The U.S. Biological Warfare and Biological Defense Programs
In the spring of 1942, President Roosevelt andBritish Prime Minister Winston Churchill an-nounced policies limiting the use of biologicalweapons to retaliation only, closely paralleling pre-vious decisions, such as the Geneva Protocol of 1925, on the limited use of chemical weapons. Butthese new policies
did not prevent the United Statesand Great Britain from beginning to amass arsenalsof biological weapons.
By 1943, the research cen-ter and pilot plant at Camp Detrick employed ap-proximately 3,800 military and 100 civilian person-nel. In 1944, Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, wasestablished to replace the Mississippi site, and theproduction plant was constructed near Terre Haute,Indiana.
The United States exchanged information withGreat Britain and Canada, two other nations con-cerned about the biological warfare threat, but thegeneral public was unaware of a biological warfareprogram in the United States until 4 months afterthe war was over. During World War II, the UnitedStates worked primarily on anthrax and botulism;however, brucellosis, psittacosis, tularemia, andglanders were also studied. There was also consid-erable work on agents for use against plants, andrecords show that there were plans drawn up todecimate Japan’s rice crops.
At the end of World War II, construction and test-ing slowed to a stop, and the effort on biologicalwarfare development was largely limited to re-search. The production plant in Indiana was soldto the Charles A. Pfizer Company for commercialuse. Although the highly classified program wasinitially defensive, and closely tied with the chemi-cal weapons program, research continued on devel-oping an independent retaliatory capability usingvarious disease agents.
The Secret Program Is Acknowledged
Since 1937, Japan had conducted a large biologi-cal warfare program, including human testing, atits Unit 731 in Manchuria.
After the war, the UnitedStates granted amnesty to Japanese scientists whohad participated in the research; however, a condi-tion of the amnesty was full disclosure of researchinformation. Two scientists from Camp Detrick, Dr.Edwin Hill and Dr. Joseph Victor, went to Japan in1945 and interviewed 22 scientists. They learnedthat many of the classical biological warfare agentshad been studied, and that approximately 1,000autopsies had been performed in Unit 731, most of these on humans who had been exposed to anthrax.They also learned that the Japanese had stockpiled400 kg of anthrax spores, which were to be used ina specially designed fragmentation bomb.In January 1946, the War Department made pub-lic for the first time the fact that the United Stateshad been conducting biological warfare researchand testing. The press release emphasized the highpriority placed on safety:
In all work on biological warfare carried on in theUnited States, extreme care was taken to protectthe participating personnel from infection. Manynew techniques were devised to prevent infectionand proved highly successful. Hospitals and dis-pensaries were maintained at all installations,staffed with both Army and Navy personnel andwere equipped to treat accidental infections. As theresult of the extraordinary precautions taken, thereoccurred only sixty cases of proven infection caused by accidental exposure to virulent biological war-fare agents which required treatment. Fifty-two of these recovered completely; of the eight cases re-maining, all were recovering satisfactorily. Therewere, in addition to the sixty proven cases, 159 ac-cidental exposures to agents of unknown concen-trations. All but one of these received prompt treat-ment and did not develop any infection. In oneinstance, the individual did not report exposure,developed the disease, but recovered after treat-ment.
3(vol 1, p1-4)
Mr. Merck, the head of the War Reserve Service,in his final report
to the secretary of war noted thatalthough remarkable achievements had been made,the potential of biological warfare had by no means been completely measured. He recommended thatthe program be continued on a sufficient scale toprovide an adequate defense.In 1948, the Research and Development Board(then under the secretary of defense), which had been given the responsibility to supervise the gov-ernmental research program, requested an evalua-tion of biological agents as weapons of sabotage.The Committee on Biological Warfare was formed,and the Baldwin Report
prepared by the commit-tee stated that the United States was particularlyvulnerable to covert attack with biological agents.It also stated that the current research and devel-opment program was “not now authorized to meetthe requirements necessary to prepare the defen-sive measures against special [biological warfare]operations.”
The Baldwin Report recommended
that•means be developed to detect and identify biological warfare agents;•methods be developed for decontamina-