Thursday, March 8, 2018


I learned details about bioweapons (BW) as a Public Health Service Officer on special assignment to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). FEMA was concerned that federal and military resources were inadequate in the event of a mass casualty disaster. These would include natural occurrences like hurricanes, earthquakes, and epidemics or an attack with nuclear, chemical, or biological agents. I was tasked to recruit, develop, equip, and train civilian volunteer groups of medical personnel, who would function as Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATS). In the event of a disaster, DMATS would be activated, federalized, and transported to a critical area where they would triage and stabilize victims.

The use of biological agents as weapons is not new.  In 1346, Tartars attacked the walled city of Caffa in Crimea.  When cases of Bubonic plague appeared among the Tartars, they catapulted the corpses of the victims into the city to start an epidemic. Genovese sailors stranded in the city escaped and returned to Italy carrying the disease, bringing the dreaded Black Death to Europe.

During the French and Indian War (1756-1763) in Pre Revolutionary America, smallpox broke out among the occupying British troops. Officers ordered blankets from sick or dead soldiers to be distributed to the hostile Indians hoping to decimate the tribes.

The Japanese were the first to methodically study the effects of various pathogenic microorganisms on humans. In 1937, the Japanese occupied Manchuria and set up a camp there known as Unit 731. By the end of WWII, almost everyone in Europe and America became aware of the Nazi death camps like Auschwitz, but Unit 731 was worse than any of them. Surrounded by barbed wire and machine-gun nests, it was a place of horror where human beings were used as guinea pigs for lethal agents. General Ishii Shiro, a Japanese physician, was in charge of the camp where more than 3,000 men, women and children were murdered by using them as experimental subjects for testing. Most of the victims were Chinese who had been convicted, sentenced to death, and sent to Unit 731 in lieu of execution. As the Russians approached the camp, Shiro dropped thousands of infected rats on Chinese communities resulting in 20,000 fatal cases of bubonic plague.

Shiro and his staff were captured and turned over to the Americans for prosecution. Now this will sicken you.  American generals, anxious to learn the results of Shiro’s experiments and determined to keep this data from the Russians, persuaded President Truman to pardon them. The Soviets were no fools and lost no time in establishing a huge organization called Biopreparat devoted exclusively to the development of bioweapons.

Eventually the Americans started researching bioweapons. Fort Detrick in Maryland was a center for researching and developing germ weapons, and the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah was designated as a testing site. Experiments were conducted secretly in the U.S. without informing the subjects. In 1950, ships of the U.S. Navy sprayed a cloud of bacteria over San Francisco and many residents developed pneumonia-like symptoms. Three years later the Army, Navy, and CIA sprayed bacteria over New York City and San Francisco.

In 1966, the U.S. Army dispensed bacteria throughout the New York City subway system.

In 1972, President Nixon signed an Executive Order banning the use and production of biological agents. By the 1980’s, details of the above experiments were de-classified.

Non-fiction books and novels began to appear. Among them: A Higher Form of Killing by Ken Alibek (a defector from Biopreparat), The Cobra Event (Richard Preston), Vector (Robin Cook), Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War (Judith Miller) and many others.

My novel, And Evil Shall Come, is a thriller based upon much of what I have learned about BW.

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