- WASHINGTON - The Pentagon
is continuing to withhold documents on Cold War chemical and biological
weapons tests that used unsuspecting sailors as "human samplers"
after telling Congress it had released all medically relevant information.
- In response to questions from The Associated Press about
a deposition last month by a former military scientist, J. Clifton Spendlove,
who planned and supervised the testing program, the Defense Department
acknowledged this week it still has documents laying out the scope and
methods of the tests.
- Detailed planning documents and reports for each of the
tests are classified because they identify vulnerabilities of military
vessels to chemical and biological warfare agents and capabilities for
delivering the agents, the Pentagon said in a response to questions from
- In some cases, samples were taken from sailors to measure
their exposure to tracers used to simulate chemical and biological agents,
the Pentagon's written statement said. Reports on them were not released
because they "did not include any plans or data that measured human
effects," according to the statement.
- Project 112 and the Shipboard Hazard and Defense Project
consisted of 50 tests conducted between 1962 and 1973. The tests were conducted
in Alaska, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Utah, Panama, Canada, Britain
and aboard ships in the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
- The secretive tests involved 5,842 soldiers and sailors
ó many of whom were unwitting guinea pigs. The experiments were
designed to determine the effectiveness of biological and chemical agents
in combat and methods to protect troops from attacks. An untold number
of civilians also may have been exposed during some of the tests on the
- In most cases, supposedly harmless simulants were used
to mimic anthrax, E. coli or other agents, although in a number of cases
potentially deadly nerve agents were used, including sarin and VX.
- Numerous veterans say they are now suffering from illnesses
because of exposure, but the Veterans Affairs Administration has denied
requests for health care coverage.
- After a three-year investigation that Pentagon officials
characterized as "exhaustive," the Defense Department released
an overview of the tests and a series of fact sheets last June and then
disbanded the probe.
- But the overview and fact sheets didn't acknowledge the
documents and films that were obtained by the plaintiffs and authenticated
by Spendlove, including results of tests to determine how much of the chemical
simulants the "human samplers" were exposed to.
- The Pentagon had already issued its first set of findings
before it contacted Spendlove, who planned the Project 112 tests from the
Deseret Test Center in Dugway, Utah.
- Spendlove, in sworn testimony in a federal court lawsuit
in Washington on behalf of the veterans, said sailors were used in the
tests as "human samplers" and cited several documents and films
laying out the scope and methods of the tests.
- During his deposition, Spendlove was shown reports and
films from a few of the tests that were obtained by the plaintiffs. He
identified ships and individuals and vouched for their authenticity and
indicated many more documents are likely stored at the library at the Deseret
center where the testing program was headquartered.
- In one of the plaintiffs' films, a soldier is loading
the orange-tinted simulant used to mimic anthrax or other biological agents
into a plane that would spray it on a boat. He is not wearing any protective
equipment and is caked with the substance.
- Spendlove's account was corroborated by Norman LaChapelle,
a top Navy officer on the project, in an interview this week with the AP.
- But LaChapelle, a retired Navy commander who is now in
charge of chemical and biological weapons response for the city of Memphis,
said he was never contacted by the Pentagon in its investigation.
- "(Darn) right I was surprised" at not being
contacted, said LaChapelle, who was in charge of the execution of the SHAD
tests from 1964-1970. "We were involved in it. We weren't sitting
in Salt Lake City. We were sitting at the test site."
- The Vietnam Veterans of America is suing Pentagon officials
on behalf of the sailors, demanding the release of all of the test documents
so the National Academies of Science can fully analyze the potential health
- Douglas Rosinski, an attorney working with the veterans
group on behalf of the soldiers, said the effects of the chemicals on the
sailors has not been studied. The levels of exposure that the documents
might detail is a crucial piece of the puzzle, he said.
- Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., was frustrated by the revelation
that the Pentagon is still unwilling to share information about the tests
with the exposed sailors.
- "It doesn't sit with me at all," said Thompson,
one of several lawmakers who pressured the Pentagon into admitting the
existence of Project 112 after 30 years of denials. "I was under the
impression that these guys had unearthed everything that was out there
that was available and they'd done the work they were charged with doing.
If what (Spendlove) says is true, they haven't done the work."