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DoD Releases Info on Cold War Chemical, Biological Weapons Tests

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2002 -- DoD released data on a series of biological and chemical weapons tests, Oct. 9, 2002 – Shipboard Hazard and Defense.

"The purpose of these operational tests was to test equipment, procedures, military tactics etc. and to learn more about biological and chemical agents," said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant defense secretary for health affairs. "The tests were not conducted to evaluate the effects of dangerous agents on people."

Today, the Department of Defense does not conduct any such tests. "No research, development, test or evaluation involves the exposure of human subjects to chemical or biological agents," Winkenwerder said. The military uses "simulants" of chemical and biological agents when training today.

Small quantities of chemical agents in enclosed areas are used to train chemical, biological and nuclear agent specialists. The specialties include detecting these agents, protecting against them and decontaminating personnel exposed to them.

Winkenwerder said all relevant information from these tests will be released by spring 2003.

He said some civilians were exposed to simulants in Hawaii and possibly exposed in Alaska, Florida, and Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. No live agents were involved in any of the situations where civilians were exposed, he said.

VA officials said they are trying to contact the service members involved in the tests. DoD officials said roughly 5,000 sailors were exposed in the shipboard tests and 500 in the Project 112 tests. VA officials said 55 veterans have filed claims related to their "belief of exposure" from the tests.

During Project 112, the Army planned 134 tests. Of these, 62 were canceled and never conducted, Winkenwerder said. Forty-six tests did take place. The department is investigating the remaining 26 planned tests, "although preliminary findings suggest that most of these tests were likely not performed," he remarked.

Of the 46 tests, DoD has released information on 37 and turned the information over to the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Project 112 was conducted in remote areas of Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Puerto Rico and Utah. The Canadians and British also conducted tests at remote sites in their countries. Further tests took place in the Marshall Islands, Baker Island and other Pacific Ocean locales.

Veterans who believe they may have been part of these tests should call the VA's Helpline at (800) 749-8387. All the Deseret Test Center fact sheets are available online at deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/ shad/shad_intro.shtml.

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: Briefing on Cold War-era Chemical and Biological Warfare Tests, Oct. 9, 2002

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