Pentagon admits
troops unaware
of chemical tests

Thousands of Hawaii civilians
also did not know they were
being sprayed with bacteria

By Matt Kelley
Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> The Pentagon acknowledged yesterday that some soldiers engaged in chemical and biological weapons testing in the 1960s may not have been fully informed about the secret experiments conducted at sea and in five states from Hawaii to Florida. Some tests used the military's deadliest nerve agent, VX.

Thousands of civilians in Hawaii and Alaska also probably were unaware they were sprayed with relatively mild bacteria meant to simulate germ weapons such as anthrax, the Defense Department's top health official said.

Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, said there is no evidence anyone died as a result of the classified tests, which were part of biological and chemical warfare programs the United States abandoned in 1970.

Four people at the military's Deseret Testing Center in Utah were infected during biological weapons work, but all recovered, said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, another Pentagon health official. Records do not show who the people were or what germs infected them, Kilpatrick said.

At a news conference, the Pentagon released declassified summaries of 28 of the tests, showing for the first time the scope of open-air testing of chemical and biological agents on American soil. About 5,500 service members participated in the tests.

"It's pretty deplorable that the DOD held this info up for so long," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., at a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing.

The agency has commissioned a $3 million study to determine if test participants are getting sick because of their exposure.

So far, 55 veterans have filed claims with the VA blaming their health problems on their participation in chemical or biological tests.

The civilian exposures came during tests in Alaska and Hawaii that involved spraying Bacillis globigii, a bacterial relative of anthrax, from airplanes.

At the time, BG was considered to be harmless.

Later, researchers discovered it could cause infections in people with weak immune systems.

One of the tests, called "Big Tom," involved spraying the bacteria over Oahu in May and June 1965.

Winkenwerder said there is evidence that local authorities were told of the tests, though public notification probably did not occur.

Two other tests in Hawaii, named "Pine Ridge" and "Tall Timber," used a chemical agent code-named BZ in forest preserves southwest of Hilo. BZ, a compound of benzilic acid, causes stupor, hallucinations and confusion. It was meant to incapacitate enemy soldiers, according to Pentagon summaries of the tests.

For example, from April through June 1966, bomblets containing BZ were ignited in the upper Waiakea Forest Preserve.

The Pine Ridge and Tall Timber tests were meant to determine how to disseminate BZ "in or below a jungle canopy," the test summaries said.

U.S. DoD Deployment Health Support

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