US’s Biowarfare in Vietnam?


During World War II, Fort Detrick became the site of intensive biological warfare research. But after the War, Gen MacArthur took Japan’s Unit 731 scientists home (including Shiro Ishii and 3,607 of his associates) and gave them immunity; and Fort Detrick was where these Japanese scientists ended up; and where the US’s bio-weapon program got its foreign GERM research momentum and expansion.

Agent Orange Wasn’t the Only Deadly Chemical Used In Vietnam / Erin Blakemore / Aug 29, 2018

While Agent Orange may be the most well-known chemical used during the Vietnam War, it wasn’t the only one. An entire rainbow of new chemical formulations rained down on Vietnam’s forests and fields. The Rainbow Herbicides, as they were known, were only used as weapons in the war for a little over a decade, but their consequences can still be felt today.

“I remember the sight and the smell of the spray,” recalls Thomas Pilsch, who served as a forward air controller in South Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. In the early morning low angle sunlight, it appeared to have an orange hue.” By spraying Agent Orange, he thought he was helping the United States military bust through Vietnam’s impenetrable jungles on the way to victory.

US plane spraying Vietnam landscape with tainted herbicide/defoliant Agent Orange during the war. (Credit: Dick Swanson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
US plane spraying Vietnam landscape with tainted herbicide/defoliant Agent Orange

The U.S. had a rainbow of chemicals at their disposal. They were nicknamed according to the color on the barrels in which they were shipped. (Agent Orange didn’t appear orange, though it looked like that to Pilsch.) Once Operation Ranch Hand began, around 20 million gallons of Agents Green, Pink, Purple, Blue, White, Orange, Orange II, Orange III, and Super Orange were sprayed over South Vietnam. The chemicals were produced by companies like DOW Chemical, Monsanto, and Hercules, Inc.

“Trail dust” operations were conducted by the U.S. Air Force, whose “cowboys” flew C-123s escorted by fighters. As they approached a strategic target—dense, jungled areas that provided cover for the Viet Cong or crops suspected to feed their troops—the fighter jets would shoot down bombs and napalm. Then the sprayers would move in and douse an area with the chemical.

American soldiers were told the chemicals were safe. They were also effective. “We just blew away that jungle,” recalled Tom Essler, a U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam between 1967 and 1968, in an oral history. “Between the B-52 strikes and Agent Orange, that lovely lush jungle around Khe Sanh was turned brown.”

As the jungle died, so did crops. Famine, malnourishment and starvation set in. By the end of the war, over 3.6 million acres had been sprayed with Rainbow Herbicides.

So had millions of Vietnamese people. American soldiers had also been exposed to the herbicides, reassured by their superiors that they presented no risk.

Not true: Sixty-five percent of the United States’ rainbow of chemicals contained dioxins—known carcinogens. Dioxins enter the bloodstream after being eaten or touched, build up in the food chain and can cause reproductive problems, cancer, hormonal interference, immune system damage, and developmental issues.

Year-old conjoined twins being cared for at Hanoi's Viet-Duc hospital, a center for treating deformed children and others who may have been affected by exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange. (Credit: Gary Mangkorn/AP/REX/Shutterstock)
Conjoined twins affected by the defoliant Agent Orange being cared for at Hanoi’s Viet-Duc hospital


Contaminated soils, permanent forest loss, soil erosion, and other environmental damage have haunted Vietnam for years. Children of veterans and Vietnamese people exposed to the chemicals were born with serious birth defects and illnesses.

In the 1960s, the U.S. changed its main approach from biological agents aimed to kill to those that would incapacitate. In 1964, research programs studied Enterotoxin type B, which can cause food poisoning. New research initiatives also included prophylaxis, the preventive treatment of diseases. Pathogens studied included the biological agents causing a myriad of diseases such as anthrax, glanders, brucellosis, melioidosis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Q fever, coccidioidomycosis, and other plant and animal pathogens.

The Vietnam War brought public awareness to the U.S. biological weapons program. Jeanne Guillemin, wife of biologist Matthew Meselson, summarized the controversy:

The entire experimental legacy is dismaying, from the hundreds of dead monkeys at Fort Detrick to the spectacle of Seventh Day Adventist soldiers, the vaccinated volunteers in Project Whitecoat, strapped to chairs amid cages of animals in the Utah sunlight as Q fever aerosols are blown over them. Most chilling are the mock scenarios played out in urban areas: light bulbs filled with simulated BW agents being dropped in New York subways, men in Washington National Airport spraying pseudo-BW from briefcases, and similar tests in California and Texas and over the Florida Keys.

The Nixon administration felt an urgent need to respond to the growing negative perception of biological weapons. The realization that biological weapons may become the poor man’s atom bomb also contributed to the end of the U.S. biological weapons program. Subsequently, President Nixon announced that the U.S. was unilaterally renouncing its biological warfare program, ultimately signing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1972.

President Nixon said at Fort Detrick on November 25, 1969: “The United States shall renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare.”

President Richard M. Nixon issued his “Statement on Chemical and Biological Defense Policies and Programs” on November 25, 1969 in a speech from Fort Detrick. The statement ended, unconditionally, all U.S. offensive biological weapons programs. Nixon noted that biological weapons were unreliable and stated:

“The United States shall renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare. The United States will confine its biological research to defensive measures such as immunization and safety measures.” President Richard M. Nixon

“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” Amos 3:6

“Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children and women; . . . and begin at My sanctuary.” Ezekiel 9:6

~ by Joel Huan on July 9, 2021.

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