Cover image for The United States and biological warfare : secrets from the early cold war and Korea
The United States and biological warfare : secrets from the early cold war and Korea
Endicott, Stephen Lyon, 1928-
Publication Information:
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xxi, 274 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
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Central Library UG447.8 .E53 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Central Library UG447.8 .E53 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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[The United States and Biological Warfare] is a major contribution to our understanding of the past involvement by the US and Japanese governments with BW, with important, crucial implications for the future.... Pieces of this story, including the Korean War allegations, have been told before, but never so authoritatively, and with such a convincing foundation in historical research.... This is a brave and significant scholarly contribution on a matter of great importance to the future of humanity.
--Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice, Princeton University

The United States and Biological Warfare argues persuasively that the United States experimented with and deployed biological weapons during the Korean War. Endicott and Hagerman explore the political and moral dimensions of this issue, asking what restraints were applied or forgotten in those years of ideological and political passion and military crisis.

For the first time, there is hard evidence that the United States lied both to Congress and the American public in saying that the American biological warfare program was purely defensive and for retaliation only. The truth is that a large and sophisticated biological weapons system was developed as an offensive weapon of opportunity in the post-World War II years. From newly declassified American, Canadian, and British documents, and with the cooperation of the Chinese Central Archives in giving the authors the first access by foreigners to relevant classified documents, Endicott and Hagerman have been able to tell the previously hidden story of the extension of the limits of modern war to include the use of medical science, the most morally laden of sciences with respect to the sanctity of human life. They show how the germ warfare program developed collaboratively by Great Britain, Canada, and the United States during the Second World War, together with information gathered from the Japanese at the end of World War II about their biological warfare technology, was incorporated into an ongoing development program in the United States. Startling evidence from both Chinese and American sources is presented to make the case.

An important book for anyone interested in the history and morality of modern warfare.

Author Notes

Stephen Endicott was born in Shanghai of missionary parents and grew up in China before the Communist revolution. His family lived in Sichuan province for three generations where he returned to teach in the 1980s. Dr. Endicott, who is a graduate of the University of Toronto, has received the Killam Senior Fellowship and other academic awards while teaching East Asian history at York University. His books include Diplomacy and Enterprise: British China Policy 1933-1937, James G. Endicott: Rebel Out of China, and Red Earth: Revolution in a Sichuan Village.
Edward Hagerman is a member of the history faculty of York University in Toronto. He has published many articles on the origins of modern war and modern total war, and has contributed to textbooks for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff college, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the Air War College of the U.S. Air Force. He has authored The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

If nothing else, Canadian historian Endicott and American historian Hagerman will make thoughtful readers see the irony in the U.S. government's ongoing showdown with Iraq over biological weapons. This history of the U.S. biological weapons program alleges that the U.S. actually deployed biological weapons during the Korean War. The authors marshal an impressive array of evidence that the military and executive branch lied to Congress and the public about the development of biological weapons. At the end of WWII, the American military enlisted the aid of top Japanese biological warfare officers; when the Korean War broke out, the U.S. embarked on an ambitious program to produce offensive biological weapons, despite Pentagon protestations that the research was geared toward defensive weaponry. During the war, Chinese officials learned of mysterious outbreaks of disease after some U.S. raids and began to suspect that biological weapons were being used. The authors were the first foreigners allowed to inspect Chinese archival documents dealing with the possible American use of biological weapons. They rely heavily on these sources, as well as on Canadian, British and American documents. The research is bolstered by endnotes and an array of photographs (not seen by PW). (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Endicott and Hagerman address the issue of whether or not the US was involved in biological warfare (BW) during the Korean War. The authors investigated previously inaccessible Chinese provincial and, to a very limited degree, central archives for evidence of possible American use of BW in northern and northeastern China in 1952. They also used some declassified American and Canadian documents to piece together a disturbing picture of how Washington had been preparing to wage BW since WW II. They argue that Chinese leaders and health authorities did believe early in 1952 that experimental BW had been used against China and North Korea. They also point out that by 1952, the US already had acquired the capacity to conduct experimental BW and that top US military planners were actively considering adopting BW as a weapon. The book, however, is short of confirming that the many strange Chinese cases of aches and fevers were indeed caused by experimental American BW. The book reminds readers that this old chapter of Cold War history will not be satisfactorily concluded until the question has been more thoroughly investigated. All levels. J. Chen; Southern Illinois University at Carbondale



Chapter One 1 Aches and Fevers in China and Korea I went to China in 1952 wanting to assess the assertions of germ warfare being one reason. Without going into the evidence, I came away convinced that Chinese officials believed that the evidence was conclusive. On returning, Alan Watt, my successor as permanent head of the Australian Department of External Affairs, informed me that in the light of my public statements he had sought a response from Washington and was informed that the United States had used biological weapons during the Korean war but only for experimental purposes. --Dr. John Burton, letter of 12 April 1997 The dropping of insects from the air is entirely feasible. --Dr. G. B. Reed, Canadian expert in biological warfare, 15 May 1952 Let us get mobilized, attend to hygiene, reduce the incidence of disease, raise the standard of health, and crush the enemy's germ warfare. --Mao Zedong, Inscription for the Second National Health Conference, 1953              Discharged soldier Shi Hongru, 25, left his native place in the early morning hours of 10 March 1952, carrying a sturdy travel bag, half empty. He was bound on a journey of filial duty to Changde, a fabled city of imperial palaces that lay beyond the Great Wall, some three hundred miles from his starting point in Shandong province.     His father, a traveling merchant, had died there five years earlier of dysentery. Because of the civil war in northern China between the Nationalists and the Communists, the family had been unable to make proper funeral arrangements. Now the son was going to find his father's remains and bring them back to the family burial ground.     Shi arrived in Changde, capital of Rehe province, eleven days later, on 21 March. On the way he had walked, probably hitched rides on barges in the Grand Canal, and ridden on a horse-drawn cart. In Changde he rented a room in a guest house next to the 5th District police station, a room whose previous occupant had been a man selling pig bristles. After making some inquiries, Shi went to the suburbs on the 23rd to dig up his father's bones. He hired a man to help him. This man wore gloves, but Shi did not. After digging up his father's remains, he returned to the guest house in Changde. There, on the 28th, Shi fell ill. He got worse the next day: chest ache, high fever. At the provincial hospital where he was taken, they said it was pneumonia. At 4 A.M. on 1 April, Shi died. An autopsy showed fluid in his chest. His blood was cultured: the ASCOLI test reaction was positive; microscopic examination of a specimen showed a chain bacillus. White mice were inoculated, and they died after three days. Another specimen was made: anthrax bacillus.     Public health authorities could not determine the source of this infection. The police made inquiries at the guest house. Shi had not worn gloves at the graveyard, but his father's bones tested negative. Anthrax usually affects animals. Yes, a man selling pig bristles had stayed in Shi's room. Other people at the inn recalled Shi telling of riding horse-drawn carts on his way from Shandong. But there was no conclusion about the source of the bacteria that had caused his fatal illness.     Two hundred and fifty miles east of Changde, in the suburbs of Shenyang city, Wang Zhibin, 47, a pedicab driver, became nauseated on 22 March 1952. He felt stuffy in the chest in the early hours of the 24th. At 6 A.M. that morning he fell unconsious, vomiting white fluid. Three hours later, he died.     The autopsy pathology report mentioned hemorrhages in the brain and respiratory system and in the lymph and adrenal glands, and the presence of a bacillus similar to anthrax bacillus. "Therefore we assume that this case is anthrax which entered through the respiratory system," wrote Chen Yingqian, leader of the medical research group. "We used his spleen and heart muscles to culture the bacteria. We inoculated white mice, which died within 3 days, and we found the same bacteria. A further ASCOLI test was positive; therefore our final decision in the case was anthrax bacillus." Again the medical research team did not determine the origin of the disease. Their report merely said, "Three or four days before the illness occurred, outside the courtyard wall of his residence many flies were found. It may be related to livestock. We have not found any other sources because the patient was a pedicab driver. Possibly the source of his infection cannot be determined."     Sudden deaths from respiratory anthrax also struck down a railway worker of Manjing train station in Changtu county, Liaoxi province, on 16 March 1952, a young schoolteacher in Liaoyang county on 8 April, and a housewife in Anshan city on 14 April. In Jin county, a donkey fell ill on the evening of 12 March, refusing to eat grass, and died the next day. An autopsy showed hemorrhage of the heart and spleen, the result of anthrax bacilli.     All these occurrences were in widely separated places, seemingly unconnected by any spreading epidemic pattern from a central point. What was their origin? A clue to this mystery was offered in the case of the stricken railway worker, Qu Zhanyun. According to the summary of this incident prepared by the provincial epidemic disease prevention committee, U.S. aircraft flew over Manjing railway station on 16 March. Following this occurrence, another railway worker, Liu Zhongguo, while checking the tracks found a large number of black beetles 1.5 kilometers north of the station. He brought samples back to the station. His fellow worker, Qu, had contact with the bugs. "Liu went to the disease prevention post for disinfection. Qu did not. He fell ill on the 19th with headache, [illegible] pain; the second day he had nausea. Hospitalized on the 21st at the Siping Railway Hospital with high fever, continuous vomiting, weakness, insomnia, incontinence, a high white blood count, large bacilli in the sputum. Died on the 22nd; autopsy ... determined anthrax." Bacterial samples made from the beetles showed the presence of anthrax bacillus. Qu had no history of contact with animals, and no animal diseases were found in the village where he lived. "Before Qu fell ill, he ate pork with his family; nothing happened to the other family members."     Another illness, acute encephalitis, made its appearance in northeast China in the early spring of 1952. The virus causing this deadly disease of the cerebral cortex was not unknown to the northeast, but when it surfaced, it normally struck in the spring and summer, and was associated with bites from ticks in the remote forested areas of Songjiang and Jilin provinces. Known as "spring and summer" or "forest encephalitis," it affected forestry workers. But in large cities such as Shenyang, Anshan, and Fushun in the industrial heartland of Liaoning province, next door to Korea and in the center of China's heavy industrial belt, people now began to succumb to an encephalitis-causing virus in alarming numbers.     Medical workers were mobilized to investigate a flood of sudden deaths. Their reports show remarkable caution in making a diagnosis. They took their time about it, because in their experience, encephalitis was new to the area. The leader of the pathology group, Dr. Li Peilin, a graduate of Mukden Medical College in 1927 who had earned his Ph.D. at the University of London in 1939, was at the time professor and head of the department of pathology at the National Medical College in Shenyang. A person well acquainted with the local environment, he was a distinguished medical scientist, the author of half a dozen published papers on pathology and anatomy.     One of the first cases was in Fushun city in early March 1952, when three children died acute deaths. Dr. Li Peilin's medical research group went to the site without delay to investigate and made their report: 1 Clinical evidence of sickness: i) Illnesses: a) Xing Defu, male, 5. Fell ill on the evening of 5 March, vomiting, unconscious, short of breath. Died at 7 A.M. on the 6th. b) Bao Lirong, female, 9. Visited Xing Defu's house on 6 March, fell ill at 1 on 9 March ... she got fever, became delirious, spit yellow fluid, fell unconscious. Died at 5 P.M. the same day. c) Zhang Jingyuan, female, 15 months. Fell ill at 3 P.M. of 9 March, fever, vomiting yellow fluid and white foam, unconscious, short of breath. Died at 0:30 A.M. on the 10th. Notes: (1) The three cases all drank from the regular water supply line and did not eat any special food. (2) The nearby domestic animals had no plague or pestilence. ii) Site investigation: The three all lived in the Xinfu district of the city, and the sanitary conditions there are bad. Insects were found in four places. The living conditions in that district are very poor; the residences and courtyards and streets are narrow, and there was a large trash pile in front of Bao Lirong's gate. When cleaning up the trash on 5 March, they saw more than ten mosquitoes and other insects. iii) Deductions: According to the above, it is possible that it is a contagious disease, and its spread is closely related to the density of insects. 2. Autopsy report: i) Bao Lirong: mainly we saw that the cerebral cortex nerves were affected ... the result of phagocytotic cells [literally: swallowing cells]; the intestines had no special indications. ii) Zhang Jingyuan: hemorrhaging of the adrenal gland was clearly seen; the cerebral cortex cells showed degenerative change from phagocytosis.... Deduction: According to the above and other cases in Shenyang districts, the main symptoms are toxic degeneration of cerebral cortex cells and a phagocytotic phenomenon similar to a special toxic degenerative encephalitis, but it is not the same as the epidemic encephalitis of the northeast district in the past. Possibly it is: a) Food poisoning: meat poison can cause this symptom ... but why was it limited to a few people, and why did it not become epidemic? This needs further study. b) An unknown toxic poisoning disease of the cerebral systems that causes a special form of encephalitis. The loss of consciousness by the above patients can be explained thus. The next step should check the intestinal system lymph glands for salmonella, and also look for a virus in the cerebral cortex to further determine the cause of the disease. In general, in the past this kind of encephalitis was never seen in the northeast region, and this time, since the American imperialists have used germ warfare and we found a few cases, it needs special attention. Signed: Pathology group leader, Li Peilin and Chen Yingqian     During the last three weeks of March 1952, the medical research group was called to examine the circumstances of twenty-four sudden deaths in the industrial belt of the northeast. In sixteen of these cases the pathology diagnosis was acute toxic encephalitis or "suspected as similar to encephalitis," with most patients dying within twenty-four hours of the onset of the illness. By and large, the doctors could still only speculate on how the virus had entered the victims' bodies: from the clinical evidence, insect bites seemed less likely; infection through the digestive system or the respiratory tract was more probable.     South of the Yalu River (the boundary between China and North Korea), especially near the battlefront at the main line of resistance on the 38th Parallel, the North Korean and Chinese armies had become aware in January-February 1952 of an unusual array of health problems among their soldiers in the Ichon, Chorwan, Kumhwa, and Pyongyang areas. They also noticed that U.S. aircraft were dropping strange objects, including tree leaves, soybean stalks and pods, feathers, cotton batten, and cardboard packages and bombs containing live insects of various descriptions and rotten fish, decaying pork, frogs, and rodents.     The Commission of the Medical Headquarters of the Korean People's Army issued the following report on 29 January 1952: On the morning of January 28, 1952, an enemy aircraft flew over territory in the district of Ichon two or three times and then made off in a southerly direction. On that morning, the weather was calm and misty. Towards noon, the mist dispersed and on the snow at various points on the territory flown over by the enemy aircraft, the Chinese People's Volunteers found insects--flies, fleas, ticks and spiders. About 14 hours, fleas, flies and spiders were found in the Evondi district. There was a greater number of fleas than other insects; on one square metre, up to 10 could be counted. The appearance of these insects in winter conditions on the snow seemed extraordinary to the Chinese volunteers. Interested by this fact, medical instructor Chang Chva Sin collected several species of insects and took them to Im Guk Mo, the chief of the regiment's medical centre. The latter decided to verify the discovery of the insects and in the company of medical instructor Chang Chva Sin, set out at 17 hours for the place of the discovery.     Dr. Im confirmed the discovery, and in conversation with local inhabitants, he learned that they had never before seen insects in the snow. Pursuing this information further, investigators heard that on the same day, 28 January, insects had been found where other units of the Chinese army were located. Stringent measures were taken to prevent the spread of any disease the insects might carry, while tests were conducted on specimens. Also, it was established that from 1 January to the time of the incident, there had been no cases of infectious disease in the Chinese army or among the adjacent population; nor had medical personnel found any disease-carrying rodents. The records of the Medical Center of Unit N of the Chinese army indicated that air temperature during the month of January had varied between -15 and +1 degree centigrade, too low normally to allow activity or reproduction of insects. Tests conducted on 29 January by the bacteriological laboratory of the Medical Headquarters of the Korean Army found the tests of fleas and spiders to be negative, but the flies tested positive for cholera, which, apart from an outbreak in South Korea in 1946, had been unknown in Korea for sixty years. An entomological investigation found four groups of flies--classis: insecta pterygota; ordo: diptera; subordo: cyclorapha; familia: anthomyiidae--all having great resistance to low temperatures, and the first three not known in Korea. The ticks belonged to a type unknown in Korea but capable of conveying "spring and summer recurrent fever" and encephalitis.     The Korean Medical Headquarters investigated another incident affecting the Chinese army on 11 February 1952. Soldiers in Unit N in the region of Cheumdon in the Chorwon district, not far from the main line of resistance, reported three F-51 aircraft flying low past Hill 342.20 dropping gray cylindrical objects almost 10 centimeters in diameter and almost 20 centimeters long, and packets of yellow colored paper. The wrappings were already torn. They were found to contain flies, fleas, ants, and other insects, which were already beginning to spread by the time the soldiers reached them. The chief medical officer of the unit collected several insects for laboratory analysis and organized the burning of the packets and the disinfecting of the area. It was established that in recent months no infectious disease had been reported among the civilian population in the area or in the army. There were no cases of infected rodents found in recent years, and no infectious diseases reported among domestic animals. Records of the Medical Center of Unit N of the Chinese army indicated that the temperature between 21 January and 14 February had varied between -21 and +5 degrees centigrade. The bacteriological examination of flies, ants, spiders and mosquitoes at the laboratory of the Korean army's medical headquarters showed negative results, but a flea specimen tested positive for plague bacillus. The test was confirmed by a biological test on guinea pigs and agglutination tests with specific serum.     A few days earlier, on 8 February, the Chinese army had captured Corporal James Chambers, No. 123621632, of the U.S. 2nd Division, 38th Regiment, and discovered that he had been inoculated against plague. About the same time the inoculation certificates of two captives from the South Korean 2nd Division, Nan Guanqi and Chen Xiasan, also showed inoculations against plague.     A worried Chinese General Staff sent experts to investigate the situation at the battlefront. The average temperature there in the first part of February was between -7.2 and -9.2 C, frigid temperatures at which insects could not normally survive or propagate naturally; the specialists satisfied themselves that the insects had appeared after the passage of enemy airplanes. On 18 February more insects, including fleas, appeared near the rail center of Anzhou in northwestern Korea, and some were diagnosed with plague. That same day the acting chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army, Nie Rongzhen, reported to Mao Zedong, chairman of the Central Military Commission, and to Premier Zhou Enlai: In addition to sending experts to the spot for investigation, we sent specimens to Beijing for cultivation and testing; it will take two more days to find out which kind of germs these insects brought. According to the estimates of the experts, the possibilities of cholera, typhoid fever, plague, and recurrent fever are highest. If confirmed by testing, our epidemic prevention and elimination work should be conducted immediately and effectively ... and we need support of personnel and materials from the Soviet Union.     Chairman Mao minuted this report: "Ask Premier Zhou Enlai to attend to this matter and deal with it." Two days later, after getting a preliminary report on the insects and the bacteria they carried, Zhou Enlai put forward a six-point plan: (1) Strengthen testing of the contaminated insects sent from the battlefront; according to preliminary tests, plague, cholera, and other germs were present. (2) Send an epidemic-prevention team and vaccines, powder, and other materials to the battlefield. (3) Publish a statement denouncing the crimes of American germ warfare, and demand that the United States be held responsible. (4) Through the Chinese People's Committee for Defending World Peace, suggest to the World Peace Council that it initiate a campaign against U.S. germ warfare. (5) Telegraph an order to the battlefront in Korea to mobilize epidemic prevention, and to strengthen vigilance in northeast China. (6) Telegraph a request for help to the Soviet government. After receiving Mao's approval, the Chinese government, together with the government of North Korea, began an all-out campaign of preventive measures and political diplomacy.     On 22 February 1952, Bak Hun Yung, foreign minister of the Korean Democratic People's Republic, issued a "serious protest" to the United Nations against the germ war crimes of the Americans and appealed "to the people of the whole world to check the outrages of the interventionists." Two days later, Premier Zhou Enlai followed up with his angry denunciation of the U.S. bacterial warfare experiments with an appeal to "the peace-loving people all over the world" to put an end to the criminal acts of the U.S. government. He claimed that this was not the first time the Americans had used bacteriological weapons in the war. As early as December 1950, when the U.S. troops were retreating hastily southward, according to Zhou Enlai, they had disseminated smallpox virus in the northern provinces of Korea. Furthermore, he said, in preparing to use bacterial weapons, the U.S. government had employed the expertise of General Shiro Ishii and several other Japanese bacteriological warfare criminals "whose hands have long been stained with the blood of the Chinese and Korean people."     In the meantime, on 21 and again on 25 February, the Central Military Commission telegraphed urgent directives to the Chinese army in Korea commanding immediate action at all levels of organization for epidemic prevention in military and civilian units. The first of three million doses of plague vaccine were on the way to the battlefront, and on 28 February, although as yet there had been no recorded cases of army personnel affected by plague, the Chinese army in Korea began inoculating its troops against plague. Another two and a half million doses of five-in-one vaccine and five million of cholera vaccine would follow as soon as possible; specific hospitals were to be assigned "to receive, heal, and isolate the patients," to create mobile epidemic prevention teams to strengthen work on collecting information and on germ testing, to conduct epidemic-prevention education among the soldiers and civilians, and "to pay special attention but not create panic or confusion."     Though plague was endemic in parts of northeast China, none had been reported in Korea since 1912. Until the end of February 1952, contagious diseases such as recurrent fever, smallpox, and typhus existed among civilians and in some individuals in the army, according to the headquarters of the Chinese army in Korea, but "the serious contagious diseases, plague and cholera," were not found among army personnel or civilians. But a month later, the Chinese army in Korea had diagnosed sixteen cases of plague "or something similar to plague" among its personnel in widely scattered areas. They occurred in seven of its armies--the 20th, 27th, 39th, 26th, 40th, 12th, and 67th. A number of dead rats or live rats that died suddenly were found, and in three cases they were diagnosed with plague. Among civilians, in a single village populated by six hundred people in Anju prefecture, fifty people became infected by plague between 25 February and 11 March 1952, thirty-six of whom died. In March there were forty-four cases of encephalitis and meningitis in the army, of which sixteen were fatal; five cholera cases were discovered near Pyongyang, with three deaths. Aside from these diseases, there were forty-three people with acute diseases in March, of whom twenty died--some within thirty hours after falling ill, others after eight, six, or even two hours. "As to what this illness was," the army reported, "we cannot make an accurate diagnosis, and whether or not it was related to the enemy's spreading bacterial war is under further investigation." According to the official history of the Chinese army in Korea, "The enemy's germ war once endangered the Chinese and Korean armies ... to a certain extent [and] created psychological tension among our soldiers and the civilians for a while."     The deputy chief of staff of the Volunteer Army, General Deng Hua, took charge of combating the threat of epidemics in cooperation with the logistics department of the army. A massive health campaign got under way, with an emphasis on catching mice, exterminating insects, safeguarding water resources, and sanitizing living quarters. One million three hundred thousand Koreans living in residential areas in the war zone and within one kilometer of major transportation routes were also inoculated. Therefore, according to the official history of the Chinese Volunteer Army, "the epidemic situation was rapidly controlled." It says that in 1952, 384 Chinese soldiers in Korea were infected by the U.S. germ warfare, 258 of whom recovered.     In the first week of March 1952, the New China News Agency reported a new trend: the Chinese Air Observer Corps recorded increasing enemy air intrusions over northeast China. On the ground, people began to discover insects and other vectors of bacterial warfare similar to those found at the battlefront south of the border. To deal with this development, the Chinese government, on 14 March, formed a central epidemic prevention committee in Beijing, with Zhou Enlai as chair and Guo Moro, president of the Chinese Academy of Science, and Nie Rongzhen, acting chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army, as vice-chairs. The full-time office of this high-powered group included officials from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Security, and the General Staff of the Army.     A few days later, the new committee sent out a lengthy, top-secret telegram to provincial and local people's governments and to army headquarters in the coastal areas of China from the north to the far south, announcing its formation, giving anti-bacterial warfare instructions, and telling them to establish local epidemic disease prevention committees.     "Since 28 January," the telegram began, "the enemy has furiously employed continuous bacterial warfare in Korea and in our Northeast and Qingdao areas, dropping flies, mosquitoes, spiders, ants, bedbugs, fleas ... thirty-odd species of bacteria-carrying insects.... They were dropped in a very wide area.... Examination confirms that the pathogenic microorganisms involved are plague bacillus, cholera, meningitis, paratyphoid, salmonella, relapsing fever, spirochaeta bacteria, typhus rickettsia, etc.... Now that the weather is turning warm, contagious disease and animal vectors will be active without restraint, and serious epidemic diseases from enemy bacterial warfare can easily occur unless we immediately intensify nationwide work on the prevention of epidemic disease." Everyone receiving this message knew immediately that there was no room for complacency or business as usual; the high-ranking cadres in the provinces and in the localities realized that they were expected to play a leading role.     The telegram signaled the disease-prevention targets in order of precedence: plague, cholera, smallpox, paratyphoid, relapsing fever, meningitis, encephalitis, and yellow fever. "After new laboratory results are obtained, adjustments [in this order] will be made." District boundaries were stipulated: Korea as an epidemic disease district; northeast China as an urgent epidemic disease-prevention district; the north, east, and central South China coastal areas were observation districts; inland areas were preparatory districts. Each district was assigned its priority task, ranging from health reconnaissance, preventive vaccinations, and preparation of hospitals to receive epidemic disease patients, to controlling communication and transportation lines and keeping watch on the maneuvers of enemy planes. All personnel entering or leaving certain critical railway and highway junctions had to have certificates of vaccination; "otherwise they must receive injections from the station's quarantine organization."     Epidemic disease prevention was to take the form of a mass movement involving all citizens: Flies, mosquitoes, fleas, lice, rats and mice, and other animal vectors were to be eliminated and burned. Water sources were to be protected, and tap water management was to be reinforced; indoor and outdoor toilet sanitation was to be maintained. Vendors and foodstuff shops were to use glass covers; people were warned not to eat raw or cold foods. Contagious patients were to be strictly quarantined; corpses of contagious patients were to be buried locally: "It is not permitted to ship them to other places; if necessary, autopsies should be performed." Evildoers were to be prevented from spreading insects or poisonous medicine on the ground; health knowledge was to be popularized. In accordance with requirements, disease-prevention pledges were to be instituted.     The committee directed all scientific institutes, universities, and colleges in the various districts to participate in anti-bacterial warfare research work. The guidelines suggested that attention be paid to such issues as investigating how the enemy was spreading bacteria (whether it was being dropped from planes, shot with artillery shells, or spread through enemy agents); finding out the time, area, insect density, and type of insect; recording in detail the damage to farm crops, and the sicknesses and deaths caused by the enemy's spread of bacteria; and preserving live insects for further study. The research experts and professors were to maintain detailed scientific records, with signatures, which were to be properly preserved. "Thus, the process of epidemic disease-prevention work will have sufficient basis, and also will give concrete proof of the enemy's crimes."     With the help of the mass media, the patriotic health campaign was soon in full swing throughout the country. By the end of March 1952, the Central Epidemic Disease Prevention Committee had organized 129 epidemic prevention brigades involving 20,000 medical workers. Within two weeks, 4,850,000 people were inoculated with anti-plague vaccine in the northeast and along transportation routes in other areas.     The Medical Research Group concluded that the first proven case of a U.S. germ warfare attack on northeast China took place on 12 March in Kuandian county, some twenty-five miles north of the Yalu River. Kuandian is an important railway and highway junction on one of the main transportation routes between China and North Korea. Just after noon on that day, the New China News Agency reported that inhabitants of the county town saw eight American fighter planes pass over the city. The Chinese Air Observer Corps identified them as F-86 Sabrejets. Observers saw a bright cylindrical object fall from one of the planes. Immediately afterward, and during the following days, townspeople organized searches outside the East Gate, where the object appeared to have landed. They collected flies, spiders, and fowl feathers.     Nine days later, a schoolboy found fragments of a container (pieces of metal and bits of a thin, porous substance) around a shallow crater at the point of impact in the middle of a corn field.     The New China News Agency reported that the site was visited the next day by an anti-epidemic corps led by the local magistrate and by Professor Liu Zhonglo, a Ph.D. graduate of Cornell University (1926), director at the time of the Institute of Entomological Research, and professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the Peking College of Agriculture. Professor Liu had searched the neighborhood four days earlier, picking up insect samples. The team found feathers scattered around, "singly and in heaps, including yellow and white short down and black feathers; the quills of the feathers were clear of any flesh or mud; there were no remains of any fowl in the vicinity." Fifteen metres from the bomb crater there were scattered several hundred bomb fragments of different sizes, "silvery gray in colour, made of a substance like plaster." Entomologists collected more flies, spiders, and feathers around the "bomb" crater "and carefully assembled as many container-fragments as possible, melting the snow with the help of hot water." Biological testing revealed the insects, spiders, and feathers to be carrying the anthrax bacillus. No cases of anthrax were reported in or around the town as a result of this incident.     During this same time, up to 5 April 1952, there were four other cases involving anthrax and encephalitis, in which similar direct evidence convinced the Chinese scientists of the presence of U.S. biological weapons in attacks on targets in northeast China.     The scientists also found many instances in which perceived evidence of germ warfare proved to be unfounded or was the result of panic reactions to naturally occurring events. Dr. Qin Yaoting, a distinguished scientist with six published papers on parasitology, a professor of biology at Mukden Medical College from 1930 to 1948, and then head of the Department of Biology at National Medical College in Shenyang, received for examination seven hundred insects collected between 5 and 12 March from anti-epidemic corps in five of the industrial centers in southern Liaoning province. He analyzed and categorized them all, cultured sixty-one of them, and inoculated fifty white mice with the cultures, but he discovered no evidence of germ warfare. Most results showed ordinary colon bacillus, kucaojun ("bacteria causing hay fever"), and amoebic bacteria. Plague, typhoid, dysentery, and anthrax bacteria were not found. Five of the mice died within one or two days, but he had not detected the cause. "We need to continue our observations because not enough time has elapsed," he wrote in his report. "We can't yet make a definite decision or come to a conclusion about these tests."     In the spring of 1952, the daily summaries from localities to the Northeast Epidemic Disease Prevention Committee reported on all kinds of diseases and on every death: 60 families in one county with measles, 16 deaths; 89 with paratyphoid in another county; 5 cases of malaria, 3 of scarlet fever, 2 of typhus; 389 in Jilin province with "blood dysentery." There were, as well, incidences of anthrax, encephalitis, and plague that were thought to be connected with the enemy's biological war.     The Liaodong Provincial Epidemic Disease Prevention Committee sent an alarming report: 38 percent of the territory was affected by the activities of enemy planes that had dropped infected insects, and "disease is spreading through the whole province." In the forty days between 6 March and 14 April, 2,000 people fell ill, of whom 140 had died. While most of the illnesses were admittedly from common epidemic diseases such as measles, whooping cough, and influenza, 589 were unidentified acute ailments. In addition, 558 domestic fowl and animals died.     On more than one occasion, the Research Group of the Northeast Epidemic Disease Prevention Committee became exasperated by time wasted on panic reactions. Called to the suburbs of Shenyang, where black powder had been found, they determined it to be locally made gunpowder. Jian county reported three children with suspected cases of encephalitis; one had died. The Research Group rushed a team to investigate: the death was from tubercular meningitis, one of the others had had mumps and recovered, and the third was not sick at all, but had cried a lot one evening. A village in Dehui county reported ten children ill, of whom one had died, and a local autopsy reported a suspected case similar to encephalitis. When the Research Group arrived, it found that the autopsy on the corpse had been done several days after death, and the diagnosis was incorrect. The other children had said they were dizzy. Now, only one still had some fever. Preliminary conclusion: an ordinary cold. There were no other epidemic signs. A village doctor in Chaoyang county reported seventeen cases of cholera, two of them fatal. This proved to be a false diagnosis, but by the time the medical experts arrived, the two had been buried, so there was no autopsy. Everyone else recovered. One report sardonically noted, "Some who had been making coffins for the dead felt jittery and thought they were seriously ill, too."     "The investigations of groundless epidemic reports from Chaoyang, Jian, and Dehui," wrote Chen Yingqian, leader of the Research Group, "were a waste of time and resources. We hope that in the future we can improve on the system with timely, accurate, dependable reporting on epidemic disease conditions."     Three months after the start of what they became convinced were U.S. biological warfare attacks, Zhou Enlai and the Central Epidemic Disease Prevention Committee calmly evaluated the situation up to May 1952: enemy planes were continuing to spread poisonous insects in Korea and in the northeast, and were expanding their experimental area to include central and south China; there had been 358 enemy sorties into Guangdong province during April. In Korea, the major problem was plague; in the northeast, encephalitis. "In particular, the cause of encephalitis and the means of contagion still have not been found." Although plague and encephalitis continued to occur, they were "still of a spreading nature, not yet causing an epidemic. Other contagious diseases have not increased from last year. This demonstrates that our disease-prevention work has obtained results."     The preventive health campaign had achieved much: the masses had caught and destroyed millions of insects and rodents. Great piles of trash had been cleared--almost 3 million tons in the northeast alone. "Some of the trash had been piled there since the warlord period, through the Japanese, Jiang [Chiang Kai-shek], and now--four dynasties. This time we cleaned it all up." The recipients of preventive inoculations included 11.4 million people vaccinated against plague and 3.5 million people given four-in-one and five-in-one vaccines.     A year later, in the spring of 1953, and until the end of the war that summer, the Chinese authorities in the northeast continued to think that the U.S. Air Force was "brazenly waging bacterial war in the northeast." Every week, F-86 and F-84 jet planes, and occasionally some B-26 and B-29 bombers, were seen intruding into Chinese airspace. According to eyewitness reports, they dropped "four-part bacterial bombs" and other receptacles containing insects and spiders in feathers, balls of cotton batten, and sorghum leaves, or they spread powder compounds and insect vectors in vapor through spray tanks.     Apart from respiratory anthrax and encephalitis, there was a new condition, a new source of about 100 acute deaths from January to April 1953--"a special type of pneumonia," "a congestion and swelling of the lungs," ("xiaoyuer" and "jianzi" pneumonia)--that had drawn attention since the previous year and was also thought to be closely related to American bacterial warfare. With respect to the spread and occurrence of this disease, and the question of prevention and treatment, the health authorities regretted that "because of lack of knowledge, we find it very hard to pin this down, to prevent or cure this disease."     In its review of the general state of contagious diseases in the northeast in the first part of 1953 (i.e., those not thought to be linked to germ warfare), the health authorities list measles (82,882 cases), whooping cough, diphtheria, flu, five cases of smallpox, and 100 cases of malaria--in all, 89,812 cases of contagious diseases, of which 2,662 had been fatal, a death rate of 2.96 percent. The report mentions the occurrence of plague in certain counties of Rehe and Heilongjiang provinces (the Inner Mongolia area); "plague-carrying rats have been discovered, but in this review the outbreak is not attributed to U.S. aerial activity."     Mixed in routinely and matter-of-factly with basic disease data were reports from Chinese health authorities on evidence of agents, munitions, and disease that they attributed with greater or lesser assurance to bacteriological warfare. This evidence included routine reports of enemy aircraft sightings and the finding of bacteriological bombs.     One report described a plane dropping metal canisters near a railroad station which spread flies and mosquitoes over an area of 700 square meters.     Another account told of an enemy plane that had strafed a passenger train, then dropped "sticky objects that resembled nasal mucus; it turned white in the snow, but turns brown on a stove and on wood; it burns when lit on fire." Specimens were sent for testing, but the documents do not include the results. A report of a sudden infestation of small black bugs (which were found to carry plague bacillus) after a passenger train had passed aroused concern about enemy agents, as did the discovery of bags filled with fleas.     Several reports of the proliferation of disease-infected insects in proximity to railway stations passed without comment as to their source, including the discovery of several heaps of locusts not naturally found in the cold weather.     A bag found at a bridge with "twenty-odd flies in it" was considered suspicious and sent for tests. The results are not in the documents, but nine of the twelve bridge guards came down with an undiagnosed disease.     Twenty-one students of the Kainan Railway School were reported to have fallen ill with an unspecified disease on the same day as a localized spread of mosquitoes and flies, mostly along one street. No comment is made as to the source of the mosquitoes, nor as to the source of a plague that broke out around three railway stations.     On 6 and 13 March 1953, two soldiers of the guard battalion at Shenyang air base were reported to have died "sudden acute deaths" from a "special kind of pneumonia and encephalitis" that were deemed suspicious.     Other reports indicated a sudden infestation of flies and mosquitoes out of season. In a related report by the New China News Agency, in March 1952, a Japanese nurse at Chinchow City Hospital recognized a mosquito carrying salmonella typhus as a species of "snow mosquito" common to her home region in Japan. This was presumably the "overwintering mosquito" upon which the U.S. Army Medical Corps' 406 General Medical Laboratory in Japan did extensive research before and during the Korean War period.     Health authorities reported the first confirmed dropping of a bacterial feather bomb in a suburb of Kuandian. The feathers tested positive for "bacteria similar to respiratory anthrax bacillus" which were "under further research." The fifth confirmed case of bacteriological warfare in northeast China reportedly took the form of chicken feathers infected with encephalitis and myocarditis.     The official health reports on epidemic disease prevention come as close as the scholar is likely to get to critical dispassionate accounts of how the Chinese authorities viewed the possibility of a U.S. biological warfare campaign. The confidential to top secret reports between internal cadre, extending to Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, indicate a matter-of-fact approach to facts and cases such as might be expected from the personnel of a public health system.     There is an impression that Mao and Zhou, after cautiously watching and waiting, had decided by the end of February 1952 that the U.S. forces were in fact using biological weapons. The historian of Chinese decision making in the Korean War, Colonel Qi Dexue, described what his research had unveiled: In the first part of February, Mao and Zhou Enlai were not convinced that there was anything, but by mid-February they were certain that cholera and plague existed in Korea.... The information upon which Zhou Enlai based his public statement came from Acting Chief of Staff Nie Rongzhen to Mao and Zhou on 18 February 1952. This report shows that there was an initial hesitation about the matter in the first part of February, but a firm conclusion was reached by the middle of the month. It was the 42nd Army that discovered the first batch of insects; by the middle of the month, they had found out what diseases the insects carried: plague and cholera.     Once convinced, Mao instructed Zhou to create an epidemic disease-prevention organization that Zhou would head. The organization functioned with equal caution, following the routine of health professionals in patiently gathering information on disease in general, while observing any unusual patterns or explicit evidence that the enemy was waging germ warfare. Though there is little question that everyone from Mao and Zhou on down used the threat of germ warfare to whip up support and volunteers for the public health effort against epidemic disease, there also is little question that the evidence convinced those in the field and Mao and Zhou Enlai that the Americans were experimenting with biological warfare, targeting armies in the field, the population, and the communications system.     How do the Chinese who participated in the effort against bacterial warfare think and feel about it almost fifty years later? In the spring of 1952, China organized the Commission for Investigating the American Crime of Bacteriological Warfare. This large commission, one part of which went to North Korea and the other to northeast China, consisted of two sections. The first had a sociopolitical content, including journalists and representatives of trade unions, the women's and youth movements, and religious and other public bodies, while the other included more than forty Chinese scientists and specialists in various branches of medicine. The first section was to visit the localities and interview witnesses, while the second was to look into the scientific aspects, checking the evidence, identifying specimens, and conducting tests and autopsies. The leaders of the commission were Madame Li Dequan, minister of health, director of the Chinese Red Cross Society, and formerly general secretary of the Young Women's Christian Association of China; and Mr. Liao Chengzhi, a leading member of the new government whose family had been closely connected with Sun Yatsen's attempt to establish the first republican form of government in China. With such prominent leaders, the commission was clearly intended to become a credible witness around which to focus public awareness.     Many members of that commission have passed away, but three scientists and a historian were located in Beijing in 1994, and were interviewed for this book. All of those interviewed have traveled freely abroad, but they have all chosen to work and live out their lives in China. What follows is a condensed account of these interviews, of what they each had to say about themselves and about their experience, and their opinions of what they still consider to have been U.S. biological warfare in 1952. (Continues...) Copyright © 1998 Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

List of maps, tables, photo credits
Chapter 1 Aches and Fevers in China and Korea
Chapter 2 Second World War Origins
Chapter 3 The Japanese Connection
Chapter 4 The Secretary of Defense and Revival of a Program
Chapter 5 Research and Development 1945-1953
Chapter 6 Plans and Missions
Chapter 7 Korea: a limited war?
Chapter 8 Psychological Warfare and the 581st ARC Wing
Chapter 9 The CIA in the Korean War
Chapter 10 Insect Vectors in Occupied Japan: Unit 406
Chapter 11 The Flyers
Chapter 12 Conclusion
Bibliographic Notes

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