Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Veterans And Lawmakers Demand Answers About Vietnam-Era Pentagon Tests
The Pentagon conducted a series of secret chemical and biological weapons tests involving military personnel in the 1960s and 1970s. Veterans groups and members of Congress are demanding to know exactly what happened — and who has suffered.
The tests, known as Project 112 and SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) involved some 6,000 military personnel between 1962 and 1974, the Vietnam War era. Most served in the Navy and Army. The purpose was to identify any weaknesses to U.S. ships and troops and develop a response plan for a chemical attack.
The tests involved nerve agents like Sarin and Vx, and bacteria such as E. Coli. Sarin and Vx are both lethal. According to DOD documents, death can occur within 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to a lethal dose of Vx.
After exposure to a sufficient amount of Sarin, symptoms include “difficulty breathing, dimness of vision, confusion, drowsiness, coma, and death.”
“Veterans were exposed to some of the most extreme and hazardous agents … and they now suffer from debilitating health care conditions,” said Ken Wiseman, senior vice commander of the Virginia branch of The Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the nation’s largest veterans groups, at a news conference outside the Capitol Wednesday. They want to know more about the extent to which service personnel were exposed.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Information about the tests first surfaced in 2000. At the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Pentagon released some limited data about the nature of the tests, including the locations and the agents used. Since then, the VA has sponsored studies by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 2007 and 2016 to look at the tests’ effects.
While they found no significant difference in the health of veterans involved in the tests and those who were not, the authors acknowledged the difficulty of studying this issue.
“Our task was challenging because of the passage of time since the tests, and because many of the documents related to the tests remain classified,” last year’s report said. “Our requests for declassification of additional documents were not approved.”
A VA spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Lawmakers from both parties are pushing the House to endorse their demand this week when it considers a defense policy bill.
Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Don Young, R-Alaska, and Walter Jones, R-N.C., are trying to require the secretary of defense to declassify and disclose documents about the tests or tell Congress why he can’t.
“It’s been over 50 years since these tests were conducted and the DOD has yet to provide a complete accounting of what truly happened to our service members,” Thompson said. “Veterans can’t wait any longer.”
Veterans say they need answers to get the proper medical care.
“This amendment would help veterans exposed to chemical and biological agents get the access to care and benefits they’ve earned through their service,” said John J. Gennace, assistant director of the American Legion’s national legislative division.
In the Senate, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., plans to push the veterans’ agenda.
“We have a duty to make certain our service members’ health is protected both in and out of service, and providing access to classified military records that may prove exposure to toxic substances is critical to veterans applying for VA benefits and service-connection,” Moran said in a statement.
©2017 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Trump: $6.1 billion in DoD money going to border wall wasn’t for anything that seemed ‘too important to me’
President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."
Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."
D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.
"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."