in this state for the rest of the night while the mustard gas went silently to work. As a top secret report prepared for the Allied High Command put it two weeks later: 'The opportunity for burn and absorption must have been tremendous. The individuals, to all intents and purposes, were dipped into a solution of mustard-in-oil, and then wrapped in blankets, given warm tea, and allowed a prolonged period for absorption.' [37]

The morning after the disaster, the first of an estimated 630 mustard gas victims began to complain that they were blind. Panic swept through the hospital, and doctors had 'to force them to open their eyes to prove that vision was still possible'. Appalling burns started to develop, variously described as 'bronze, reddish brown or tan' which stripped the body of the top layers of skin. Some men lost 90 per cent of their entire skin covering. According to the report, 'the surface layers came loose in large strips' which 'often took the hair with them'. The burns were 'most severe and distressing in the genital region. The penis in some cases was swollen to three to four times its normal size, and the scrotum was greatly enlarged.' These burns were described as causing 'much mental anguish'. Out at sea, the US destroyer Bistera, which had picked up thirty casualties from the harbour at Bari before making her escape, was also in severe difficulties. By dawn the following morning her officers and crew were almost all totally blind, and many were badly burned. It was eighteen hours before they eventually landed in Taranto harbour.

While the Bistera was limping into port, the first casualties were beginning to die at the hospital in Bari. Within two weeks, seventy men were dead. Preliminary post mortems showed the classic signs of death from mustard gas: a badly burnt and blistered skin, lungs and respiratory tract stripped of their lining, a windpipe blocked with a solid column of mucous. The only difference was the severity of the symptoms. It was as if, under test conditions, the worst possible mustard gas burns had been deliberately produced. The bodies of forty 'representative' victims - made up of men from 'at least twelve nationalities or races' - were shipped to Porton Down and Edgewood Arsenal 'for microscopic examination and study'.

In the town itself there were similar scenes of misery. More than 1,000 civilians were killed at Bari - many of them as a result of the great cloud of mustard gas which billowed over the town, others after being swamped in the oil-and-mustard tidal wave which engulfed the seafront. For weeks afterwards previously healthy townspeople lingered in their beds. For civilian and soldier alike it was a grim preview of what full-scale chemical warfare might entail.

As the confused details of the disaster reached Allied High Command there were successive waves of panic - first that the Germans themselves had initiated gas warfare, then, when preliminary investigations revealed that the havoc had been wrought by American gas, that the Germans would use it as an excuse to start an all-out chemical war. As the Allied armies were now on the offensive in Italy, and hoped soon to land on the French coast, it was likely that using gas would work greatly to Hitler's advantage. Churchill, informed of the situation by General Alexander, expressed 'his astonishment that a ship with such a cargo should have been sent to Bari'; he would, he said, await the result of an inquiry 'with the greatest interest'. [38]

At first General Eisenhower tried to keep the whole affair secret. The families of the men whose bodies were being dissected in England and America were informed that their son or husband had been killed by 'shock, haemorrhage, etc, due to enemy action'. For all record purposes, Eisenhower proposed to describe 'skin afflictions and burns' and 'injuries to eyes' as simply due to 'enemy action'; 'lung and other complications' were put down to bronchitis. He telegrammed the Combined Chiefs of Staff that he 'considered these terms will adequately support future claims by those injured for disability pensions'. [39] As a further security measure, complete postal censorship was imposed at every British and American military base. The policy of secrecy was approved by Roosevelt and the British War Cabinet.

Nevertheless it was soon apparent that Eisenhower had no chance of keeping what had happened at Bari a secret. Thousands of civilians had fled the town, spreading wild stories of deadly new weapons. Gas casualties had been unloaded at other ports suffering from undiagnosed wounds. By January, Allied hopes of secretly briefing commanders and doctors with details of what had happened had vanished in a welter of rumour and half-truth: 'It is believed that the knowledge is now so dispersed among divergent groups including civilian population in Bari area that no, repeat no, effective briefing can be accomplished'. [40] In February the Chiefs of Staff, after being told that news of the incident was likely to break at any moment, prepared a statement along lines originally suggested by Eisenhower, reiterating that 'Allied policy is not (repeat not) to use gas unless or until the enemy does so first but that we are fully prepared to retaliate and do not deny the accident, which was a calculated risk'. [41]

A few months after the accident, the Allies directed their area commanders to inform their chief medical officers when stores of gas weapons were moved into their localities. In the meantime, the buildup of gas stocks in Italy continued, until there were sufficient chemical weapons stockpiled to enable the Allies to wage full-scale gas warfare in the Mediterranean for forty-five days.

Bari shows very clearly just how sensitive the issue of chemical warfare was among the Allied commanders. Although it rarely features in either official staff histories or personal recollections, thousands of hours were spent by the men who guided the course of the Second World War in discussing gas: when and if it should be used, what new developments there had been, what the other side's policy was, what weapons they had, how best to appear well-prepared for chemical attack without at the same time giving the impression that you were about to launch one. For a war which never was, it occupied much time and deep thought, as well as expertise, money and resources. [42]

This was particularly true in the aftermath of Bari and in the run up to D-Day. The Chief of the United States Chemical Warfare Service writing in 1946 calculated that the use of gas by the Germans against the Normandy beach-heads 'might have delayed our invasion for six months'. [43] That was a situation which the British in particular were anxious to avoid. They were unhappy with Roosevelt's open-ended pledge to embark on full-scale gas warfare if chemicals were used by Japan against China - for the sake of 'one Japanese soldier' using gas, the British Chiefs of Staff feared, the Americans might risk the success of the invasion of Europe. For similar reasons they opposed Eisenhower's ruling as Supreme Commander that white phosphorus could be used by the Allied Air Forces 'wherever it would assist operational plans in support of OVERLORD'. Normally used to provide a smoke screen, phosphorous could - like napalm - inflect appalling burns if it came into contact with the skin. According to the British this contravened the Geneva Protocol and they asked him to withdraw it from any situation in which it might be used as an anti-personnel weapon. Eisenhower, pointing out that America was not bound by the Protocol, refused, and the British backed down. [44]

Allied anxiety about what the Germans might have waiting for them on the other side of the Channel even ran to the extent of fearing that the Nazis might have some sort of radio-active weapon.

This was not as improbable as it might sound. As a by-product of work on the atomic bomb the United States had researched into the feasibility of a 'radioactive gas'. 'Not even the best gas masks,' the Americans informed the British after the war, 'will give protection for long exposure. '45 Work on radio-active gas was advanced enough for the subject to be brought to the attention of Eisenhower in the run-up to D-Day. General George C. Marshall, the US Chief of Staff, dispatched Major Arthur V. Peterson to SHAEF Headquarters to let Eisenhower into the secret of 'Tube Alloy'. On II May 1944 Eisenhower informed Marshall that he took the threat of German use of radio-active material seriously enough to have 'special equipment' ... earmarked in the United Kingdom for dispatch to the Continent at very short notice.' [46] This mysterious 'special equipment' probably consisted of Geiger counters for measuring the existence of radio-active material. Eisenhower also told Marshall that 'medical channels have been informed as to the symptoms which would occur in these circumstances. This information has been sent out under suitable "cover" ...'

The 'cover' Eisenhower devised was a circular to the leading medical authorities involved in OVERLORD warning of 'a mild disease of unknown etiology' which had supposedly already been reported. The symptoms the doctors were to look out for were fatigue, nausea, leukopenia (an excess of white cells in the blood) and erythema (reddening of the skin). The 'disease', the doctors were warned, tended to occur in groups: 'sporadic cases are very rare'. Should any cases of this unknown disease be discovered reports were to be forwarded at once to the Chief Surgeon. [47] The 'disease' was, of course, radiation sickness.

Eisenhower told Churchill of the American fear, and Churchill in his turn minuted Ismay: 'I wish Lord Cherwell to explain a certain matter to the Chiefs of Staff at the earliest opportunity, and then for the Chiefs of Staff to let me have their advice thereon. Let this be arranged.' [48]

Cherwell met the Chiefs of Staff on the morning of 19 May, and it was agreed

that the possibility of the enemy embarking on this form of warfare in the course of OVERLORD need not be taken seriously into account ... The first twelve instruments [presumably Geiger counters] should be kept in store in Liverpool University ... No Service personnel should be trained in the use of detectors, but a certain number of civilian physicists should be earmarked to operate the detectors in case of necessity. There is no need to let these physicists into the secret at present, as instruction in the use of these instruments would be a matter of only one or two days. [49]


There is no further reference to the mysterious 'disease' in the archives. D-Day passed without any use of gas - radio-active or otherwise - by the Germans, and Churchill and the Service Chiefs were quickly forced to turn their attention to more pressing matters.

Six days after the Normandy landings, late on the night of 12 June 1944, a strange stuttering mechanical scream was heard over the southern counties of England; suddenly the noise stopped, and there were a few seconds of silence; then there came a huge sheet of flame and the roar of an explosion. These frightening new weapons were 'CROSSBOW', the Allied code-name for Hitler's V-weapons. The offensive which had been so long predicted by the secret service had begun, and British civilians were once more back under attack.

Within two weeks the Germans had launched more than 2,000 V-IS against Britain. On 27 June the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, reported to the War Cabinet that 1,600 people had been killed and 4,500 seriously wounded; 200,000 homes had been damaged. Morrison warned of a 'serious deterioration' in civilian morale: 'considerable numbers of people were homeless. The attacks had led to serious loss of sleep and the fact that they went on continuously meant that there was no relaxation from the strain' .50 The Germans were now dropping fifty tons of high explosive on London every day, and nearly 50 per cent of the British air effort was having to be diverted to try to shoot down the flying bombs before they reached the capital.

It was clear to the War Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff that they had to retaliate - but how? On the night of 21 June Churchill ordered 2,500 bombers to attack Berlin in the heaviest air raid of the war so far. He also suggested that Britain might 'publish a list of, say, 100 smaller towns in Germany, where the defences were likely to be weak, and announce our intention of destroying them one by one by bombing attacks' unless Hitler called off the V-1 offensive. Then, on 4 July 1944, the British turned their attention to poison gas. The Chiefs of Staff called for a report from their think-tank, the Joint Planning Staff, on 'the desirability and practicability of using gas as a retaliation for CROSSBOW attacks. The report should consider the use of gas (a) against the CROSSBOW area alone (i.e. the launching sites), (b) as a general retaliation against Germany.' [51]

The JPS completed their report in twenty-four hours. They turned down the use of gas on purely military grounds:

The use of gas, even employed continuously and in large quantities against these sites all of which have not yet been located, would not be likely to have more than a harassing effect ...

In our view, it would be impossible to confine the use of gas to attack against CROSSBOW installations and it would be likely that if we initiated it for this purpose, it would bring about the widespread use of gas in Europe. [52]


The JPS picked on three particular arguments against using gas: it would not stop the flying bomb attacks; general gas warfare would be to the disadvantage of the Allies, still precariously lodged in northern France; and the use of chemical weapons would require the prior agreement of the United States, Russia and the Dominion Governments. The Chiefs of Staff accepted the JPS's conclusions, and passed on to Churchill a firm recommendation against using gas.

Churchill, however, was not so easily put off. In May 1942 he had publicly stated that the British were 'firmly resolved not to use this odious weapon unless it is first used by the Germans'. [53] Now his opinion had changed. The flying bomb attacks, indiscriminate in the suffering they bought to London, had enraged him, and fanned his hatred of Germany. The House of Commons might once more have to be evacuated; after months of relative peace, he and his military advisors had been forced back down into their underground bunkers. One bomb had landed in the very heart of the city, blowing up the Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks in the middle of a Sunday morning service: eighty Guards officers, men and their relatives were killed and another 120 badly injured. Plans were drawn up to evacuate nearly one million people from London as a real sense of fear gripped the capital in a way it never had before, even in the darkest hours of 1940.

To add to the general panic, British Intelligence experts were now (erroneously as it turned out) predicting that the next German secret weapon, the V-2, might carry a warhead of ten tons. The Prime Minister was haunted not only by his fear of what the Nazi rocket offensive might mean for London, but also by his recurrent nightmare that the Allied invasion of France might end in trench warfare and slaughter on the scale of 1916. On 6 July 1944 Churchill told the Commons that the flying bomb was a weapon 'literally and essentially indiscriminate in its nature, purpose and effect. The introduction by the Germans of such a weapon obviously raises some grave questions upon which I do not propose to trench today.' [54]

Dissatisfied with the first J PS report on gas warfare he set his heart upon another. On 6 July - the same day that he spoke of 'grave questions' in the House of Commons, and the day after the Chiefs of Staff recommended against using gas - he fired off an outspoken memorandum to the service chiefs. It must rank as one of the most extraordinary papers he ever wrote, and is worth quoting in full:

I want you to think very seriously over this question of using poison gas. I would not use it unless it could be shown either that (a) it was life or death for us, or (b) that it would shorten the war by a year.

It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint from the moralists or the Church. On the other hand, in the last war the bombing of open cities was regarded as forbidden. Now everybody does it as a matter of course. It is simply a question of fashion changing as she does between long and short skirts for women.

I want a cold-blooded calculation made as to how it would pay us to use poison gas, by which I mean principally mustard. We will want to gain more ground in Normandy so as not to be cooped up in a small area. We could probably deliver twenty tons to their one and for the sake of their one they would bring their bomber aircraft into the area against our superiority, thus paying a heavy toll.

Why have the Germans not used it? Not certainly out of moral scruples or affection for us. They have not used it because it does not pay them. The greatest temptation ever offered to them was the beaches of Normandy. This they could have drenched with gas greatly to the hindrance of our troops. That they thought about it is certain and that they prepared against our use of gas is also certain. But the only reason they have not used it against us is that they fear the retaliation. What is to their detriment is to our advantage.

Although one sees how unpleasant it is to receive poison gas attacks, from which nearly everyone recovers, it is useless to protest that an equal amount of HE will not inflict greater cruelties and sufferings on troops or civilians. One really must not be bound within silly conventions of the mind whether they be those that ruled in the last war or those in reverse which rule in this.

If the bombardment of London really became a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fall on many centres of Government and labour, I should be prepared to do anything [Churchill's emphasis) that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. We could stop all work at the flying bomb starting points. I do not see why we should always have all the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad. There are times when this may be so but not now.

I quite agree it may be several weeks or even months before I shall ask you to drench Germany with poison gas, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent. In the meanwhile, I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here now there. Pray address yourself to this. It is a big thing and can only be discarded for a big reason. I shall of course have to square Uncle Joe and the President, but you need not bring this into your calculations at the present time. Just try to find out what it is like on its merits. [55]



[x]

PRIME MINISTER'S PERSONAL MINUTE
10 Downing Street, Whitehall
SERIAL NO. d 217/4
GENERAL ISMAY FOR C.O.S. COMMITTEE

1. I want you to think very seriously over this question of poison gas. I would not use it unless it could be shown either that (a) it was life or death for us, or (b) that it would shorten the war by a year.

2. It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint from the moralists or the Church. On the other hand, in the last war the bombing of open cities was regarded as forbidden. Now everybody does it as a matter of course. It is simply a question of fashion changing as she does between long and short skirts for women.

3. I want a cold-blooded calculation made as to now it would pay us to use poison gas, by which I mean principally mustard. We will want to gain more ground in Normandy so as not to be cooped up in a small area. We could probably deliver 20 tons to their 1 and for the ...

I shall of course have to square Uncle Joe and the President; but you need not bring this into your calculations at the present time. Just try to find out what it is like on its merits.



Forty-eight hours later, the Chiefs of Staff met to discuss Churchill's dramatic proposal. Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, was sceptical: according to the minutes of the meeting, 'he was not convinced that the use of gas would produce the results suggested in the Prime Minister's minute. It was very difficult to achieve a heavy concentration of gas over a large area.' [56]

There was however one weapon which could possibly overcome this problem: anthrax.

In June 1944 the whole biological warfare programme had come under the control of the Chiefs of Staff. Now, in a minute circulated by the Secretary to the committee, it was pointed out that germ weapons had left the research stage and were in production. After some discussion the Chiefs of Staff

requested the Vice Chiefs of Staff to carry out a comprehensive examination of the points raised in the Prime Minister's minute, and to include in their examination consideration of the possibilities of biological warfare and of the form which enemy reprisals might take.


The Vice Chiefs of Staff passed the matter on to the Joint Planning Staff. The planners' instructions were clear:

The Prime Minister has directed that a comprehensive examination should be undertaken of the military implications of our deciding on an all-out use of gas, principally mustard gas, or any other method of warfare which we have hitherto refrained from using against the Germans [authors' italics] in the following circumstances:

(a) As a counter-offensive in the event of the use by the enemy of flying bombs and/or giant rockets developing into a serious threat to our ability to prosecute the war;

or, alternatively,

(b) as a means of shortening the war or of bringing to an end a situation in which there was a danger of stalemate.

The Chiefs of Staff have instructed the Joint Planning Staff to carry out this examination, which should cover the possibilities of the use of biological warfare by us or by the enemy. It should take the form of a thorough and practical examination of the military factors involved and should ignore ethical and political considerations. [57]


These orders were issued on 16 July, ten days after Churchill's initial minute about the use of gas. In the intervening period the Prime Minister had himself apparently broadened the terms of the inquiry to embrace the use of 'any other method of warfare' apart from gas hitherto not used against the Germans. The Chiefs of Staff had independently asked for the inclusion of germ weapons. With the backing of the two most powerful authorities in the country - 10 Downing Street and the Service Chiefs - the stage was now set for a sweeping re-examination of Britain's commitment to the Geneva Protocol. The JPS were specifically asked to consider 'an unrestricted use of chemical and biological weapons'. So secret was their task that they were instructed only to consult British military personnel and scientists: the Americans were not to be informed of the policy review.

While the JPS worked on their report, Churchill fumed at the delay. On 25 July he wrote the Chiefs of Staff a curt reminder:

On July 6 I asked for a dispassionate report on the military aspects of threatening to use lethal and corrosive gases on the enemy if they did not stop the use of indiscriminate weapons.

I now request this report within three days. [58]


Late on the evening of the 27th, at a meeting of the War Cabinet, a copy of the long-awaited JPS report [59] was handed to the Prime Minister. Fourteen pages long, it was a complete and chilling review of the precise ways in which using chemical and biological weapons would affect the course of the war.

British and American stocks of gas in the United Kingdom were described as sufficient 'to produce a formidable scale of gas attack on Germany'. Production of gas was sufficient to enable 'a continuous effort by 20 per cent of Bomber Command', but if chemical warfare was initiated, the JPS recommended against a 'continuous effort' and in favour of a massive hammer blow, using the combined strength of the entire British and American bomber force. 25 per cent of the payload would be high explosives, to shatter buildings and spread panic; after that would come the main force, carrying gas bombs.

Phosgene would be dropped 'on the scale of 16 tons per square mile' either against 1,000 tactical targets, or against twenty German cities. The result would be 'heavy casualties amounting to 5-10 per cent deaths of civilians and civil defence personnel'. Mustard gas would be used to attack 1,500 tactical targets, or alternatively sixty cities.

In the large-scale gas attacks on cities, vapour burns would be caused on such a scale as to necessitate wholesale evacuation, thus paving the way to a subsequent incendiary attack. Speedy wholesale evacuation might well be a physical impossibility, in which case large casualties would follow ...

The initial effect of using chemical warfare against large centres of population in Germany would be to produce great confusion, probably amounting to panic in the areas immediately concerned.


In an appendix, the report's authors included a list of sixty German cities which would be 'favourable targets' in an attack 'calculated to bring about a collapse of German morale'. [60]

The JPS also considered the likely effect of gas warfare on the various theatres of the war. In France:

... the first tactical use of gas by us, assuming surprise was obtained, might provide a chance of obtaining decisive local results, thereby enabling us to break through the German defences on a large scale.

On the other hand, if operations in Normandy progress favourably and achieve a degree of fluidity, it would be against the Allied interest to employ gas ...

Gas on the unprotected populations in the battle area would hamper military operations and unsettle labour. It might seriously impair our relations with the civilian population when it became generally known that chemical warfare was first employed by us.


In the East, in southern France and in the Mediterranean, initiating gas warfare was considered likely to backfire on the Allies by slowing up their advance. In the Balkans 'the use of gas would be likely to deprive us of the active assistance of the Partisans, who are ill prepared for chemical warfare, and of the sympathetic support of civilians whose unhelpful attitude to the enemy at the present time is of value to us.' With regard to Japan there were similar strong military arguments against using gas, particularly as 'during the course of the war against Japan it will probably be necessary to undertake major amphibious assaults of critical importance'. Allied soldiers 'with families at home exposed to gas would be worried and depressed'.

The JPS were in no doubt that 'if the Allies initiated chemical warfare the Germans would immediately retaliate both in the field and against the United Kingdom'. London would be the primary target and could expect to be attacked by flying bombs filled with gas and by up to 120 long range bombers carrying chemical payloads. Repair work to damaged buildings would be slowed up, there would have to be evacuation, and - if phosgene was used - casualties would exceed those inflicted by high explosives 'by a large margin'.

The effect of the use by the enemy of gas on the morale of the British population is difficult to judge. The Ministry of Information reports on morale on the Home Front suggest that when the flying bomb attacks began, some elements of the population were particularly apprehensive lest the bombs should be filled with gas. After nearly five years of war and five weeks' experience of the flying bomb, public morale in the areas affected is less resilient, and might react unfavourably at first if gas were now used, although the shock would diminish as the efficacy of the protective and remedial measures became apparent. The public at large might, however, be resentful of being subjected to gas attack if it felt that this could have been avoided ...

We believe that the Germans might retaliate on Allied prisoners of war, possibly by forcing them to work in contaminated areas. This would undoubtedly cause great concern to the public at large.


Taking all the factors together, the JPS advised against using chemical weapons. But they put biological warfare in a different category.

For the first and very probably the only time in the war, the use of germ weapons against German cities was contemplated. There is never any mention of the disease under consideration - anthrax - which is referred to throughout the report by its code-name, 'N'.

'N' is the only Allied biological agent which could probably make a material change in the war situation before the end of 1945. There are indications which lack final scientific proof, that the 4-lb bomb charged with 'N' used on a large scale from aircraft might have a major effect on the course of the war.


The 4-lb bombs were loaded, 106 at a time, into 500-lb aircraft cluster bombs. Twenty cluster bombs were regarded as enough to knock out a flying bomb site, 1,000 would contaminate a 'small island', 2,000 a 'large town' of twenty-five square miles. Both the British and the German civilian populations were defenceless against anthrax to which there was 'no known prophylactic measure'.

There seems to be little doubt that the use of Biological warfare would cause heavy casualties, panic and confusion in the areas affected. It might lead to a breakdown in administration with a consequent decisive influence on the outcome of the war.


Whereas chemical warfare was ruled out, JPS did not advance a single military or political argument against dropping anthrax on German cities. The US production programme, however, was stated to be 'behind schedule'. It now seemed unlikely that Britain would have all the quarter of a million anthrax bombs she was expecting by the end of 1944 (the first half of the order Churchill placed with the Americans in the spring: see Chapter Four).

If extreme pressure were applied to the US authorities enough 'N' bombs might be accumulated towards the end of this year for a very few significant token or demonstration attacks to be made on selected objectives, but there is no likelihood of a sustained attack being possible much before the middle of 1945.


The JPS ruled out the use of biological weapons solely on the grounds of time. If the Allied programme had been a year further advanced they might well have come to a different conclusion.

Churchill received a copy of the JPS report on the night of 27 July. On the morning of 28 July the Chiefs of Staff met and approved its contents. They were firmly against the use of poison gas and germ weapons and they added a further significant criticism:

It is true that we could drench the big German cities with an immeasurably greater weight of gas than the Germans could put down on this country. Other things being equal, this would lead to the conclusion that it would be to our advantage to use the gas weapon. But other things are not equal. There is no reason to believe that the German authorities would have any greater difficulty in holding down the cowed German population, if they were subjected to gas attack, than they have had during the past months of intensive high explosive and incendiary bombings.

The same cannot be said for our own people, who are in no such inarticulate condition. [61]


On the 29th, Churchill- who is said also to have received strong representations from Eisenhower against unleashing gas and germ warfare - acknowledged defeat.

I am not at all convinced by this negative report. But clearly I cannot make head against the parsons and the warriors at the same time.

The matter should be kept under review and brought up again when things get worse. [62]


Things did not get worse. The menace of the V-weapons was contained, and the Allied position in Normandy grew stronger; the threat of deadlocked trench warfare, bleeding away millions of lives, which so haunted Churchill, was averted. The Allies were able to finish the war with the promise they made to abide by the Geneva Protocol intact.

It had been a near thing. Although Churchill's idea of using gas seems to have attracted no support whatsoever among the Allied military commanders, the weapon was to hand, and had the war developed differently, the policy might well have changed. Several squadrons of Bomber Command are said to have been given special training in dropping gas bombs in 1944. [63]

And what of biological warfare? None of the arguments which eventually convinced the Chiefs of Staff that gas should not be used applied in the case of anthrax: indeed it was the Service Chiefs, in the knowledge of its destructive power, who had asked for its inclusion in the JPS report in the first place. If its development had been a year further advanced might it not have been used in the summer of 1944? Or, alternatively, could it not have been used at some later date when there were sufficient stocks and if Germany had been able to prolong the war into 1946? At some point presumably the 'ethical and political considerations' deliberately ignored by the JPS and the Chiefs of Staff would have been discussed. When, a year later, a weapon comparable to biological warfare - the atomic bomb - was actually in existence, and offered a chance to shorten the war, the Americans used it. Why, from an ethical or political point of view, should germ warfare have been regarded any differently?

Considering, then, that anthrax might have been used - a weapon of mass destruction with an ability to contaminate terrain almost as great as modern nuclear weapons - the Germans were perhaps fortunate to collapse as quickly as they did. By February 1945, the British were sufficiently convinced that the end of the war was near to wind up all production of poison gas: the Chiefs of Staff asked for permission to discontinue production and discharge the munition workers. It was left to Churchill, the man who had done more than any other to develop the poison gas programme, and who had come close to using it, to issue the necessary order: 'So proceed. The personnel should be thanked. W.S.C. 1. 3.45.' [64]

The world missed chemical warfare in the Second World War by inches. It is said, for example, that only the personal intervention of President Roosevelt prevented gas being used against Japan in the closing stages of the war. [65] The so-called 'Lethbridge Report' drawn up for the American High Command recommended soaking the island of Iwo Jima with poison gas in 1944. They concluded that 'the employment of chemical warfare with complete ruthlessness and upon a vast scale' would have a decisive result against the Japanese. [66] The report was approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff and by Admiral Chester Nimitz, the theatre commander, but when the plan went to the White House it was returned with the comment, 'All prior endorsements denied - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Commander in Chief.' (The Americans went on to suffer 20,000 casualties in their struggle to capture the heavily-defended island.) After Roosevelt's death, the development of the atomic bomb meant that plans to use gas in support of an invasion of the Japanese mainland could be shelved.

From the first year of the war to the last, there was a substantial risk that chemical weapons would be used. The British would certainly have used them against a German invasion. The Russians feared the Nazis would use them on the Eastern Front, and Churchill offered to send Stalin 1,000 tons of mustard gas for retaliation. [67] The German Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, threatened the Italians with gas attacks if they deserted the Axis cause. [68] According to one report, Goring, under interrogation at Nuremburg, stated that the Nazis did not use nerve gas against the D-Day landings, because they feared gas retaliation which would have paralysed the Wehrmacht's transportation system, still heavily dependent on horses. [69] And the British and the Americans both evaluated the benefits of using gas in the closing stages of the war.

At no point was the fact that chemical weapons were banned under international law a major consideration in the decision not to go ahead and use them (except possibly in the personal antipathy of Roosevelt - ironically one of the few countries free from legal obligation not to use gas was led by one of the few world leaders with a moral aversion to the weapon).

Gas was not used because at any given stage in the war there were sufficient military disincentives to stay the hand of the belligerent who reached for the gas weapon. Hitler wanted peace in 1940 more than he wanted to wipe out the men at Dunkirk; by the time he did want to use gas, in 1944, he no longer had the bomber force left to deliver it. The British might have used gas in France in 1940 to halt the Blitzkrieg if they had had the stocks; by the time they had the poison gas and the bomber force in 1944 they were on the offensive and would have been slowed down by chemical warfare.

It is impossible to draw any lesson for the future from the non-use of gas in the Second World War - or, indeed, any hope. It was nearly used, but wasn't, because of the precise military circumstances prevailing at the time. These were short-term, and unlikely to be repeated. In 1945 this was appreciated on all sides, and there was no move for chemical disarmament, as there had been after the First World War. The British and the Americans viewed the future of chemical and biological warfare with increasing trepidation. For a new and unknown factor now had to be included in any calculations of military policy in the future: Russia.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:49 am

SIX: New Enemies

Gas, with the tank and the aeroplane, was one of the most significant developments of the last war, but alone among these three has not been used in this war. The principal reason seems to have been that the power militarily ascendant at various times either had scruples against using gas or believed that his military ends could be best achieved without resort to it ... We cannot be certain that in a future war an attacking power will be governed by similar scruples or conditions. Indeed, the emphasis on 'Blitzkrieg' (which any aggressor would certainly attempt) would encourage him to employ every means to achieve his end with speed and decision.

-- Third draft of the Tizard Report, February 1945


At the end of the war British sailors loaded twenty elderly merchant vessels with captured German gas shells, and sailed them into the Baltic. Off the coast of Norway they donned gas masks, placed explosive charges aboard, and then watched as, one by one, the ships exploded, taking tens of thousands of tons of gas to the seabed. From bases in Scotland, one hundred thousand tons of British gas weapons were taken out to sea and sunk. In the Far East American sailors sank captured Japanese weapons in the Pacific. Mustard gas stocks which had fallen to the advancing Russian armies were tossed into the Baltic in wooden crates while machine gunners opened fire and sent them to the bottom of the sea. [1]

But despite these well publicized attempts to renounce gas - a weapon which had, after all not been used during the Second World War - the allies were already beginning to argue among themselves over who should possess the secrets of the Nazi nerve agents. It was inevitable that the advancing allied armies would come across nerve gas arsenals, and, in due course, upon the very factories where the stuff was produced.

The British were in no doubt about what should be done with the stocks of German chemical weapons which fell to their forces. Most would be destroyed, but some supplies of mustard gas and nerve agent would be 'retained for possible use in the Far East'. 'On grounds of security it would have been desirable', a report to the Chiefs of Staff noted drily, 'to prevent such stocks falling into the hands of the Russians and the French' [2] (authors' emphasis). In the event it proved easier to keep the supposedly ideologically reliable French from the nerve gas: over Russian acquisition of nerve agent the British had no control.

Among all the other problems facing Hitler and his General Staff as the noose tightened around Germany was the question of how to dispose of more than 1,200 tons of still secret nerve agent. As early as August 1944 the Nazi chemists had begun destroying the documents which described the research and manufacture of tabun and sarin. By early 1945 the factory at Oyhrenfurth was itself due to be abandoned as part of the general German retreat. On 23 January Wilhelm Kleinhans finally left the factory which had been his home for the previous three and a half years. Inside the buildings a frantic search was continuing for any last evidence of the manufacture of nerve gas. All the bombs and shells had been removed from the underground filling plant, and tons of liquid nerve agent had been poured straight into the River Oder. As the sound of the advancing Russian army grew steadily nearer, demolition experts laid explosive charges beneath all the vital factory buildings. But before they could be detonated, the Russians had surrounded the factory. In a last desperate attempt to prevent the secrets of tabun and sarin falling into Soviet hands, the Luftwaffe was ordered to bomb the place. For reasons still unexplained, the German air force failed. As an American intelligence report put it later: 'It is believed that the full scale GA plant and the pilot scale GB plant at Oyhrenfurth near Breslau fell virtually intact into the hands of the Soviet army, as it swept across Germany.' [3] The Russians captured even more than this intelligence assessment suggests: they also took the nearly completed factory at Falkenhagen, where the Nazis had been planning to turn out no less than 500 tons of sarin every month.

There were even more serious implications. In addition to the two factories where the Nazis were producing tabun and sarin, the Russians also discovered the secrets of an even more poisonous nerve agent which the German scientists had refined but not manufactured in quantity. The chemists had first produced the substance they called soman, later known as GO, in the spring of 1944. Tests had shown the new nerve agent to be even more toxic than the two substances the Germans had already adopted for use as weapons.

One can only guess at the reaction of allied scientific intelligence on discovering that the Germans had discovered an even more potent nerve agent. But there was worse to come. During interrogation of one of the German war chemists, Professor Richard Kuhn, in April 1946, British scientific intelligence discovered that all documents relating to work on soman had been taken away on the orders of the German High Command, and buried in a disused mine-shaft ten miles east of Berlin. Professor Kuhn told his questioners that he understood the documents had been removed from the mine-shaft by Professor Colonel Kargin of the Red Army, who had taken them to the Karpov Institute in Moscow. [4]

The British, American and Canadian specialists examining the samples sent back from Germany were, therefore, working under some considerable pressure. While they were still analysing the nerve gases, and attempting to isolate the specific mechanisms within the nervous system which were affected by them, the Russians possessed entire factories which could be rendered operational in a matter of months. While the western scientists worked to discover what, if anything, could be done to counteract the terrifying effects of the nerve agents, the Russians were dismantling the factory taken during the liberation of Poland. Intelligence reports suggested that by 1946 it had been reassembled on the banks of the Volga, and was back in production.

The Western allies were able to take some consolation from the fact that in the over-all balance they had done marginally better than the Russians when it came to personnel: more of the senior German chemists finished the war in British or American zones than in Russian occupied areas. Since the factories already built in Germany represented the 'state of the art' some time previously, in the longer term, with the benefit of the opinions of the German scientists, the west considered itself better placed. But in the short term there was an obvious imbalance. Western discomfort was made more acute when it was announced in June 1947 that a Stalin Prize, First Class, had been awarded to Academician Alexander Arbusov for 'investigations in the sphere of phosphorous - organic combinations', the active ingredients of nerve agents. [5]

Although the sources of information about the Soviet capacity for gas warfare were limited, (in the end one relied upon the evidence of refugees, captured German and Japanese intelligence assessments of the Russian capacity, and scientific deduction), at war's end the Americans concluded that the Soviet Union possessed a wide range of different gases. There were they thought, probably thirteen or fourteen in all, and including First World War gases such as hydrogen cyanide, phosgene and mustard gas, in addition to the nerve agents. The belief that the Russians possessed this large chemical armoury was sufficient to ensure the survival of the wartime chemical defence establishments in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. But disturbing though the chemical imbalance between west and east might have appeared, Western generals were more immediately concerned about biological weapons.

It might have seemed that the primacy of biological weaponry, with its huge capacity for destruction, had ended when the mushroom cloud rose over Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Since the western allies now enjoyed immense atomic superiority, there were many who argued that the distasteful business of waging war with disease could be forgotten. Yet the very imbalance caused biological warfare research to receive its greatest impetus: as the Soviet Union at that time had no atomic weapons, it was thought that they might regard biological weapons as a temporary substitute. In the cold war atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion, biological research and propaganda allegations grew steadily.

On Christmas Eve 1949, Moscow Radio announced that twelve Japanese prisoners of war were to be charged with waging biological warfare in China. The Russians claimed that the Japanese had been producing vast quantities of bacteria, and had planned to wage biological warfare against the Allies. The allegations became more specific the next week. Three days later Moscow Radio claimed that Detachment 731 of the Kwantung Army had used prisoners of war for horrific biological warfare experiments, and then, the following day, that one of the prisoners had confessed to his interrogators that the unit had been established on the orders of the Emperor himself. On 29 December Pravda came to the point. The United States was protecting other Japanese war criminals, and engaging in biological warfare research herself.

According to an account of the trial published in Moscow the following year, all the Japanese prisoners were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from two to twenty-five years. They were said to have admitted to carrying out gruesome experiments. The evidence of Major Karasaw Tomio was explicit:

Some ten persons were brought to the proving ground, were tied to stakes which had previously been driven into the ground five metres apart, and a fragmentation bomb was exploded by electric current fifty metres away from them. A number of the experimenters were injured by bomb splinters and simultaneously, as I afterwards learned, infected with anthrax since the bomb was charged with these bacteria. [6]


A second Japanese officer was said to have testified that he had watched a fellow officer in Detachment 731 'infecting ten Chinese war prisoners with gas gangrene. The ten Chinese prisoners were tied to stakes from ten to twenty meters apart, and a bomb was then exploded by electricity. All ten were injured by shrapnel contaminated with gas gangrene germs, and within a week they all died in severe torment'. [7]

The Khabarovsk War Crimes Trial, as it was known, was more than mere anti-American and anti-Japanese propaganda. New evidence, discussed in Chapter Seven, shows that the United States was indeed shielding Japanese bacteriologists from war crime charges in return for data on human experimentation. But the ringing Soviet denunciations of the barbarity of germ weapons were themselves hollow. Behind the smokescreen of Khabarovsk, the Russians themselves were preparing for biological war.

The Russians were correct to allege that the United States was making plans for biological warfare. But the tone of righteous indignation which accompanied the Soviet pronouncement was, it seems, no more than a smokescreen.

At the end of the Second World War a number of Wehrmacht intelligence files fell into allied hands. Among those of most interest were the documents dealing with what the Germans had believed to be the Soviet capacity for germ warfare. It was clear from these papers that the Russians had begun work on biological defence during the 1930s. According to Russian prisoners and defectors interrogated by the Germans, early research had been conducted by the People's Health Commissariat, and was later transferred to the Red Army Biochemical Institute. Experiments in the production of bacteria had been carried out at a field station on the Volga in the summer of 1935, to be followed up by 'especially dangerous work' in a new field testing station on an island in the Seliger Lake, near the town of Ostashkov, north-east of Moscow. [8] In 1940 a German spy reported the existence of another germ warfare base deep in the southern Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan, some several hundred miles north of the border with Iran. [9] The agent reported that a group of Kulaks who had been banished by Stalin to Vozrozhdeniya Island in the Aral Sea were ordered off at six hours' notice in 1936. The following summer several hundred strangers arrived, and a boat belonging to the Biotechnical Institute appeared on the lake. Unauthorized civilians were instructed to keep at least eighty kilometres away. Little was known of the work carried out on the island, although according to a second source the personnel sent there included physicians, microbiologists, chemists and construction engineers. There were reports of thousands of squirrels being delivered to the island, of a variety whose fleas were capable of transmitting plague. Other experiments were thought to have involved testing tularemia, leprosy, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, paratyphoid and tetanus.

The most sensational allegation to surface in the German reports was the testimony of a Russian deserter by the name of Von Apen. [10] He was an Air Force captain, of part-German extraction, who smuggled his wife aboard his aircraft and landed at a forward German airbase. Von Apen claimed to have been a member of a group specially trained for work in germ warfare. He alleged that the Russians had decided to experiment with germ warfare on the borderland between the Soviet Union and Mongolia. Three diseases were chosen: plague, anthrax, and cholera, under the general codename Golden Triangle. Von Apen claimed to have taken part in experiments in which plague germs had been sprayed from beneath aircraft. In other tests, a specially bred and highly aggressive strain of grey rat had been dropped in parachute cages containing glass phials of bacteria. Upon impact the container would smash, covering the rats, which would then be automatically released from their cages to spread the disease throughout the target area. Other devices he claimed to have seen were glass bombs filled with bacteria broth and artillery shells filled with germs.

Von Apen also alleged that Soviet scientists had carried out human experiments in Mongolia. He claimed that in 1941 experiments had been conducted with plague, anthrax and glanders. The victims had been political prisoners, although Japanese prisoners of war were also thought to have been used. Von Apen described how prisoners in chains would be brought to a tent, on the floor of which were pens filled with plague-infested rats. Prisoners would be made to stay inside the tent with the rats until they had been attacked by the rats' plague-carrying fleas. During the summer of 1941 a prisoner who had been subjected to this grotesque experiment escaped from his captors. A minor plague epidemic began, according to the defector, which the Soviet authorities could check only by calling in the Air Force. Between three and five thousand Mongols died in the attempt to stop the spread of the disease. Their corpses were burned with large quantities of petrol.

In the early days after the Second World War it was extremely difficult for the British or Americans to check many of the astonishing claims they came upon in the captured German files. They concluded, however, that there was more than adequate evidence that the Soviet Union had been, and was still, engaged in some form of biological warfare research. Although little was known of the nature of contemporary work, it was thought that the Russians maintained some six sites for biological warfare research, most of them in the Urals.

The British and Americans recognized that their intelligence was inadequate. But the evidence was judged more than sufficient to justify continuing similar work in the west. When they came to assess the vulnerability of the United Kingdom to a potential germ attack they discovered that London, containing over 12 per cent of the population, was only 500 miles from airbases in Soviet occupied eastern Germany. When the Joint Technical Warfare committee assessed how easy a retaliatory strike with biological weapons might be, they realized that the civilian targets against which bacterial devices would be most effective were dispersed across the huge expanse of the Soviet Union. Even using British Empire airbases in Nicosia (Cyprus) and Peshawar (India), there was only one Soviet city of more than 100,000 population within 500 miles range, and only thirty-five such centres of population within 1,000 miles range. [11] Clearly, at the very least, there should be a major research programme aimed at developing some defence. Intelligence, it was freely admitted, was inadequate. But no such reticence found its ways into the stories which began appearing in the press.  

RUSSIA REPORTED PRODUCING 'DISEASE AGENTS' FOR WAR

In eight 'military bacterial stations', one of them on a ghost ship in the Arctic Ocean, the Soviet Union is mass-producing enormous quantities of 'disease agents' for aggressive use against the soldiers and civilians of the free world. In particular, the Red Army is stockpiling two specific 'biological weapons', with which it expects to strike a strategic blow and win any future war decisively, even before it gets started officially. [12]


This sensational story appeared in the San Francisco Examiner from an apparently unimpeachable source, the former deputy chief of US Naval Intelligence.

But despite the tone of certainty which informed this and many other reports, western intelligence on Soviet biological warfare preparations has been woefully inadequate. Much of the information on Soviet plans came from clues picked up in Soviet scientific literature. By watching the award of academic honours, and by noticing obvious gaps in series of published papers, western scientific intelligence could judge what fields of chemical or biological research Soviet Military scientists had entered. The picture was slowly and painstakingly built up to the point where information from defectors or agents could provide the final ray of light. The information was inevitably patchy, sometimes contradictory, and always inadequate. Even after twenty years of intelligence on the subject the most that could be said was that 'the Soviet potential for biological operations is believed to be strong, and could be developed into a major threat' [13] (authors' emphasis).

There seems little doubt that the Soviet Union did conduct extensive research into germ warfare in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It was felt legitimate to conclude that such research was unlikely to have stopped at some arbitrary point after the Second World War. But firm intelligence to suggest the nature of the work was notably lacking.

For most of the post-war years military microbiologists developed 'retaliatory' germ weapons against threats they did not know to exist, and then attempted to develop defences not against the weapons of a potential future enemy, but against the diseases they themselves had refined.

The Russians have said virtually nothing about their preparations for chemical and biological warfare. Indeed the only official statement that the Soviet Union possessed even chemical weapons was made before the Second World War began, when a Soviet General was quoted as saying:

Ten years or more ago, the Soviet Union signed a convention abolishing the use of poison gas and bacteriological warfare. To that we still adhere, but if our enemies use such methods against us, I can tell you that we are prepared - fully prepared - to use them also, and to use them against aggressors on their own soil. [14]


After this statement, in 1938, the Soviet Union maintained an absolute silence on its capacity for chemical and biological warfare.

To those who doubted whether the Russians were seriously interested in chemical or biological warfare, the specialists would point to the Soviet Army Chemical Troops, established in the 1920s, consolidated in the 1930s, and reorganized during the 1940s.

A former Red Army Colonel who defected to the West claimed that the main reason the Russians had not used gas in the Second World War was that the Soviet High Command had been afraid of German retaliation. He claimed that since the end of the war the importance of chemical warfare training had increased enormously. The Army of Occupation in Germany was equipped with Chemical Units. Training had been intensified. In 1953, for example, the 290th Guards Infantry Regiment was receiving two training sessions of four hours every week. 'Usually', he said, 'one day a week a chemical alarm sounded, and then all instruction - marching, running, driving of motor cars, etc, had to be carried out while wearing a gas mask'. [15] To many western hawks, this was enough. Why should the Soviet Army be training its troops in how to withstand a gas attack, unless the Soviet Army planned such attacks itself?

Certainly during the 1950S, the Russians were expecting chemical and biological weapons to be used against them by the West. In 1956 Marshal Zhukov told the Twentieth Party Congress: 'Future war, if they unleash it, will be characterised by the massive use of airforces, various rocket weapons, and various means of mass destruction, such as atomic, thermonuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons.' [16] Zhukov did not say that the Soviet Union planned to use these weapons herself. By 1960 the head of US Army Research was telling a Congressional inquiry: 'We know that the Soviets are putting a high priority on the development of lethal and non-lethal weapons, and that this weapons stockpile consists of about one sixth chemical munitions.' [17] If it was true that one sixth of the total amount of weapons available to the Soviet Union was made up of chemical shells and bombs, it represented an alarming threat to the United States and her N AT 0allies. Some years after this estimate had been accepted by Congress, however, the American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, discovered the basis on which the figure of 'one sixth' had been arrived at.

The American Army had been keen to ship chemical weapons of their own to forward bases in West Germany, said Hersh. They knew the request would be politically sensitive, and so presented evidence to justify its necessity. The proof consisted of analyses made from aerial spy photographs of large storage sheds in the Soviet Union. The sheds looked similar to those at American Army gas weapon bases, and the Chemical Corps then made some calculations. 'The Army computed the roof size of the Russian sheds, figured out how many gallons of nerve gas could be stored in a comparably sized shed in Utah', said Hersh's 'normally reliable' source, 'added a twenty per cent "fudge" factor, and came up with the estimate'. [18]

In the looking glass world of Cold War intelligence gathering, judgements had to be based on whatever information could be gained, from whatever source. If the assessments made from spy photographs were inaccurate, there was more disturbing information from other sources.

On 11 May 1963 a middle-aged Soviet Army officer named Oleg Penkovsky was sentenced to be shot for treason. His trial had been open to observers for only four days, but during that time they had heard a breathtaking catalogue of his alleged crimes. The State Prosecutor told the court that Penkovsky had passed to British and American intelligence some 5,000 separate photographs of secret political, military and economic documents. Even from the few details given, it was clear that Penkovsky was one of the most spectacularly successful agents to have worked for the West.

Although a colonel in military intelligence, Penkovsky had little in common with many of the convinced Party members who made up his colleagues. To begin with, he was the son of an officer in the White Army who had died during the Civil War in 1919 at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Penkovsky had overcome this flaw in his pedigree to rise through the ranks of Military Intelligence, becoming a Colonel by the age of thirty-three. A good looking, open-faced man with a weakness for good food and wine and a solitary cast of mind, Penkovsky looked set to serve out the rest of his military career as a loyal, hardworking officer.

But in 1960 President Khrushchev ordered a review of Soviet military strategy. Penkovsky decided that the Kremlin had concluded that in any future war the Soviet Union would strike first and ask questions afterwards. It was, he felt, a terrifying decision to have reached, and he determined to become a spy.

Penkovsky was instructed to look after a British businessman then in Moscow to arrange for a forthcoming Trade Delegation. The British 'businessman', Greville Wynne, was in fact a spy. He met Penkovsky in his room at the National Hotel, Moscow, where the Russian hinted that he wished to pass on information. When, in April 1961, Penkovsky arrived in London with a Soviet Trade Mission, Wynne arranged a meeting at the Mount Royal Hotel. Here the Soviet officer was introduced to two British intelligence officers who gave the names of Grille and Miles, and two Americans, who called themselves Alexander and Oslap. Penkovsky told the four agents he would continue to work for Soviet Intelligence and to spy for the West at the same time. He had become a double agent. During the next fifteen months he passed on an enormous volume of intelligence material, much of it about plans for chemical warfare.

Penkovsky believed the Soviet Union was prepared to wage both biological and chemical warfare against the West. Exactly what he told his spymasters about Soviet plans for such warfare is not known, even today. During the mid-sixties the CIA sponsored a book entitled The Penkovsky Papers, purporting to be made up of extracts from the spy's diary and personal notebooks. According to this account of his intelligence activities, Penkovsky told his M16 and CIA contacts that there was a 'Special Seventh Directorate of the General Staff which is involved in working out methods of chemical and bacteriological warfare.' [19] He described a testing ground near Moscow where a new type of gas was under development. It was, he said, odourless, colourless, and extremely toxic. The scientists there called it 'American': why, Penkovsky could only guess.

What the 'authorised version' of Penkovsky's intelligence reports did not mention was that the United States, by the time of the book's publication the possessor of the greatest gas arsenal in the world, also intended to ignore the general restriction on 'no first use' of gas. For at the very time that Penkovsky was said to be expressing his horror at Soviet plans which contemplated possible first strikes with chemical or biological weapons, the United States had also taken the decision that she could no longer restrict herself to using the weapons in retaliation only. The new United States policy, which will be explored further in Chapter Seven, allowed American forces to attack first, subject only to the approval of the President.

Penkovsky's information was soon pressed into service in the propaganda war. He himself was executed on the afternoon of 16 May 1963. A Soviet general told Izvestiya:

When it was announced to him that the Supreme Soviet had rejected his plea for mercy and he was to be executed, there was not a trace of the poseur's manner which he had maintained in court. He met his death like a despicable coward. [20]


Doubtless Penkovsky's information represented only a small part of the over-all volume of intelligence on Soviet plans for chemical and biological war. Its value lay in the fact that it came direct from a Soviet source. Unlike the nuclear armouries of the superpowers, details of which are relatively freely available, the exact size of the chemical or biological arsenals were secret from the moment the Cold War began. In a prevailing atmosphere of secrecy it was inevitable that suspicion should grow.

Many Western authorities believed that the Soviet Union invested heavily in chemical weapons during the 1950s as a cheap alternative to the tactical nuclear weapons which the United States had developed and the Russians could not match. Even by the 1960s there had been little evidence to suggest that the tons of mustard and other gases produced during the Second World War had been destroyed. It was also known that the Russians had the means and the expertise to produce nerve gases: while they began with tabun, soon they were believed to be mass producing soman, or GD, the agent the Nazis had refined but never managed to get into production. Soman is thought to be the favoured Soviet nerve agent, far and away the most powerful of the G-agents, and able to break through the blood/brain barrier with ease. By the late 1960s the Russian array of chemical weapons was thought to range from Lewisite and mustard gas-filled land-mines to shells and bombs charged with blood agents like hydrogen cyanide, and rockets armed with nerve gas warheads. [21]

In response to this perceived threat the West developed a range of weapons which must, to Moscow, have looked equally awesome.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:57 am

SEVEN: The Search for the Patriotic Germ

Even before the Second World War was over, a small committee in London had begun to plan for future wars. Reporting to the Chiefs of Staff, and through them to the Cabinet, the committee, chaired by Sir Henry Tizard, was charged with preparing a report on 'The Future Potentialities of Weapons of War'. The brief of the committee was so vague that any and every idea seemed worth considering. Could atom bombs be used to cause tidal waves to swamp an enemy? Could chemicals dissolve enemy concrete? Could high voltage be 'thrown', to electrocute an advancing fleet?

Tizard sifted through the various proposals put to him, including a number on the future uses of biological weapons. But his final report [1] concluded that, while atomic weapons would alter the nature of war for ever, biological devices would be of very limited value. He proposed a programme only of defensive research, aimed at inoculating the public against diseases likely to be used by an enemy.

Tizard's report, intended to be a basis of future British defence planning, was presented to the Cabinet in June 1945. In August, an American B29 bomber dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. The Joint Technical Warfare Committee decided at once that Tizard's report, a cornerstone of future strategic thought, should be rewritten to incorporate the horrific evidence of the effects of atomic weapons. As the committee set about redrafting their proposals they received a series of papers and visits from the men who had led the British Biological Warfare effort during the war, dismayed that their labours and discoveries were being ignored.

At a meeting in November 1945, Dr Paul Fildes dismissed the idea that a country could defend itself against biological attack merely by a programme of research and vaccination: discovering the vaccines could take years, and a mass immunization programme would be so obvious as to invite attack with a different disease. Another submission argued that the use of diseases against crops could not be discounted in future wars. But the most forceful proposal came from Brigadier Wansbrough-Jones, who suggested that biological warfare research was younger than atomic weapons research by some twenty years, having begun only in 1940. 'It seems legitimate to conclude', he wrote, 'that in ten years time, Biological Warfare may be 100 times more efficient ... than it is now'. [2] Finally there came the suggestion that germ weapons might be more suitable for use in wars 'in which it was not worth using atom bombs, or ... in which they were barred'.

These forceful arguments from Britain's germ warfare experts carried the day. The new version of the report on future wars in July 1946 coupled atomic and biological weapons together, even citing a number of advantages of the latter over the former; for example, 'while it would be difficult rapidly to expand the production of atomic bombs at short notice, there would be relatively much less difficulty in the rapid expansion of biological weapons.' [3] This crucial document, rewritten to include the latest information on the effects of nuclear war, ended up revising its opinion of, and endorsing, biological weapons. Copies of the report were made available to the Pentagon, for it was clear that the pattern which had begun during the war - of the British initiating research and the United States producing the weapons - would continue, although now in a far more pronounced manner. Independently defence scientists in the United States had reached the same conclusions as their British counterparts - that in any future war, biological weapons were almost as likely to be employed as atomic bombs. [4]

In the same way as the Allies had come to believe during the war that, because they were investigating biological weapons, Hitler was likely to be doing the same, so now the British and Americans determined that since they had decided that biological weapons were likely to be used, even in the terrible new age which had dawned at Hiroshima, then the Russians must have reached the same conclusion. A limited amount of intelligence, supported by a great deal of alarmism, appeared to endorse this view. The British and Americans, when they assessed their vulnerability, reached gloomy conclusions.

The inherent nature of the national economy and pattern of living make the civilian population of the United States, as well as its domestic animal population and crops, highly vulnerable to a BW [biological warfare] attack ... It must be recognised that defensive measures against a full scale BW attack would at best be of limited effectiveness [5]


a senior US Chemical Corps officer told the Pentagon.

The British wished to concentrate purely on defence against germ attack, but felt it was 'essential to proceed with research into the offensive aspect of biological warfare, as until sufficient research in this sphere had been carried out, the true problems of defensive measures could not be wholly assessed'. [6] It was this attitude which led the British to begin an aggressive recruiting policy which would increase three-fold the small band of microbiologists employed in germ warfare research at the end of the Second World War. It led them to conduct a series of tests with other candidate disease weapons, and in 1947, to establish a separate microbiological research station. The new germ warfare base was to be built next to the chemical warfare station at Porton, and to include what was then the largest brick building in the United Kingdom.

It is some indication of the sensitivity with which British postwar biological warfare work was regarded that almost all of the papers relating to the subject are still not available for public inspection. At a meeting in 1950, the Chiefs of Staff addressed themselves to the problem of unwelcome public attention. The service chiefs were worried by the implication that in justifying the need for biological warfare research, the impression might be created that a germ attack represented a real threat (as they believed it did). In February they agreed a statement to be released 'in the last resort in anticipation of unwelcome publicity':

It is the view of His Majesty's government that the aggressive nature of this form of warfare has been exaggerated. Nevertheless it cannot be discounted and it is their duty to do all in their power to safeguard this country against possible attacks of this nature. [7]


This reassuring statement was a far cry from the Chiefs of Staffs' own assessment of the perils of biological attack.

In the United States, where nearly 4,000 people had been employed at the four top-secret, germ-warfare installations by the end of the war, staff levels were initially reduced. But the man who had led American research into germ weapons during the Second World War, George W. Merck, of the Merck Pharmaceutical Company, recommended that work continue. [8] Camp Detrick, the former National guard airfield an hour's drive from Washington, was chosen for the purpose. The true nature of Camp Detrick's work during the war had been so well concealed that local people knew little or nothing about what went on there. One local rumour was that the place, with its tall chimneys, was being used for the extermination of prisoners.

Over the coming years the scientists at Camp Detrick and Porton Down would investigate almost every known fatal disease. While most would not be tested on humans, the Western researchers were nevertheless able to base much of their work upon a compendium of case studies which supposedly did not exist.

The obsession with germ warfare which developed in the postwar years soon led to disregard for legal scruples. As we have seen, the Soviet authorities did attempt to bring charges against the Japanese officers responsible for the hideous human experiments conducted at field stations in occupied China. It might have been expected that similar charges would be laid against Japanese military biologists captured by the Americans. But in an extraordinary decision which was to remain secret for thirty years, the Americans offered immunity from prosecution if, in exchange, the Japanese would hand over details of their experiments on prisoners of war.

Initially the Americans had been sceptical of reports that the Japanese had tested their biological weapons on human beings. Early reports from Far East Headquarters suggested that they were too unreliable to be taken seriously. When members of MacArthur's staff questioned General Ishii Shiro, the founder of the notorious Unit 731 and the leader of the Japanese germ warfare programme, he produced the standard answer of military biologists the world over: research had indeed been conducted, but purely as a means of defence against possible enemy attack. Since Ishii's staff had destroyed their biological warfare plants and murdered surviving human 'guinea pigs' in the days immediately preceding the Soviet occupation of Manchuria, American investigators could not lay their hands on firm evidence to disprove the claim.

But from the evidence they uncovered during their advance into Manchuria, the Russians concluded that Ishii was lying. They requested permission from the Americans to interview him and other military bacteriologists being held by the United States. Legal advisers in Washington took the view that the Russians had no legal basis for their request, but that it might be considered a friendly gesture to allow them to do so. Beforehand, however, the Japanese were to be interrogated again by American biological warfare specialists. This time the investigation yielded results.

In May 1947 Ishii - frightened by the possibility of being handed over to the Russians - dramatically changed his story and admitted to his interrogators that the Japanese had conducted 'field trials' with anthrax weapons against the Chinese. Nevertheless the majority of the allegations against Ishii and his former colleagues remained no more than hearsay and rumour. In the opinion of several of the legal advisers, they did not constitute the basis for war crime charges. Clearly the question of whether the charges could be made to stand up in court influenced Washington's decision on whether or not to prosecute the Japanese. But by the time this was being considered, the investigation itself was operating in a hazy area in which the demands of justice were being balanced against possible propaganda and intelligence gains. In particular, the Pentagon wished to consider a proposal General Ishii made during interrogation. According to a Top Secret memorandum transmitted to Washington by cable on 6 May 1947, 'Ishii states that if guaranteed immunity from "war crimes" in documentary form for himself, superiors and subordinates, he can describe (the germ warfare) program in detail'.

To assess the value of Ishii's information the Pentagon sent two senior biologists from Camp Detrick to Japan. Dr Edwin V. Hill and Dr Joseph Victor arrived in Tokyo on 28 October, and began their investigations with vigour. On 12 December 1947 they reported that they had interviewed no less than nineteen Japanese biological warfare specialists. They had discovered that the Japanese had investigated an enormous array of diseases, including anthrax, plague, tuberculosis, smallpox, typhoid and cholera. A number of Japanese admitted that they had tested potential germ weapons on human beings.

The American biologists were clearly stunned by the information. The scale of the research far exceeded any tests conducted by the Allies during the war, not only in the range of diseases, but also in the accounts of how particular ailments affected their victims. The Japanese had not only deliberately infected prisoners with disease, but had 'sacrificed' selected cases during their experiments in order to discover the effects of the diseases at different stages.

The experiments were as horrific as any conducted by the Nazis, yet the Camp Detrick specialists dispassionately concluded in their summary of the report of BW Investigations of 12 December 1947 that the potential benefits of the research for the Western biological warfare programme far outweighed the demands of justice. If the Japanese were to be questioned by the Russians, then they rather than the Americans would obtain the benefits of wartime research. Their concluding recommendation read as follows:

Evidence gathered in this investigation has greatly supplemented and amplified previous aspects of this field. It represents data which have been acquired by Japanese scientists at the expenditure of many millions of dollars and years of work. Information has accrued with respect to human susceptibility to these diseases as indicated by specific infectious doses of bacteria. Such information could not be obtained in our own laboratories because of scruples attached to human experimentation. These data were acquired with a total outlay of $250,000 to date, a mere pittance by comparison with the actual cost of the studies. ... It is hoped that individuals who voluntarily contributed this information will be spared embarrassment because of it, and that every effort will be made to prevent this information falling into other hands.


This concern to spare the Japanese doctors possible 'embarrassment' found a ready response in Washington where, in order to maintain a lead over Soviet plans for germ warfare, the full extent of American knowledge of Japanese wartime plans was kept secret for thirty years.

The particularly insidious aspect of germ warfare - the opportunity it gives for carrying out an attack without an enemy realizing that he is a victim until it is too late for him to be able to defend himself - particularly appealed to the American Chemical Corps. They began to investigate how easily bacteriological weapons might be used in clandestine guerilla operations against large government buildings housing thousands of vital government workers. They decided to mount a dummy attack on the largest office building in the world, the Pentagon, headquarters of the United States armed forces. Men from the newly established Special Operations Division at Camp Detrick simply walked into the massive building, and dropped a pint and a half of harmless bacteria into the air conditioning system. They reported later that it had been enough to prove that a biological warfare agent could be spread throughout the building. Other possibilities they considered were the contamination of food, paper, or, particularly, water supplies. 'Saboteurs,' they decided, 'equipped with small quantities of botulinus toxin, cholera, dysentery or typhoid organisms could introduce effective quantities into the water system of a city by pumping the agent into a fawcet located near a principal water main'. [9]

But there was the possibility of an even larger attack. Diseases might be sprayed into the air from a ship or aircraft, and allowed to drift across the country. To discover whether such attacks, feasible in theory, were practical propositions, the British, Canadians and Americans collaborated in a succession of experiments. After preliminary meteorological research to discover how clouds of bacteria might behave at altitude, they began a series of mock attacks.

The details of many of the experiments, which effected the lives of millions of people, are still classified. It is known, however, that in 1948 the British War Office conducted an exercise known as Operation Pandora, to determine the vulnerability of the United Kingdom to 'weapons of mass destruction', the now accepted form of words for atomic and biological weapons. In the winter of the same year ships of the Royal Navy carrying British, Canadian and American microbiologists were sent to the Caribbean for Operation Harness. Over thirty years later, the results of Operation Harness are held to contain 'information, the disclosure of which is presumed to cause identifiable damage to national security'. [10] Operation Harness is commonly thought to have been an exercise in which harmless bacteria were released to simulate a germ attack. In fact real germ weapons were used. Nor was Operation Harness unique. There were at least two other exercises in the Caribbean in which real diseases were tested. They were code-named Operations Ozone and Negation and took place in the winters of 1953 and 1954. Several thousand animals were brought from Porton Down and tethered to rafts at sea some miles off the Bahamas, which was then a British colony. The microbiologists watched through binoculars, as from upwind clouds of bacteria were released to drift over the animals. The diseases tested are thought to have included anthrax, brucellosis and tularemia. The corpses of the infected animals were burned at sea.

While these tests showed the relative virulence of the diseases under examination, they did not solve the central problem of how easy it would be to attack a large city or military base. Experiments with harmless bacteria soon after the war had shown how easy it was for germs to penetrate the interior of a sealed ship, but now attacks were needed against civilian targets. Over the next two decades there would be over 200 experiments in the United States alone in which military and civilian targets, including whole cities, would be attacked with imitation biological weapons. The tests were conducted in total secrecy. If inquisitive officials asked questions they were told the army was conducting experiments with smokescreens to protect the city from radar detection. The targets of the attacks ranged from isolated rural communities to entire cities, including New York and San Francisco.

One of the earliest experiments took place in San Francisco in 1950. The Pentagon believed it might be possible for a Soviet submarine to slip into an American harbour, release a cloud of bacteria, and disappear before the victims of the attack had even begun reporting to hospital. San Francisco, the headquarters of the Sixth Army and much of the Pacific fleet, seemed a likely target for such an attack. Between 20 and 26 September 1950, the theory was tested by two US Navy minesweepers steaming up and down outside the Golden Gate Bridge. On board the naval vessels crewmen released clouds of a spray contaminated with Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens, two supposedly harmless bacteria. The Serratia marcescens strain, code-named '8 UK' had been developed at Porton Down during the Second World War because when incubated it turned red, making it very easily identifiable when used in biological warfare experiments.

There were six mock attacks on the city. In their report later the scientists concluded that 117 square miles of the San Francisco area had been contaminated, and that almost everyone in the city had inhaled the bacteria. 'In other words', they wrote, 'nearly everyone of the 800,000 people in San Francisco exposed to the cloud at normal breathing rate ... inhaled 5000 or more particles. Any other area having a steady wind and a degree of atmospheric stability comparable to San Francisco is vulnerable to a similar type of attack, and there are many such areas in the US and elsewhere'. [11] The point had been proved.

But the San Francisco test was only one of many. In 1951, American Navy personnel deliberately contaminated ten wooden boxes with Serratia marcescens, Bacillus globigii and Aspergillus fumigatus before they were shipped from a supply depot in Pennsylvania to the navy base in Norfolk, Virginia. The tests were designed to establish how easily disease might be spread among the people employed to handle the boxes at the supply depot. Of the three infectious bacteria, Aspergillus fumigatis had been specifically chosen because black workers at the base would be particularly susceptible to it.

In 1953, after further tests spraying supposedly harmless chemicals and bacteria off the United States coast, the Chemical Corps travelled north to spray the Canadian city of Winnipeg. City officials were told that 'an invisible smokescreen' was being laid over the city. (A similar excuse had been used in tests in Minneapolis, where councillors were told that a smokescreen was being laid to protect the city from radar detection.) There were further tests at Stony Mountain, Manitoba, where the experimenters ran into unexpected problems. According to their report, 'cattle in the area levelled many of the sampler stakes, and considerable time was lost in relocating them ... (and) there was no adequate defence against the hordes of mosquitoes present in this rural area'. [12] How the scientists survived this biological attack is not recorded.

The British contribution to an understanding of how germ attacks might be carried out was considerable, although Porton Down carried out far fewer such tests. Much of the early American work on how clouds might drift over a city was based on the results of experiments conducted by Porton scientists in which they released smoke clouds in built up areas of Salisbury, Wiltshire, just down the road from the Microbiological Research Establishment, and at Southampton in Hampshire.

The extreme secrecy which characterizes British defence matters makes it impossible at this stage to build up a full picture of British tests, since many are still classified. However, it is known that in 1952 ships of the Royal Navy released clouds of bacteria off the west coast of Scotland. A Ministry of Defence press release, issued in 1954 and still representing the most that can be officially stated about the tests, mentions only that 'in recent years trials have been carried out off the coast of Scotland to obtain the technical data on which ... precautions should be based'. [13] But these tests were not as innocuous as the bland Ministry of Defence statement claimed. During the summer of 1952, and again during 1953, the Ben Lomond, a Royal Navy tank transport vessel based in the port of Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis, regularly set off for a point some six miles off the coast.

But unlike the San Francisco experiments in which supposedly harmless bacteria were used, the Ben Lomond carried canisters of disease. The pattern of the Scottish tests, code-named Operations Cauldron and Hesperus, was similar to those carried out in the Bahamas. About ten miles off the Scottish coast rafts were lowered over the side, and cages of animals placed aboard. The Ben Lomond then moved upwind of the rafts, and Porton scientists released clouds of germs. Several thousand guinea-pigs, mice, rabbits, and about one hundred monkeys were killed during these tests, which continued for weeks at a time. At the end of the experiments each day the animals would be brought ashore, where their carcasses would be examined before being carted off to an improvised incinerator. [14]

Details of these experiments are still not publicly available, and so nothing is known of the particular diseases under investigation. The reason for the tests being conducted at sea was obvious enough, however, the wartime experience at Gruinard having shown how long-term could be the consequences of contaminating land. Although Porton would have preferred to continue the tests off the Scottish coast, the weather during the summer of 1953, the second year of the experiments, was considered too unpredictable for further work. The following year the scientists returned to the Bahamas for their research. In the warmer conditions of the Caribbean the tests continued for at least two more years.

The experiments off the Scottish coast and in the Bahamas represent the high point of British post-war biological warfare research. In addition to the tests with germ weapons at sea, the British conducted a series of experiments with harmless chemicals over the United Kingdom. Beginning in the spring of 1957 RAF aircraft were regularly dispatched on missions around the British coast. From specially constructed tanks slung belong the planes they poured out zinc cadmium sulphide, a chemical easily detected, even in minute quantities, in the atmosphere. Monitoring stations were established across the British Isles, where Porton scientists assessed the quantity of the chemical in the air. By the autumn of 1959, when the experiments were completed, almost the whole country had been sprayed with the chemical. Further experiments continued sporadically (as, for example in 1961, when imitation disease clouds were discharged from a chimney at Harwell, Britain's atomic energy headquarters), but the zinc cadmium sulphide experiments had proved to Porton Down that Britain was virtually defenceless against a clandestine germ attack.

In the United States similar experiments continued throughout the sixties. Perhaps the most spectacular simulated attack took place in 1966 when the Chemical Corps Special Operations Division decided to mount a biological assault on New York City. The attack was carried out in strictest secrecy, the experimenters carrying false letters certifying that they represented an industrial research organization. The plan was to discover how easy it would be to poison a city by releasing germs into the underground railway tunnels. Army agents positioned themselves on the pavement above the gratings in the roofs of the New York Subway and sprayed 'harmless bacteria' into the stations. Occasionally the clouds would fall onto passengers waiting for trains, but 'when the cloud engulfed people, they brushed their clothing, looked up at the grating, and walked on', one of the agents recalled. [15]

The army agents concentrated on the Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue subway lines, while other team members were sent with sampling devices to the extremities of the underground railway network. Within minutes the turbulence caused by the trains would carry the bacteria throughout the tunnel system. Another technique used by the Special Operations men was to travel on subway trains carrying an apparently normal light bulb which was in fact filled with bacteria. When no-one was looking, the light bulb would be dropped onto the tracks in the middle of a darkened tunnel. They reported later that this was 'an easy and effective method for covert contamination of a segment of a subway line'. [16] The research team concluded that if anyone chose to carry out such an attack on New York, or any of the cities of the Soviet Union, Europe or South America with an underground railway network, thousands, possibly millions, would run the risk of infection. Even in an advanced western country like the United States, a serious illness affecting 30 per cent of the population of a major city would swamp the hospitals and bring the health service to a standstill.

By now the biological warfare scientists in all three countries had proved that an attack with disease was possible, indeed, terrifyingly simple. The last tests took place in November 1969. During their entire twenty year duration, little or nothing had been admitted about their true purpose. Apologists for the Chemical Corps in the United States have attempted to justify the experiments by explaining that they began in a period of deep international uncertainty, compounded by 'our fear of world domination by the Communist countries, primarily the Soviet Union'. [17]

Even before many of these tests had taken place the Chemical Corps had concluded that the United States was 'highly vulnerable' to germ warfare attack. They pointed out that since the end of the war very little new work had been done to produce a biological bomb. It would, they believed, take 'approximately one year of intensive effort' before America could wage biological warfare. [18] True, there was no hard evidence that any potential enemy had developed a biological weapon, but could the United States afford to take the risk of not having her own, should one later be developed elsewhere?

The argument was persuasive. In October 1950 the Secretary for Defense accepted a proposal to build a factory to manufacture disease. Congress secretly voted ninety million dollars, to be spent renovating a Second World War Arsenal near the small cotton town of Pine Bluff, in the mid-west state of Arkansas. The new biological warfare plant had ten storeys, three of them built underground. It was equipped with ten fermentors for the mass production of bacteria at short notice, although the plant was never used to capacity. Local people in the town of Pine Bluff had some idea of the purpose of the new army factory being built down the road, but in general there was, as the Pentagon put it later 'a reluctance to publicize the program'. [19]

The first biological weapons were ready the following year, although they were designed to attack not humans but plants. In 1950 Camp Detrick scientists had submitted a Top Secret report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on work they had carried out on a 'pigeon bomb'. In an attempt to discover a technique of destroying an enemy's food supplies, the scientists had dusted the feathers of homing pigeons with cereal rust spores, a disease which attacks crops. The researchers discovered that even after a one hundred mile flight, enough spores remained on the birds' feathers to infect oats left in their cages. Then they had experimented in dropping pigeons out of aircraft over the Virgin Islands. Finally, they dispensed with live birds altogether and simply filled a 'cluster bomb' with contaminated turkey feathers. In each of these bizarre tests the men from Camp Detrick concluded that enough of the disease survived the journey to infect the target crop. In 195 I the first anti-crop bombs were placed in production for the US Air Force.

The United States had established the first peace-time biological weapon production line.

But the main objective was the development of a weapon to kill people. The ideal biological agent had changed little from the days of Allied research during the Second World War.

It should be a disease against which there is no natural immunity. It should be highly infectious, and yet the enemy should not be able to produce a vaccine against it or be able to cure the disease with the medical facilities available to him. And from a military point of view, it should be a disease which was easy to reproduce, yet hardy enough to survive and reproduce itself outside the laboratory.

Four diseases looked the most suitable as weapons:

Anthrax The wartime tests carried out by the British and Americans had shown anthrax to be an extremely hardy agent: the island of Gruinard was likely to be contaminated for the rest of the century. Although not necessarily fatal, there was still no effective immunization available. Originally coded 'N'.

Brucellosis Otherwise known as Undulant Fever, by the end of the war, Brucellosis had been in advanced stages of development. Since it was rarely fatal, it was now considered as a possible 'humane' biological weapon. Originally coded 'US'.

Tularemia Like Brucellosis, which primarily affects cattle, tularemia (also known as 'rabbit fever') is not normally fatal to humans. It was considered, however, that the chills, fever and general weakness the disease produced would disable an enemy for two to three weeks. Originally coded 'UL'.

Psittacosis Sometimes known as 'parrot fever', this disease was considered the most powerful of the 'incapacitant' weapons, since it would produce a high fever, rather like typhoid fever, which could later develop into pneumonia. Death could be expected in about 20 per cent of those afflicted. Originally coded 'SI'. [20]

Later many other diseases would be developed for use as weapons, including plague, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Rift Valley fever, Q fever and various forms of encephalomyelitis. But in 1950 these four looked the most promising potential germ weapons. During the next two decades over seven hundred million dollars would be spent on the development of such weapons in the United States, and hundreds of millions more in research and testing projects in America, Britain and Canada.

As to how these diseases were to be used in a future war, the Chemical Corps had a list of targets for the Strategic Air Force. The first priority should be major cities. 'The morale of the people in these targets is an all important factor, and will certainly affect a nation's will to fight. Attack on these targets should be directed toward achieving maximum anti-personnel effect with the least amount of destruction.' [21] The attacks should be carried out on a massive scale, to saturate enemy medical facilities. The element of surprise would be enhanced, the Chemical Corps had decided, by the 'insidious nature of the attack as regards detection, and the period of incubation before symptoms appear'.

These disturbing plans looked as though they might become fact with United States intervention against the communist forces striking down through Korea. There were huge increases in defence spending throughout the American services, and biological warfare was no exception. The Pentagon suspected that the North Korean and Chinese communists under General Lin Piao might unleash bacteriological attacks upon them. The Americans determined to produce a weapon for use in retaliation. Ten million dollars were immediately set aside for new laboratories at Camp Detrick, and research into protection against germ warfare attacks was doubled.

In the event it was not the communists but the Americans who were most successfully accused of using germ weapons. In February 1952 the North Koreans and Chinese claimed that captured American Air Force officers had confessed to dropping 'germ bombs' on North Korea. The Chinese supported their claims by publishing photographs of what they identified as 'American biological bombs'. The United States described the allegations as nonsense; the pilots had, they said, been brainwashed. The Chinese returned to the offensive by setting up an 'International Scientific Commission' including scientists from the Soviet Union, Italy, France, Sweden, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The British representative was Dr Joseph Needham, an expert in Oriental medicine who later became Master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

The international scientists who investigated the Korean allegations produced a weighty 700 page report in October 1952, which concluded that 'the peoples of Korea and China did actually serve as targets for bacteriological weapons', [22] It listed the various techniques used, which ranged from fountain pens filled with infected ink, to anthrax-laden feathers, and fleas, lice and mosquitoes carrying plague and yellow fever. In propaganda terms, the 'International Scientific Commission' was a master stroke, although the United States again denied the allegations. An American request that the United Nations conduct its own investigation was effectively vetoed by the Chinese and Koreans who refused to co-operate.

Dr Needham remains convinced that the United States did indeed wage biological warfare in Korea. 'Mostly it was experimental work, as far as we could see,' he said in Cambridge nearly thirty years later. [23] Needham believed that Korea had been used for experiments with 'vectors', insects like the yellow fever-carrying mosquito, capable of transmitting disease from one body to another. 'The experiments didn't seem to be very successful', he said, 'but we were unanimous in our conclusions'.

Years later the American government admitted that at the time of the Korean War they had had the means to conduct biological attacks, but claimed that their 'bacteriological warfare capability was based upon resources available and retained only within the continental United States'. [24] Whether the allegations had been true or not, their very publication had cost the United States a great deal of good will. In the end there remained only 'an unverifiable report and its unverifiable denial'. [25]

If anything, rather than discouraging the Chemical Corps, the Korean allegations spurred them on faster into a bacteriological arms race. In the autumn of 1953 they established a separate germ warfare division. By spring the following year their production plant was turning out supplies of Brucella suis, one of the bacteria causing Brucellosis. A year later the plant at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was manufacturing Tularemia germs. The supposedly temporary 'Camp' Detrick was renamed Fort Detrick - an indication of its permanent status. There was so much research conducted that, although yet more laboratories were built there, work had to be contracted out to scientists at Ohio State University, who were charged with attempting to produce vaccines against the diseases the Fort Detrick scientists were refining.

As the amounts of money spent on germ warfare spiralled, the Department of Defense began to rethink its policy. In 1943 Roosevelt had stated that the United States would never use these 'outlawed' weapons, 'unless they are first used by our enemies'. [26] This perfectly unambiguous statement of policy placed the United States, which had not ratified the Geneva Protocol, in the same position as many countries which had. But it was now judged inadequate. In 1956, the United States secretly changed her policy.

The following heavily censored transcript of Congressional testimony is the closest to a public admission of the change to be found in the records of the time. A discussion took place between the Commander of the Chemical Corps, Major General William M. Creasy and Representative (later to became President) Gerald Ford.

Creasy: First I will start with the national policy ... (discussion off the record)

Ford: May I ask how long that policy has been in effect?

Creasy: Since about October 1956, about a year and a half ago. The national policy has been implemented by a Department of Defense directive ... (discussion off the record). [27]


Since national policy had been publicly expressed by Roosevelt in 1943, the necessity to go 'off the record' was a clear (albeit unwitting) indication of a major change.

In fact the United States had abandoned the principle of using biological and chemical weapons in retaliation only. US Army manuals which had previously stated that 'gas and bacteriological warfare are employed by the United States against enemy personnel only in retaliation' [28] were rewritten. In future they said 'the decision for US forces to use chemical and biological weapons rests with the President of the United States', [29] In achieving the repudiation of a 'retaliation only' policy, the American military had finally overcome their greatest inhibition.

But while the United States now had a policy which entitled her to use bacteriological and chemical weapons as and when the President saw fit, and the means to produce large quantities of germs, problems still remained. The most pressing difficulty was the question of how to control the spread of a disease.

The secret spraying carried out in the United States, Britain and Canada had provided critical information about how thick a cloud of bacteria needed to be to spread disease successfully. Experiments at Fort Detrick and Porton Down had shown how long microorganisms would live while floating in the air. Tests on animals had provided invaluable information about how large the individual particles needed to be to break through the body's natural defences. Armed with this information, Chemical Corps generals began to imagine astonishing campaigns.

Biological warfare could have an important role as a deterrent to prevent Communist China from initiating a war. China, as we have seen, is subject to polar outbreaks. From October to March, at frequent intervals, cold air flows from Siberia, down over the populous areas along the coast. Furthermore, from May through August, summer monsoonal air flows in a layer, possibly 10,000 feet deep, from the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean over coastal regions. Either of these air layers could be seeded with biological agents from the air or from the water. To be effective as deterrents, lethal agents are required. Anthrax or yellow fever might be possible agents for this purpose. [30]


The man who dreamed up this 'deterrent', Brigadier General J.H. Rothschild, had served as head of the Chemical Corps Research and Development Command, and as Chemical Officer of the US Far East Command. His plan was simple enough, indeed the most basic form of modern biological warfare, for it depended only upon the weather. It had the disadvantage, however, of being uncontrollable: strategic decisions about exactly who was killed by anthrax were, literally, thrown to the winds. Rothschild chose to ignore the results of a theoretical exercise conducted by his own army at the very time he was suggesting his attack upon China.

The situation posed was thus. A large Chinese army had penetrated far into Vietnam, and was advancing on the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. American troops based in Thailand were unable to break through to intercept the Chinese advance. The President ordered a biological strike. At the end of their analysis of this theoretical attack, the Chemical Corps specialists concluded that while some three quarters of the enemy army would have been killed or disabled, so too would six hundred thousand supposedly friendly or neutral civilians.

This problem - how to spread disease in a controlled manner - preoccupied the Americans throughout the fifties and sixties. The fact that at no time did a viable solution seem in prospect was no deterrent to further offensive research. The Chemical Corps went about their work with gusto, regardless of this apparently enormous obstacle.

There was a great deal of interest in 'vectors', or the transmission of disease by insects. Mosquitoes were an attractive proposition, since many species carry disease, and all pass the disease on by injecting their victim. A soldier in a gas mask has no protection. Of particular interest was the species Aedes aegypti, known as the 'yellow fever mosquito'. In 1801 it destroyed an entire army sent by Napoleon to Haiti. In 1878 a small outbreak of the disease in Memphis, Tennessee, drove 25,000 to flee the city, infected another 18,000, and killed 5,000: the city went bankrupt and lost its charter.

If there was a particular irony about the research into yellow fever as a potential weapon it was that for fifty years American physicians had led the campaign to rid North and South America of the disease. Indeed in 1947 the United States had heartily endorsed a new public health initiative to banish yellow fever from the Americas forever, by eradicating the disease-bearing mosquito. Now the military scientists began to consider it a potential weapon.

Fort Detrick scientists discovered a Trinidadian who had been infected with yellow fever in 1954 and had later recovered. They took serum from the Trinidadian and injected it into monkeys. From the monkeys they removed infected plasma, into which they dropped mosquito larvae. The infected mosquitoes were then encouraged to bite laboratory mice and pass on the disease. This ingenious technique of public health research in reverse worked. The mice duly contracted yellow fever.

Laboratories were built at Fort Detrick where colonies of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were fed on a diet of syrup and blood. They laid their eggs on moist paper towels. The eggs would later turn into larvae, and eventually into a new generation of mosquitoes. The Fort Detrick laboratories could produce half a million mosquitoes a month, and by the late fifties a plan had been drawn up for a plant to produce one hundred and thirty million mosquitoes a month. Once the mosquitoes had been infected with yellow fever, the Chemical Corps planned to fire them at an enemy from 'cluster bombs' dropped from aircraft and from the warhead of the 'Sergeant' missile.

To test the feasibility of this extraordinary weapon, the army needed to know whether the mosquitoes could be relied upon to bite people. During 1956 they carried out a series of tests in which uninfected female mosquitoes were released first into a residential area of Savannah, Georgia, and then dropped from an aircraft over a Florida bombing range. 'Within a day', according to a secret Chemical Corps report, 'the mosquitoes had spread a distance of between one and two miles, and bitten many people'. [31] The effects of releasing infected mosquitoes can only be guessed at. Yellow fever, as the Chemical Corps noted, is 'a highly dangerous disease', at the very least causing high temperatures, headache, and vomiting. In about a third of the recorded cases at that time, yellow fever had proved fatal.

Nor were mosquitoes the only insects conscripted into the service of the army. In 1956 the army began investigating the feasibility of breeding fifty million fleas a week, presumably to spread plague. [32] By the end of the fifties the Fort Detrick laboratories were said to contain mosquitoes infected with yellow fever, malaria and dengue (an acute viral disease also known as Breakbone Fever for which there is no cure); fleas infected with plague; ticks contaminated with tularemia; and flies infected with cholera, anthrax and dysentery.

They had tested the diseases on laboratory animals, but soon the scientists needed to discover whether what killed a mouse or a monkey would also kill a human. Many of them believed that the Russians might already be testing their biological weapons on people, and the Chemical Corps were keen to do likewise.

During the Vietnam War, the Fort Detrick researchers found a ready source of human subjects for their experiments in Seventh Day Adventists, who, because of their conscientious objections, served in the United States army as non-combatants. In one series of tests Seventh Day Adventist soldiers were exposed to airborne tularemia. According to one report, 'all control subjects developed acute tularemia between two to seven days after exposure', although all were said to have recovered later. [33] This experiment was unusual in that it was written up for public consumption. But the willingness of some at least of the Seventh Day Adventists to take part in such tests was beyond doubt. 'We like to think of ourselves as conscientious cooperators, not conscientious objectors', as one of their ministers explained in 1967, [34] Numerous other experiments took place with volunteers, and although little is known about their nature, it seems fair to assume that many were more concerned with developing effective vaccines than with testing the power of the bacteriological weapons themselves.

Evidence as to the use of human volunteers in experiments at Porton Down is harder to come by. Service volunteers were regularly requested during the fifties and sixties, but they are said to have been used only for the testing of defensive precautions like vaccines.

However, between 1960 and 1966 scientists from the Porton Down Microbiological Research Establishment took part in a series of tests in which terminal cancer patients were treated with two rare viruses, at least one of which was then being considered as a possible biological weapon.

The experiments took place at St Thomas's Hospital, one of London's leading medical schools. According to a report which later appeared in the British Medical journal, [35] terminal cancer patients were infected with Langat Virus and Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus by two doctors from St Thomas's Hospital and two scientists from Porton Down. Their interest appears to have been in developing a potential vaccine against other diseases transmitted by ticks. The scientists reported that all thirty-three patients died, two of them after contracting encephalitis, an infection causing inflammation and swelling of the brain. 'Transient therapeutic benefit was observed in only four patients', [36] they reported.

Most British biological warfare research since the Second World War appears to have concentrated on purely defensive aspects - the production of vaccines and methods of detecting bacteriological attack. Offensive research in Britain and Canada was unnecessary, since neither could compete with the huge American biological weapons programme. Research at Porton was conducted on a smaller, more discriminating scale. Nonetheless, between 1952 and 1970 the Microbiological Research Establishment consumed in experiments over one thousand monkeys, nearly two hundred thousand guinea pigs, and one and three quarter million mice. [37]

The rate at which the germ warfare laboratories consumed animals presented them with one of their greatest public relations problems. The establishments counter-attacked in a number of ways. Fort Detrick, which by 1960 was the biggest user of guinea pigs in the world, sponsored a lavishly equipped boy scout pack, supplied the local paper with a weekly gossip column, and made a succession of speakers available for local discussion groups. [38] The biological warfare base at Porton Down was always more reserved. Occasionally they boasted that the huge facilities for producing micro-organisms had been used for public health purposes. During the Asian 'flu epidemic of 1957, Porton Down produced over 600,000 doses of 'flu vaccine, a socially valuable exercise which the establishment was keen to publicise. Observers pointed out that an establishment which would produce 600,000 doses of vaccine could equally well produce the same number of doses of biological warfare agent. [39]

In fact, by the 1960s, Porton Down was concentrating almost exclusively on defensive work. There were a few unfortunate accidents, as when in 1962 Geoffrey Bacon, a well liked and normally efficient Porton microbiologist, became infected with pneumonic plague and died. Bacon had been searching for a vaccine which could be used against plague. But largely it was, as they recognized, a futile quest. Vaccines might be developed, but they could give minimal protection if anyone should choose to mount a germ warfare attack on Britain.

The tests with harmless bacteria during the fifties had shown that if Britain were to be the victim of biological attack, little or nothing would be done to protect the country. A steady wind would blow the germs released from a ship off the British coast across the entire country in ten hours. For even rudimentary protection every member of the population would need to be issued with a gas mask, something the Home Office had already decided was impractical. Even if sufficient funds could be made available to issue gas masks to everyone, there remained another, apparently insuperable, problem. Bacteria live longer in the dark, so any biological attack would be likely to come at night. Even if such an attack could be detected, and even if everyone had a gas mask, how could you warn fifty million people at three in the morning? [40]

But in the United States, the biological warfare work continued unabated. To many military scientists there the very arguments which made the idea of protecting the population impossible made bacteria increasingly attractive weapons for use against an enemy.

At the start of the so-called 'Camelot' era of the presidency of John F. Kennedy, a thorough-going review of 150 areas of American defence was ordered. Project 112 arrived in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in May 1961, requesting an assessment of American preparations for biological and chemical warfare. [41] The Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the Chemical Corps, the very people with the strongest vested interest in ensuring an expansion of the programme, to conduct the review for them. Not surprisingly their report found that American preparations were inadequate, but that with the expenditure of four thousand million dollars, they could be improved. The plea did not fall on deaf ears.

An initial twenty million dollars was immediately set aside for expanding the biological weapons plant in Arkansas. A new testing centre was established. [42] Money was spent developing new weapons to attack plants. And two new debilitating diseases, Q-fever and tularemia, entered the inventory of American biological weapons. By the time that these weapons were in full production, the United States was treading further and further into the quagmire of Vietnam.

The Vietnam War might have represented the perfect field laboratory for men like General Rothschild to test their theories about seeding clouds with anthrax. But there was by now sufficient evidence of the way in which American and South Vietnamese troops would also be affected to rule it out. Instead the germ warfare laboratories concentrated their efforts on the development of incapacitating diseases which would bring an enemy down with sickness for days or weeks. For some years the Fort Detrick laboratories had been working on enterotoxins causing food poisoning, on the military theory, as one proponent put it, that 'a guy shitting away his stomach can't aim a rifle at you'. [43] By 1964, they believed a weapon based on the theory was feasible. But by now, another disabling disease looked a better candidate.

Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis is a highly infectious disease producing nausea, vomiting, chills, headaches, and muscle and bone pains which may last up to eight days. Clearly an enemy crippled by a disease of this kind would be unable to fight. Arguments were made that this was a 'humane' weapon: in taking away the Viet Cong's will to fight it would actually prevent battles, and so save lives. Hypothetical exercises were carried out in Vietnam with this and similar diseases, but still there was the familiar problem. There was no way of ensuring that only the enemy caught the disease. Reluctantly the idea was put to one side.

And yet the research continued. It seems highly paradoxical that germ weapons projects should have survived the realization that there was little hope of restricting their effects to an enemy army. There could obviously be no excuse of 'defensive' research. But the army biologists lived in hope of discovering a disease which would attack only enemy forces, and leave allied soldiers unharmed: it was during the Vietnam war that the concept of an 'ethnic weapon' was first mooted. It must have seemed a vain hope, yet, the germ warfare protagonists argued, without biological weapons themselves, the Americans were powerless to deter the use of such devices by an enemy.

The results of the continuing research could be seen in the maps of Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, part of which were marked 'permanent bio-contaminated area', after anthrax experiments in the mid-sixties. In the Pacific more tests were carried out with 'hot' agents - the jargon for real biological weapons - on a number of deserted islands. The results of the tests are still classified on the grounds that they reveal weaknesses in American defences. By March 1967 Fort Detrick had developed a bacteriological warhead for the Sergeant missile, capable of delivering disease up to 100 miles behind enemy lines.

The Defense Department had justified the accelerating rush into biological weapons in the early sixties by saying that there was no prospect of any treaty being arrived at which would be acceptable to the United States. [44] Since any argument to ban biological weapons was unlikely, they argued, the United States was bound to continue her research work.

They were wrong. In 1968 the subject of chemical and biological warfare came up for discussion at the standing Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee in Geneva. Previous attempts to get agreement on an international treaty to ban the weapons had foundered because of an insistence that both chemical and biological weapons be included in the same treaty. Since gas weapons had already been used in war, been proved effective, and were stockpiled on a large scale, they would be much more difficult to outlaw than germ weapons, which as far as could be satisfactorily proved had never been used in war. The British proposed that the two subjects be separated, and introduced a draft Biological Weapons Convention which would commit all signatory states to renouncing the weapons for all time.

There was heavy initial opposition from the Russians and their eastern European allies, and little overt enthusiasm from Washington. The British and Canadians, who had shared their germ warfare expertise with the Americans, nevertheless argued to President Nixon that an international treaty was now a real possibility. What was needed, they said, was a gesture of goodwill.

Nixon was already under pressure on the subject of chemical and biological weapons, and facing mounting domestic opposition (see Chapter 10). On 25 November 1969 he issued a statement. 'Mankind', he said, 'already carries in its own hands too many of the seeds of its own destruction.' The United States was taking a step in the cause of world peace. 'The United States', he went on, 'shall renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare.' [45] It was a brave gesture, which proved the spur for which the British had been hoping.

The laborious negotiations in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, received a considerable boost with Nixon's announcement. Within two years the Soviet Union had abandoned its opposition to a germ warfare convention. On 4 April 1972 representatives of the two countries signed an undertaking that they would 'never in any circumstances develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or retain' any biological weapons. Over eighty other countries followed suit. The Biological Weapons Convention was a triumph, because unlike many other arms control agreements which merely restricted the development and deployment of new weapons, it removed one category of armaments from the world arsenals altogether.

By the time agreement was finally signed, the research which had begun with a small group of biologists pondering their contribution to the war against Hitler had produced a host of diseases capable of spreading sickness throughout the world. In addition to infections which would destroy wheat and rice, anthrax, yellow fever, tularemia, brucellosis, Q fever and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis had all been 'standardized' for use against man.46 Plans had been laid for their use behind enemy lines in the event of another war in Europe.

At Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas the machinery which for twenty years had been mass-producing disease was used to turn the germs into a harmless sludge, which was spread upon the ground as an army public relations officer explained what a good fertilizer it would make. And, on a small, bleak island off the Scottish coast the warning signs were due to be repainted.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:00 am

EIGHT: The Rise and Rise of Chemical Weapons

President Nixon's statement ended the biological arms race. But in the field of chemical warfare it was designed to do no more than mark time. Many of the scientists employed at the chemical weapons bases viewed Nixon's decision, that the United States would manufacture no new gas devices for the time being, as merely another temporary hiatus of the kind to which they had by now become accustomed.

The very buildings housing the Chemical Warfare Laboratories in Britain and the United States bear testimony to the alternating enthusiasm and coldness of post-war governments. Many of them might have been pulled down years ago. Instead they have been given a new lease of life by the addition of yet another coat of paint or varnish.

Despite the potentially catastrophic failure of Porton Down and British intelligence to warn of the existence of the Nazi nerve gases, at the end of the war the chemical warfarers owed their survival to their earlier mistake. For ten years after 1945 the scientists at Porton Down and Edgewood Arsenal, working with their associates at the Suffield research station in Canada, continued to investigate the 'G Agents' brought back from occupied Germany. The sensational effects of the gases gave added force to the conclusion reluctantly reached at the end of the Second World War that 'the absence of any large scale chemical warfare in this war should not cause us to abandon research on the subject. It must continue as an insurance'. [1]

The insurance adopted by the British, American and Canadian governments, who had collaborated in their chemical warfare research during the war, took three forms. All three countries at once began work on new gas masks and detection devices against the Nazi nerve agents. In Britain the army requested new gas masks and protective kit as a matter of urgency. The Home Office ordered the production of millions of new gas masks for the general public. Scientists in all three countries searched for a drug which would give some protection against nerve agents.

The second form of insurance was the decision to manufacture the G agents themselves, first in allied laboratories, and later in full scale production plants, which turned out the deadly liquid by the ton for loading into bombs and shells. Although Canada never manufactured nerve agents herself, her claim to be uninvolved in offensive plans for chemical warfare is undermined by the third step taken by the three wartime allies.

For by the end of the war the research programmes of the British, American and Canadian chemical warfare establishments had become so closely co-ordinated as to be virtually indistinguishable. The British scientists still probably possessed the greatest degree of expertise, but the American economy, and therefore the resources available for manufacturing, had been less damaged by the war. The Canadians had willingly provided the thousand square miles of land at Suffield, Alberta, where Allied weapons could be tested. The three countries decided to formalize their collaboration in a series of meetings which took place in 1945 and 1946.

In 1947 the three countries joined together in an understanding known as the Tripartite Agreement. As a former head of the US Chemical Corps put it: 'We told each other everything. Things Porton felt better able to do, they did. Things we could do best, we did them. A country would take a particular area of research, like a nerve agent, work on it, and come back next year and report'. [2] The arrangement was attractive because it meant that each country could have access to a wider body of research, for no extra cost. For a country like Canada the agreement was particularly beneficial, since the Canadian government was given access to a wide range of research, in exchange mainly for the enormous expanse of prairie near Medicine Hat where the British and Americans tested their weapons. Indeed, as an official Canadian history recorded, by 1950 'most of the field trials of chemical warfare agents which were conducted in the free world were done at Suffield'. [3]

Representatives of the three countries would meet together once a year at a conference in which each would report on the research assigned to them ct the previous conference. This interchange of ideas was consolidated by a regular exchange of personnel. Scientists from Edgewood Arsenal and Porton Down would regularly swap posts for a period of a year or more, an arrangement which continued into the 1980s. But while the Tripartite Agreement provided great practical benefits for all three countries, it also had serious political consequences.

The Canadians had no interest in manufacturing nerve agents themselves, and represented their position as one of 'defensive research only'. By the mid 1950s the British had taken a similar decision not to continue with the production of nerve gas. Both countries then claimed to be involved in research only the better to protect their soldiers and people against gas. It was a publicly acceptable posture which was rendered largely meaningless by the terms of the Tripartite Agreement. As we shall see, not only were both Canada and the United Kingdom fully acquainted with the results of American offensive research at the annual conferences and in the frequent interchange of information and personnel, but both countries also actively participated in the quest for new chemical weapons.

In July 1965 the common pool of knowledge was extended to include Australia, whose government signed a Technical Co-operation Programme with the other three countries. Little is known about the nature of the Australian contribution to the chemical warfare agreement. There are persistent rumours, strenuously denied by the Australian government, that her main contribution is in the provision of tropical testing grounds for chemical warfare equipment. [4] During the Second World War the British had used Australia to test new gases, but the arrangement ended in 1945. Despite the Australian government's answer to protesters that there is no testing ground for chemical warfare in the country, in 1980 the Director of Porton Down claimed that the main contribution of both Australia and New Zealand to the agreement was for the testing of equipment developed in Great Britain and the United States. [5]

The agreements between the western Allies arrived at after the Second World War have lasted to this day. To those who argued that chemical warfare research should be abandoned, the defence planners replied that having accumulated the expertise, it would be foolhardy to abandon further research at the very moment when 'an iron curtain has descended across the Continent', obscuring what the potential enemy might be up to. This argument, that scientists must continue to research ever more effective methods of killing people since they could not know whether a potential enemy might not be doing the same, had been advanced as a justification for the chemical warfare establishments since the end of the First World War. Throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s it was held to be equally persuasive.

Perhaps there was another reason too. By the end of the war there were literally thousands of men and women who had dedicated their lives to the concept of wars fought with germs and gases. Their aspirations, their careers, their domestic security were to some extent at least bound up with the future of chemical and biological warfare. They argued that the future was so unpredictable, our information about potential future enemies so inadequate, and the state of the art so poised on the brink of momentous discoveries that it would be lunacy to abandon research. It was an argument which in the uncertainty of the new Cold War appeared to make a good deal of sense, and it was a view which triumphed.

The three German nerve agents, tab un, sarin and soman were coded by the British as GA, GB and GD respectively. Although the Nazis had concentrated upon the manufacture of tabun (GA), tests had shown that sarin (GB) was many times more powerful, and soman more powerful yet. The Russians focused their efforts upon manufacturing soman, but the British decided that the alcohol needed for its production was too difficult to make in quantity. The British began a series of tests to establish the potency and other properties of weapons filled with the medium strength agent, GB.

They began with animals. In 1949 a special farm was built at Porton Down solely to breed the animals needed for research. In the early stages vhey used rats which were gassed with GB on the range at Porton. Later, monkeys were placed in cages in the Porton laboratories, and clouds of nerve gas blown over them. [6] Flight Lieutenant William Cockayne, a young RAF officer notionally stationed at the nearby Boscombe Down airbase, but in fact working at Porton, was later to recall how in 1952 he had watched chimpanzees, goats, dogs and other animals being tethered to stakes on the range at Porton before nerve gas shells brought from Germany were fired at them.

The young RAF officer was sent to collect the corpses after the clouds of nerve gas had supposedly dispersed. Although clad in gas mask and protective suit, Cockayne collapsed. It was the end of his RAF career. While in hospital recovering from the gas's attack on his nervous system he was discharged from the force, and later diagnosed as a psychiatric case. For all his civilian life Cockayne was to suffer from uncontrollable muscle spasms, fits of deep depression and inexplicable confusion and terror. It was fourteen years before the Ministry of Defence would even admit that Cockayne had been employed at Porton. Then, using the by now standard justification for chemical warfare work, they told his MP that Cockayne had been involved not in research into new nerve gases but in 'experiments to assess the vulnerability of our equipment to nerve gas weapons'. [7] This distinction, critical to the preservation of a 'respectable' image for chemical warfare research, was at the time of Cockayne's accident meaningless, since Porton Down was actively developing new weapons for the British army based on the Nazi nerve gases.

The Weapons Unit at Porton Down was dominated by attempts to develop new methods of delivering GB nerve gas to an enemy. They tested dozens of possible weapons - mortar bombs, artillery shells, aircraft bombs - filled with harmless substitutes. But there were severe restrictions on the sort of experiments which could be conducted in the open air in Britain - the stuff was simply too dangerous to risk a cloud of it blowing off the range and into homes and factories. Fewer restrictions applied, apparently, in Britain's African colonies.

Between the end of 1951 and the early months of 1955, groups of up to twenty experts from Porton travelled regularly to West Africa. [8] Here for periods of three months at a time, they carried out a series of tests which, even thirty years later, are still classified 'secret'. During the Second World War, the British had tested their chemical weapons in Canada, Australia and India, in addition to the allied test sites in the United States. Although the facilities in Canada continued to be available to Porton Down, another site was now needed, where weapons could be tested under tropical conditions, India no longer being a colony. The British selected Obanakoro in Nigeria, because within easy reach they could find both jungle and dry sandy ground.

It is commonly assumed that the British never came near the manufacture of real nerve gas weapons. Yet the devices tested in Nigeria show how far advanced was their development. The weapons included 25-lb artillery shells, 5-1/2-inch naval shells, mortar bombs, and small 'bomblets' for use within a larger aircraft 'cluster bomb'. All were British-made.

Meanwhile at Porton Down, experiments were carried out on human 'guinea pigs' to assess the effects of the nerve gases. By 1953 no less than 1,500 British servicemen had volunteered for the Porton Down tests. But in May that year one of the experiments went disastrously awry.

Immediately afterwards the Wiltshire Coroner took the unusual step of holding an inquest in camera. The only members of the public allowed inside the courtroom were personnel from Porton Down and the elderly parents of Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison, a twenty-year-old National Serviceman from Consett, County Durham. No details of the inquest were made public, and Maddison's father was instructed not to discuss his son's death, even with his wife. It proved impossible, however, to suppress the details of the airman's Death Certificate. The document revealed that Maddison had died from blocking of the bronchial tubes, a classic symptom of nerve gas poisoning.

Maddison had been a 'guinea pig' for the nerve gas being refined at Porton Down. It appears that experiments had been conducted in which scientists had placed a drop of GB liquid on a volunteer's arm, to test whether it would evaporate before penetrating the clothing and skin, and attacking the nervous system. Maddison had the misfortune to be chosen for an experiment in which a drop of the liquid was placed on his forearm, and then covered so as to prevent its evaporating. The result was to allow the liquid to penetrate through the skin, and so give him a dose far greater than any previous volunteer had experienced. He died surrounded by some of the most knowledgeable chemical weapons experts in the world, who could do nothing to save him.

Porton Down claimed that Maddison had been 'abnormally sensitive' to nerve gas, but even so, work with human volunteers stopped for six months while a government inquiry scrutinized the way in which young volunteers were being used at Porton. The investigation concluded that Maddison's death had been an unfortunate accident, and that the tests should continue. The inquiry had been impressed to learn that the servicemen who volunteered to test nerve gas received no extra pay or other rewards for standing in the gas chambers.

There was another inquest connected with Porton in 1953. The Director of the Chemical Defence Section committed suicide. No one suggested that the balance of his mind had been affected by his work with nerve gas, but his wife told the Wiltshire Coroner that her husband suffered from terrible depression. Sometimes, she said, he would come home late, explaining that he had stayed out walking around in the evening air 'until he felt civilized again'. [9]

If the British were to begin manufacturing nerve gas, they would need a new factory. The mustard gas plant, at Sutton Oak, Lancashire, was thought to be too near human habitation for it to be used safely for the manufacture of the highly poisonous nerve agents. It was razed to the ground, and later became the site of a gypsy encampment.

For the manufacture of nerve gas, the British chose a remote clifftop on the north Cornish coast, where the RAF already maintained an airbase. Nancekuke appeared an ideal site, high on a clifftop, well away from human habitation and with any accidentally released clouds of gas likely to blowout to sea. Many of the same considerations also made the area a popular holiday area, but inquisitive tourists were kept away from the place by eight foot tall fences. The Ministry of Defence later described the plant at Nancekuke as a 'design exercise against the event of the UK requiring a retaliatory capability as a deterrent'. 10 By 1953, this 'design exercise' was producing 6 kilograms of GB nerve agent every hour.

But the British never became fully committed to the production of nerve gas, partly because of memories of the horrors of the First World War, and partly because they simply could not afford the expense of producing a new weapon. At one stage, they sent an urgent message to Washington asking the Americans to supply them with nerve gas as soon as possible. The Top Secret memo which gives details of this request to the American Joint Chiefs of Staff makes no mention of the quantities asked for. [11] It was, perhaps, an interim amount to tide them over until Nancekuke became fully productive.

The plant at Nancekuke on the beautiful Cornish coast manufactured 15 tons of GB, all of which was supposedly used for research there and at Porton. The factory had been designed as a 'pilot plant', as Sutton Oak had been a pilot plant for the manufacture of mustard gas. In the event, the British, unlike their American allies, never developed a full scale nerve gas manufacturing plant, a decision often represented as one akin to unilateral disarmament. In truth there was no need to expand facilities because the British had proved to their satisfaction that the system worked. In times of crisis it would be necessary only to use the experience of Nancekuke to build a larger plant to produce the nerve gas necessary for future weapons.

But although Nancekuke produced only 15 tons of nerve gas, by wartime standards a tiny amount, its gas nevertheless claimed victims. The Nancekuke area, in the midst of the Cornish countryside, is one in which men find it hard to get jobs with any prospect of security. Among those attracted to the new factory being put up by the Ministry of Defence, with its guarantee of employment for the foreseeable future, was a young ex-RAF man, Tom Griffiths. He was lucky: they hired him as a fitter.

On 31 March 1958, Griffiths and a colleague were instructed to repair a sagging pipe. [12] Although the pipe in question formed part of the complicated latticework which made up the nerve gas productionline, they had been assured that the area was 'clean', and they entered the room without either gas mask or protective clothing. Griffiths placed a ladder against the wall, and climbed up to examine the pipe. He was astonished to see a drip of clear liquid hanging from one of the pipe flanges. It could only be GB. Griffiths shouted a warning to his colleague, and jumped from the ladder. The two men made for the door, their breath coming in short gasps, their vision blurred.

Outside in the fresh air, as their breathing returned to normal and objects stopped swimming before them, with the happy-go-lucky fatalism born of working at Nancekuke, the two men congratulated each other on an extremely narrow escape. Griffiths was an intensely patriotic and normally honest man. And yet that evening, when he returned home, he lied to his wife, telling her he was suffering from a migraine attack. Although violently sick during the night, he forbade her to call the doctor, handing her a card with the name and telephone number of the Nancekuke Medical Officer. If anyone was to be summoned, he said, it could only be him. As he explained later, he had signed the Official Secrets Act, which instructed him not to discuss his work with strangers, an injunction he took to include his wife.

Over the coming months, although his condition improved, Tom Griffiths never fully recovered. His workmate was killed in a road accident, and Griffiths himself grew progressively more withdrawn, prone to fits of depression and loneliness when he would sit for hours staring into the fireplace of their small grey council house. He forgot things, became irritable. Sometimes he would be overcome with dizziness, and couldn't breathe properly. Finally, he was unable to work any longer: unfit for further employment at the age of thirty-nine.

It was ten years before Nancekuke's real function was revealed, and Griffiths finally admitted to his wife what he believed to be the cause of his condition. By then the Ministry of Defence had refused any compensation, while it would take another ten years before he was able to win a disability pension.

Nor was this the only accident at Nancekuke. Sixteen years after the end of the war the trophies captured by the Allies from the Germans were still stored there. In 1961 another fitter was told to begin dismantling a huge condenser which had been removed from a German nerve gas factory. The fitter, Trevor Martin, remembers the condenser was about five feet long and two feet in diameter, and 'as rusty as an old anchor'. [13] There was a label attached with the words 'believed clean', and so he wore no gas mask. He removed the end flanges of the container, and found a form of asbestos compound between the joints. There was a great deal of rust and dust.

But by now it was the end of the day. Martin stripped off his overalls and went home to tea. Afterwards he went out to work on his car - there were adjustments to be made underneath the chassis. When he stood up again, he felt dizzy, flushed and breathless. His speech became, he says, 'incoherent'. He felt better later that evening and for the following five days went to work as normal. But on the sixth day his right leg began to twitch uncontrollably. The right side of his face was paralysed. He managed to work the three months necessary to claim a weekly £4 pension, but in the summer of 1962, at the age of thirty-seven he was rendered unemployable.

Since then his life has been spent in and out of hospitals, consulting rooms and surgeries. He has been told that he suffers from an inoperable brain tumour, inflammation of the brain, psycho-neurosis, fibrositis and epilepsy. Nineteen years after the accident which he claims caused his condition, Trevor Martin is still pursuing his lonely campaign to prove that he is indeed a victim of nerve gas poisoning. He still suffers from a permanent headache, muscle cramps, acute fatigue, twitches in his right arm, blurred vision, and a breathlessness so acute that he can walk no more than a few hundred yards. Perhaps most distressing of all are his psychological symptoms: what he describes as 'confusion', depression, and a tendency to sit and, for no apparent reason, to weep uncontrollably.

While the British continued their research and evaluation, the Americans decided to go into production with GB shells and bombs as soon as possible.

The initial experimental work had been carried out at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, but soon it was clear that the Chemical Corps needed far more space. They settled on Dugway Proving Ground, a run-down Second World War base in a remote corner of the Utah Canyons near the Skull Valley Indian reservation. It was here that American munitions specialists had built entire Japanese and German villages to test new Allied bombs, but after the war the base had been designated 'inactive'. Now, in 1950, the place was reopened, building contractors moved in, and yet more land was bought or borrowed, until the Dugway Proving Ground covered an area the size of Hampshire. A new administrative area and housing scheme was built to accommodate the thousands of scientists and soldiers expected at the base. And other research stations were opened, in the Panama Canal Zone to experiment with nerve gas in tropical conditions, and in Alaska and Greenland, for Arctic tests. [14]

There was a problem when it came to trying to produce the GB liquid itself. The chemical necessary for production of sarin, Dichlor, was, the Chemical Corps felt, beyond the capability of the civilian chemical industry. They solved the problem by building their own factory to manufacture Dichlor on forty-five acres of land acquired from the Tennessee Valley Authority in Alabama. [15] By 1953 the factory was producing Dichlor in abundance, which the Chemical Corps then carried overland to Rocky Mountain Arsenal, an innocuous looking huddle of buildings ten miles north-east of Denver, Colorado. Here the chemical process was completed, and finished nerve agent produced. It cost, all told, only three dollars a kilogramme to manufacture, and during the cold war years of the mid-1950s the factory turned out between fifteen and twenty thousand tons. [16]

It did not take long to load the sarin into weapons. By the mid- 1960s the American armed forces were equipped with an enormous range of weapons filled with nerve gas: artillery shells, rocket warheads, missile warheads, and a range of bombs from small 'bomblets' to 500-lb 'Weteye' bombs. [17]

While the United States in her role as Defender of the Free World continued to develop new gas weapons, Britain, beset by economic problems, reassessed her interest in chemical warfare. A number of considerations bore down on the British Ministry of Defence, most notably the need to save large amounts of money. Gas had not, after all, been used in the Second World War. The German nerve agents had been thoroughly analysed at Porton Down, and the British had developed their own shells and bombs. There was a pilot nerve gas plant operating in Cornwall. And the United States was producing nerve gas weapons which she was prepared to make available to the British. [18] In 1956 The Ministry of Defence came to a decision that after forty years of developing new weapons, Britain would get out of gas.

This decision to renounce chemical weapons, although largely based upon economic considerations, came to be seen as a moral gesture. This decision, in later years vaunted as an example of the moral courage of the nation, was, at best, a half truth. True, the remaining stocks of British phosgene and mustard gas from the Second World War, together with thousands of tons of captured German nerve gas weapons, were loaded aboard ship and taken to a point off the Inner Hebrides above the thousand fathom line. Here, as the gas weapons were sent to the bottom of the sea, the British renounced their capacity to wage chemical warfare. Research on new nerve gas weapons was cancelled. [19] From henceforth Britain would be concerned only with devising new methods of protecting her soldiers against attack.

During the 1930s Porton Down had evaded the restrictions on developing new chemical weapons by conducting research 'under the rose'. [20] Now faced with a government decision to halt the further development of new gas weapons, Porton Down had a different cover in the Tripartite Agreement.

In September 1958, two years after the British government ruling, representatives of Porton Down met their American and Canadian counterparts at the Thirteenth Tripartite Conference on Toxicological Warfare, held in Canada. It can be assumed that all three countries, although two were now committed to purely defensive research, pooled their information. But the summary of the conference also records that:

The three nations agreed on several major points, including the following: (a) research should be continued on organophosphorous compounds [nerve agents] specifically in areas where there is a possibility of marked enhancement in speed of action and resistance to treatment; (b) all three countries should concentrate on the search for incapacitating and new lethal agents. [21]


In other words, Britain and Canada, although both officially concerned purely with defensive research, agreed to continue research into new weapons. Porton Down would justify such research by arguing, as was argued during the 1930s, that research must be conducted into new 'Weapons against which defence is required'. But the history of chemical warfare since the Second World War is a succession of British discoveries which were later turned into weapons by her partner in the Tripartite Agreement.

In 1952 chemists at the Plant Protection Laboratories of the giant Imperial Chemical Industries were attempting to develop a new pesticide. One of the ICI chemists, Dr Ranajit Ghosh, discovered a substance which appeared to be so toxic that not only would it destroy insects, but it might also kill humans. He sent a sample, together with the chemical formula, to Porton Down. [22]

Dr Ghosh's new liquid was heavier and more viscous than the German G agents, closer to the consistency of engine oil than anything else. At one stage in its manufacture it had the appearance of frozen milk, but it had little or no smell. The Porton scientists discovered that although it was different in appearance, it worked in the same way as the German nerve agents, by interfering with a vital enzyme needed to control muscle movements. It seemed a potent weapon.

In 1952, the British had not yet decided whether to mass produce weapons filled with the German G agents. Under the terms of the Tripartite Agreement they were bound to pass the information on this new nerve agent to the United States and Canada. The Canadians had no interest in developing a new weapon, but to the American Chemical Corps the liquid was attractive. It would penetrate through the skin itself, but was many times more powerful than sarin (a few milligrammes of the new substance would kill), and whereas the G agents tended to evaporate, the heavy, viscous liquid from Porton Down would lie in poisonous puddles for weeks. Whole areas of the battlefield could be turned into virtual no-go areas. Soon chemists at Edgewood Arsenal had refined one variant of the Porton liquid. They named it 'VX'.

The two countries collaborated in a series of tests to establish how VX could be manufactured. It was the British, once again, who were the first to develop a reliable production process at the Nancekuke base in Cornwall. But by the time the process had been perfected it was 1956, and the British government had decided that Britain would renounce chemical weapons. The results of the British process studies were passed to the Americans under the terms of the Tripartite Agreement.

The Americans chose an old heavy water plant in Indiana as the site on which they would begin manufacturing VX. It was situated at Newport, a few miles north of Terre Haute, Indiana, where the Allies had been planning to mass produce the anthrax bombs to be used in the Second World War. From the outside, the new factory at Newport looked unexceptional, its main characteristic being a ten storey tower where the forty miles of pipes involved in the process culminated in the final production of VX. In a lower building the oily liquid was loaded into rockets, shells and bombs.

Each of the three hundred or so workers at the Newport factory was made to undergo a rigorous physical examination before being employed. [23] Inspectors in the production tower were required to don gas masks and heavy protective clothing before sampling the liquid for its fatal purity every ninety minutes. They were expected to undergo blood tests, and to take a shower three times a day.

The Newport factory, built at a cost of eight million dollars, was run for the Pentagon by the Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation of New York. By 1967 it had produced between four and five thousand tons of VX, and a new generation of chemical weapons had entered service with the United States. VX had been loaded into landmines, artillery shells, aircraft spray tanks, even the warheads of battlefield missiles. [24] In less than ten years a potential British pesticide had become the most poisonous weapon in service with the American forces.

In the late 1950s, with two nerve agents being prepared for the battlefield, the US Chemical Corps set out to teach people to 'love that gas'. There was no underestimating the size of the task facing them. In the folk memory of the 1950s gas was still the most feared and horrific of all the non-nuclear weapons. Then, as now, the word 'gas' immediately conjured up photographs of blinded men being led away to lingering deaths in squalid field hospitals.

As the United States Defense Science Board put it, gas was now a weapon capable of inflicting 'devastating casualties on unprotected personnel, both military and civilians'. [25] In light of this view, popular attitudes had to be changed, and the Chemical Corps set out to manipulate public opinion into an acceptance of chemical weapons. The thrust was basic: the Soviet Union had massive stocks of chemical weapons, the West far fewer. The propaganda techniques chosen ranged from private speeches by senior Chemical Corps officers to selected interest groups, to articles by recently retired members of the Chemical Corps, and off-the-record briefings for potentially sympathetic journalists. Senior officers were made available for interviews. Previously classified documents were leaked to chosen newspapers.

A favourite example of the propagandists was the Second World War battle of Iwo lima, in which 6,000 marines had died and a further 19,000 had been wounded. The Chemical Corps now suggested to the American public that the lives of American servicemen lost at Iwo lima could have been saved had the decision been taken to use gas.

Some others, on the advice of the public relations consultant hired by the Pentagon, went further. 'Man is now confronted by the possibility that he can eliminate death from war', claimed one of the articles planted in the press. [26] In another press report the former commander of the Chemical Corps announced that 'there is no question in my mind that for the first time in history there is the promise - even the possibility - that war will not necessarily mean death'. [27] These outlandish advertisements for gas multiplied. In magazines and newspapers all over the United States, and later in Britain, articles began appearing which suggested that soon wars would be fought without any bloodletting.

As one government scientist put it; 'Ideally we'd like something we could spray out of a small atomizer that would cause the enemy to come to our lines with his hands behind his back, whistling the Star-spangled Banner. I don't think we'll achieve that effect, but we may come close'. [28]

Whether the Chemical Corps genuinely believed this science fiction is not clear. At any event, the public relations campaign brought results. The latter stages coincided with the decision of the Kennedy administration that the United States could no longer rely upon a doctrine of massive nuclear retaliation to deter her enemies. Between 1961 and 1964, the annual budget for chemical and biological warfare almost trebled. But what were these weapons that had such a selling point in the campaign to present gas as 'humane'?

I was put in bed, and the last thing I remember seeing is the boy who went in the gas chamber with me, the paratrooper. I will never forget what he looked like, in the sense that he couldn't accomplish anything. He could not pick up his sheets, he could not lay down, he could not see. His eyes, like mine, were jerking erratically. He couldn't accomplish anything on his own ... The last time I saw him, he was sitting in a bathtub in full uniform with boots and everything else, smoking a cigar, taking a bath. And a fellow with him was kind of giggling about it'. [29]


During the late 1950s and early 1960s hundreds of American servicemen and civilians underwent experiments in which they were given so-called 'psychochemicals', drugs which the Army hoped would prove that war without death was indeed possible. In Britain a similar, smaller series of tests involved over 140 experiments in which Porton Down tested LSD, the most potent of the candidate weapons. [30] The search had begun soon after the Second World War.

In April 1943 a research chemist at the Swiss Headquarters of the Sandoz drug company had made an extraordinary discovery. Dr Albert Hoffman was attempting to synthesize a drug from ergot, a fungus which attacks cereals. He began to feel dizzy, tipsy and restless. Hoffmann lay down in the hope that the effects would soon pass off. But they did not. As a succession of colours and patterns drifted across his consciousness, he took the first LSD 'trip'. [31]

Hoffman's discovery of LS D soon began to interest psychiatrists who wondered whether a drug which appeared to open the doors of perception might be valuable in treating mental illness. The results of their experiments were soon known to the chemical warfare scientists in all three members of the Tripartite Agreement, who began to evaluate the drug as a potential weapon.

The early results seemed encouraging.

The British had found LSD had great value in dealing with psychopaths. The Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal reported good results with LSD in reversing frigidity and sexual aberrations. American mental hospitals reported that treatment of schizophrenic children with LSD met with some success when all other known methods had failed,


reported an American assessment. [32] The British followed up these early findings with experiments of their own on volunteers. But their results did not support the enthusiasm the Americans were now showing for LSD as a potential weapon. The British found that:

During acute LSD intoxication the subject is a potential danger to himself and to others; in some instances a delayed and exceptionally severe response may take place and be followed by serious after-effects lasting several days. [33]


This was to remain the British view: psychochemicals like LSD were simply too unpredictable in their effects to be worthwhile as weapons of war. They were bothered too by the cost - at a price of £100 a pound, and a ton thought necessary to cover a square mile. LSD was soon ruled out as too expensive. [34] Research in Britain continued only sporadically. But others were undeterred.

Excitement over the possibilities of LSD even reached China, whose representatives are believed to have negotiated a clandestine deal with a British company for the supply of 400 million dosage units of the drug. The arrangement was made in the early 1960s, with the British firm acting as middle men, buying the drug itself from a Czechoslovak manufacturer. [35]

In the United States the Chemical Corps remained convinced that LSD, or some similar drug, represented a powerful potential weapon. They embarked on a programme of secret tests to determine the effects of the candidate drugs.

Shortly before ten on the morning of 8 January 1953, Harold Blauer, a tennis professional undergoing treatment at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, was given an injection. Six minutes later, according to his medical report, he was 'out of contact with reality', his arms flailing. At one minute past ten the report noted rapid oscillation of the eyeballs. Ten minutes later, Blauer's body was 'rigid all over'. Ten minutes after that he went into a deep coma, from which he never recovered. [36]

Harold Blauer had believed he was undergoing conventional psychiatric treatment in a conventional psychiatric hospital. But in fact he was an unwitting guinea pig in US Army tests to discover a technique for 'war without death'. Blauer had been given a drug about which the doctor in charge knew next to nothing, since it was identified only by its Edgewood Arsenal number, EA 1298. The doctor later told investigators 'we didn't know whether it was dog piss or what it was we were giving him', [37] EA 1298 was a derivative of mescaline, one of many drugs the Edgewood Arsenal scientists were testing in the lengthy search for ways of making an enemy 'come out singing the Star-spangled Banner'. So little was known about the drug that the huge amount injected into Blauer's body had stimulated him to death. While Harold Blauer is the only person known to have died as a result of the secret army experiments, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on supporting research at prestigious universities and hospitals. Between 1953 and 1957 the United States Army gave 140,000 dollars to Blauer's hospital, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, to discover what effect selected drugs would have on patients.

There were other tests, involving nearly six hundred American servicemen and nine hundred civilian volunteers. [38] Some of them were written up, in bemused detail, for the benefit of a wider audience. Among the many effects of three selected drugs on a group of 159 'normal enlisted men' at Edgewood Arsenal were:

a failure to distinguish between objects and persons ... one subject attempted to take a casual bite from the doctor's forearm, while another apologised to the drinking fountain when he bumped against it ... One man tried to write his name on a piece of chicken with a ball point pen, and another tried to leave the room through the medicine cabinet. [39]


Another series of tests was filmed by the Chemical Corps, and later released to army units under the title 'Armor for the Inner Man'. The film shows American servicemen manning an anti-aircraft gun, carrying out surveys, completing assault courses. Each is then given a pill. Later the film shows the soldiers unable to complete any of their assigned tasks. They loaf about and giggle. Po-faced officers ask questions, but the men are unable to answer. They stagger about, unable to stand upright. From these and other tests the army concluded that psychochemicals, in removing the will to fight, were powerful potential weapons. [40]

From the military point of view, psychochemicals appeared immensely attractive. They seemed to offer all the advantages of chemical or radiological weapons, with none of the disadvantages: no damage to property, no dead bodies, and no danger of infection.

The army settled on a substance which they code-named BZ. It possessed some properties similar to LSD, but had the advantage that, unlike many of the drugs they had tested, it could easily be distributed as an airborne cloud. BZ took about half an hour to affect its victim, but its after-effects could last for at least two weeks. During the first four hours the victim would find his mouth and throat parched, his skin hot and flushed. He might vomit, his vision would be disturbed. He would stagger about, speaking with a drunken slur or mumbling nonsense. Later he might lose his memory, and would probably suffer hallucinations. [41]

The American Army commissioned a commercial company to produce BZ in bulk and chose the biological and chemical weapons plant on an old Second World War base in central Arkansas as the site on which the BZ would be loaded into bombs. In 1962 they spent two million dollars on the BZ plant at Pine Bluff Arsenal, and over the next two years one hundred thousand pounds of it was produced. But despite all the years of research and the expense of building special factories, BZ, the 'humane weapon' has probably never been used. [42] The Army continued to experiment with the gas during the '60s, in a series of tests at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, and, in conditions of extreme secrecy, at a site on Hawaii. [43]

In the end the Army concluded reluctantly that even though BZ had been manufactured and loaded into bombs, it was not a reliable weapon. An enemy general under its dangerous delirium was as likely to push the nuclear button as he was to lie down and sham dead or stand up and sing the Star-spangled Banner.

By 1979 the total British stock of BZ was one gram, 'for reference purposes' in the vaults at Porton Down. [44] The search for the humane gas had come to naught.

In November 1961 three C123 'Provider' transport planes of the United States Airforce took off from their base in the Philippines, bound for South Vietnam. All three were equipped with huge tanks capable of holding 1,000 gallons of liquid. High pressure nozzles were fitted beneath the wings and tailplanes. They were to be the instruments of the biggest use of chemical warfare since the First World War. [45]

The mission of these aircraft, and the many others which later joined them, was named 'Operation Ranch Hand', and was directed not against people, but against the environment of Vietnam. Even so, it is still held responsible for tragic human consequences.

The theory of Operation Ranch Hand was simple enough. The Viet Cong's main advantage in their war against the South Vietnamese and Americans was surprise, the ability to mount an ambush and then slip away into the dense protective cover of the jungle. Operation Ranch Hand aimed to strip the jungle bare.

There was nothing new about the theory behind the American plan. As in so many areas of chemical warfare the initial discoveries which made it possible had been British. In 1940, UK scientists had discovered a number of chemicals which, while apparently closely related to natural plant hormones, were capable of killing crops with surprising efficiency. Although the British felt unable to deploy enough aircraft to mount attacks on the farms producing German food supplies, in the United States research on both biological and chemical agents for attacking plants continued at a great pace. By the end of the war American scientists had investigated over a thousand chemicals for their effects on vegetation, and had developed three main agents. [46] Had the war continued, they would have used chemicals to destroy the Japanese rice crop, and so starve the country into surrender. [47]

Because the Second World War had ended before the plan could be put into effect, it was the British in one of their final colonial wars who first used chemical weapons against plants. In their battle against Chinese guerillas in Malaya during the late 1940S and early 1950s, the British sprayed trichlorophenoxyacetic acid, better known as 245T, one of the chemicals developed as a weapon by the Americans, onto suspected guerilla food plantations in an effort to starve them into surrender. In other attacks they used the herbicide to destroy jungle cover. The effects of the British spraying were made known to the small group of American scientists who continued desultory anti-crop research during the 1950S. But with the beginning of American involvement in their own war against guerillas in South-east Asia, Fort Detrick rapidly accelerated its investigations. In the eight years beginning in 1961 its scientists would investigate no less than 26,000 chemicals for their potential usefulness.

Six were chosen for the job of denuding the jungle, coded as Agents Green, Pink, Purple, White, Blue and Orange, after the colours painted onto the drums in which they were delivered to the airfields of South Vietnam. The men into whose aircraft they were loaded chose as their slogan 'Only we can prevent forests'. They boasted that 'we are the most hated outfit in Vietnam'. [48] [*]

The lumbering aircraft were an easy target for Viet Cong ground fire, but their spraying was soon judged a success. By 1964 Operation Ranch Hand aircraft were dumping their poisonous rain over the whole of Vietnam, from the Mekong Delta to the Demilitarized Zone, and later over Laos and Cambodia too. Soon the spraying was extended. Operation Ranch Hand planes would set out to destroy food plantations of the Viet Congo The Americans were initially embarrassed at the idea of attacks on food plantations, and in the early days aircraft on defoliation missions would fly with American Airforce markings, which were replaced by the insignia of the South Vietnamese airforce when they flew on anti-crop assignments. [49] Eventually an area the size of Israel had been sprayed, much of it more than once. A spokesman for the Department of Defense stated unequivocally in 1966 that the chemicals 'are not harmful to people, animals, soil or water'. [50]

Of all the chemicals used to strip the jungle, the one which created the greatest bitterness was Agent Orange, used on particularly dense areas of forest. Agent Orange had a speectacular effect, sending vegetation on a rapid and self-destructive growing binge. Plants would explode, leaving a surrealistic landscape where weeds had grown into bushes and where trees, bowed down by the weight of their fruit, would lie rotting in the foul-smelling jungle. The Vietnamese peasants called the areas affected by Agent Orange 'the land of the dead', but American officers claimed that in some places the ambush rate dropped by 90 per cent after the Operation Ranch Hand planes had passed over. [51] Requests from field commanders were coming in faster than the Air Force could ship the stuff out from the United States.

Agent Orange was a mixture of two chemicals, one of which, 245T, had been the defoliant used by the British in Malaya. 245T contains minute amounts at dioxin, one of the most virulently poisonous substances ever produced, at least as toxic as nerve gas and known from experiments to cause deformities in animal foetuses. The proportion of dioxin in Agent Orange was miniscule; so small, it was said, that it could surely cause no damage to humans.

But the quantities being poured from the sky were enormous. Each C123 could discharge its one thousand gallons in five minutes, and would then return to make another sortie over the jungle. In 1968 the domestic weedkillers using the active ingredients of Agent Orange almost disappeared from the America market, so great was the demand from the army in Vietnam.

Within the massive amounts of weedkiller being showered from American aircraft onto the jungles of Vietnam, the small amounts of dioxin accumulated. By the time the spraying had ended, an estimated 240 lb of the stuff had been dumped on Vietnam. [52] A few ounces in the water supply would have been enough to destroy the population of London or New York.

The evidence soon began to accumulate. In Tay Minh Hospital, in the area most heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, the number of still-born babies doubled during the height of Operation Ranch Hand. During the period of heaviest spraying doctors at Saigon Childrens' Hospital discovered that the number of babies suffering from spina bifida and cleft palates trebled. [53] Nor were the effects of the spraying confined to Vietnamese who had been on the ground as the Operation Ranch Hand aircraft passed over.

One September weekend, five years after the end of the war, Paul Reutershan, an American who had served in Vietnam as an aircraft mechanic, doubled up with what he took to be food poisoning. A series of tests at a local hospital revealed not food poisoning, but abdominal cancer so severe that doctors could not operate. It had been established that 245T would produce cancer in some laboratory animals. Reutershan was convinced that Agent Orange had caused his cancer. He began organizing a national campaign: seven thousand former servicemen came forward believing that their cancers and other illnesses or birth deformities in their children were produced by Agent Orange. Before they could organise very far, Reutershan died.

The Vietnam veterans tell stories of paint being stripped from the Operation Ranch Hand aircraft by Agent Orange, of flying spraying missions in helicopters when the entire crew would be covered in herbicide. On over forty occasions aircraft dumped Agent Orange directly onto American military bases. Both the servicemen and reports from Vietnam speak of a higher than average rate of birth deformities. [54] Five years after the war ended in Vietnam there were still frequent cases of Chloracne, a severe skin eruption which also broke out with the accidental release of dioxin after an explosion at a northern Italian chemical factory at Seveso, in 1976.

The American government maintained that in using chemical weapons to attack the jungle it was breaking no international agreements. The understanding upon which this belief was based dated back to the Second World War, when both British and American chemical warfare advisors had argued that anti-plant weapons were not covered by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Although the United States had still not signed the Protocol, on the grounds that to do so would deprive her of the 'humane' use of riot agents such as tear gas, it was believed that her stance on chemical weapons was no different to that of countries which had acceded. In Vietnam this understanding was stretched to breaking point.

The Geneva Protocol had laid down firm controls over the use of gas in war. But the use of chemical weapons, like tear gas, by domestic police forces was a matter purely for national governments. Both the United States and Britain had established factories to manufacture CN gas after the First World War, and the British were soon using the gas against rioters in the colonies. The weapon which replaced it, and was used in Vietnam, CS gas, [55] provides a near-perfect example of the way in which British chemical warfare research, despite its commitment to purely defensive uses, came to be applied to war.

The British realized in operations in both Korea and Cyprus during the early fifties that their standard tear gas, CN, 'would not drive back fanatical rioters', [56] Porton Down began the search for another, more powerful weapon, which would affect other parts of the body, since determined demonstrators could resist CN simply by closing their eyes. The scientists at Porton worked their way through almost a hundred chemical compounds, before eventually choosing CS. The advantage of CS was that it produced a whole range of unpleasant effects. The victim felt his eyes burn and water, his skin itched, his nose ran, he coughed and vomited between gasps for breath. The British tested the new gas when faced by rioters in Cyprus in 1958, and reported the power of CS to their colleagues at the Tripartite Conference that year.

The US Chemical Corps immediately established a crash programme, code-named 'Black Magic', to manufacture C S for use in grenades and from spray-tanks mounted on helicopters and aircraft. But while the British could claim that they had only used the gas in police operations, or when the army was acting 'in support of the civil power' (a justification to be used when CS was first used by the army against rioters in Northern Ireland later in the decade), its use by the American forces in Vietnam was nothing of the kind. In 1965 General Westmoreland, the American commander in Vietnam, decided that CS would be invaluable in driving the Viet Cong from their hidden bunkers. Conscious of the sensitivity of the issue, the troops who took part in the operation on which CS was first used officially were thoroughly rehearsed in speaking not of 'gas' but 'tear gas', believed to be exempt from the general ban on chemical weapons.

Some indication of the 'humanity' of CS gas in Vietnam can be gained from one operation in which it was employed. [57] Viet Cong soldiers were believed to be hidden in bunkers in a narrow stretch of jungle. First, helicopters were sent in, pouring out CS gas from their dispenser tanks. Then came huge B52 bombers which 'carpeted' the area with high-explosive bombs. Finally, American troops in gas masks would be sent in to 'clean up' any survivors. As an American spokesman explained later, 'the purpose of the gas attack was to force the Viet Cong troops to the surface, where they would be more vulnerable to the fragmentation effects of the bomb bursts.' [58]

All told, thousands of tons of CS gas were used by American forces in Vietnam. The worry that Vietnam might develop like the First World War, where use of tear gas had been the precursor to use of ever more sophisticated poisons, had not been justified. But at times Vietnam did look like a First World War battlefield, as clouds of gas drifted about, occasionally obscuring the frogmen-like G Is in their gas masks. One French journalist described an attack which bore a disturbing similarity to some First World War encounters:

The commander called to the medics, 'Keep the wounded covered, get them dressed: the gas will burn them'. In any case the gas was catching bare arms and the exposed neck area, leaving men with the same pain as when burned. [59]


In the eyes of some Vietnam watchers, it did not matter that the United States had stopped short of the use of fatal gases, even at the moment of her final humiliation. It was, in the eyes of critics of American policy, a mistake to have used even riot agents. As the New York Times put it: 'In Vietnam, gas was supplied and sanctioned by white men against Asians. This is something that no Asian, Communist or not, will forget'. [60]

While aircraft poured defoliant onto the jungles of Vietnam and soldiers lobbed CS gas grenades at suspected Viet Cong, back in the United States work continued on the lethal nerve gases. By the middle '60s there was hardly one of the more distinguished American universities (and many undistinguished ones too) which was not carrying out research into chemical or biological warfare. At the University of Pennsylvania, for example, some forty civilian scientists employed by the 'Institute for Co-operative Research' were working exclusively on chemical and biological warfare. [61] Whereas the British were devoting most of their energies to the development of new gas masks and protective suits, in the United States much of the work concentrated on the development of new weapons, particularly on problems of how to spread nerve agent more effectively.  [62]

By the late 1960s the United States possessed a fearsome chemical armoury. At Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado, stood row upon row of cluster bombs filled with mustard gas and phosgene. The warehouses were filled with more stocks of nerve gas. At Tooele, an old mining town twenty miles south of Salt Lake City, were millions more pounds of G agent, together with VX bombs and shells, and mustard gas, part filled into weapons, the rest packed into eight rows of silver drums stretching half a mile or more into the desert. There were other dumps too, in Arkansas, Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Oregon, Colorado and Maryland. On the island of Okinawa in the Pacific was the Far Eastern forward base, and in West Germany another secret gas dump, in the event of a European war. Altogether, there was said to be enough for a twelve-month campaign. [63]

[AUTHORS' NOTE] In the years following the American collapse in Vietnam, the number of former servicemen apparently damaged by Agent Orange continued to grow. By late 1981 no less than 17,000 American former servicemen, a further 4,000 Australians, and another 1,700 from New Zealand and Korea had gathered together to sue the five chemical companies which had manufactured the defoliant. While the companies fought to delay the action being heard, the ex-servicemen continued to die from ailments believed to be associated with the use of Agent Orange. Even among those who seemed to have survived unscathed it is still claiming victims: of the children fathered by men exposed to the defoliant, no less than 40,000 are said to suffer from serious birth defects.

_______________

Notes:

* See Authors' Note on p. 196
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:40 am

NINE: The Tools of Spies

On 7 September 1978 an exiled Bulgarian writer drove from his suburban home to the huge central London office block which houses the BBC overseas radio services. Before his defection in 1969, Georgi Markov had been a member of the privileged literary elite of Bulgarian society, a popular writer whose work had won him the friendship and confidence of senior members of the Politburo. Now he regularly broadcast commentaries on Bulgarian life back to his native land from the studios of the BBC and Radio Free Europe.

Parking space was hard to find immediately outside the BBC offices, so Markov left his car alongside the Thames, beneath Waterloo Bridge. Having locked the car, he climbed the flight of stone steps to the road above, and began walking towards the BBC. Suddenly he felt a sharp jab in his thigh. Markov turned around. A man was picking up an umbrella from the pavement, mumbling apologies.

That evening Markov began running a fever. His blood pressure fell and continued to drop for the next two days. The fever intensified. Finally, his heart gave up.

If Markov's death had been intended to resemble an accident, the plan fell apart when he was able to tell his wife, shortly before he died, about the incident with the umbrella. When Scotland Yard forensic scientists examined the body, they discovered a small metal ball beneath the skin on Markov's thigh. No bigger than a pinhead, the tiny pellet had four holes bored through it. The analysts became convinced that the pellet had contained poison. But of what type?

The clue came from Paris, where another Bulgarian exile, Vladimir Kostov, was living. Like Markov, Kostov was a journalist. When he read of his colleague's death in the newspapers, Kostov recalled how he had felt a sharp pain in his back while riding the Paris Metro some ten days earlier. Kostov too had developed a fever, although in his case it had subsided after three or four days. Now Kostov requested a thorough medical examination.

An X-ray of his back revealed another metal pellet, buried beneath the skin. The French doctors who removed the object immediately sent it to Scotland Yard's forensic laboratories, where analysis by microscope showed it to be identical to the ball removed from Markov's thigh. The police scientists called in Porton Down, with its unrivalled expertise in germ warfare. Scientists at Porton found that the pellet taken from Kostov's body still contained traces of poison. Soon they had identified it as Ricin, a highly toxic substance derived from the seeds of the castor oil plant. They checked their suspicion by taking a sample of Ricin from the Porton stores, and injecting it into a pig. The fever and heart attack which the animal developed were identical to the symptoms Markov had displayed as he struggled for life in the Intensive Care Unit. The biologists concluded that Kostov had only survived the attack on the Paris Metro because his assailants had failed to put enough poison into the pellet.

Ricin had been one of a series of poisons which the British had considered for use in assassinations during the Second World War. Indeed, even in the 1960s research was still being conducted into the effects of the poison under a contract with Exeter University. But the public evidence of British interest in Ricin was small in comparison with the work which had been carried out in eastern Europe. Even a superficial scan of the published research papers on Ricin revealed a surprisingly high proportion of the work to have been carried out in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. [1]

By the time that Scotland Yard realized they were handling a murder investigation, the assassin had gone to ground. Suspicion fell immediately upon the KGB - trained Bulgarian secret police, who appeared to be engaged in a campaign to silence dissidents who dared to criticise the government of President Todor Zhivkov. In their techniques of assassination, as in all other areas, the Bulgarian secret police are controlled by the KGB.

Like every section of the Soviet secret services, the activities of the KGB Technical Operations Directorate are shrouded in obsessive secrecy. What little is known about the gases and poisons produced by the KGB scientists there comes mainly from the corpses of their victims. A handful of cases will serve to illustrate the range of poisons and chemicals available to KGB agents.

In February 1954 Captain Nicholai Khokhlov arrived in Frankfurt with orders to assassinate Georgi Sergeivich Okolovich, leader of an exiled dissident group. At the last moment Khokhlov's nerve broke. He broke down and warned his intended victim of the danger he was in, before handing himself over to American intelligence. Khokhlov took American agents to a forest outside Munich. There, hidden deep in the woods, he produced an apparently normal gold cigarette case. It had been modified by KGB scientists into a pistol firing poisoned dum-dum bullets.

Khokhlov became a frequent speaker at anti-Soviet gatherings, where his experience as a KGB agent lent authority to his attacks on the Soviet system. But while at a speaking engagement in Frankfurt in September 1957, Khokhlov became violently ill. His face became covered in black, brown and blue lumps, his eyes oozed a sticky liquid, lumps of hair fell from his head. Two days later his German doctors decided that death was imminent. Khokhlov was transferred to an American military hospital, where six doctors began a desperate battle to save his life. They knew little about what had poisoned Khokhlov, but by constantly changing his blood, and with huge doses of cortisone, steroids, vitamins and experimental drugs, they managed to keep him alive. Gradually, Khokhlov recovered. Only later were American experts able to deduce from analysis of the course of Khokhlov's illness that he had been poisoned by the insertion of highly radio-active metal fragments into his food supply. [2]

Two years later another assassin was despatched from Moscow to murder another dissident, this time with a chemical agent, prussic acid. On 15 October 1959 Stefan Bandera, a prominent Ukrainian exile, arrived at his home in Munich just before I pm. As he inserted the key into his front door the KGB agent, Bogdan Stash in sky stepped out of the shadows, and pointed a seven inch tube at his face. As Stashinsky pulled a trigger, prussic acid poured into Bandera's face. The effect of the acid, once inhaled, was to cause the blood vessels in the victim's body to contract suddenly, simulating a heart attack. Within minutes Bandera was dead. When Stashinsky defected to the west two years later, he described a range of chemical and biological devices produced by KGB technicians.

In the first week of September 1964 a German electronics engineer was called to Moscow to 'sweep' the West German Embassy for KGB listening devices. The man, Horst Schwirkmann, was highly proficient at his job, uncovering bugs concealed all over the building, all of which he destroyed. Before returning to Germany at the completion of his task, Schwirkmann travelled to a monastery outside Moscow for a Sunday of sightseeing. As he stood admiring the icons inside Zagorsk Monastery, Schirkmann suddenly felt a searing pain across his buttocks and the back of his thighs. The paralysed technician was carried back to the West German Embassy, and thence to the specialist doctors at the United States compound. They concluded that he had been sprayed with Nitrogen mustard gas, a gas developed and stockpiled during the Second World War. Twenty years later, Schwirkmann had become its first victim.

Not all KGB chemical or biological devices are intended to produce fatalities. Equally important, according to defectors, are the incapacitants, designed to disable a victim temporarily. Most notorious in this group are the drugs said to have been slipped into the drinks of diplomats or civil servants prior to their being found in compromising positions with KGB-run prostitutes. Other chemical or biological devices are designed to produce a temporary illness such as a severe stomach upset, which may render it necessary for victims to take to their beds at moments when Soviet intelligence wished to be certain of their absence.

But the Western intelligence agencies have not been content to rely upon the information produced at a small number of autopsies or from hospital records or the evidence of defectors. Such cases, they believed, represented only the tiniest proportion of the work on gases and poisons carried out by the KGB's Technical Operations Directorate. The same arguments which had been used to justify the development of chemical and biological weapons by the armies of the west were also used to justify research in the laboratories of the secret services.

The British and Americans had first begun collaborating on the use of chemical and biological devices by secret agents during the Second World War. The assassination of General Reinhard Heydrich was undoubtedly the most spectacular example of the use of germ weapons by secret agents during the war (see page 88-94 ). But there had been numerous other missions on which the British and Americans had planned to use similar weapons.

In the early stages of the war plans for the covert use of gas and germ weapons had been relatively crude. During the Libyan campaign of 1940, the British War Cabinet had pondered various methods of contaminating German water supplies with easily available substances such as acid, salt and creosote. [3] By 1942 the British Special Operations Executive had been supplied with a range of gas weapons for use in clandestine warfare. The Chiefs of Staff, meeting in July 1942, recognized the delicacy of issuing British undercover agents with gas weapons, but concluded that the Allies could not wait until gas had been used on a large scale before making the weapons available to undercover organisations like the Special Operations Executive. They ordered that gas weapons were to be shipped to SOE training schools in India, the Middle East, Australia and Canada, and samples were to be demonstrated to the American and Soviet allies. [4]

But the weapons themselves were not impressive. Among them was a tube 4-1/2 inches long, filled with tear gas, which, commented one of the offices present, was 'highly unlikely ... [to] cause any panic, or hold up work for long, unless the liquid could be brought into contact with the victim's face'. [5] Parton Down had also assisted in developing a tube of 'mustard gas ointment', intended to be squeezed onto objects likely to be touched by a potential victim, which would then cause his skin to erupt into blisters. But even with this device there were problems. Each tube contained only a small amount of ointment, which was anyway likely to lose its effectiveness due to 'weathering'. 'The difficulties connected with the effective use of this store far outweigh its possible advantages', the report concluded. [6]

The problem encountered by the British in attempting to devise reliable methods of carrying chemical and biological agents in sufficient safety and quantity to prove effective on undercover operations was one which bedevilled Parton Down for years. But with the entry of the United States into war in December 1941, the British were soon assisted by a group of American scientists who, in their tireless and fanciful efforts, made the Porton Down men seem pedestrian indeed.

The United States had no tradition of secret agents. When Roosevelt finally decided to create the organisation which became known as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, he made an inspired choice for its Commander in General William 'Wild Bill' Donovan. Donovan, who was then fifty-seven, recruited some 12,000 men to form what eventually became the largest intelligence organisation in the Western world. Among those he approached was Stanley P. Lovell, a Boston scientist and businessman. Lovell was summoned to a meeting one evening in an office at the corner of 25th and E streets in Washington.

Donovan began, in a voice Lovell later recalled as soft and beautifully modulated, by saying 'I need every subtle device and underhand trick to use against the Germans and Japanese - by our own people - but especially by the underground resistance groups in all occupied countries. You will have to invent all of them, Lovell, because you're going to be my man', [7] Lovell set about recruiting scientists to join him in developing 'underhand tricks'. The technique he used was to approach candidate scientists and say 'Throw all your normal law-abiding concepts out of the window. Here's a chance to raise merry hell. Come, help me raise it.' [8]

The hell-raisers Lovell gathered around him were soon at work on some of the most daring and ludicrous schemes of the war. As the OSS itself was almost entirely the creation of British intelligence, and largely trained by British agents, so Lovell's scientists worked under the initial guidance of, and later in collaboration with, the British specialists. When Lovell came to write his memoirs some twenty years later he sent a copy of the published volume to Lord 5tamp, the British Biological Warfare Liaison Officer, inscribed with the words: 'My deep respect to the little band to which you contributed so much during your Washington days. You were glorious pioneers in an uncharted field of warfare.' [9]

In the early stages much of the American research into clandestine methods of chemical and biological warfare was carried out in collaboration with or at the request of the British. Soon, however, the large resources of the OSS were being devoted entirely to projects of their own devising. Over the next thirty years the OSS and CIA were to produce some of the most imaginative and devastating chemical and biological weapons ever manufactured.

Lovell and two colleagues developed a simulated goat dung, to be dropped from allied aircraft onto German-occupied Morocco during the North African campaign in 1942. Lovell had heard that there were more goats than people in 5panish Morocco, and goat dung was likely to be everywhere. The simulant the American scientists developed contained a chemical so attractive to flies that it could, they believed, wake them even from hibernation. They envisaged millions of flies gathering on the goat dung, which would have been previously contaminated with bacteria causing tularemia ('rabbit fever') and psittacosis ('parrot fever'). Both diseases, likely to cause debilitating illnesses lasting from days to weeks, would be spread to the German troops by the infected flies. Lovell did worry about how Moroccan peasants could be persuaded to accept the presence of goat droppings on their roofs after Allied aircraft had passed overhead scattering the stuff, but in the event the problem did not arise, since intelligence reports indicated that the German troops were being withdrawn, and the operation was rendered unnecessary.

There was no limit to the inventiveness of Lovell's small group of hell-raisers. Many of their ideas seem in retrospect so preposterous that one wonders how anyone could have taken them seriously. OSS anthropologists were asked to report on the area of social behaviour most sensitive to Japanese. They concluded that nothing embarrassed a Japanese more than the smell of his own excrement. OSS chemists made up a compound which perfectly reproduced the smell of diarrhoea. This revolting liquid was then packed into collapsible tubes, which were smuggled into Chinese cities occupied by the Japanese army. When a Japanese officer walked along the street, the OSS reasoned, a small Chinese child would steal up behind him, and squirt the liquid at the seat of his trousers. They christened the device the 'Who? Me?' bomb.

Another experiment centred on the well known aversion of cats for water. Cats, it was suggested to the OSS, always land on their feet, and will go to any lengths to avoid water. Why not wire a cat up to a bomb, and sling both cat and attached high explosive below a bomber? When flying over enemy ships, the explosive cat would be released. The cat would be so concerned to avoid landing in the water that it could, it was argued, be virtually certain of guiding the bomb onto the deck of enemy warships. Experiments with flying cats soon proved to the supporters of the project that even unattached to high explosive, the cat was likely to become unconscious long before Nazi decks seemed an attractive landing place.

No idea was too far out for the American specialists. In their very receptiveness to new and seemingly ridiculous plans, they pushed the frontiers of chemical and biological warfare into the realms hardly dreamed of by the British. At one stage they shipped botulinus toxin pills out to prostitutes in occupied China in the hope that they would be able to poison Japanese army officer clients. On another occasion 'Professor Moriarty', as General Donovan called Stanley Lovell, dreamed up a plan to infiltrate a secret agent into a room on the Brenner Pass where Hitler and Mussolini were to meet. The man was to crush a capsule of nitrogen mustard gas into the water holding a bunch of flowers in the room. As the liquid began to vaporize anyone in the room would be permanently blinded by the gas. Lovell proposed that the Pope be then prevailed upon to issue a statement that the two fascists had been blinded in divine retribution for their contravention of the Sixth Commandment that Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Lovell's own favourite scheme was a plan to attack Hitler with female sex hormones, which would be supplied to an anti-Nazi working in the vegetable garden of the Eagle's Nest. The gardener was to inject the hormones into the Fuhrer's food, with the intention that 'his moustache would fall off and his voice become soprano'. [10] Like most of the other more bizarre plans for secret chemical and biological attacks, this scheme, too, failed. But some twenty years later, the successors to the Second World War 'Hell Raisers' were still toying with the idea of clandestinely tampering with a victim's sexual identity.

With the end of the World War and the first stirrings of the new Cold War which was to dominate international life over the coming thirty years, there were new tasks for the intelligence organisations, and their biological and chemical warfare specialists. As the Office of Strategic Services, hastily formed during the war, was replaced by the highly structured Central Intelligence Agency, so the nature of chemical and biological warfare research changed from a search to discover agents suitable for particular missions, to a long-term plan to isolate drugs and poisons available for use as and when the need arose. In particular the 1950s were dominated by what has come to be known as 'The Search for the Manchurian Candidate'. [11]

Two days before Christmas 1948 squads of Hungarian secret police had surrounded the Archiepiscopal Palace of Cardinal Josef Mindszenty, the Primate of Hungary. Ever since the occupation of his country at the end of the war by the Soviet army, Mindszenty had been an outspoken critic of the new socialist regime, ceaselessly campaigning for freedom to practise his religion, and attacking the government for failing to hold elections. [12]

On 3 February 1949 he was taken from the secret police headquarters to a court-room on Marko Street in Budapest, to face charges of subversion, espionage, and illegal use of foreign currency. As the Cardinal stood in the dock wearing a black suit run up by the police tailor, it was clear that the Hungarian authorities were hoping for a trial which would set an example to their people, a display of contrition in which the eminent churchman would recant his antigovernment activities and so help to silence further opposition.

But whatever effect the trial might have had in Hungary was easily outweighed by the response of the West. Cardinal Mindszenty seemed a wreck of a man. His eyes, it was said, were the eyes of a man whose brain was no longer his own. As he stood in the dock confessing to the catalogue of crimes, Western intelligence began to wonder what had happened to him during his time in secret police cells. They concluded that he had either been drugged or subjected to extreme hypnosis.

Senior CIA men believed that the Russians had developed a method of making a man completely subservient to their will. There were reports of Soviet agents arrested in Germany equipped with syringes said to contain a liquid making any victim amenable to the will of his captor. Later, when American servicemen taken prisoner during the Korean War began to make confessions of their 'crimes' and to sign petitions calling for an end to United States involvement in Asia, the intelligence experts became convinced. They believed the Russians had developed a drug which, when administered to a victim, turned him into a robot, responsive only to their orders, and unaware even that he was being manipulated. By the time a high level military study group had concluded that no such drug existed, the C IA had already begun its own search for a reliable method of controlling human behaviour. [13]

It had started in 1950 with 'Project Bluebird', a study to examine the effects of hypnosis and electric shocks on defectors and would-be agents. By the following year the CIA wanted to broaden the investigation into the possible uses of drugs. (There was a scheme to find ways of inducing amnesia in 'blown' agents and defectors with the use of drugs, as an alternative to long periods in CIA custody.) [14] The British and Canadian representatives who took part in the discussions remained sceptical about the chances of discovering a drug which would turn a man into an unwitting agent, but the CIA pressed ahead regardless. The quest continued for almost twenty years.

In April 1953 the CIA's Deputy Director of Plans, Richard Helms, proposed that the agency establish a 'program for the covert use of biological and chemical materials' [15] for the manipulation of behaviour. The project was, Helms believed, 'ultra sensitive', and he therefore argued that it be exempt from all the normal accounting channels, its very existence hidden from all but the most senior officers of the CIA. The Director of the CIA, Allen Dulles, approved the proposal, and the project began, under the codename MKULTRA.

The CIA made an agreement with a centre for the treatment of drug addicts in Lexington, Kentucky, run by a Dr Harris Isbell. Dr Isbell would receive consignments of drugs selected by CIA scientists as likely to be of use in MKULTRA, and would experiment with them upon the addicts in his care. Often addicts would be offered a 'fix' of the drug of their dependency in exchange for the opportunity to give them a drug of the CIA's choice.

The CIA tested large numbers of drugs, including many, like cocaine, which later became part of the drug culture of the sixties and seventies. But, like the Army Chemical Corps, their main interest was in the then little known drug LSD. Dr Isbell's letters back to the CIA note that a number of the addicts to whom he was giving the drug began to show signs of fear of the doctors at the centre. But his curiosity and enthusiasm drove him on nonetheless. After one experiment with LSD in 1953, Dr Isbell reported that:

The mental effects included anxiety, a feeling of unreality, noises were difficult to distinguish, the patients' hands and feet appeared to grow ... patients reported seeing visions consisting of rapidly changing fantastic scenes which resembled Walt Disney movies. [16]


Most of the 'patients' appear to have been 'negro males', and most of the experiments to have involved the unwitting receipt of LSD. In one experiment Dr Isbell kept seven men on LSD for seventy-seven days, a feat which would have terrified even the most hardened 'acid head' of the drug culture.

But to appreciate the effects of LSD on normal people in a normal environment, the CIA could not rely exclusively upon the experiments with drug addicts or volunteers. To gain a full understanding of the effects of LSD, they needed to administer the drug to unsuspecting victims.

Twice a year the scientists from the Special Operations division at Fort Detrick would gather at an old log cabin in the Appalachian mountains to spend a few quiet days discussing their work, and sketching out new areas of research. On 18 November 1953 they were joined by a group from the CIA working on the effects of LSD. On the evening of their second day in the mountains, the men sat around sharing a bottle of Cointreau. Twenty minutes later the senior CIA man present, Sid Gottlieb, told his colleagues that he had spiked their drinks with LS D. The conversation soon disintegrated into confusion and laughter, and few of them managed any sleep that night. The following day all set off to drive home.

Frank Olson, one of the civilian chemists from Fort Detrick, arrived home extremely depressed. Years of experience in Top Secret work had conditioned him to say little about his activities in the laboratories, and when his wife asked him what was wrong he replied only that he had made a mistake and felt that he should leave his job. 'He was an entirely different person', his wife recalled later, 'I didn't know what had happened, I just knew that something was terribly wrong'. [17] Olson remained in this disturbed condition throughout the weekend and while at work at Fort Detrick on Monday. By Tuesday his colleagues had decided he needed specialist psychiatric advice.

One of Olson's colleagues at Fort Detrick, Colonel Vincent Ruwet, offered to accompany Olson to New York to see a recommended psychiatrist. They were joined on the journey by a civilian, Robert Lashbrook, who worked for the CIA. To pass the evening in Manhattan the three men went to see a musical, but Olson became so upset that Colonel Ruwet had to walk him back to their hotel during the intermission. Later, while Ruwet was asleep, Olson went out wandering the streets. At one point he apparently became convinced that Ruwet had ordered him to destroy all his paper money, and tore it up and threw away his wallet.

The New York psychiatrist, who had been chosen because his previous work for the army had given him a top security clearance, diagnosed Olson as suffering from 'psychosis and delusions', and recommended that he enter hospital. Although Olson has planned to return home for the Thanksgiving weekend celebrations before any further treatment, he apparently felt too ashamed to make the journey. While Colonel Ruwet travelled down to explain to Alice Olson why her husband would not be home for the family celebrations, Olson and Lashbrook went back to see the psychiatrist. He recommended again that Olson be admitted to hospital, but the earliest that arrangements could be made was the following day. That evening the two men checked into Room 1018A at the Statler Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

At 3.20 in the morning the CIA man was awoken by the sound of breaking glass. Ten floors below, the body of Frank Olson lay shattered on Seventh Avenue.

Immediately a cover-up began. The police were given the impression that Olson had simply been suffering from a great deal of stress. Alice Olson was told first that her husband had died as a result of an accident at work, and then that he had fallen from a hotel window. No one mentioned the LSD tests. It was only twenty-two years later, when a report into the activities of the CIA mentioned how an unnamed army employee had jumped from a hotel window after being given LSD, that his family were able to establish how Frank Olson had died.

Frank Olson was by no means the only unwitting victim of CIA attempts to discover the effects of LSD and other 'mind bending' drugs. As noted earlier, a decision had been taken soon after the start of MKULTRA that to determine the effects of drugs on intended victims, realistic tests had to be conducted upon unsuspecting 'clients'. In May 1953 the CIA hired one of their more colourful operators to arrange the testing for them.

George White had begun his working life in the classic fashion, as a cub reporter on the San Francisco Herald Examiner. But the job failed to offer the excitement he sought, and in 1934 he joined the Bureau of Narcotics, committed to stamping out the illegal use of drugs. In the course of his career with the Bureau he claimed to have shot and killed a suspected Japanese spy, to have been put on trial in Calcutta after a gunfight, shot his way out of a bar in Marseilles, and to have infiltrated a Chinese drug-smuggling brotherhood. [18] With the formation of the OSS during the Second World War, White was a natural recruit. Here he turned his experience with the Narcotics Bureau to advantage, volunteering to test new 'truth drugs' himself.

In May 1953 White became Subproject Three of MKULTRA, his job to provide the environment in which the CIA could test drugs on unsuspecting victims. Under an assumed name he rented an apartment in Greenwich Village, New York City, which the CIA then fitted out with microphones and two-way mirrors. White then engaged prostitutes to lure men back to the apartment, where their drinks would be doctored with drugs like cannabis concentrate and LSD. Then in early 1955 the Narcotics Bureau, who were still his notional employers, transferred White to San Francisco.

In the apartment George White took in San Francisco, the CIA moved in so much electronic surveillance equipment that one former agent was later to remark 'if you spilled a glass of water, you'd probably electrocute yourself'. [19] White brought his own peculiar flair to the place, furnishing it like a caricature brothel - red curtains, Toulouse-Lautrec posters and pictures of manacled women. It was appropriate enough, for the place was to be used as a government-sponsored bordello. White would watch from behind a two-way mirror sipping chilled Martinis as prostitutes stripped off and had sex with their clients. [20] Initially the project officers were interested to learn how much information a man might be prepared to give at various stages of the sexual encounter. Then the interest turned to drugs. The prostitutes would offer their clients apparently normal cocktails which had previously been spiked with LSD, and the CIA observers would monitor their behaviour.

In another LSD experiment in San Francisco in 1959, CIA agents were told to meet a random selection of people in bars, and to invite them back to a hired house for a party. When the room was crowded, they were to spray LSD from an aerosol into the air. Unfortunately for the experiment, it was an exceptionally warm day, and with the room full of people the windows had to be kept open, creating such a strong draught that it would have been impossible to ensure a reasonable concentration of LSD in the atmosphere. The test was abandoned, and the agents consoled themselves with unlaced drinks. [21]

Years later George White would write to Sid Gottlieb, the head of C IA drug and germ research programme:

I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest? [22]


Where indeed?

And yet, if the CIA were to continue their research into chemical and biological warfare, then they had, they felt, to test the substances on unwitting people. By definition this ruled out volunteers. In a memo classified 'eyes only' on the subject written by Richard Helms in December 1963 it was explained that other approaches had been considered. The CIA had thought of asking local police departments to give the drugs to prisoners, but that would have involved informing local politicians. 'Several times in the past ten years' the Agency had attempted to set up testing programmes abroad, but each time too many foreigners had known for the scheme to be secure. In the end they concluded that the only solution was to continue the arrangement with the Narcotics Bureau - the efforts of George White and others - because it 'affords us more security'. [23]

But if White's activities were the most colourful, they were only a tiny part of MKULTRA. In August 1977 the CIA admitted that there had been no less than 149 subprojects, including experiments to determine the effects of different drugs on human behaviour, work on lie-detectors, hypnosis and electric shock, and 'the surreptitious delivery of drug-related materials'. [24] Forty-four colleges and universities had been involved, fifteen research foundations, twelve hospitals or clinics and three penal institutions. Front organisations had been established to channel funds to institutions which the CIA believed would carry out work for them. Typical was the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, which in two years gave money to academic foundations in Britain, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Burma, Israel, Holland and Switzerland, as well as to numerous institutions within the United States. [25] Not all these foundations were necessarily conducting work for the C IA's mind control and chemical warfare programmes.

In June 1964 MKULTRA was renamed MKSEARCH. Eleven years after the attempt to develop means of waging clandestine chemical and biological warfare had begun, it was still felt that this was such a sensitive area that the project should continue to be exempt from all normal administrative and accounting controls. By the early 1970s LSD had been abandoned, but other drugs were under investigation. A tantalizing glimpse of the work being conducted is afforded by the report in 1973 on Project OFTEN. The heavily censored two-page report states the CIA belief that the 'Soviets are known to be actively working in the glycolate area', and records that Edgewood Arsenal had already earmarked an unnamed drug - presumably a similar compound - as a potential incapacitant. Twenty volunteers, five prisoners, and fifteen servicemen had been given the drug, and produced symptoms lasting up to six weeks. [26]

Of the final phase of the CIA's involvement in covert chemical and biological warfare, MKDELTA, the 'use of biochemicals in clandestine operations', very little is known. In one form or another, however, the research project had continued for twenty years, until, shortly before he left office, the man who had originated the research ordered that all records be destroyed. What little is now known is a tribute to the inefficiency with which the task was carried out, and the conscientiousness of CIA employees in answering Freedom of Information Act requests.

William Colby, the slim, well-dressed Director of the CIA, remembers 16 September 1975 as a 'ghastly day', [27] Beneath the assembled television cameras in a Committee Room on Capitol Hill he began to read from a hastily prepared statement.

There had been some confusion over whether Nixon's announcement of November 1969 - that the United States was to destroy all her biological weapons - was an instruction which also applied to toxin devices. Toxins are poisons which, although originally derived from living organisms, are not capable of reproducing themselves and, unlike disease bacteria, cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Three months after his policy statement renouncing biological weapons, Nixon announced that toxins too were to be included in the ban. In a statement issued from Key Biscayne, Florida, and known as the Valentine's Day Declaration, since it was issued on 14 February 1970, Nixon announced that all stocks of toxin weapons were also to be destroyed.

Colby felt uncomfortable as he sat facing the Senate Intelligence Committee in Committee Room 318 of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill five years later. As the Committee chairman, Senator Frank Church put it, 'direct orders of the President of the United States were evidently disobeyed by employees of the CIA'. [28] Colby began to explain how it was that the CIA came to have eleven grammes of a substance clearly labelled 'Shellfish Toxin', and a further eight grammes of Cobra venom, five years after the President had ordered their destruction.

During the Second World War American secret agents had been issued with 'L pills', filled with cyanide. The suicide pills, designed to be taken as an alternative to interrogation and torture after capture, had one great disadvantage. Cyanide causes an agonizing death, and may take several minutes to act. The CIA, Colby said, had determined to find a faster and less painful poison.

Colby revealed that on his ill-fated espionage flight over the Soviet Union in May 1960, the U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers had carried a supply of the new shellfish poison which had been refined at Fort Detrick on the instructions of the CIA. The poison was hidden in the grooves of a 'drill bit', which was in turn hidden inside a silver dollar he carried everywhere. When Powers's aircraft was shot down by Soviet missiles, he evidently decided to risk interrogation, and did not swallow the poison. Curious KGB counter intelligence officers who examined the silver dollar are said to have given the poison to a dog. It was dead within ten seconds. But there were, Colby explained, other uses for the shellfish poison too.

Beneath the bright lights and whirring cameras, Colby suddenly produced what he described, in masterly bureaucratese, as a 'nondiscernible microbioinoculator'. It looked like a normal .45 pistol. But Colby told the senators it was powered by electricity. A small battery in the handle produced enough power to fire a small poisoned dart one hundred yards. The 'nondiscernible' element of Colby's description now became apparent: tests had shown the weapon to be so effective that a poisoned dart could be fired into a victim without his even noticing that he had been hit.

Though the production of the poisoned dart gun created a sensation, other witnesses were to follow Colby who would describe many other devices. There were, it appeared, weapons which could be used to contaminate roads or railway tracks with biological agents, pens which would fire poison darts or spray gas into a room, umbrellas and walking sticks which would do the same. In fact the shellfish toxin represented only a tiny part of the arsenal which had been developed to wage clandestine chemical and biological warfare.

Colby explained that the toxins which should have been destroyed had been retained 'in an excess of zeal', since they had been enormously expensive to extract, and represented about one third of the world's total supply. The few grammes of shellfish toxin represented enough to give a fatal dose to thousands of people. Colby was asked whether there were any records which would tell the story of the CIA's involvement in chemical and biological warfare. No, he said, they had all been destroyed in 1972.

Such records as remain indicate that CIA interest in chemical and biological warfare dates back at least to 1952, when the Agency approached the Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick. Only a handful of CIA personnel knew of the arrangement between the two organisations, and on visits to the biological warfare base they were known simply as the 'Staff Support Group'. The fact that the C IA was paying for research at Fort Detrick was hidden behind the funding code 'P600'. [29]

According to one of the participants it was 'a kind of Never-Never land'. [30] Among the ideas tossed about were questions such as: could a material be developed to dissolve the Berlin Wall? Could a drug be produced to knock out everyone in a building? Could water divining be used to detect enemy submarines?

While these extraordinary theories were being discussed, other researchers were being sent on expeditions to far flung corners of the globe to gather plant or animal samples which might be used in the manufacture of new weapons.

In 1953 a researcher was despatched to the mountains of central Mexico in search of the fabled Magic Mushroom used by Indians during religious ceremonies and said to 'open the doors of perception', Nine years later an unidentified CIA officer wrote to his Division Chief about the problems faced on another expedition. The plan had been to develop a poison based upon the gall bladder of the Tanganyika crocodile. The CIA man had decided there were two options:

The first is to have one of our (deleted) buddies in Tanganyika find, capture and eviscerate a native crocodile on the spot and then try to ship its gall bladder, and/or poisonous viscera to the United States ... The second alternative would be to acquire a crocodile ... through a licensed collector, and ship the animal live to the United States.


Undaunted by the complex logistical problems presented in sending the unfortunate crocodile to CIA laboratories, the enthusiastic young agent concluded his report by mentioning that sources in Tanganyika could 'provide us with details concerning methods and techniques employed by the witch doctors in preparing the poison'. [31]

While the CIA scoured the world in search of little-known poisons, its British and Canadian counterparts appear to have devoted their energies to refining poisons already discovered. Little is known of the exact nature of allied research in this field, although a report to the American House of Representatives did reveal that scientists at Fort Detrick had collaborated with Canadian counterparts in the early 1950s in attempts to isolate the 'paralytic poisoning in man often caused by eating toxic clams and mussels'. [32] By 1954, the two groups of scientists had extracted the poison in a 'relatively pure form'.

In fact throughout the post-war years the British and Canadian have collaborated closely with their American counterparts, at least in the initial areas of research. In 1975 a veteran Fort Detrick scientist described the co-operation as 'close co-ordination'. [33] Indeed, the shellfish toxin which the CIA had retained five years after it should have been destroyed had first been properly understood by a British scientist, Dr Martin Evans, employed by the Institute of Animal Physiology at Babraham on the outskirts of Cambridge. [34] Records from Fort Detrick also show that stocks of shellfish poison were shipped to the microbiological establishment at Porton Down, and to its Australian counterpart, the Defence Standards Laboratories at Ascot Vale, Victoria. During the time of the Senate hearings into the supplies of shellfish poison, one of the Fort Detrick specialists in clandestine biological warfare revealed that in 1975 he had been 'on temporary duty' in Britain where he had been working 'on a collaborative effort' in 'Biological Protection'. [35]

Details of which drugs and poisons the British finally settled upon for their secret services are likely to stay shrouded in secrecy for years to come. It would be astonishing if, unlike the United States and the Soviet Union, the British had not developed such weapons for clandestine use. Perhaps it is some indication of the relative significance of chemical warfare for the undercover services that among the commemorative plaques on the wall behind the desk of the Director of Porton Down is only one from an army regiment. It is that of the Special Air Service, or SAS, the hand-picked special operations unit trained to operate behind enemy lines, and charged with carrying out the 'dirty jobs' of the intelligence services.

In the United States some evidence at least is available to suggest the sort of uses to which clandestine chemical or biological weapons might be put. There were numerous planned attempts on the life of Fidel Castro using chemical or biological devices. [36] Botulinal toxin pills were prepared, to be slipped into Castro's food, cigars were contaminated with the same poison, plans were laid to contaminate his rubber diving suit with spores causing a chronic skin disease. There were even plans to dust his shoes with a chemical which would cause his beard to fall out, so, it was speculated, ruining his revolutionary appeal. None of these schemes came to anything, although in 1960 another poisoning operation came closest to success, when the CIA went after Patrice Lumumba, the radical prime minister of the Congo (now Zaire). Six months after independence Sid Gottlieb, the man who had slipped LSD into Frank Olson's after-dinner drink, was sent to Kinshasa with a supply of poison. Much to his frustration, Gottlieb was unable to find a way of getting the poison into Lumumba's body, and the plan was abandoned. [37]

By the late 1960s the descendants of Sidney Lovell's 'hell raisers' had developed a gamut of chemical and biological devices suitable for every purpose from disguised assassination to minor harassment. Some were described by former CIA agent Philip Agee in 1975:

Horrible smelling liquids in small glass vials can be hurled into meeting halls. A fine clear powder can be sprinkled in a meeting place, becoming invisible after settling, but having the effect of tear-gas when stirred up by the later movement of people. An incendiary powder can be moulded around prepared tablets and when ignited the combination produces ample quantities of smoke that attacks the eyes and the respiratory system more strongly than ordinary tear-gas. A tasteless substance can be introduced to food that causes exaggerated body-colour. And a few small drops of a clear liquid stimulate the target to relaxed, uninhibited talk. Invisible itching powder can be placed on steering wheels or toilet seats, and a slight smear of invisible ointment causes a serious burn to skin on contact. Chemically processed tobacco can be added to cigarettes and cigars to produce respiratory ailments. [38]


There were many other devices which Agee did not choose to mention; three different forms of toxin, all of them fatal, other agents to cause diseases like anthrax and tuberculosis, chemicals to induce anything from hallucinations to heart failure. [39]

When asked why the CIA had developed such a range of clandestine weapons, the architect of much of the programme, Richard Helms, cited the well-worn argument used by the chemical and biological warfare establishment since chemical warfare began. 'A good intelligence organisation would be expected to know what his adversaries were doing and be in a position to protect himself against the offensive acts of his adversaries', adding, unnecessarily, 'if the worst came to the worst, and we were ever asked by the proper authority to do something in this field, we would be prepared to do so.' [40]

In the years which followed Nixon's decision to stop the chemical arms race in 1970, it was an argument which would be heard with increasing frequency.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

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TEN: From Disarmament to Rearmament

Nixon's decision to call a halt to the chemical and biological arms race had been prompted by a number of motives. The British and Canadian governments were arguing that an international agreement to ban biological weapons looked feasible, providing Nixon would make a gesture of good faith. There was widespread opposition to the use in Vietnam of weapons which, whatever the State Department might claim, certainly looked like gas. And there were a number of highly embarrassing accidents.

In March 1968 the US Army carried out a series of tests using live nerve agents at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Shortly before six on the evening of 13 March an F4 Phantom jet screamed over the base, pouring VX liquid from tanks slung below the aircraft onto a marked-out target area. But there was a fault with one of the tanks being tested, and, while most was released from the expected altitude, some 20 lb remained inside the tank. As the jet climbed out of its bombing run, VX leaked from the container. At the higher altitude, the wind was gusting at Up to 35 mph. The nerve agent hung in the air, before finally drifting down to the ground at Skull Valley, some twenty miles north of the test site. A massive flock of sheep grazing in the valley began to fall sick within hours. Local photographers and television crews arrived on the scene in time to see the carcasses of six thousand sheep being slung into hastily dug trench graves. The attendant national and international publicity, in the words of an army public relations officer, 'delivered a crippling blow to the nation's chemical-biological warfare programme.' [1]

The following spring it became known that the United States army planned to ship thousands of tons of obsolete chemical weapons across the country from their mid-west bases to the Atlantic seaboard where they were to be loaded into elderly merchant ships which would-then be scuttled offshore. Local residents, the memory of the Dugway accident still fresh in their minds, quickly dubbed the cargo 'the ultimate hazardous freight', and were less than happy at the prospect of the weapons being dumped off their summer beaches.

The problem of what to do with elderly and unstable chemical weapons and the poisonous waste created in their manufacture had been getting the US Chemical Corps a bad press for several years. At Rocky Mountain Arsenal, the main centre for manufacture of GB nerve gas, scientists decided in 1960 to dispose of toxic waste by boring a 12,000 foot tunnel into the earth, to connect with a vast underground reservoir. A month after they began pouring the waste chemicals into the ground, Denver was rocked by its first earthquake for eighty years.

As the Arsenal continued to pour 165 million gallons of waste into the underground cavern over the next five-years, the area suffered no less than 1,500 earth tremors. When, in 1966, the dumping was called to a halt, the army announced it would investigate whether the stuff could be pumped out again. Their conclusion, that the liquid wastes could only be removed at a rate of 300 gallons a day, indicated that it would take over a thousand years to empty the well. Although the earth tremors stopped after only part of the waste had been removed, the incident did little for the popularity of chemical weapons.

In the summer of 1969 came more bad news. VX nerve agent was leaking from a container at the American base on the Japanese island of Okinawa and twenty-three servicemen had been taken to hospital suffering from its effects. This was doubly serious, for not only did it further erode what little confidence remained in the adequacy of safety measures at chemical weapons bases, but the Japanese government had not even been aware that gas was based on its soil. The previous summer one hundred children playing on a nearby beach had collapsed with an unknown illness. The Pentagon immediately ordered the weapons to be removed from the island.

This combination of incompetence and accidents led to increasing public hostility towards chemical weapons. After all, it was argued, if a few pounds of nerve agent was sufficient to kill six thousand sheep, what would be the consequence of a full-scale accident?

Nixon's statement of November 1969 was nevertheless a gesture of some courage, representing as it did a decision to disarm unilaterally in the field of biological weapons, and to make no new chemical weaponry for the foreseeable future. The Geneva negotiations which led up to the Biological Weapons Convention owed a good deal to the Nixon decision. But it was inevitable that during the discussions the original British proposals for a Biological Warfare Convention should be whittled down. While the essence of the British proposals remained unchanged - a complete ban on the manufacture and possession of germ weapons - the critical provisions dealing with the mechanisms whereby one country might check that another was complying with the treaty were made far less effective. In view of allegations which were to surface later in the 1970s this watering-down of the verification provisions was a critical weakness of the treaty.

Despite the fact that such major powers as France and China have still (by early 1982) not signed it, largely because they consider the verification procedures to be inadequate, the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention was a major achievement. One of the provisions of the treaty committed the eighty-seven signatory countries to 'continue negotiations on good faith' with a view to obtaining a similar agreement to ban chemical weapons. The United Nations General Assembly optimistically dubbed the 1970s 'The Disarmament Decade'. In the field of chemical warfare it might more properly have been named 'The Distrust Decade'.

Matters had not been helped by the attitude of the Russians. When the tortuous negotiations to produce a treaty banning biological weapons finally produced an agreement, [2] signatory states included the United States, Great Britain and Canada, who had led Western germ warfare research, the governments of Japan and West Germany, and the entire Warsaw Pact. All undertook 'never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain' biological weapons. Any existing stocks were to be destroyed.

The Americans made great play of the destruction of their germ weapons. Photographers were invited to watch as containers of tularemia, anthrax, Q fever and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis were mixed with caustic soda or heated to hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit to destroy the virulence for which they had been selected as weapons. Equipment from the Pine Bluff manufacturing plant was similarly treated and melted down to harmless scrap. Guided tours were arranged through the abandoned factory.

As the deadline for the destruction of biological weapons approached, attention turned to the Soviet Union. Would a similar display take place there? The Russians merely issued a statement announcing that the Soviet Union 'does not possess' any bacteriological weapons. Ignoring the question of whether they had ever developed any biological device in the thirty years before the treaty was signed in April 1972 did not help to build confidence between the Superpowers.

In addition, the agreement to ban biological weapons contained one serious flaw. There was no provision for one side to inspect the other's facilities to determine whether or not the treaty was being adhered to. The growing distrust led to a campaign in the Western press the like of which had not been seen since the scare stories of Russian 'disease factories' in the early fifties. Within months of the Biological Weapons Convention coming into effect, suggestions were appearing that the Russians were already breaking its terms.

'There is evidence', said an article in a Boston newspaper, 'that within recent months the Soviet Union has been constructing or expanding facilities which appear to be biological arms production plants, having very high incinerator stacks and large cold storage bunkers that could be used for stockpiling the weapons'. [3] Three months later came another claim, this time from the syndicated columnist Jack Anderson. Anderson told his readers that the chief Soviet medical attache in Washington had been caught trying to 'weasel suspicious information' from American scientists over dinner at a genetic engineering conference in California. 'His efforts to elicit information that could help the Soviets advance their germ warfare research were obvious', said Anderson. [4]

The claims continued. In January 1978, a correspondent with Reuters news agency reported from NATO headquarters that 'scientific experts' had informed him that the Russians were developing 'three horrific new diseases for warfare ... Lassa fever, which, according to the sources, kills 35 out of every 100 people it strikes, Ebola fever, which kills 70 out of every 100, and the deadly Marburg fever (Green Monkey Disease).' [5]

Not surprisingly, the effect of these allegations was to throw serious doubt on the value of attempting to negotiate a second treaty with the Soviet Union to ban gas warfare. Indeed, in the summer of 1978 a story appeared suggesting that Nixon's original decision to stop developing new chemical and biological weapons had been the result of work by Soviet spies. 'According to US intelligence officials', said the New York Times, 'the Soviet Union attempted to influence then-President Richard Nixon in 1969 to halt chemical and biological weapons development by transmitting information through double agents working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation'. [6] The paper maintained that the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, had conveyed the information to Nixon personally. While none of Nixon's White House staff was able to recall having been given any information about chemical or biological weapons by FBI agents, the New York Times report was sufficient nonetheless to add to the growing disquiet over what the Russians might be up to.

Soon there was a positive cascade of stories about Soviet preparations for germ warfare. A Polish army officer claimed to have been told that KGB specialists in biological warfare had been posted to Cuba. [7] Then in October 1979 came perhaps the most sensational allegation of all.

The fledgeling British news magazine Now! splashed across its front cover the headline 'Exclusive. Russia's secret germ warfare disaster'. It reported that 'Hundreds of people are reported to have died, and thousands to have suffered serious injury as a result of an accident which took place this summer in a factory involved in the production of bacteriological weapons in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk'.  [8] The Soviet authorities had attempted to hush-up the accident, said the magazine, but information had been obtained from a 'traveller who was in the city at the time'. This 'traveller' claimed that bodies of the dead were delivered to their relatives in sealed coffins. Those few who had managed to glimpse the bodies had described them as being 'covered in brown patches'.

This macabre account, 'exclusive' to Now!, bore a remarkable resemblance to an article which had appeared three weeks earlier in an obscure Frankfurt based magazine named Possev published by a group of Russian emigres. [9] In January 1980 Possev returned to the story, claiming that, contrary to their earlier report, the accident had occurred not at Novosibirsk, but a thousand miles or so away, in the city of Sverdlovsk. The dissident magazine alleged there had been an outbreak of anthrax in April 1979 caused by an explosion at a military settlement south-west of the city. A north wind, the dissidents said, had carried a cloud of anthrax bacteria over a nearby village, and people had begun to die, at the rate of thirty or forty a month.

By the following month Robert Moss, a columnist with the London Daily Telegraph, had picked up the story. [10] Moss, a rightwing journalist with impeccable intelligence contacts, reported that a thousand people had died after an explosion at 'military village 19', where army biologists had been experimenting with an agent known as 'V21'. Two days later, Bild Zeitung, a down market Hamburg tabloid, published a despatch from Moscow, (where it did not maintain a full-time correspondent) describing in graphic detail the effects of the anthrax incident. [11] Patients had choked to death within four hours. Bodies had been burned. Bulldozers had been brought in to strip away the contaminated topsoil.

On 18 March, one month later, the press corps assembled as usual at the State Department in Washington for the daily briefing on world events and American diplomacy. It was 'a quiet news day', and so one of the press agency correspondents asked the question he'd previously been tipped off about by a State Department source: what was the American attitude to the Soviet germ warfare allegations? The spokesman had his answer well rehearsed: 'an outbreak of disease' in Sverdlovsk, he said, raised questions of whether the Soviet Union had violated the 1972 Biological Warfare Convention. The US Ambassador in Moscow had been instructed to request an explanation. By the following morning the American press was quoting 'intelligence sources' as saying that two or three hundred people had died in an outbreak of anthrax, an outbreak which indicated that the Russians were developing biological weapons. [12] The Kremlin reacted with predictable outrage.

In a rare concession, the Soviet news agency, Tass, admitted that there had indeed been outbreaks of anthrax in Sverdlovsk, caused by what it called poor standards of personal hygiene in handling contaminated food. The explanation did sound plausible, since it was well known that anthrax had not been eradicated from large areas of the Soviet Union, and that at the time of the Sverdlovsk incident articles had appeared in the local press advising people on how to treat 'Siberian Sore', as the disease was locally known. What little information had reached the west about Sverdlovsk tended to support this explanation. [13]

But the intelligence experts disagreed. In July the American Congressional Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the Sverdlovsk incident. The outbreak of anthrax, they claimed, could not have been caused naturally. They had been told by 'a Soviet emigre', and had seen from classified intelligence files, that the anthrax deaths were the result of an explosion at a biological weapons factory. [14]

Nothing is likely to be proved about what did or did not happen at Sverdlovsk or in many of the other incidents. Some appear to be pure propaganda, others may be based on fact. They were, perhaps, an inevitable result of an agreement on bacteriological warfare which left many deeply dissatisfied at the absence of any method of ensuring that the other side was complying with the terms of the treaty. In the growing diplomatic frostiness of the late seventies and early eighties it was predictable that the allegations would surface with increasing frequency.

The reports were also more than sufficient to justify the existence in both Britain and the United States of groups of men who continued to work on defence against biological attack. With the decision to renounce germ warfare 'for all time', Fort Detrick had been handed over to the civilian National Cancer Institute. But part of the camp remained secret. Here the Pentagon established the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where a small group of biologists would continue to work on 'those diseases which plague mankind', in the words of a Pentagon spokesman. [15] Within two years of its foundation, the Institute's staff and budget had trebled. The Pentagon maintains that the Fort Detrick scientists' work is purely defensive - the development of vaccines for example. Yet the 'diseases which plague mankind' are precisely the diseases investigated during the offensive biological weapons programme. The work, says the army, is essential 'just in case'.

A similar pattern was followed in Britain. At Porton Down the Microbiological Research Establishment, where post-war germ warfare work had been conducted, was handed over to the Department of Health, where the laboratories were to be used, among other things, for genetic research. But within the Chemical Defence Establishment at Porton Down, which is still a Ministry of Defence installation, a small, little known biological unit exists. Despite having signed a treaty which notionally banned biological weapons for all time, in 1979 the Ministry of Defence recruited a dozen specialists to 'take care of critical Defence problems in microbiology'. [16] In 1980 one of the laboratories which had been transferred to the Department of Health after signature of the treaty was handed back to Porton Down, for use by the defence microbiologists, [17] The exact nature of the work carried out in the biological laboratories is, of course, unknown. In the words of the present director of Porton Down, the establishments in Britain and the United States are designed to give a 'watchtower capability' for assessing possible new germ warfare threats. [18]

The Biological Weapons Convention did not attempt to restrict or ban germ warfare research, merely the development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons. In maintaining biological warfare research stations, albeit on a reduced scale, neither Britain nor America is breaking the terms of the Convention. But the fact that both countries have considered it impossible to abandon research is eloquent testimony to the fact that, international treaty or not, scientific warfare, once begun, has a life of its own. The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, major achievement though it was, did not remove the suspicions which created the arms race.

Professor Adolf-Henning Frucht sat in the corner of the Berlin to Prague express, his mind skipping over why he might have been asked to represent his East German medical institute at a conference on scientific planning. He had been surprised by the invitation, since it was a subject in which he took little interest. Just inside the border between East Germany and Czechoslovakia the train stopped to admit the inevitable stream of eastern European officials. One of the uniformed bureaucrats told Frucht his papers were not in order. They led him from the train, across the now deserted platform and into an office. Two officials from the State Security Service were waiting inside. They took him away for interrogation.

Over the next eight months this frail grey-haired professor would endure no less than eighty-seven interrogation sessions with the East German secret police. Who was he working for? How had he become a spy? How did he pass on the information? Transcripts of the questioning sessions piled up on the floor of his interrogators' office. Finally, in January 1968, Frucht was taken for trial at a military court. Within three days the trial was over. Frucht was sentenced to life imprisonment.

For five years the former professor of medicine spent most of his waking hours putting nuts onto screws. Held in solitary confinement for much of the time, his only contact with humanity was the warder who delivered three meals a day to his primitive cell. Frucht kept himself sane by reading the books of the prison library and by rigorous mental and physical self-discipline. After nine and a half years he was collected from prison and delivered to the West German border. Here, as one component in a complicated spy exchange in June 1977, he limped the few yards into the west.

Like a number of other western secret agents, Frucht had become a spy because he was convinced that the Warsaw Pact planned to initiate World War Three. In the early sixties he had been approached by a colleague at the Institute for Industrial Physiology to work on new methods of detecting poisons in the atmosphere. Frucht devised a system of using fireflies, rather on the principle by which miners had taken canaries in cages with them to the coalface to detect the presence of gas. With fireflies, the amount of light emitted would be noticeably affected by the presence of gas in the air.

Professor Frucht soon received a visit from General Hans Rudolf Gestewitz, the senior medical officer of the East German army. The two men began to enjoy relaxed theoretical scientific discussions over dinner. They talked of possibilities for future wars - how, for example, an entire army might be hidden underwater to protect it from nuclear attack.

But from these fanciful, rambling chats came a remark which made Frucht determine that it was his 'darned duty', as he later put it, to become a spy. General Gestewitz mentioned that the Warsaw Pact had developed a chemical agent which would resist the extreme cold and bright sunlight of the Arctic. Frucht had never heard of such a weapon - normally nerve agent would evaporate in the sun, or freeze in extreme cold. The conversation continued in its theoretical way until suddenly the professor realised that they were no longer talking about abstract speculations, but about plans for a real military operation. The scheme, he was told, was for Warsaw Pact forces to attack American Ballistic Missile Early Warning bases in Alaska with chemical weapons.

The attraction of such an attack was obvious enough. If the staff of the early warning stations could be disabled, the United States would be defenceless. General Gestewitz told Frucht that the Warsaw Pact had developed a chemical agent which would remain liquid and effective even at forty degrees below zero. It would knock the technicians at the bases out for twelve hours.

Frucht considered this such a threat to world peace that he resolved to pass the information on to the West. After a series of meetings with agents of MI6 and the CIA arranged at great personal risk, he managed to establish a system for mailing information to dead letterboxes in West Germany.

During the coming months, as different chemical agents were brought to Frucht for analysis at his Institute, he would compile two reports. One would be the official assessment to be sent back to the East German army. A second report he would send to the CIA in West Germany.

In this manner Professor Frucht passed to Western intelligence details of almost the entire Warsaw Pact chemical armoury; details of agents, code-names and protective measures. Among the information he sent to the West was the chemical formula for what he believed to be a new agent, unknown in the West, a variant of the V agents developed in Britain and the United States. [19]

It is hard to assess the effect which Frucht's information may have had upon NATO war planners at Supreme Headquarters. Certainly, however disturbed they may have been by news that the Soviet forces had a new chemical weapon, the intelligence did not affect Nixon, who the following year announced the ban on new American chemical weapons. But, restless at what they saw as giving a dangerous hostage to fortune, the advocates of chemical weapons within NATO had soon begun on a campaign to appeal to the public direct. The year after Nixon's decision, reports began to appear in the western military press of a new Soviet nerve agent. Identified as 'VR55', the new weapon was said to be similar to VX, but even more potent. [20] Whether this was the gas which Frucht had discovered, or a second new weapon is not known.

In the latter half of the 1970s there emerged a group of military theorists who believed the threat of Russian chemical warfare to be one of the great unrecognised dangers facing the West. In increasingly strident tones they began to argue in favour of chemical rearmament within NATO. One of the more restrained analyses of the Soviet threat was made by Professor John Erickson, an acknowledged authority on the Soviet Army.

Erickson estimated that there were eighty thousand specialist troops in the Red Army, commanded by Lieutenant General V. K. Pikalov, whose battlefield job it was to decontaminate men, machines and weaponry of chemicals. There were a thousand ranges where Soviet troops trained to fight on a contaminated battlefield. Soviet tanks and armoured cars were equipped with elaborate seals and pressurization systems to keep out gas. Chemical training was taken so seriously that Soviet soldiers, he discovered, had been burned by real gas used in training.

Erickson noted that the Russians 'constantly emphasise the likely use by the enemy - presumably NATO - of chemical weapons', yet NATO, as Erickson remarked, had only a small number of such weapons. Furthermore, Russian training emphasised defence not only against nerve gas, but also against blood and lung agents first developed during the First World War, and now unimportant in the NATO stockpile. Erickson decided that 'the attraction of the chemical weapon would appear to be growing for the Soviet command'. [21]

NATO airfields might be knocked out by Soviet missiles releasing their cargoes of heavy and persistent nerve liquid overhead. Nuclear weapon sites might be immobilized for weeks in the same way. Quickly-evaporating nerve and blood gases might be used in attacks on allied anti-tank posts. The advancing Soviet forces would seal their flanks from attack by spreading persistent nerve agents on the ground and thereby make them impenetrable to counterattack. Indeed, while American forces could only 'go chemical' on the authority of the President, Erickson speculated that in the Soviet army a decision to use gas might be delegated to a divisional commander. It was a frightening picture; and then came the evidence of the Yom Kippur War.

For fifty-three minutes on the afternoon of 6 October 1973 a thousand Egyptian guns punched their shells across the Suez Canal and onto the Bar Lev Line, the fortified wall built by the Israelis after the Six Day War in 1967. Having caught the Israelis unawares, the Egyptians poured a thousand tanks and ten infantry brigades across the canal. For a while it seemed that the redoubtable Israeli army faced defeat. But a combination of massive reinforcement and a brilliant counterattack destroyed the impetus of the Egyptians, and forced them to agree to a ceasefire.

As the two armies disengaged, Israeli intelligence officers began to collect trophies from the destroyed and abandoned Egyptian vehicles in the desert. Among the equipment they collected from immobilized armoured cars were rubber capes, gas masks, alarms to warn of the presence of nerve gas, small tin boxes containing glass phials filled with coloured liquids to identify various gases, and automatic syringes filled with an antidote to soman, the main Soviet nerve agent. All carried instructions in Arabic, but had been manufactured in the Soviet Union.

There was no evidence that the Egyptians had intended to use gas themselves. Probably they carried the equipment because, like the Soviet army, they had been instructed to do so. Israeli intelligence immediately passed the captured equipment to the United States, where examination of the extensive Soviet precautions against gas attack resulted the following year in a Pentagon decision to spend one and three quarter billion dollars on improving the defences of American forces.

Ever since their decision not to proceed with any new weapons of their own, the British, Canadians and Australians had been devoting most of their energies to protection for their troops. In addition to animal experiments at Porton Down, which by the late 1970s were consuming 25,000 animals a year, [22] an average of ten servicemen and women arrived at Porton every month to test new equipment. [23] By concentrating on defensive research, the British developed both new gas masks and, most importantly, a cloth whose baked rayon structure protected the body against nerve liquids which could penetrate through the skin. Unlike the heavy rubber suits worn by Soviet soldiers, which became heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable within minutes, the Porton suits could be worn for days at a time without the danger of the wearer collapsing from exhaustion. Porton Down also produced new alarms and decontamination equipment and a series of pink and white pills which would protect soldiers against three or four times the normal lethal dose of nerve gas. Periodically entire British army units would be required to don 'noddy suits', the soldiers' unaffectionate name for the kit designed to protect them against chemical attack, and perform all their normal tasks while wearing the heavy and uncomfortable equipment. [24]

Even after the Pentagon decision that the American forces too needed to improve drastically their chemical defence research and training, many still believed that they lagged far behind the Soviet army. The Commander of the United States army in Europe was called before a Congressional Committee in 1979 to explain his preparations for decontaminating after a chemical attack. General Frederick Kroesen had the following exchange with Congressman Larry McDonald:

McDonald: Do you have any rapid decontamination washing process, or do you do the decontamination process out in the field?

General Kroesen: The manner we are pursuing it right now in Europe, sir, is to have identified for unit commanders the location of all available washing facilities, such as Schnellwasch stations, automobile drive-in washing facilities.

McDonald: Our military is going to be able to requisition the civilian automobile washing stations; is that what we are planning on using?

General Kroesen: In times of crisis we need to know where those kinds of facilities are.

McDonald: Good God. [25]


The conviction was growing among the 'hawks' in NATO that the decision to stop expanding the chemical arsenal had given a dangerous hostage to fortune. In 1980 the British opened a purpose designed 7,000 acre chemical warfare 'Battle Run' training area in the Wiltshire hills alongside Porton Down. The US Army opened a specialist chemical training school in Alabama. The US Chemical Corps, reduced to 2,000 in the early 1970s, was built up to nearly 6,000 by 1981. [26]

But even with superior 'noddy suits', pressurized battlefield headquarters, and an array of sophisticated alarms, detectors, decontamination equipment, pills and syringes, there was still an apparently insuperable problem. Without a credible threat to use chemical weapons themselves, allied soldiers would have to button themselves into their protective kit not when they chose, but when a Soviet attack was conceivably imminent. Inside the masks and rubber gloves the delicate tasks of modern warfare become extraordinarily difficult. Sighting a weapon, twiddling the knobs and flicking the switches on modern artillery become clumsy and cumbersome operations. Suddenly everyone on the battlefield looks identical. Since verbal orders are muffled by gas masks, commanders sometimes have to throw stones at their troops to attract their attention. An enemy who is not obliged to dress his soldiers up like frogmen because only he knows when a chemical attack may be launched gains an immediate tactical advantage, it was argued.

Meanwhile, the negotiations to secure a treaty on chemical disarmament dragged on. As a gesture in the right direction the United States finally ratified the Geneva Protocol, fifty years after it had been drawn up. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were committed by the Biological Weapons Convention to negotiate 'in good faith' towards a similar agreement on chemical arms. In July 1974, shortly before resigning in disgrace, Nixon met with Chairman Brezhnev in Moscow. To widespread surprise the communique issued at the end of their discussions indicated that the two countries would begin preparing a joint initiative on chemical disarmament. Talks between American and Soviet officials finally started in August 1976.

But what began with high ideals continued in an increasingly bad-tempered series of haggles. The two countries stated early in the discussions that they were seeking a comprehensive treaty which would oblige all countries not only to dispose of their present stocks of chemical weapons, but also not to develop any future gas weapons. After the suspicions which had followed the germ warfare treaty, the Americans were determined to establish an adequate system for 'on site' inspection, to ensure that nerve gas plants were no longer operational. By May 1978, after seven sessions of negotiations, the two sides believed they had at least delineated the sorts of weapons which would be covered by the treaty. [27] But an agreement on how to ensure that the treaty was being observed remained elusive.

The military, meanwhile, were growing restless. The United States had produced no new gas weapons since Nixon's ban in 1969. Now, a succession of military experts stated their belief that the Russians were adding to their gas stocks almost daily. 'The hope that the Soviets would emulate US restraint has proved to be wishful thinking', wrote one senior Chemical Corps officer, in a typical complaint. [28] There is, however, a notable vagueness about the details of these claims. Indeed in 1979 figures produced in support of this argument - that up to one third of Soviet bombs, rockets and shells might be filled with gas - bore a great similarity to the estimates current at the time of Nixon's ban in 1969. [29] By contrast with the figures leaked to the press or bandied about in conversation, official military spokesmen have been notably reluctant to make any estimate of the number of Soviet chemical weapons. In 1975 the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff could say only that 'it is not possible with any reasonable degree of assurance to predict or estimate the size of the USSR's CW stockpile'. [30] In 1980 a senior official in British scientific intelligence could refer only to the estimates already published in the press, that the proportion of Soviet bombs and artillery shells filled with gas amounted to 'anything between five and thirty per cent - you pay your money and take your choice'. [31]

But this absence of reliable information did nothing to shake the belief that the Russians had indeed acquired an enormous arsenal of gas weapons. Although the size of American stocks is classified information, from comments by the Chemical Corps and Department of Defence civilian observers have been able to estimate the quantity at about 150,000 tons of bombs, shells and landmines, about two thirds of which contain nerve gas, the remainder being mustard gas weapons left from the Second World War. [32] The same authorities believe that the Russians stopped adding to their stocks in 1971, two years after the United States called a halt. If true, then the increasing hysteria built up by the proponents of chemical weapons during the 1970 was based upon a fiction.

Nevertheless, the campaign for rearmament continued. The United States had 'frightened and moralised' herself 'into throwing away a vital deterrent', as one hard line politician had it. [33] 'Simply by negotiating the Soviets appear to have tied US hands on chemical weapons', [34] wrote a Chemical Corps officer in 1979. He went on to predict that not having chemical weapons made nuclear war more likely; 'some day a President of the United States might have to choose between acceptance of defeat or nuclear war'. [35]

Paradoxically, the British had used precisely the reverse argument as a reason for not needing chemical weapons themselves. As the Defence Secretary had explained in 1968:

We have not felt it necessary, nor indeed did the previous government, to develop a retaliatory capability here, because we have nuclear weapons, and we might choose to retaliate in that way if that were the requirement. [36]


Now, the argument was being stood on its head: chemical rearmament now could prevent nuclear war later.

In 1979 NATO commanders played out one of their biennial war games simulating the outbreak of World War Three. Codenamed 'Wintex', the exercise involved only the generals, civil servants and politicians who would make the critical decisions about how the war should be fought. In Operations Rooms in Europe and North America they acted out how they would respond to an escalating international crisis which finally pitted NATO and Warsaw Pact against each other in open war. As hostilities intensified, someone in NATO headquarters fed new information into the war plan being flashed to the decision makers in their concrete bunkers: the Soviet army had launched an attack with chemical weapons. What should be the NATO response? The choice alarmed everyone - both the smaller NATO members who disliked gas but wanted to avoid nuclear war at all costs, and the NATO nuclear powers, where many felt that the appropriate response was an attack with battlefield nuclear weapons, which itself ran the danger of inviting full scale Soviet nuclear counter-strike. [37]

The then N AT 0 Supreme Commander, General Alexander Haig, soon to become President Reagan's Secretary of State, told reporters in 1978 that NATO's ability to wage war with chemicals was 'very weak'. 'Sometime in the near future,' he said, 'this will have to be reassessed'. [38] His successor as Supreme Commander went further. 'We ought to be able to respond with chemical weapons', he said, 'and they ought to know we have that capacity to respond'. [39] Ten years after Nixon's decision to suspend the manufacture of chemical weapons, by the end of the so-called Disarmament Decade, the advocates of chemical rearmament included some of the most senior figures in the military establishment.

There was already a weapon developed to make up for the deficiencies the generals saw all around them. The idea was simple, and, by the 1970s some twenty years old.

Shells and bombs loaded with nerve gas were not only dangerous to an enemy, but to anyone who had anything to do with them, including soldiers and civilians who happened to live near one of the bases. An accident or leak of the type which had already occurred enough times to sow public mistrust resulted in pools of nerve agent spreading everywhere, likely to kill any living animal within seconds or minutes. The weapons were so dangerous that they could not be moved, except in heavily guarded, extremely slow moving convoys diverted well away from human habitation. Allied governments were unhappy at the thought of weapons filled with some of the most poisonous substances known being based on their soil, but not under their control. Edgewood Arsenal suggested a solution which would overcome both the environmental and political objections to chemical weapons.

Since nerve gas is made from different chemical compounds, they suggested, why not redesign the bombs and shells so they could be filled with two separate canisters, each containing chemicals harmless in themselves, but which when mixed together would form a nerve agent? One agent would stay inside the shell, the other would be stored and transported separately, and loaded into the shell only on the battlefield. When the shell was fired, the wall separating the two canisters would burst, forming a nerve agent inside the shell. When the shell detonated on impact, the nerve agent would spread and vaporise in the air, like any other poisonous gas. They called the new concept a 'binary weapon'.

The idea had first attracted the US Navy, worried about possible accidents with nerve gas leaking from shells stored in the ammunition holds on warships. By the mid-sixties a binary bomb had been designed, and by the mid-seventies a binary 155 mm shell for army howitzers. As voices were raised to claim that the Russians had a dangerous lead over the West in chemical armaments, a campaign began to 'sell' binary weapons to the public. (Although there were environmental advantages, this was purely relative argument, since the chemical in one of the 'safe' canisters for the binary GB shells, a substance known as 'DF', was as poisonous as strychnine.) The designers of the binary weapons at Edgewood Arsenal drew up a list of other supposed advantages of the binary weapons, which included relative ease of handling, and an entry entitled simply 'OCONUS Preposition Acceptable'. [40] This curious jargon translates as 'Outside Continental United States Preposition Acceptable', a reference to the Pentagon belief that those countries which had not been prepared to allow the United States to base chemical weapons on their soil on political, ethical or environmental grounds, would be prepared to accept the new binary weapons.

The Pentagon produced a plan. A factory would be built, capable of producing 70,000 binary GB nerve agent artillery shells each month. By 1986 the plant would be producing eight inch shells filled with the chemical precursors of VX nerve agent, and 500 lb 'Bigeye' bombs also filled with VX. A final stage of the plan provided for the mass production of chemical warheads for multiple launch rockets, and 'Lance' battlefield missiles. The total cost was estimated in 198o at 170 million dollars for the plant, and a further three or four billion dollars for the munitions themselves. [41]

But each time a request for money to begin producing binary weapons was included in the Defence Budget, either Congress or the White House turned it down. Between 1967 and 1980 no less than nineteen separate investigations were carried out into the plans for binary chemical weapons. Often when the money was refused to the Pentagon the argument was used that it would be foolish to do anything in Washington which might prejudice the negotiations towards a chemical disarmament treaty making their painfully slow progress in Geneva.

If one event more than any other finally persuaded the supporters of gas that it was time to rearm, it was the invasion of Afghanistan. Each of the five Soviet divisions which rolled across the border in December 1979 and January 1980 carried with it portable chambers in which troops could quickly strip off contaminated clothing, and trucks mounted with high pressure hoses capable of cleaning the heaviest nerve agent from tanks or troop carriers within minutes. Eyewitnesses spoke of seeing Russian soldiers carrying gas masks and heavy anti-gas suits.

Within three weeks of the Soviet invasion Afghan refugees streaming across the border into hastily erected camps on the Pakistan border were telling horrific stories of how they had been gassed by the Russians.

It seemed that history might be repeating itself: the Russians appeared to be using the same methods as Foulkes had employed during the British Afghan campaign some sixty years earlier. Tactically, the use of gas against guerillas hidden in the steep mountainsides would made a good deal of sense. But firm proof of the claims remained elusive. During interviews with the authors in late 1980, Afghan guerillas told numerous tales of 'strange coloured clouds' which had caused them to cough, sneeze, and finally to collapse. They spoke of green, yellow, black and orange gases dropped from aircraft or fired from shells, and of a white smoke which made their eyes run and started them coughing. But so many journalists, diplomats and spies passed through the refugee camps in the months immediately following the invasion, each asking about 'nerve gas', that the guerillas speak of the stuff as if it were a weapon as commonplace as their elderly Lee Enfield rifles. Since nerve agents are virtually odourless and colourless, we concluded it was highly unlikely to have been used in any of the battles described to us.

Nevertheless, it was clear that the Russians were using some form of gas. Tear gas could be justified in much the same way as the Americans justified the use of CS in Vietnam. By the summer of 1980 the US State Department had decided it was 'highly likely that the Soviet forces have some form of chemical agent in Afghanistan', [42] but despite producing a long and rambling account of the alleged use of gas both in Afghanistan and South East Asia, it could not be specific.

A year later, on 3 September 1981, the American Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, arrived in Berlin to deliver a speech he and his aides had been preparing for several weeks. Haig was greeted by nearly fifty thousand demonstrators, protesting against the new emphasis the Reagan administration appeared to be placing upon defence, at the expense of social programmes. The protestors were particularly opposed to plans to manufacture the neutron bomb, a nuclear weapon which kills by radiation while leaving buildings and equipment unscathed. They claimed that the weapon was to all intents and purposes a gas, and therefore banned under the Geneva Protocol. Opposition to neutron weapons had been sufficiently vociferous for the Carter administration to shelve plans to manufacture and deploy them in Europe. Haig, convinced of the need not only to produce the weapon, but to stiffen European resolve generally, delivered a speech in which he claimed that the United States now had 'physical evidence' of an entirely new form of CBW being waged by the Russians and their allies.

This astonishing claim was based upon a few fragments of leaf.

American suspicions that the Russians might have developed a new weapon had first begun during the civil war in Yemen in the 1960s. Despite persistent denials, it was abundantly clear from the accounts of war correspondents and Red Cross officials that the Soviet-armed and Egyptian-supported republican forces had been using gas against royalist soldiers and civilians. By January 1967 the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson had felt sufficiently confident of the claims to inform the House of Commons that he believed chemical weapons had been employed. [43] Eyewitness reports of horrific blistering and blindness seemed to suggest that mustard was one the agents used. Other case studies which did not mention blistering, but which did refer to people vomiting, collapsing and dying, were assumed to indicate that some form of nerve agent had been sprayed. It is widely believed that if chemical weapons had been used they could only have been supplied by the Soviet Union. But with an international treaty to ban gas an apparently imminent possibility, the Yemeni case was soon forgotten.

But in 1975 new allegations were made, this time in South East Asia. Within months of the American withdrawal from Saigon, Hmong tribesmen, who had formed the backbone of the CIA's 'secret army' in Laos during the war, began arriving in Thailand claiming that Vietnamese aircraft had bombed them with gases which caused horrific, and hitherto unknown, symptoms.

One fifty year old tribesman described how two light aircraft had suddenly appeared near his village at Pha Na Khun in the foothills north of Vientiane. As the first plane skimmed over the village at treetop height it belched forth a yellow and green powder. As the powder floated to the ground the villagers began to stagger dizzily about. Many began to vomit and defecate, others collapsed. Suddenly the second aircraft fired a rocket which exploded some sixty feet above the ground, swamping the Hmong in red smoke. They began to gasp and cough. Blood poured from their mouths and noses. Within fifteen minutes, 230 of the villagers were dead. Only twenty survived. [44]

This dramatic account was to be repeated time and again by refugees from the war against Soviet-supported forces in Laos and Kampuchea. The multiplicity of symptoms described in these attacks with what the refugees called 'yellow rain' disturbed the Pentagon. No known chemical weapon could produce the particular combination of symptoms which the victims reported. The powder seemed to have the properties of several of the known chemical agents - burning like mustard, choking like phosgene, and killing as swiftly as nerve agent. But no previously known weapon was capable of producing the massive internal bleeding which the refugees reported.

Army scientists became convinced that the Soviet Union had developed an entirely new weapon. Looking back at the casualty records of the Yemen civil war they discovered that there too there had been reports of acute haemorrhaging, although at the time few had thought the symptom of great significance. Various theories were put forward to account for the properties of the supposed new weapon. Some believed that the Russians had developed what they called a 'double punch' weapon, a cocktail of two different gases. Other research suggested that they were supplying their Vietnamese allies with an entirely new agent, derived from poisonous coral or snake venom. [45]

Until the spring of 1981 the refugees' stories remained the tittle-tattle of war, on the borderline between fact and propaganda. American and United Nations attempts to collect evidence to support or disprove the claims came to naught when research teams were unable to collect sufficient fresh samples of soil water or clothing for any meaningful analysis. But in March 1981, with the aid of local guerillas, the State Department obtained a leaf, a one-inch length of stem, and fragments of other leaves from an area on the Thai/Cambodia border which Vietnamese planes were said to have attacked. Surprisingly, in view of the allegations of 'yellow rain', all were covered in a white mould. The State Department rushed the samples back to the United States where they were analysed both by army biologists and by civilian scientists who were unaware from where the samples had come and for whom they were working. [46] The biologists discovered that the leaf was covered in fusaria fungus containing three natural poisons or mycotoxins. The amount of two of the three poisons was found to be 'up to twenty times higher than any recorded natural outbreak', indicating, said the State Department, that the poisons had probably been deposited by man. [47]

In particular the biologists concentrated on one of the poison types, tricothecenes, or T2 toxins. T2 had been known about for years. Indeed, the American suspicions were accentuated when it was realized that much of the research on the toxin had been carried out in the Soviet Union. Russian scientists had begun studying T2 seriously during the 1930S, for by then fungal growths on poorly stored grain had killed thousands of Soviet citizens. So problematical did the poisoning appear to be that much scientific effort had been devoted to manufacturing the toxin in laboratories. Nearly half the openly published articles on T2 dealt with methods of production. [48] Stories of the near epidemics caused when infected food had been eaten described almost identical symptoms to those reported from Laos, Kampuchea and, most recently, Afghanistan. Published Russian accounts spoke of victims suffering from a burning feeling in the mouth and stomach, followed by headaches, dizziness and convulsions before they began to spew blood from every orifice. Given the results of the American laboratory analysis, the apparent similarity of symptoms, and the Soviet ability to produce T2 on the laboratory bench, the State Department concluded that T2 had now probably become the latest Soviet weapon. If so, it was the first new germ weapon in nearly twenty years.

In November 1981, the United States produced more evidence. As one senior State Department official told a Senate inquiry, 'We now have the smoking gun.' Analysis of water from a Kampuchean village and of rock samples from two separate sites in Laos all revealed the presence of Tricothecene mycotoxins. One sample contained levels of mycotoxin twenty times higher than those recorded in any natural outbreaks. Furthermore, the tricothecene mycotoxins 'do not occur naturally in the combination identified in southeast Asia,' said the spokesman. Having compared the symptoms reported by victims with the known symptoms of T2 poisoning, the State Department concluded that 'the fit was perfect.' In the view of the United States government, the case was now proven.

In the hope of rebutting Soviet denials, the American government had turned their findings over to a team of experts from the United Nations, who were to mount an independent investigation. But the UN team were denied permission to visit the countries where the attacks were said to have taken place, and were forced, therefore, to rely upon the testimony of refugees: this, they found, was inadequate. As to the items supposedly contaminated with the mycotoxin and supplied to them by the American government, 'since the group cannot ascertain the actual source of these samples it cannot base its final conclusions on the results of such analyses.'

The American government was immensely disappointed with the results of the UN investigation. Privately State Department officials hinted that the inquiry had been deliberately obstructed by officials from the Soviet block. But there remained a number of serious objections to the claim that the Soviet Union had developed a mycotoxin weapon. Not least was the fact the initial allegation had been based upon only one sample. Furthermore there was the question of whether the tricothecene mycotoxins might not be produced naturally on plants in southeast Asia. Finally, why should the Russians have chosen T2 as a weapon when they could probably have achieved the same fatal results with one-fiftieth of the quantity of nerve agent, or one-tenth of the quantity of the amount of mustard gas? In the clamour which followed the American pronouncement, these questions went largely unanswered. To many the claim and counterclaim were eerily reminiscent of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when each superpower had reviled the other, while secretly racing faster into new areas of gas and germ warfare research.

While there appeared little doubt that the Russians and their South East Asia, the suggestion that the weapon in question was a toxin rather than a gas raised serious questions. Toxin weapons, being of biological origin, were banned under the terms of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. The predictable claim from the Soviet news agency Tass that the T2 allegations were a 'big lie' did nothing to allay Western suspicion. Since the Biological Weapons Convention contained no adequate means of ensuring that the Russians really had abandoned germ warfare, any similar treaty covering chemical weapons looked increasingly unacceptable to the Pentagon.

Increasing cynicism about Soviet intentions had already led in the late 1970s to a more aggressive stance. Remembering the opposition to chemical weapons which had arisen during the late 1960s, and recognizing that any new generation would need to be based in Europe, the Pentagon began discussions with the British. Although initial negotiations with the Callaghan government came to nothing, discussions on the possible basing of chemical weapons in Britain were resumed after the 1979 election brought Margaret Thatcher to power. By the spring of 1980 the British Defence Secretary was publicly ruminating about the size and power of the Soviet chemical arsenal. That summer the British held a series of meetings with their American counterparts which resulted in British support for Pentagon proposals to begin producing a new generation of gas weapons. By December 1980 the British Defence Secretary had been finally converted to the cause of chemical rearmament. [49]

Even before the T2 allegations, the climate had changed so much that in 1980 the Pentagon did not include proposals for a new binary gas weapon plant in its request for funds for the coming year. There was no need. When the budget proposal came before Congress for approval, eager politicians endorsed a suggestion to write into the budget plans to begin work on a new factory capable of turning out 20,000 rounds of 155 mm binary nerve agent shells every month. The entire debate in both houses of Congress took less than three hours.

By the time the T2 allegations surfaced even Richard Nixon, the man who seemed to have halted the chemical arms race in 1969, believed that his efforts had been in vain and that the Russians had rearmed while the United States stood still. [50] In the past governments have justified continuing gas and germ research by pointing to the weapons they believe the enemy to possess. Plans for chemical rearmament in the West are already well advanced. Unless disarmament negotiations suddenly bear fruit, the present climate of suspicion may provide the perfect culture in which to breed a new generation of weapons.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:37 am

Epilogue

The secret story of chemical and biological warfare demonstrates few things so clearly as the way in which discoveries made in the cause of human welfare can be used to devise ever more sophisticated instruments of death. Discoveries in veterinary science are turned to the development of new biological weapons. A potential pesticide is transformed into a nerve agent. Yet the present generation of weapons is based upon scientific discoveries made up to fifty years ago: until the late 1970s British and American chemists were still attempting to produce an antidote to soman, an agent which had first been developed in the laboratories of Nazi Germany. Horrific though the effects of today's weapons may be, however, they are capable of infinite refinement. The present arsenals are huge: the 'inadequate' stock of nerve gas in the United States is sufficient to kill the entire population of the world four thousand times over.

The reason that this apparently enormous quantity is considered insufficient is that present chemical weapons are extremely inefficient. They do not kill effectively enough. To 'neutralize' a single square kilometre of ground with existing shells and bombs would require enough nerve agent to kill the entire population of China. [1] So the research continues for more 'efficient' gas weapons. Soviet scientists are believed to be refining the rockets and bombs which will be used to spread nerve agent. In the United States experiments have been conducted to discover even more reliable methods of forcing nerve liquid through a victim's skin.

But these areas of research are as nothing when compared with the weapons which would become possible should a chemical and biological arms race begin again. The abuse of modern medicine might make 'war without death', the dream of the 1950s, a feasible proposition once more. Drugs designed to relieve hypertension might be used to induce abnormally low blood pressure, causing a victim to collapse. Other drugs capable of raising body temperature might be used to cause heat stroke, even on a chilly day. The development of 'binary' weapons opens the possibility of employing chemicals previously considered too dangerous to be used in armaments: the poison is produced only as a shell hurtles towards enemy troops.

Man's increasing understanding of the delicate mechanism which make life possible may also solve the problem of how to design a weapon which will kill an enemy, while leaving friendly troops unharmed. In particular military scientists might rekindle their interest in 'ethnic weapons', designed to affect only selected racial groups. An American military manual noted the possibility in 1975:

... it is theoretically possible to develop so - called 'ethnic chemical weapons', which would be designed to exploit naturally occurring differences in vulnerability among specific population groups. Thus, such a weapon would be capable of incapacitating or killing a selected enemy population to a significantly greater extent than the population of friendly forces. [2]


Many of these 'naturally occurring differences' are well known: the inability of the digestive systems of particular racial groups to cope with the food of another group, for example. But the differences go further. In the United States, where most of the research has been conducted, it has been established that within the American Indian population 95 per cent of Cherokee Indians have Type O blood, while 85 per cent of Blackfeet Indians have Type A blood. It is reasonable to suppose that other, similar differences occur among less advanced societies. Certainly during the Vietnam war the so called 'Advanced Projects Research Agency', an elite group of scientists working for the Pentagon, was employed to carry out blood tests on selected groups of Asians with a view to 'preparing a map portraying the geographic distribution of human blood groups and other inherited blood characters'. [3] The Pentagon claimed the project was solely to establish the food requirements of American and allied troops.

It is in the field of biological warfare that the most frightening possibilities present themselves. It is now nearly thirty years since Crick and Watson made their momentous discovery of the 'double helix' structure of DNA, the molecule which controls heredity. The discovery has not yet, as far as is known, been applied to the business of war. But in the civilian laboratories of Europe and North America biologists are regularly tampering with the nature of life itself through 'gene splicing' or recombinant DNA. It has been called the most awesome discovery since man split the atom. Should the breakthrough, like atomic physics, come to be applied to warfare the implications scarcely bear thinking about.

As long ago as 1962, forty scientists were employed at the US Army biological warfare laboratories on full - time genetics research. 'Many others', it was said, 'appreciate the implications of genetics for their own work'. [4] The implications were made more specific seven years later, when a Department of Defense spokesman claimed that genetic engineering could solve one of the major disadvantages of biological warfare, that it is limited to diseases which occur naturally somewhere in the world.

Within the next 5 to 10 years, it would probably be possible to make a new infective micro - organism which could differ in certain important respects from any known disease - causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease. [5]


The possibility that such a 'super germ' may have been successfully produced in a laboratory somewhere in the world in the years since that assessment was made is one which should not be too readily cast aside. [6]

Today genetic manipulation is being used to develop new drugs for the treatment of illnesses like cancer. In research laboratories 'gene splicing' is being used artificially to produce Interferon, a substance which occurs naturally in the body and protects against virus diseases. To the mentality which in the past has used advances in health science to develop new weapons, such discoveries must look very inviting. Indeed, the possibility of direct interference with human genes through the use of synthetic viruses opens the possibility not merely of ethnic weapons, but of wars in which the outcome would be determined not on the battlefield but with the birth of a mutant next generation.

If such possibilities now seem in the realm of science fiction, we should do well to remember that in the field of chemical and biological warfare once a thing has been shown to be possible, it has generally been done. Poison gas seemed an equally unlikely weapon before a German professor developed what he chose to call 'A Higher Form of Killing'.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:37 am

Notes

CHAPTER ONE: 'FRIGHTFULNESS'


1 - Papers of Major General C. H. Foulkes. From a 'Very Secret' report on gas casualties by Lt. Col. Douglas, RAMC.

2 - Public Record Office, London (PRO), WO 32/5183. 'An account of German cloud gas attacks on the British Front in France.'

3 - PRO, WO 142/99. Autopsy report by Lt. McNee, RAMC.

4 - PRO, W0 32/5 I 83. 'An account of German cloud gas attacks on the British Front in France'.

5 - Papers of Joseph Barcroft. Letters to his wife, 8 and 12 May 1915.

6 - Kolnische Zeitung, 26 June 1915. Quoted in Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), The Problems of Chemical and Biological Warfare (Stockholm, 1971), Vol. II, p. 232.

7 - Ibid., 232.

8 - PRO, WO 32/5183. 'Diary of Development of British Respirator.'

9 - PRO, W0 32/5 I 83. 'An account of German cloud gas attacks on the British Front in France.'

10 - C. H. Foulkes, Gas! The Story of the Special Brigade, (London, 1936), p. 17.

11 - Joseph Borkin, The Crime and Punishment of I. G. Farben (London, 1979), p. 5.

12 - Victor Lefebure, The Riddle of the Rhine (London, 1921), p. 31.

13 - Borkin, op. cit., p. 18.

14 - PRO, WO 142/195. 'Early Gas Attacks Against the Russians.' According to W. L. Wicks of the British Embassy in Petrograd, in the course of one attack in May lasting just twenty minutes, 7, 800 men wounded by gas were evacuated, and 1, 100 left dead on the field.

15 - Robert Graves, Goodbye To All That (London, 1929), Ch. 15.

16 - Foulkes, op. cit., p. 80.

17 - Ibid., p. 72.

18 - Ibid., p. 81.

19 - Ibid., p. 76.

20 - Denis Winter, Death's Men (London, 1978), p. 125.

21 - Foulkes Papers. From Lt. Col. Douglas's secret report on British gas casualties, written in 1919.

22 - H. Allen, Toward the Flame; quoted in Winter, op. cit., p. 121.

23 - PRO, WO 142/99. An account of the first German phosgene attack.

24 - Ibid.

25 - PRO, WO 142/99. After poisoning by either chlorine or phosgene, patients 'may wake up at night many months later with a terrifying lack of breath'.

26 - Foulkes, op. cit., p, 113.

27 - Ibid., p. 109.

28 - Ibid., p. 127.

29 - Ibid., p. 135.

30 - Julian Perry Robinson, 'The Rise of CB Weapons', SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 34.

3I - Foulkes, op. cit., p. 212.

32 - Ibid., p. 200.

33 - PRO, WO 32/5176. 'Gas Shell Bombardment of Ypres, 12 - 13 July 1917.'

34 - Ibid.

35 - PRO, WO 142/99. From a report dated 22 July 1917.

36 - PRO, W032/5176. Report by Captain Douglas RAMC, Physiological Adviser to the Gas Services, 17 July 1917.

37 - PRO, W0 142/99. Report of a post mortem conducted at No. 47 Field Hospital on 22 July 1917 by Lt. Templeton of the RAMC.

38 - PRO, WO 142/99.

39 - Foulkes Papers. Report on British gas casualties, 1919.

40 - Ibid.

41 - General Fries writing in the Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 1920. Quoted in Lefebure, op. cit., p. 176.

42 - Lord Moran, Anatomy of Courage (London, 1966), quoted by Winter, op. cit., p. 126.

43 - PRO, WO 1421225, 'HS manufacture at Avonmouth.' Report by Captain H. M. Roberts, Factory Medical Officer.

44 - Foulkes, op. cit., p. 296.

45 - 'The War Diary of Brigadier Adrian Eliot Hodgkin', an unpublished, handwritten diary. Imperial War Museum, London.

46 - Foulkes Papers. Report on British gas casualties, 1919.

47 - Described in Mein Kampf. Hitler is said to have ascribed the recovery of his sight after being blinded by mustard gas to divine intervention - a supernatural sign which made him determined to become a politician.

48 - New York Times editorial, 27 January 1920. Quoted by Borkin, op. cit., p. 34.

Haber's laureate did him no good when Hitler came to power. Despite the fact that he had converted to Christianity, Haber's Jewish background led to his being forced to resign his academic posts in Germany when the Nazis carne to power. He died - 'a broken man' according to Borkin - in Switzerland in January 1934. 'Germans were not permitted to mourn his passing' (Borkin, op. cit., p. 57).

49 - A. M. Prentiss, Chemicals in War (New York, 1937); quoted in SIPRI, op, cit., Vol. I, p. 128 - 9.

50 - SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 50.

51 - J.B.S. Haldane, Callinicus: A Defence of Chemical Warfare (London, 1925), p. 10.

52 - Lefebure, op. cit., p. 172.

53 - Ibid., p. 174.

54 - Foulkes Papers. Draft report of the Holland Committee on Chemical Warfare Organisation.

55 - Haldane, op. cit., p. 32.

56 - PRO, WO 188/265. 'After - effects of gas poisoning.'

57 - Ibid. 'Disability due to gas poisoning', a report dated 16 June 1927 by A. Fairley, Acting Superintendent of the Physiology Department at Porton.

58 - Ibid.

59 - Interviewed for BBC Television's Panorama, 2 June 1980.

60 - Health Aspects of Chemical and Biological weapons: Report of a World Health Organisation Group of Consultants (Geneva, 1970), pp. 33 - 4.

61 - Ibid., p. 34.

62 - PRO, WO 188/265.

CHAPTER TWO: THE SERPENT AND THE FLOWER

1 - The 'Barcroft Bottle', mentioned in a number of 'Quarterly Reports' submitted by the Commandant of Porton to the War Office - e.g. July - September 1928 (PRO, WO 188/373).

2 - Quoted in Haldane, op. cit., p. 75.

3 - Barcroft's Papers. Letter from Lloyd George, 10 July 1919.

4 - Barcroft's Papers. Letter to his wife describing King George V's visit to Porton, 3 June 1918.

5 - Foulkes, op. cit., pp. 272 - 3.

6 - A Brief History of the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment Porton, p. 8. (This was a 'restricted' publication, written in March 1961 and declassified in 1981.)

7 - In 1981, reports of experiments at Porton available to historians ran up to 1929. There are 9, 000 individual records relating to the First World War alone held at the Public Record Office.

8 - Haldane, op. cit., p. 74.

9 - Sir Austin Anderson, 'Some Recollections of Porton in World War I', Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, II6(3), pp. 173 - 7.

10 - A Brief History of Porton, p. 7.

11 - Foulkes, op. cit., p. 274.

12 - PRO, W0 188/50. ' ... they consisted of men dying after exposure to HS in liquid vapour form from 24 to 15 days, some with severe intoxication, others with pneumonias at different stages.'

13 - Sir Austin Anderson, op. cit., pp. 173 - 7

14 - Foulkes Papers. Draft Report of the Holland Committee on Chemical Warfare Organisation, 1919.

15 - PRO, WO 188/50. 'Symptomatology of Action of DA in low concentrations on man.'

16 - PRO, WO 188/374.

17 - Foulkes Papers. Letter to the War Office, 12 August 1919. 'In this country, ' the letter continues, 'the heat of the sun distinctly favours its use, as evaporation from the ground will be much more rapid, and more toxic atmospheres will be created. As a consequence inflammations will be more severe and they will appear sooner; while profuse perspiration will encourage blistering, and skin lesions will have a tendency to become septic.'

18 - Foulkes Papers. Letter to the War Office, 5 November 1919. 'Reviewing the whole circumstances there appears to be little or no justification for refusing to employ gas on sentimental grounds: there is little sentiment in war and our men have the first claim on it.'

19 - PRO, WO 188/58. Letter from Salt to Major Wingate in London, 25 February 1920.

20 - For a detailed account of the adoption and signing of the Geneva Protocol, see SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. IV, CB Disarmament Negotiations 1920 - 1970.

21 - Julian Perry Robinson - SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 247.

22 - SIPRI, op cit., Vol. I, p. 283.

23 - British Intelligence Objectives Sub - Committee (BIOS) reports on Japanese Chemical Warfare. Vol. II and Vol. V Part A.

24 - Ibid., Vol. VI.

25 - Quoted in SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 147.

26 - Quoted in SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 144.

27 - From an intelligence summary, 'Notes on CW Preparedness of Enemy and Potential Enemy Countries' (20/32), contained in the papers of Lord Weir, Director General of Explosives (DG X) at the Ministry of Supply, 1939 - 41. The papers are held at Churchill College, Cambridge.

28 - SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. IV, pp. 180 - 81.

29 - Ibid., p. 182.

30 - The Times, 20 April 1936. Quoted in SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 259.

31 - PRO, WO 32/3665.

32 - Weir Papers, 20/32. 'Technical Report on Visit to French Powder and Chemical Warfare Factories' (September 1939).

33 - Weir Papers, 20/32. 'Notes on CW Preparedness of Enemy and Potential Enemy Countries'.

34 - PRO, WO 193/740. 'Anglo - French Conversations on Chemical Warfare.'

35 - Ibid.

36 - Ibid.

37 - Weir Papers, 20/32. 'Notes on CW Preparedness of Enemy and Potential Enemy Countries'.

CHAPTER THREE: HITLER'S SECRET WEAPON

1 - BIOS Report No. 714. 'The Development of New Insecticides and Chemical Warfare Agents', p. 24.

2 - Ibid., p. 28.

3 - Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub - Committee (C10S) Report No. 30. 'Chemical Warfare - I.G. Farbenindustrie A.G., Frankfurt/Main'.

4 - Ibid. The testimony of Dr Wilhelm Kleinhans.

5 - BIOS Report No. 41. 'Interrogation of German CW Personnel at Heidelburg and Frankfurt.'

6 - CIOS Report No. 30.

7 - CIOS Report No. 31. Chemical Warfare Installations in the Munsterlager Area.'

8 - Ibid.

9 - Ibid.

10 - Ibid.

11 - Ibid.

12 - BIOS Report No. 9. 'Interrogation of German Air Ministry Technical Personnel Luftwaffe Lager, near Kiel.'

13 - Ibid.

14 - Quoted in the 'Hitler's Deadly Secrets', the Sunday Times, 22 February 1981.

15 - CIOS Report No. 31.

16 - Ibid.

I7 - Ibid.

18 - Ibid.

19 - Ibid.

20 - American evidence presented to the Nuremburg Trials. Document L - 103.

21 - BIOS Report No. 782. 'Interrogation of Professor Ferdinand Flury and Dr Wolfgang Wirth on the toxicology of chemical warfare agents.'

22 - Hearings before a US Senate Sub - Committee, 1945. Quoted in Borkin, op. cit., p. 13 2n.

23 - BIOS Report No. 138. 'Interrogation of German CW Medical Personnel.'

24 - BIOS Report No. 9.

25 - David Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1977), p. 633.

26 - See Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (London, 1970). During his trial at Nuremburg, Speer also claimed that he considered assassinating Hitler in 1945 by introducing nerve gas into the ventilating system of the Fuhrerbunker.

27 - BIOS Report No. 542. 'Interrogation of Certain German Personalities connected with Chemical Warfare', p. 25.

28 - According to Winston Churchill in a memorandum to the Chiefs of Staff dated 21 May 1944 (PRO, CAB 122/1323). Churchill suggested that he and President Roosevelt should issue a warning that if the Germans used gas 'we shall immediately use the full delivery power of our Strategic Air Forces to drench the German cities and towns where any war industry exists.' The Chiefs of Staff turned the idea down, on the grounds that giving a warning might help compromise the date for which the Normandy landings were set.

29 - Omar Bradley, A Soldier's Story (New York, 1970); quoted in SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 297.

30 - Borkin, op. cit., pp. 131 - 2.

31 - CIOS Report No. 30.

32 - PRO, AVIA 24/18. 'Chemical Warfare - General.'

33 - PRO, WO 193/723. 'Chemical Warfare Intelligence 30 Sept 1939 - 30 June 1944.'

34 - A Brief History of Porton, p. 29.

CHAPTER FOUR: A PLAGUE ON YOUR CHILDREN

1 - Interviewed on BBC Newsnight programme, 1 May 1981.

2 - Quoted in The Gathering Storm (London, 1948), p. 34.

3 - Authors' interview with Dr Rex Watson, Director of Porton Down, 21 July 1981.

4 - Authors' interview, March 1981.

5 - Sunday Times, 15 February 1981.

6 - Authors' interview, March 1981.

7 - Interviewed on BBC Television's Newsnight, 1 May 1981.

8 - Authors' interview with Dr Rex Watson, 21 July 1981.

9 - Top secret report submitted to the Secretary of Defence's Ad Hoc Committee on CEBAR by Colonel William M. Creasy, 24 February 1950, p. 1.

10 - BIOS Report on Scientific Intelligence Survey in Japan, Vol. V: Biological Warfare (September and October 1945).

11 - Ibid.

12 - Ibid.

13 - Ibid.

14 - Ibid.

15 - Ibid.

16 - PRO, PREM 3/65. 'Japanese Attempts at Bacteriological Warfare in China'. One of a series of allegations passed on to Winston Churchill by the Chinese Ambassador 'on the instructions of Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek', July 1942.

17 - Ibid.

18 - Ibid.

19 - Ibid.

20 - PRO, CAB 53/4. Minutes of the COS Committee.

21 - Recollection of Lawrence Burgis, Hankey's private secretary for many years. Quoted in Stephen Roskill Hankey: Man of Secrets (London, 1974), Vol. III, p. 22.

22 - Burgis, op. cit.

23 - Roskill, op. cit., p. 93.

24 - PRO, CAB 4126. CID meeting, 17 March 1937.

25 - PRO, CAB 120/782.

26 - PRO, CAB 7911.

27 - PRo, CAB 120/782. Memo from Lord Hankey to Winston Churchill, 6 December 1941.

28 - Obituary of Sir Paul Fildes in The Times, 12 October 1971.

29 - Ibid.

30 - Authors' interview, 13 March 1981.

31 - R. V. Jones, Most Secret War (London, 1978), pp. 102 - 3.

32 - Weir Papers, 20/32. 'Notes on CW Preparedness of Enemy and Potential Enemy Countries'.

33 - Roskill, op. cit., p. 471.

34 - Seymour Hersh, Chemical and Biological Warfare: America's Secret Arsenal (London, 1968), p. 12.

35 - Ibid.

36 - Record of the Nuremburg Trials. Vol. XXI, p. 550.

37 - The records listed in the main index of the Public Record Office in London relating to chemical and biological warfare which are closed to public inspection are: the minutes of the Inter - Service Committee on Chemical Warfare (CAB 81/15, 16, 17 and 18); a file entitled 'The Employment of Chemical Warfare in the War Against Japan' (CAB 81/19); the minutes of the Bacteriological Warfare Committee (CAB 81/53); a file entitled 'Porton Experiments' (CAB 81/54); and the minutes of the Inter - Service Sub - Committee on Chemical Warfare (CAB 81/58).

38 - 'Compliance with obligations concerning the prohibition of bacteriological (biological)weapons', BWC/CONF. 1/4, Ch. 2.

39 - PRO, CAB 120/782.

40 - Ibid.

41 - Authors' interview with Dr Rex Watson, 21 July 1981.

42 - Health Aspects of Chemical and Biological Weapons: Report of a World Health Organisation Group of Consultants (Geneva, 1970), p. 41.

43 - Creasy Report, p. 1.

44 - Irving, Hitler's War, op. cit., p. 463.

45 - Ibid.

46 - US National Archives, CCS.381. Poland (6630- 43) Sec. I. Report on The Polish Secret Army for the period 1942 to April 1943, submitted to the CCS on 7 September 1943.

According to the minutes: 'SIR JOHN DILL said that he had read the paper with great interest. The British and Polish Governments and General Staffs had been in close touch throughout ... ADMIRAL LEAHY, on behalf of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, expressed his appreciation for the valuable paper and discussion put forward by the Polish representatives.'

47 - Frantisek Moravec, Master of Spies (London, 1981), p. 192.

48 - Jan Wiener, The Assassination of Heydrich (New York, 1969), pp. 82 - 90.

49 - Quoted in Miroslav Ivanov, The Assassination of Heydrich (London, 1973), pp. 175 - 8.

50 - WHO Report, op. cit., pp. 42 - 3.

51 - Ivanov, op. cit.

52 - Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies (New York, 1974), p. 226.

53 - Moravec, op. cit., p. 205.

54 - Irving, op. cit., p. 396.

55 - Authors' interview with Dr Rex Watson, 21 July 1981.

56 - Authors' conversation with Dr Alvin Pappenheimer, March 1981.

57 - Quoted in the judgement in the case of Mabel Nevin et al. versus The United States of America, 20 May 1981.

58 - PRO AVIA 42/18. Anglo - American exchange of information, 1941.

59 - Julian Perry Robinson, SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 121.

60 - Ibid.

61 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252. Report to the Chiefs of Staff Joint Technical Warfare Committee, November 1945.

62 - Ibid.

63 - PRO, PREM 3/89. 'Crop Destruction': a memo from Sir John Anderson to Winston Churchill, 9 March 1944.

64 - Ibid.

65 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252. Report to the Technical Warfare Committee on Crop Destruction.

66 - Ibid.

67 - Ibid.

68 - PRO, PREM 3/65.

69 - Ibid.

70 - PRO, PREM 3/65. 'Most Secret' memo, 8 March 1944.

71 - PRO, PREM 3/65. Memo from Brown to Churchill, 9 May 1944.

72 - Ibid.

73 - Ibid.

74 - According to Creasy, Vigo could produce 500, 000 4 - lb anthrax bombs per month; according to Brown's minute of 9 May, capacity was 625, 000 bombs per month.

75 - Creasy, op. cit., p. 8.

76 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252. Report to the Joint Technical Warfare Committee on 'Potentialities of Weapons of Biological Warfare During the Next Ten Years', November 1945.

77 - Ibid.

78 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252. Paul Fildes in conversation with the members of the Joint Technical Warfare Committee.

79 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252. Report on 'Future Development of Biological Warfare' submitted to the Joint Technical Warfare Committee, 6 December 1945.

80 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252.

81 - Interview on BBC Television's Newsnight, 1 May 1981.

82 - WHO Report, op. cit., p. 76.

83 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252.

84 - Press Association report, 1 May 1981.

85 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252.

86 - F.J. Brown, Chemical Warfare: a study in restraints (Princeton, 1968).

CHAPTER FIVE: THE WAR THAT NEVER WAS

1 - PRO, PREM 3/89.

2 - Weir Papers, 20/16. 'Memorandum on the Position in the Event of an Early Gas Blitz' (10 February 1941) and extract from the Minutes of the Chemical Warfare Board (28 January 1941).

3 - PRO, CAB 79/7. Minutes of the Chiefs of Staff Meeting, 7 October 1941.

4 - PRO, WO 193/740. 'Scale of Gas Attack to which the Field Force in France may be Subjected.'

5 - Contained in War Office file WO 193/732 at the Public Record Office, London.

6 - Ibid.

7 - Ibid.

8 - Quoted in Peter Fleming, Operation Sea Lion (London, 1975), p. 293.

9 - PRO, WO 193 - 732. Memo dated 30 June 1940.

10 - PRO, WO 193/732. The RAF squadrons armed with chemical weapons were stationed at Grangemouth, Linton (Yorks), Hatfield, West Mailing, Old Sarum, Lossiemouth, Walton, Wyton, Horsham St Faith, Oakington, Benbrook and Newton.

11 - PRO, WO 193/732. 'Memorandum on the use of gas in the defence of the United Kingdom.'

12 - Ibid.

13 - Ibid.

14 - PRO, WO 193/732. Information to sent by Dill to Churchill via Ismay on 2 July.

15 - PRO, PREM 3/88 - 3.

16 - Ibid.

17 - Ibid.

18 - Ibid.

19 - Ibid.

20 - PRO, WO 193/711. Memo from Beaverbrook to Churchill, 20 November 1941.

21 - A Brief History of Parton Down, p. 24.

22 - PRO, WO 193 - 711. Meeting of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, 28 December 1941.

23 - PRO, WO 193/732. Memorandum from Sir John Dill, 25 April 1941.

24 - PRO, WO 193/711. File entitled 'Offensive Chemical Warfare Policy'. COS Committee meeting, 19 March 1942.

25 - PRO, WO 193/711. Memorandum by CIGS, October 1941.

26 - Weir Papers, 20/32. Barley's report is quoted by Weir in a memo to the Minister of Supply, 11 October 1940.

27 - These are taken from a recently declassified US Pentagon document giving the history of each main US chemical warfare installation.

28 - Quoted in Julian Perry Robinson, SIPRI op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 316.

29 - Ibid.

30 - PRO, PREM 3/88 - 3. 'Japanese Gas Warfare in China.'

31 - Quoted in SIPRI op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 321.

32 - Contained in PRO, WO 193/712. Statement made on 6 June 1942.

33 - Ibid. Statement of 9 June 1943.

34 - Intelligence Report on Japanese Chemical Warfare. BIOS, Vol. III.

35 - PRO, WO 193/711. Telegram sent to GOC Malaya, 11 February 1942.

36 - Glenn B. Infield, Disaster At Bari (New York, 1971), p. 46.

37 - PRO, WO 193/712. Most Secret report: 'Toxic Gas Burns Sustained in the Bari Harbor Catastrophe' by Stewart F. Alexander, Lt. Col., US Medical Corps and Consultant, Chemical Warfare Medicine.

38 - PRO, PREM 3/88 - 3.

39 - PRO, WO 193/712. 'Most Secret and Most Immediate' telegram, 2 January 1944.

40 - PRO, W0 193/712. 'Important and Most Secret' telegram from General Wilson, 11 January 1944.

41 - PRO, WO 193/712. Telegram from General Eisenhower, 2 January 1944.

42 - An idea of the amount of time Intelligence spent worrying about gas warfare, and revelations of the role of Enigma decrypts in alerting the Allies to German intentions can be found in F. A. Hinsley, British Intelligence in the Second World War (London, 1981), Vol. II, pp. 116 - 22, 674 - 6.

43 - Quoted in SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I. p. 297.

44 - PRO, WO 193/713. A brief resume of the dispute is given in a letter from Sir Archibald Nye to Sir Bernard Paget (C - in - C Middle East) on 15 July 1944. 'We have decided, ' he concludes, 'to let sleeping dogs lie.'

45 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252. 'Matters of Fact Relating to Atomic Energy', a report by the Atomic Weapons Sub - Committee to the Joint Technical Warfare Committee, January 1946.

46 - PRO, PREM 3/65.

47 - Ibid.

48 - Ibid.

49 - Ibid. Memo to the Prime Minister from Ismay, 19 May 1944.

50 - Quoted in Roger Parkinson, A Day's March Nearer Home (London, 1974), p. 327.

51 - PRO, PREM 3/89.

52 - Ibid.

53 - PRO, WO 193/711. Churchill radio broadcast, 10 May 1942. The broadcast was made in response to a pledge Churchill had made to Stalin. The Russians were worried that the Nazis were about to use poison gas on the eastern front. Churchill's 'open - ended' pledge - like that of Roosevelt to the Chinese - appears to have worried the Chiefs of Staff. The relevant section 'of Churchill's broadcast ran:

The Soviet Government have expressed to us the view that the Germans in the desperation of their assault may make use of poison gas against the Armies and people of Russia. We are ourselves firmly resolved not to use this odious weapon unless it is first used by the Germans. Knowing our Hun, however, we have not neglected to make preparations on a formidable scale. I wish now to make it plain that we shall treat the unprovoked use of poison gas against our Russian ally exactly as if it were used against ourselves, and if we are satisfied that this new outrage had been committed by Hitler, we will use our great and growing Air superiority in the West to carry gas warfare on the largest possible scale far and wide upon the towns and cities of Germany ... Of one thing I am sure  - that the British people, who have entered into the full comradeship of war with our Russian Ally, will not shrink from any sacrifice or trial which that comradeship may require.

54 - Winston S. Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy (London, 1954), p. 39.

55 - PRO, PREM 3/89.

56 - PRO, CAB 79/77. Meeting of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, 8 July 1944.

57 - PRO, CAB 84/64. Instructions to the Joint Planning Staff, 16 July 1944.

58 - PRO, PREM 3/89.

59 - PRO, PREM 3/89. 'Military Considerations Affecting the Initiation of Chemical and Other Special Forms of Warfare'.

60 - The German cities were: Aachen, Bochum, Cologne, Damstadt, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Krefeld, Mainz, Mulheim, Miinchen/Gladbach, Munster, Oberhausen, Remscheid, Solingen, Wiesbaden, Wuppertal, Bielefeld, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Hanover, Kiel, Liibeck, Osnabriick, Rostock/Warnemunde, Wilhelmshaven, Berlin, Chemnitz, Dessau, Dresden, Erfurt, Halle, Kassel, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Plauen, Potsdam, Stettin, Wurzburg, Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Mannheim/Ludwigshafen, Sarbrucken, Stuttgart, Beuthen, Breslau, Danzig, Gleiwitz, Garlitz, Hindenburg, Konigsberg, Augsburg, Munich, Nuremburg.

61 - PRO, PREM 3/89.

62 - Ibid.

63 - Max Hastings, Bomber Command (London, 1979), pp. 343 - 4.

64 - PRO, WO 193/712.

65 - SIRI op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 298.

66 - PRO, WO 193/712. P 398 - A. 19 February 1945.

67 - PRO, PREM 3/88 - 3. 27 March 1942.

68 - PRO, WO 193/712. Minute from the Secretary of the COS Committee to the Foreign Secretary, 3 September 1943:

At QUADRANT code - name for Allied summit meeting in Quebec in August the Prime Minister asked the Chiefs of Staff to consider a reported threat by Ribbentrop that the Germans would use gas against the Italians, if they turned against the Germans, as an example to the remainder of the satellites. The Chiefs of Staff advised the Prime Minister against making any declaration of our intention to retaliate, because at that time it would have compromised the source of our information (i.e. General Castellano) ...

69 - Stanley P. Lovell, Of Spies and Stratagems (New York, 1963), p. 78.

CHAPTER SIX: NEW ENEMIES

1 - The fullest summary of the disposal of chemical weapons after the Second World War is to be found in 'The Rise of CB Weapons', Julian Perry Robinson, SIPRI, op. cit., pp. 153 n. and 305 n.

2 - PRO, 193/712. 'Disposal of German Chemical Warfare Stocks', report to Chiefs of Staff, 19 June 1945.

3 - Note by the Secretaries of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Annex B, 27 January 1949.

4 - 'Interrogation of Certain German Personalities Connected with Chemical Warfare', BIOS Final Report No. 542, Item No. 8.

5 - Note by the Secretaries of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Annex B, 27 January 1949.

6 - Materials on the Trial of Former Servicemen of the Japanese Army Charged with Manufacturing and Employing Bacteriological Weapons (Moscow, 1950). An account is also given in Hersh, op. cit., pp. 13 - 18.

7 - Ibid.

8 - Undated Pentagon/German intelligence report.

9 - Note by the Secretaries of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Annex B, 27 January 1949.

10 - Eight pages of Pentagon document, op. cit.

11 - PRO, DEFE 2/1252. Joint Technical Warfare Committee memo, 22 December 1945, TWC (45) 47; Joint Technical Warfare Committee, 5 January 1946, TWC (45) 44 (revised); Joint Technical Warfare Committee, 1 July 1946, TWC (46) 15 (revised).

12 - San Francisco Examiner, 2 June 1952.

13 - Testimony to a sub - committee of the Committee on Appropriations, US House of Representatives, March 1962.

14 - New York Times, 23 February 1938.

15 - Colonel V. Pozdnyakov, 'The Chemical Arm', in B. H. Liddell Hart (ed.), The Soviet Army (London, 1956).

16 - Quoted in R. L. Garthoff. Soviet Strategy in the Nuclear Age (London, 1958), p. 104.

17 - Lt. Gen. Arthur G. Trudeau: testimony during Department of Defence Appropriations hearing for 1961, Washington, March 1960.

18 - Seymour Hersh, 'Pentagon Gas Plans Spring a Leak', 15 July 1969. Reprinted in Congressional Record.

19 - The Penkovsky Papers, (London, 1965), p. 153.

20 - Ibid. Greville Wynne himself believes that Penkovsky was not executed but survived several years in Soviet gaols before finally committing suicide.

21 - Information to the authors from intelligence sources. But for a fuller, sceptical analysis of Soviet weaponry see 'CB Weapons Today', SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 173 - 84.

CHAPTER SEVEN: THE SEARCH FOR THE PATRIOTIC GERM

1 - PRO, COS (45) 402(0). 'Future Developments in weapons and methods of war'. A report by Sir Henry Tizard's Ad Hoc Committee to the Chiefs of Staff, June 1945.

2 - PRO, TWC (45) - 45. Brig. O. H. Wansburgh - Jones, 3 December 1945.

3 - PRO, TWC (46) 15 (Revise). 'Future Developments in weapons and methods of war'. Joint Technical Warfare Committee, July 1946.

4 - The Merck Report: a report by George W. Merck, the Director of the War Research Service (1945).

5 - Col. William F. Creasy, 'Presentation to Secretary of Defense's Ad Hoc Committee on CEBAR', 24 February 1950, p. 15.

6 - PRO, DEFE 4 - 3. Sir John Cunningham at Chiefs of Staff meeting, 26 March 1947.

7 - PRO, DEFE 4 - 24. Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting, 22 February 1950.

8 - US Army activity in the US Biological Warfare Program, (24 February 1977), pp. 1 - 4.

9 - Creasy op. cit., p. 17.

10 - Correspondence with Brigadier - General Niles]. Fulwyler, 9 February 1981. Information on Operation Harness comes from Royal Navy source and Porton Down (authors' interview with Dr Rex Watson, 21 July 1981).

11 - Documents quoted in Washington Post 18 September 1979. But, according to the family of one of the 800, 000 victims of this attack, the supposedly harmless bacteria used had caused a fatal casualty. Edward Nevin, a retired pipe fitter, had been admitted to hospital suffering from a hernia for what should have been a relatively simple operation. On I November 1950 he died of pneumonia. Blood and urine samples showed clear evidence of serrartia. At the time his family accepted his death as the result of an infection striking a vulnerable old man. But the doctors who treated Nevin were puzzled. There had been eleven cases of serratia pneumonia in the weeks following the spraying. It was such a rare outbreak that they wrote an article for the Archives of Internal Medicine the following year. When details of the San Francisco tests began to leak out in 1976, the Nevin family suspected that their grandfather's death had been a direct result of the biological warfare tests. An initial judgement by the San Francisco District Court in May 1981 rejected their suit against the US government, but the case seems likely to drag on through the courts for another two or three years.

12 - 'Behaviour of aerosol clouds within cities', US Army Chemical Corps Joint Quarterly Report, No. 5, July - September 1953.

13 - Ministry of Defence Press Release issued in 1954, quoted in correspondence December 1979.

14 - Information to the authors from local sources, confirmed by Ministry of Defence and Porton Down.

15 - Documents quoted in Washington Post, 23 April 1980.

16 - Ibid.

17 - US Army Information Sheet, 12 January 1977.

18 - Creasey, op. cit., p. 33.

19 - US Army Activity (note 2) pp. 3 - I. For some of the details of Pine Bluff Arsenal we are indebted to Seymour Hersh, op. cit., pp. 132 - 7.

20 - Creasey, op. cit., Table One.

21 - Ibid., pp. 22 - 3.

22 - Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China (Peking, 1952).

23 - Authors' interview with Dr Needham, 25 February 1981.

24 - Sworn statement made January 1952, quoted in Hersh, op. cit., p. 20.

25 - SIPRI The problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Vol. I, p. 230.

26 - See Chapter Five.

27 - Quoted in Walter Schneir, 'The Campaign to Make Chemical Warfare Respectable', The Reporter (October 1959), p. 27.

28 - Law of Land Warfare. Field Manual 27 - 10.

29 - Armed Forces Doctrine for Chemical and Biological Weapons Employment and Defense. Field Manual 101 - 40.

30 - J. H. Rothschild Tomorrow's Weapons, (New York, 1964), pp. 82 - 4.

31 - Summary of Major Events and Problems, United States Chemical Corps, Fiscal Year 1959 (Army Chemical Center, Maryland, January 1960.)

32 - This was code - named 'Project Screw worm'.

33 - Sawyer, Dengerfield, Hogge and Crozier 'Antibiotic Prophylaxis and Therapy of Airborne Tularemia', Bacteriological Reviews (September 1966), pp. 542 - 8.

34 - Quoted in Hersh, op. cit., p. 124.

35 - Webb, Wetherley - Mein, Gordon Smith and McMahon 'Leukaemia and Neoplastic Process treated with Langat and Kyasanur Forest Disease Viruses: a clinical and laboratory study of 28 patients', British Medical Journal (29 January 1966), pp. 258 - 66.

36 - Ibid.

37 - Figures given in parliamentary answer by Geoffrey Johnson Smith M P, 12 July 1971.

38 - Hersh, op. cit., pp. 119 - 20.

39 - The observation was first made by Robin Clarke and Julian Perry Robinson in 'United Kingdom Research Policy', in Steven Rose (ed.), Chemical and Biological Warfare, (London, 1968), p. 109.

40 - This scenario was painted for the authors by Dr Rex Watson, Director of Porton Down, during an interview in November 1980.

41 - US Army Activity in the US Biological Warfare Programs (note 6), pp, 5 - 4 - 6 - 3.

42 - Deseret Test Center, Utah.

43 - Comment to the authors by former Chemical Corps officer.

44 - 'No single inspection procedure or combination of procedures were available that would offer a high level of assurance against militarily significant violation of BW limitation' (US Army Activity in the US Biological Warfare Programs, pp. 5 - 2, 5 - 3).

45 - Presidential Statement, 25 November 1969.

46 - SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 128 - 9.

CHAPTER EIGHT: THE RISE AND RISE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

1 - PRO, Cos (45) 402 (0). 'Further Developments in Weapons and Methods of War', a report of Sir Henry Tizard's Ad Hoc Committee to Chiefs of Staff, June 1945.

2 - Undated interview with Maj. Gen. Marshall Stubbs by American Citizens for Honesty in Government. Interview notes made available to authors.

3 - D. J. A. Goodspeed, A History of the Defence Science Board of Canada, (Ottawa, 1958).

4 - Statement to the Australian Senate by the Minister of Supply, Senator Anderson, 28 November 1968.

5 - Authors' interview with Dr Rex Watson in November 1980. It is also known that Australian scientists carried out experimental research into toxins extracted from jellyfish and sea - wasps in 1968 - 9.

6 - 'The Lethality to rats of G Band G E from HE/Chemical weapons in the field', Porton Technical Paper No. 239 (1951). And 'The production of casualties in monkeys with GB vapour', Porton Technical Paper No. 424 (1954).

7 - Letter from John Morris MP, Junior Defence Minister to James Dickens MP, 31 July 1968. Our account also draws upon correspondence with Cockayne and examination of medical reports.

8 - The Nigerian tests were confirmed by the present Director and Staff of Porton Down in meetings and correspondence with the authors.

9 - Quoted in Tribune, 30 January 1959.

10 - Ministry of Defence press release, 29 October 1970.

11 - Joint Logistics Plans Committee memo, 7 April 1953.

12 - Authors' interview with Tom Griffiths in April 1980. An account of the Griffiths case is also to be found in Elizabeth Sigmund, Rage Against the Dying, (London, 1980), pp. 28 - 42.

13 - Authors' interview with Trevor Martin in February 1981. See also 'Nerve gas man reveals how he was crippled', Sunday Times, 7 December 1969.

14 - Fort Clayton, Canal Zone; Fort Greely, Alaska; Camp Tuto, Greenland.

15 - The plant was known as the Muscle Shoals Development works, and was operating by 1953.

16 - There are conflicting accounts of how much was produced. The cost of GB manufacture is given in SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 53.

17 - The warheads included Honest John, Little John, and Sergeant missiles.

18 - The American M 34 'cluster bomb' had been fitted with extra handles so that it could be carried by British bombers.

19 - A Brief History of Porton, p. 37.

20 - See Chapter Two.

21 - Summary of Major Events and Problems, US Army Chemical Corps, Fiscal Year 1959 (January 1960).

22 - Information to the authors.

23 - Part of this description of the Newport Chemical Plant is indebted to Seymour Hersh, op. cit.

24 - Missiles included Honest John and Sergeant.

25 - US Army Chemical Corps (January 1960) Summary of Major Events and Problems.

26 - Harpers, June 1959.

27 - This Week, 17 May 1959. Quoted in Walter Scheir 'The Campaign to Make Chemical Warfare Respectable', The Reporter, October 1959.

28 - 'U.S. Seeks to develop chemicals that will disable the enemy temporarily', Wall Street Journal, 16 August 1963.

29 - Extract from sworn statement given by former US serviceman Dan Bowen to American Citizens for Honesty in Government, 9 July 1979. Bowen had participated in tests at Edgewood Arsenal between 28 February 1961 and 3 April 1961.

30 - Department of Defense statement 26 July 1975, and correspondence with Ministry of Defence 29 April 1980.

31 - A fuller account of the discovery of LSD appears in John Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate (New York, 1979).

32 - Inspector - General US Army Use of Volunteers in Chemical Agent Research, (March 1976).

33 - Psychochemical Agents, Chemical Warfare Laboratories Report No. 2071, 14 September 1956.

34 - Prices given by Dr Neville Gadsby to Daily Telegraph, 3 June 1969. According to our information the British continued, however, to investigate other 'humane' drugs, including powerful animal sedatives designed originally to knock out elephants and other large animals.

35 - Information to the authors from Detective - Inspector Richard Lee, who discovered the transaction during investigations for Operation Julie, the world's largest anti - LSD operation. Lee believes the 'China connection' drugs could only have been intended for chemical warfare, but maintains silence on details on the discovery.

36 - Medical report quoted in Bowart, op. cit., p. 90.

37 - Testimony to army investigators, Marks, op. cit., p. 67.

38 - Department of Defence statement, 26 July 1975.

39 - Pharmacologia, 1972.

40 - There were numerous other tests, notably to discover the value of LSD in the interrogation of prisoners. In 1960 an interrogation team was sent to Europe to use LSD in the questioning of ten suspects believed to have lied during previous military police investigations. Codenamed Project Third Chance, the interrogation team concluded that LSD was safe, humane, and secure. In 1962, a second team used LSD during interrogations in the Far East, where seven 'foreign nationals' were given the drug. Despite the enthusiasm of its advocates, use of LS D on military prisoners was suspended in 1963.

41 - US Army Bio - engineering R & D Laboratory, Technical Report 7710, (Fort Detrick, August 1977); and SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 47.

42 - Vietnam might have provided the perfect 'field laboratory' for BZ. There is one account of BZ being used in combat in Vietnam. L'Express described an attack by the First Airmobile Division during Operation White Wing in March 1966. The US troops were said to have dropped 3, 000 BZ filled grenades on suspected Viet Cong positions. The report was denied by the US government. Some support for their denial can be gleaned from the fact that BZ is said never to have been loaded into grenades. There were at least three other allegations of BZ use in Vietnam, but none was satisfactorily proved.

43 - The Dugway experiment, to 'test the effective dosage of BZ when disseminated in the open', began in late 1964, and was codenamed Project Dork. The Hawaii tests took place in 1966 and 1967.

44 - Ministry of Defence spokesman, 3 August 1979.

45 - The American government maintained at the time that US forces in Vietnam did not use chemical weapons which were subject to international controls. They stated that anti - plant agents and 'harassing agents' did not constitute chemical warfare. Since the end of the Second World War chemical warfare had been alleged in a succession of countries, including China (1946), Vietnam (1947), Egypt (1948), Greece (1949), Korea (1952), Cuba (1957), Algeria (1957), Spanish Sahara (1958), and China (1958). The majority of these charges were dismissed as propaganda. The most authenticated use of gas took place during the Yemen Civil War, between 1963 and 1967. It was claimed that Soviet - manufactured gas, notably mustard, had been employed by Egyptian forces which had intervened on the Republican side. There were also allegations that the Egyptians were using gas, including phosgene, which had been left in the country by British troops during the Second World War. Altogether some 1, 400 Royalist tribesmen were said to have been killed, and a further 900 seriously wounded. Independent investigation by the Red Cross confirmed the claim that gas had been used. Although Saudi Arabia attempted to persuade the United Nations to mount an investigation and condemn the use of gas, the UN took no action.

46 - 2, 4 dichlorphenoxyacetic acid, coded LN8; 2, 4, 5 trichlorophenoxy - acetic acid, coded LN14, and better known as 245T; and iso - Propyl N - phenol carbamate, code LN33. (PRO, DEFE 2/1252 'Crop Destruction', a memorandum for the Joint Technical Warfare Committee (1945), p. 2.)

47 - Ibid. p. 1. Strategists calculated that an attack would destroy about 30 per cent of the rice crop.

48 - Flying, November 1966.

49 - SIPRI, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 166.

50 - Letter from Dixon Donelly, Assistant Secretary, Department of Defense, September 1966.

51 - SIPRI, op. cit., pp. 178 - 9.

52 - Dioxin: a potential chemical warfare agent, SIP RI Yearbook (Stockholm, 1977), p. 92.

53 - Ibid., pp. 97 - 8.

54 - Information to the authors from Vietnam veterans. See also Marta Tarben, The Agent Orange Time Bomb, Mike Goldwater and Anthony Barnet, Wouldn't Hurt a Mouse, New Statesman.

55 - So called after the two American scientists, Carson and Staughton, who first discovered the compound in 1928.

56 - Summary of Major Events and Problems, US Chemical Corps, Fiscal Year 1959 (January 1960), p. 96.

57 - Attack in Bin dinh province, February 1966.

58 - Quoted in Hersh, op. cit., pp. 178 - 9.

59 - Le Monde, 4 January 1966.

60 - Hersh, op. cit., p. 170.

61 - The link was discovered by University of Pennsylvania students in 1965. The ICR had been involved in CBW research since the Korean War. In 1965, its two major projects were Summit and Spicerack. Summit involved research into new chemical weapons for the Chemical Corps. Spicerack was the cover for work for the US Air Force.

62 - Experiments, for example, into weapons combining gas and fuel/air devices, which would detonate and punch a cloud of chemical towards the enemy.

63 - Testimony to Armed Services Committee, US House of Representatives, Hearings on Military Posture, 1970.

CHAPTER NINE: THE TOOLS OF SPIES

1 - Quoted in BBC Television's Panorama, 'Who Killed Georgi Markov?', 9 September 1979.

2 - Information on these attacks is drawn from a number of sources. The most readable account of the activities of Khokhlov appears in John Barron, KGB (New York, 1974). A fuller version can be found in Murder International Inc, Murder and Kidnapping as an instrument of Soviet Policy, 1965 Hearings before the subcommittee to investigate the administration of the International Security Act and other Internal Security Laws, Judiciary Committee, US Senate, 1965.

3 - PRO, Cabinet Paper 120/783.

4 - PRO, CAB 79/56. Chiefs of Staff Committee, 20 July 1942.

5 - Ibid. Comment by ACIGS.

6 - Ibid.

7 - Lovell, op. cit., p. 17.

8 - Ibid., p. 22.

9 - Ibid. Inscription on fly leaf of copy given by author to Lord Stamp.

10 - Ibid.

11 - This was the title of a book by John Marks (The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, op. cit.). Although there have been other books published on this subject, Marks' work remains the most reliable, readable and coherent account.

12 - See Josef Mindszenty, Memoirs (New York, 1974).

13 - Use of Volunteers in Chemical Agent Research, Report of the Inspector - General, Department of the Army, 1975, p. 19.

14 - 'Disposal of Maximum Custody Type Defectors of All Categories'. Memo dated 7 March 1951.

15 - 'Sensitive Research Programs'. Memo for Director of Central Intelligence, June 1964.

16 - Quarterly Report, 1 July - 30 September 1953. Section on Addicting Drugs, Laboratory of Pharmacology, Addiction Research Center, Lexington, Kentucky.

17 - 'No One Told Them', Newsweek, 21 July 1975.

18 - Alan W. Scheflin and Edward M. Opton Jr., The Mind Manipulators (London and New York, 1978), pp. 134 - 5.

19 - 'Senate Panel to Focus on Abuses Linked to C IA Drug Testing', New York Times, 20 September 1977.

20 - 'New Details of "House in SF" " San Francisco Chronicle, 28 August 1977.

21 - 'CIA Sought to Spray Drug on Partygoers' New York Times, 29 September 1977.

22 - Quoted in Marks, op. cit., p. 101.

23 - 'Testing of Psychochemicals and related materials'. Memo from Richard Helms to Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, 17 December 1963.

24 - Statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Committee on Human Resources, Admiral Stansfield Turner, 13 August 1977.

25 - Annual Reports of Human Ecology Fund, filed with New York State Department of Social Welfare, 1961 and 1962.

26 - Summary of Project OFTEN, 29 May 1973.

27 - William Colby and Peter Forbath, Honorable Men - My Life in the CIA, (New York, 1978), p. 442. In an interview with one of the authors in May 1978, Colby claimed that all the allegations of CIA assassination plots 'really involve only one case - Fidel Castro', and there he admitted that the CIA did plan a murder.

28 - 'Unauthorised Storage of Toxic Agents', Hearings before US Senate Intelligence Committee (16, 17, 18 September 1975) p. 10. Chaired by Senator Frank Church, it was known at the Church Committee.

29 - Ibid., p. 161.

30 - Memorandum for the Record. Discussions with [deleted] on M KNAOMI (September 1975), pp. 3 - 4.

31 - Memo from unidentified CIA officer to unidentified Chief of Division, 7 February 1962.

32 - Report to U S House of Representatives, quoted in Robin Clarke, We All Fall Down (London, 1968).

33 - Dr Edward Schantz, who worked at Fort Detrick for twenty - eight years, in testimony to the Church Committee. Church, op. cit., p. 153.

34 - Although there is nothing necessarily sinister in the connection between an animal health laboratory and a biological warfare establishment, suspicion could only increase when, asked about the nature of the Shellfish Toxin research at Babraham, the Minister responsible would say only that 'the work has been of value in demonstrating the correlation between certain physiological activities' (Neil McFarland, Hansard, 14 January 1980).

35 - Charles A. Senseny, testimony to Church Committee. Church, op. cit., p. 162. Senseny had begun work in the Fort Detrick Special Operations Division in 1953, where he had carried out many experiments with Shellfish poison, refined dart guns, and devised methods of forcing biological agents into public water supplies.

36 - According to a report in Newsday in January 1977, not all CIA anti - Cuba biological operations failed. The paper quoted an unidentified intelligence source as saying that in early 1971 he had been given a container of virus for shipment to Cuba. Six weeks later the island reported the only outbreak of African Swine Fever in the western hemisphere. Over 500, 000 pigs, considered vital to the national economy, were slaughtered. The CIA had no comment to make on the allegation. Newsday, 9 January 1977.

37 - 'Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders', Interim Report of the Church Committee, pp. 20 - 1. Gottlieb gave evidence under the pseudonym 'Victor Scheider'. Further information from authors' interview with former CIA officer John Stockwell in May 1978.

38 - Philip Agee, Inside the Company - CIA Diary (New York, 1975), p. 85.

39 - Information from Fort Detrick employee.

40 - Unauthorised Storage of Toxic Agents - Church, op. cit., pp. 103 - 104.

CHAPTER TEN: FROM DISARMAMENT TO REARMAMENT

1 - Quoted in First Tuesday, NBC News, 1 May 1973.

2 - Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, signed in Washington, London and Moscow, 10 April 1971.

3 - Boston Globe, 28 September 1975.

4 - Jack Anderson's syndicated column, 27 December 1975 Nicholas Wade, who investigated these two allegations for Science, concluded that there was 'little evidence to suppose that the Soviet Union is in legal violation of the Biological Weapons Convention' (Science, 2 April 1976). The slighted Soviet diplomat told Science that 'Anderson can say what he likes, this is a free country.'

5 - Reuters dispatch, Brussels, 30 January 1978. Tass later described the story as a product of the 'British misinformation department'.

6 - New York Times, 5 June 1978.

7 - San Francisco Examiner, 22 October 1979. The Polish army captain was said to have told American diplomats that he had heard of the plan while imprisoned in the Gulag Archipelago in 1976. A counter - allegation was made by Fidel Castro in July 1981, when he claimed that an outbreak of dengue which had killed 113 Cubans and infected a further 270, 000 was the work of the CIA (speech at Victoria de las Tunas, Cuba, 27 July 1981).

8 - Now!, 26 October 1979.

9 - This connection was first noted by Zhores Medvedev in New Scientist, 3I July 1980.

10 - Daily Telegraph, 11 February 1980.

11 - Bild Zeitung, 13 February 1980.

12 - For example, Washington Star, 19 March 1980: 'US Believes Soviet Anthrax Killed 200 - 300'.

13 - For example, Zhores Medvedev, New Scientist, 31 July 1980; Vivian Wyatt, New Scientist, 4 September 1980.

14 - Quoted in New Scientist, 10 July 1980.

15 - Pentagon spokesman to the authors, December 1980.

16 - Authors' correspondence with Porton Down, March 1981.

17 - The laboratory had been used by the Department of Health for the manufacture of anthrax vaccine.

18 - Authors' interview with Dr Rex Watson, 21 July 1981.

19 - Authors' interview with Professor Adolf Henning Frucht, Berlin, April 1980.

20 - 'Chemische Waffen in Warschauer Pakt', Soldat und Technik (1970).

21 - Professor John Erickson, 'Soviet Chemical Warfare Capabilities' (Department of Defence Studies Edinburgh University, 1978), p. 17.

22 - Correspondence from Ministry of Defence to the authors, April 1980.

23 - The service personnel are said to be all volunteers. In the early 1970s they were recruited through approaches from Porton Down to regimental officers, and through advertisements in service magazines. By way of inducement the volunteers were offered extra pay - some opted for the work at Porton to earn money for holidays and Christmas presents. A volunteer in similar experiments at Edgewood Arsenal in 1969 said 'My folks think I'm insane, but they tell us there's no real danger.'

24 - All soldiers are expected to carry an 'autoject' mechanical syringe to inject themselves, should they be exposed to nerve gas. The unpopularity of CBW training can perhaps be guessed at - soldiers are expected to enter a room filled with C S gas, remove their gas mask, and repeat their name, rank and number to the satisfaction of the NCO in command. But full - scale training exercises, among the most thorough in NATO, can be rendered unrealistic by the instruction to return 'noddy' suits in 'good as new' condition: soldiers wishing to eat or relieve themselves must expose themselves to an atmosphere theoretically filled with nerve gas.

25 - Testimony to NATO subcommittee of House Armed Services Committee, 18 and 19 December 1979.

26 - Correspondence from Pentagon to authors, November 1980.

27 - The United States wanted the convention to include 'incapacitants and dangerous irritants, but not safe, irritants or anti - plant chemicals'. For a fuller account of the negotiations see 'Negotiations On Chemical Warfare Control', Arms Control Vol. I, No. I (May 1980).

28 - Charles H. Bay, 'The Other Gas Crisis - Chemical Weapons', Parameters, journal of the Army War College, September 1979. Colonel Bay was Commander of Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, at the time he wrote the article.

29 - 'Auch Kampstoff - Rustung der Sowjets', Soldat und Technik (1968).

30 - United States Military Posture for FY 1976.

31 - Conversation with the authors, April 1980.

32 - Matthew Messelson and Julian Perry Robinson, 'Chemical Warfare and Chemical Disarmament', Scientific American, April 1980.

33 - Richard H. Ichord, 'The Deadly Threat of Soviet Chemical Warfare', Readers' Digest, September, 1979.

34 - Bay, op. cit.

35 - Charles H. Bay, 'The Other Gas Crisis, Part Two', Parameters, December 1979.

36 - Evidence to House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, 18 July 1968.

37 - Information to the authors.

38 - Los Angeles Times, 23 September 1978

39 - General Bernard Rogers in Now!, 21 March 1980.

40 - Binary Munitions Advantages: Edgewood Arsenal internal briefing document.

41 - Binary Modernization, Pentagon Information Paper, 21 May 1980, and 'Old Fears, New Weapons: Brewing a Chemical Arms Race', The Defence Monitor (1980) Vol. IX, No. 10, 1980.

42 - Reports of the Use of Chemical Weapons in Afghanistan, Laos, Kampuchea, US State Department, released 7 August 1980.

43 - Harold Wilson MP, House of Commons, 31 January 1967

44 - Final Report of the D AS G Investigating Team: Useof Chemical Agents Against the Hmong in Laos.

45 - See Deadly Signs of 'Medicine from the Sky', Sterling Seagrave, Washington Star, 4 May 1980.

46 - One sample was sent to a Philadelphia pharmacologist, who then forwarded it to Professor Chester J. Mirocha at the University of Minnesota. When the St. Paul Dispatch revealed the source of the sample in September 1981, the university was still unaware of its origin.

47 - Statement by Walter J. Stroessel Jr, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, 14 September 1981.

48 - See Sterling Seagrave Yellow Rain (New York, 1981).

49 - Negotiations between British and American officials took place 'at Brigadier level over a period of weeks' according to a Ministry of Defence source. The Defence Secretary comments were made at a meeting of the Royal United Services Institute, 16 December 1980.

50 - 'I never dreamed that I'd be sitting here in 1980 after we started this back in 1969 and we'd have reports of twenty - five Warsaw Pact divisions able to use it. That's what we were trying to stop. Apparently it has not succeeded.' Richard Nixon, BBC Panorama, 2 June 1980.

EPILOGUE

1 - Calculations based upon assessment by Julian Perry Robinson, and SIPRI Yearbook (1973), p. 271.

2 - US Army Mobility Equipment Research and Development Center, Decontamination of Water Containing Chemical Warfare Agent, (Fort Belvoir, Virginia, January 1975).

3 - US Army Spokesman, May 1980.

4 - Testimony before a sub - committee of House Appropriations Committee, Department of Defence Appropriations for 1963, Washington, March 1962.

5 - Testimony before a sub - committee of the House Committee on Appropriations, Department of Defence Appropriations for 1970, Washington, 1969.

6 - This is not an entirely academic speculation. In 1968 Porton Down and Fort Detrick collaborated in the successful transfer of genes between different strains of plague bacillus. The research was done 'for purely defensive purposes'.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical a

Postby admin » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:39 am

The authors would like to thank the following for permission to quote from copyright material: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd (Gas! The Story of the Special Brigade by Major - General C. H. Foulkes); Granada Publishing Ltd. and the Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc. (The Assassination of Heydrich by Miroslav Ivanov, translated by Patrick O'Brien. Published in the United States as Target Heydrich); Dr J. E. Hodgkin and the Imperial War Museum (the Unpublished Diaries of Brigadier A. E. Hodgkin); Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd (Callinicus by J. B. S. Haldane); Weidenfeld & Nicolson and The Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc. (Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer; The Estate of Wilfred Owen, Charto & Windus Ltd, and New Directions Publishing Corporation ('Dulce et Decorum Est' from The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen edited by C. Day Lewis).

The following have very kindly given permission for the use of illustrations: The Public Records Office (1), Imperial War Museum (2, 3 4, 5 6), General Allan Younger (7), Royal Sociery (8), Porton Down (9, 10), Keystone Press Agency (11, 12, 13), Porton Down (14), Yivo Instirute for Jewish Research (15, 16), Ministry of Defence (17, 18), Wellcome Museum of Medical Science (19), Center for Disease Control, Atlanta (20, 21, 22), US Department of Defense (23), Porton Down (24), Associated Press (25), Ministry of Defence (26), United Press International (27), US Department of Defence (28), United Press International (29), Press Association (30).
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