DoD Launches Web Site on Chemical-Biological Warfare Exposures
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2008 The Defense Department has launched a new Web site to educate the public about chemical and biological testing conducted from the early 1940s through the mid-1970s.
“This is a new Web site that we have created to put together for all those who may have interest in everything that we have been able to uncover and understand about the chemical and biological testing of warfare agents done from probably the early 1940s up through 1975,” said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, strategic communications director for the Military Health System. He explained the recently launched Chemical-Biological Warfare Exposures Web site during a “DotMilDocs” radio program on BlogTalkRadio.com Oct. 2.
Officials launched the site to educate people on what was done and to also let them know what DoD knows about it, Kilpatrick said.
“The CB exposures Web site explains why the testing was done, where it was done, what was used in the testing, and really what DoD learned from the testing,” he said.
Kilpatrick added that the Web site presents sections on chemical and biological testing that was conducted during World War II, during Project 112/SHAD -- shipboard hazard and defense -- and the Cold War. He explained why some of the testing, in particular during World War II, was conducted.
“Chemical agents were used against our troops in World War I,” Kilpatrick said. “As we went into World War II, we didn’t know how to best protect our people, and during the Cold War we continued testing to understand how chemical and biological warfare agents behaved in different climates and terrains.”
Officials have been working for a couple years trying to understand the chemical and biological exposure research that happened during the Cold War, Kilpatrick said. “As we got information,” he said, “we passed names of individuals and medically related information to the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Project 112/SHAD was a series of tests conducted from 1962 to 1973 on Navy ships at sea in various climates and in land-based tests in various terrains using chemical and biological agents, as well as simulated agents. Servicemembers were not test subjects.
“The Project 112/SHAD records were more difficult, because these were, essentially, classified tests looking at the behavior of chemical-biological-warfare agents,” Kilpatrick said. “Since the sailors on the ships… were not human volunteers, it was more difficult to find out who they were. That process involved going through the ships’ logs to determine who was assigned to those ships.”
As officials conclude their search through archived files, they are relying on veterans who were involved in the testing to provide additional information, Kilpatrick said.
“Veterans can really help point us in other directions or give us other clues,” he said. “As we are trying to recreate what happened 30 to 60 years ago, it is oftentimes very difficult. They may have papers, which would not have been archived, that may help fill in blanks about what we understand happened.”
DoD and VA officials are working together to identify and notify servicemembers who were exposed in chemical-biological testing from the 1940s through the mid-1970s. Once DoD finds who was exposed to what agents at what time and where, that information is passed to the VA to then try to locate the individual and notify him.
“Once we have searched all locations for archived information on these exposures, the active part will be over,” Kilpatrick said. “DoD plans to complete this search in 2011. However, the process is open-ended. It will never be closed. That’s why we ask any veteran with any information to contact us. Our goal is to account for everyone who has been exposed.”
Kilpatrick added that any veterans who think that they could have been exposed or who have any information on the tests can submit an e-mail to CBWebmaster@tma.osd.mil, or call DoD’s contact managers toll-free at 800-497-6261.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)