concepts were considered: thesimplest approach was coatingshrapnel and bullets with ricin tocreate a skin effect; the morechallenging concept was a “dustcloud” that produced a lung effect.At the time, limited experimentalwork on animals demonstratedthat it was possible to weaponizericin. Interestingly, the averagetime it took for an animal to die wassomewhat longer than is reportedin contemporary studies. This earlywork also identified the maintechnical difficulty in weaponizingricin: its thermal sensitivity. It wasfound that the heat generatedwhile firing the coated bulletsdestroyed a significant
amount of the agent.
The recommendation at thetime was to investigate ricin-coatedshrapnel or bullets immediatelybut hold off on a dust cloud weaponuntil an antitoxin could be madeavailable. This posed the ethicaldilemma mentioned earlier: a lungeffect from ricin was an accept-able form of chemical warfare, butricin-coated shrapnel and bulletswere considered to be an act of poisoning and thus were ethicallyprohibited.
Ricin-coated shrapneland bullets were only to be used inretaliation
the law of retaliation) against the Germans if they used a similar “poisoned”weapon.By the end of the war, re-searchers could only weaponizericin in coated shrapnel and bulletsor by using a dust cloud for ablinding-eye effect
(the lungeffect from a dust cloud could notbe confirmed). Though four manu-facturers had been identified andthe U.S. Army desired to havethree field trials with ricin, timeand ethics prevailed, and the warended without a usable weapon.Given its atrocious reputation,researchers felt that all records onricin should be kept secret ordestroyed.
World War II
arly in World War II,England and Canada beganwork on ricin for use in4-pound bursting bomblets.
TheFrench also had an interest in ricinbut, like early U.S. investigators,felt that it was too dangerous tostudy without first having anantitoxin.
The U.S. military’sinterest in ricin resurfaced around1942 as a project of the NationalDefense Research Committee
and led to chamber and field trialsat Dugway Proving Ground, Utah,in 1944.
These efforts differedfrom those of the previous war inthat only a lung effect was beingconsidered, and considerable ad-vances had been made in thescience of aerosols.
However, thethermal sensitivity of ricin re-mained the major technical hurdle.Theoretically, there is about1 gram of pure ricin per kilogramof cold-pressed castor bean cake.Given the U.S. production of castor oil during the war, 1,000 tons
Cutaway of a 75-millimetershrapnel shell intended todeliver a dry-type agent (prob-ably a vomiting agent).
of ricin could have been producedannually. The agent’s most basicform was an amorphous masstermed “crude” ricin, and it wasessentially the form with whichWorld War I investigators hadworked. To get the agent into thisusable aerosol form, it needed tobe added to a volatile solvent(fluidized) or milled into a finepowder (micropulverized).Fluidization was successful,but it seriously diluted the amountof agent that could be employed.Micropulverization of a dry-typeagent was the preferred method,and ball milling (the commonmethod of the time) was usedfirst. During the milling, the heatfrom the friction was too extreme,and the agent was almost entirelydestroyed, so an alternate methodof milling and drying had to bedeveloped. Spray-drying the agentand using a specially designedchilled-air grinder produced anagent that had lost little toxicity.This was the formulation that wastermed
throughout fieldtrials.There were three field trials atDugway Proving Ground in May1944. Two used a bursting munitionresembling the standard 4-poundbiological bomblet, and anotherused a tail-ejecting sprayingmunition. The tests were conductedin the G-2
Canyon Test Site on thenorthern slope of Granite Peak.Katabatic winds blew the aerosolcloud over 50, 100, 200, and 400sampling arcs. The trials indicatedthat ricin was only lethal as long asthe cloud was still visible to theunaided eye.A pilot manufacturing plantproduced 1,700 kilograms of ricin.Planners designed a $127,000full-scale plant for producingmicropulverized crude ricin, which