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U.S Army Activity in the U.S. Biological Warfare Programs


The United States biological weapons program began in 1943. It was replaced by the United States biological defense program.

Early history (1918-41)

The United States biological weapons program officially began in spring 1943 on orders from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. Research continued following World War II as the U.S. built up a large stockpile of biological agents and weapons. Over the course of its 27-year history, the program weaponized and stockpiled the following seven bio-agents (and pursued basic research on many more):

Bacillus anthracis (anthrax)

Francisella tularensis (tularemia)

Brucella spp (brucellosis)

Coxiella burnetii (Q-fever)

Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE)

Botulinum toxin (botulism)

Staphylococcal enterotoxin B

Throughout its history, the U.S. bioweapons program was secret. It was later revealed that laboratory and field testing (some of the latter using simulants on non-consenting individuals) had been common. The official policy of the United States was first to deter the use of bio-weapons against U.S. forces and secondarily to retaliate if deterrence failed.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon ended all offensive (i.e., non-defensive) aspects of the U.S. bio-weapons program. In 1975 the U.S. ratified both the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)—international treaties outlawing biological warfare. Recent U.S. biodefense programs, however, have raised concerns that the U.S. may be pursuing research that is outlawed by The United States. Initial interest in any form of biological warfare came at the close of World War I. The only agent the U.S. tested was the toxin ricin, a product of the castor plant. The U.S. conducted tests concerning two methods of ricin dissemination: the first, which involved adhering the toxin to shrapnel for delivery by artillery shell, was successful; the second, delivering an aerosol cloud of ricin, was proven less successful in these tests. Neither delivery method was perfected before the war in Europe ended.

In the early 1920s suggestions that the U.S. began a biological weapons program were coming from within the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS). Chief of the CWS, Amos Fries, decided that such a program would not be "profitable" for the U.S. Japan's Shiro Ishii began promoting biological weapons during the 1920s and toured biological research facilities worldwide, including in the United States. Though Ishii concluded that the U.S. was developing a bio-weapons programs, he was incorrect. In fact, Ishii concluded that each major power he visited was developing a bio-weapons program. As the interwar period continued, the United States did not emphasize biological weapons development or research. While the U.S. was spending very little time on biological weapons research, its future allies and enemies in the upcoming second World War were researching the potential of biological weapons as early as 1933.

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Posted by George Freund on October 28, 2019 at 5:47 PM 164 Views