The Department of Defense today released another 28 detailed fact sheets on 27 Cold War-era chemical and biological warfare tests identified as Project 112. Project 112 was a comprehensive program initiated in 1962 out of concern for our ability to protect and defend against these potential threats. This is in addition to the 12 fact sheets for 10 tests released in September 2001 and January and May this year. 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 and early 1970s may have affected their health. The new fact sheets cover tests performed both at sea and on land. A DoD investigative team found that actual chemical and biological warfare agents and simulants for these agents were used in some of these tests.
Equipment and Terrain Testing
From 1962 to 1973, the Deseret Test Center, headquartered at Fort Douglas, Utah, conducted a series of chemical and biological warfare vulnerability tests in support of Project 112. The Deseret Test Center planned 134 tests with 46 confirmed to be conducted and 62 canceled. Currently, DoD investigators are searching for final reports on five tests, an additional four tests are pending review, and the status of 26 other planned tests is still under investigation.
The purpose of the tests done under Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense was to identify U.S. warships' vulnerabilities to attacks with chemical or biological warfare agents and to develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining a war-fighting capability. The purpose of the land-based tests was to learn more about how chemical or biological agents behave under a variety of climatic, environmental and use conditions.
Today's release includes fact sheets about two tests conducted off the coast of California, two tests conducted in the coastal waters of Hawaii, one test conducted in Puerto Rico, and one test conducted on Baker Island as part of Project SHAD. The remainders are land-based tests conducted in Alaska (11), Florida (one), Hawaii (three), Maryland (one), Utah (three), Canada (one), and one test done jointly in the U.K. and Canada. Of the 28 fact sheets released today, 12 detail the use of simulants and 16 detail the use of live chemical or biological agents in the tests.
The Department of Defense began investigating the shipboard hazard and defense tests in September 2000, after 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 tests. The 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 when it could be found.
An investigative team located and searched classified 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 location information, without release of information that remains classified for valid operational security reasons.
As DoD's investigators continued their examination of the facts associated with these tests, it became clear that an investigation of all the tests conducted by the Deseret Test Center was necessary. Consequently, early this year the investigation of shipboard hazard and defense tests was expanded to include all tests conducted by the Deseret Test Center.
Health and Safety
While some may be concerned about a possible connection between an exposure in the 1960s or 1970s and a later illness, DoD investigators have not identified a link to these tests and adverse health consequences. Documents show that these were comprehensive tests that carefully considered the health and safety of the personnel involved in conducting the tests and protecting the environment. The DoD investigation into Deseret Test Center tests continues, and DoD is committed to releasing as much information as possible on all tests conducted.
Veterans who believe they were involved in Deseret Test Center tests and desire medical evaluations should call the VA's Helpline at (800) 749-8387. Veterans who have DoD related questions, who have information to contribute, or who are DoD beneficiaries and have medical concerns or questions, should call DoD's Deployment Health Support Directorate's contact center at (800) 497-6261. All Deseret Test Center fact sheets are available on the DeploymentLINK Web site at http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml.