As a child growing up in San Francisco, I was an unwitting participant in a military experiment. Between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 of 1950, a Navy mine-laying vessel cruised the San Francisco coast, spraying an aerosol cocktail of Serratia and Bacillus microbes -- all believed to be safe -- over the famously foggy city from giant hoses on deck, according to declassified Army reports.
According to lawyers who have reviewed the reports, researchers added fluorescent particles of zinc-cadmium-sulfide to better measure the impact. Based on results from monitoring equipment at 43 locations around the city, the Army determined that San Francisco had received enough of a dose for nearly all of the city's 800,000 residents to inhale at least 5,000 of the particles.
The goal: to see what might happen in a real germ-warfare attack. The experiment, which involved blasting a bacterial fog over the 49-square-mile city from a Navy vessel offshore, was recorded with clinical nonchalance: "It was noted that a successful BW (biological warfare) attack on this area can be launched from the sea, and that effective dosages can be produced over relatively large areas," the Army wrote in its 1951 classified report on the experiment.
Now, with anthrax in the mail and fear mounting of further biological attacks, researchers are again looking back at the only other time this country faced the perils of germ warfare -- albeit self-inflicted. In fact, much of what the Pentagon knows about the effects of bacterial attacks on cities came from those secret tests conducted on San Francisco and other American cities from the 1940s through the 1960s, experts say. "We learned a lot about how vulnerable we are to biological attack from those tests," says Leonard Cole, adjunct professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Jersey and author of several books on bioterrorism. "I'm sure that's one reason crop dusters were grounded after Sept. 11: The military knows how easy it is to disperse organisms that can affect people over huge areas."
In other tests in the 1950s, Army researchers dispersed Serratia on Panama City, Fla., and Key West, Fla., with no known illnesses resulting. They also released fluorescent compounds over Minnesota and other Midwestern states to see how far they would spread in the atmosphere. The particles of zinc-cadmium-sulfide -- now a known cancer-causing agent --were detected more than 1,000 miles away in New York state, the Army told the Senate hearings, though no illnesses were ever attributed to them as a result.
ARE YOU OUTRAGED YET?
Well, we know they did it again in 1994 in the state of Washington.
Who could have done this other than our military? Whoever did this:
1. Had a ton of money
2. Access to a fleet of aircraft
3. The ability to shut down or block investigations into what happened. See for yourself:
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