The Department of Defense today released detailed fact sheets on six Cold War-era chemical and biological warfare tests. Release of the information is part of an on-going effort to provide information needed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to respond to some veterans' claims that tests conducted in the 1960s affected their health. A DoD investigative team found that simulants were used in lieu of chemical and biological warfare agents in many of these tests, but a number did involve the use of actual chemical and biological warfare agents.
Of the six tests detailed in today's release, three used live nerve agents, one used a live biological agent, and one used a simulant that, while believed to be harmless at the time, has subsequently been found to be hazardous. The sixth test used a non-hazardous simulant. This information and a list of personnel assigned to the ships and units involved, has been provided to the VA.
In the 1960s, the DoD conducted a series of chemical and biological warfare vulnerability tests on naval ships known collectively as Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD). Some veterans have expressed concern that their participation in these tests may have exposed them to harmful substances. DoD has released fact sheets on the individual tests as the information became available. Six fact sheets were previously released.
The Department of Defense has been investigating the project since August 2000, when the Department of Veterans Affairs asked the DoD for information needed to clarify claims information from servicemembers who believed they might have been exposed to harmful substances during their participation in SHAD tests. VA claims experts needed to know what substances veterans may have been exposed to and who might have been exposed. DoD agreed to deliver that information if it could be found.
An investigative team located and searched records to identify which ships and units were involved in the tests, when the tests took place, and to what substances their crews and other personnel may have been exposed. This required declassification of test-related ship and personnel information, without release of military information that remains classified for valid operational security reasons.
The SHAD tests were intended to show the vulnerability of Navy ships to chemical and biological warfare agents. By learning how those agents would disperse, military planners could improve procedures to protect crewmembers and decontaminate ships.
The investigation has been a slow process, partially because in the cold war era, this kind of military information was classified. Also, investigators are searching through archived, poorly filed information about events that occurred four decades ago. While the SHAD program plans, part of the larger Deseret Test Center program, may have encompassed as many as a hundred individual tests given unrelated names, many tests were never actually executed. Because it is difficult to determine which tests are SHAD-related, investigators plan to look at all Deseret Test Center's chemical and biological tests conducted between 1963 and 1970.
Data DoD collected on the fact sheets for each completed test include the test dates, identification of ships and personnel involved; test locations; simulants, agents, tracer material, and decontaminants used; and test methods employed.
The DoD investigation into SHAD tests continues, and additional fact sheets will be released when more is known. Veterans who believe they were involved in SHAD tests and desire medical evaluations should call the VA's Helpline at (800) 749-8387. SHAD fact sheets are available on line at http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml .