The Department of Defense today released five new detailed fact sheets on Cold War-era chemical and biological warfare tests conducted in support of Project 112. Project 112 was a comprehensive program initiated in 1962 out of concern for our nation's ability to protect and defend against these potential threats. With the publication of this information, DoD has released 45 fact sheets for 41 of 46 tests known to have been conducted by the Deseret Test Center.
The information provided today includes fact sheets about four tests. Two of those tests, Yellow Leaf and Red Oak, Phase I, were partially conducted on what were then the Panama Canal Zone and the island of Hawaii. Big Jack (Phases A and B) was conducted entirely in the Panama Canal Zone. Records indicate the fourth test, Pin Point, was conducted in a tropical jungle environment in an unspecified location. Investigators continue to seek information for this test, which used the riot-control agent CS, commonly known as tear gas. Simulants for chemical and biological warfare agents were used in all the rest of these tests, except for Red Oak, Phase I, which used the nerve agent sarin in the Hawaii trials only.
"The department has worked diligently to release the medically relevant facts about this testing to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs has the information it needs to respond to questions and benefit claims from veterans," said William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "We're on track to meet our stated promise of having all relevant information released by spring of next year. I'm optimistic that, barring any unforeseen problems, we'll have concluded the effort far in advance of that time. We know this information is important to veterans."
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 and the status of 26 other planned tests is still under investigation. 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 these tests may have affected their health.
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.
The Department of Defense began investigating the shipboard hazard and defense tests in September 2000, after the VA 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 on the DeploymentLINK Web site at http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml .