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The US program :

The US biological weapons program was kicked off around 1941-42 probably with some assistance of Japanese scientists from Unit 731 (See "History of Biological Warfare" to read more about Unit731). The organization carrying out the research was known as the Chemical warfare service or CWS.

The largest and most secretive of the US research facilities was in Fort Detrick in Maryland. The facility was built in 1943, with the substantial help and guidance of  George Merck, president of the Merck & Co. pharmaceutical company.( Yup, the same pharmaceutical company that publishes the Merck manual now). At the time that it started, Fort Detrick had 4000 employees. This facility was later renamed as USAMRIID ( US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious diseases). Even today, USAMRIID remains the top institute for biological weapons research in the US, however the research being carried out now is widely believed to be only defensive in nature.



Please click to view larger versions.

1) The enterance to Fort Detrick, America's top biological offense labratory until 1972.
2) The main Anthrax manufacturing facility at Fort Detrick (the brown building)
3) The main building of the Fort Detrick facility. If you enlarge the photo, you will see the nameplate has now changed. It now reads "USAMRIID".


The US biological weapons program was a secret until January 1946, when the US war department issued a public announcement that the United States had developed a biological weapons program.

In it's initial years, the US program had concentrated mainly on Anthrax and botulinum toxin research. Around 1944, the US program started to include other microorganisms, which are thought to be brucellosis, psittacosis and tularemia. Anthrax and Botulinum , though, were the cornerstone of US weapons research because of their strategic importance, as already described in "Tools of Terror"

Large scale tests of biological offensive agents were carried out in around 1950. Dr. Bill Patrick was a key researcher in the program. Dr. Patrick later on went on to become the oldest UN inspector in Iraq. He is currently advisor to the City Council of New York in on the use of biological weapons in a terrorist attack, in addition to being a consultant to the CIA, the FBI and a host of other US govt. agencies.

(Bill Photo here)

All this time, a huge amount of money was being spent on biological weapons research. It is estimated that at the height of the program, around $ 38 million dollars were being spent annually on it, above and beyond the amount spent on constructing new facilities. In 1951, a new plant meant exclusively for manufacturing biological weapons called the Pine Bluff Arsenal was constructed at the then stupendous cost of $ 90 million. The up gradation of facilities at the Fort Detrick facility (USAMRIID) continued, with $ 15.6 million being spent between 1954-1958 alone.


The rapid progress of the US program came to a rather abrupt halt with the election of President Richard Nixon. In1969, a host of important things happened, sounding the death knell for the US program. 

Image: President Richard Nixon, the person who ended the huge biological weapons program on his own with the self-proclaimed king of rock & roll, Elvis Presley. Click to view a larger version. 




In July 1969, the Senate completely wiped out the budget for offensive chemical and biological weapon programs, resulting in the instantaneous death of these programs. In August of the same year, President Nixon, during a visit to Fort Detrick renounced the development, production, stockpiling, and use of biological warfare agents. He also reaffirmed the US no-first-use policy for chemical weapons and agreed to submit the Geneva Protocol to the Senate for consideration.

By 1972 the US had destroyed all antipersonnel biological warfare stocks and ammunitions at Pine Bluff Arsenal. In the same year, the US signed the Biological Weapons Convention treaty (BWC), thus bringing to an end one of the largest biological weapons programs known to have existed.

Now, the people in the USAMRIID are apparently engaged in more honorable activites, including publishing the very popular "Medical managment of Biological Casualties" Handbook, an introduction and guide for the managment of biological warfare casualties. 


Image : "The Blue book" ( no.. I'm not trying to crack a bad joke ... :) It IS fondly called that by many.)



Coming back to the end of the US program, the whole thing was so sudden that the International community had a lot of difficulty in accepting the fact that the US had indeed stopped the production of biological weapons. According to a senior British Intelligence officer, (quoted from "The Weaponeers") : "The notion that the Americans had given up their biological weapons was thought of as the great American lie"

However, though it took some time for the world to accept it, the US program WAS well and truly over when they said it was.