The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Pentagon Documents Reveal Tests of Nerve Gas and Germ Warfare Agents on U.S. Sailors

Jun 3, 2002

On May 23, the Defense Department released documents detailing nerve gas and germ warfare agent tests conducted on Navy ships between 1964 and 1968. The experiments were supposed to determine how quickly poisons sprayed on ships could be detected and how rapidly they would disperse, as well as the effectiveness of protective gear and decontamination procedures in use at that time.

In three of the six tests, sarin, a nerve gas or VX, another nerve gas, were sprayed on a ship. Another test used a toxic germ known as SEB. Another used a supposedly harmless germ designed to simulate a deadly one, but that was later found to be dangerous itself.

The sailors were supposed to be informed of the dangers involved, to agree to voluntarily participate and to be provided with protective gear. But as the Pentagon now explains it, it’s “uncertain” whether safeguards were used.

“Uncertain”–what a polite way to say the sailors weren’t protected.

There were apparently many other such tests, too. So far, reports on only 12 of 113 secret tests that were carried out have been de-classified by the Pentagon. And these reports were declassified only because of pressure from ex-servicemen and their families who say they have suffered health damage as a result of the tests.

In the 1950s, Army troops were exposed to deadly radiation from atomic explosions without being informed of the dangers involved and without their consent. During Desert Storm, U.S. troops were exposed to nerve gas without being informed of the danger, and were given medications that had not been fully tested.

For decades, the U.S. military command has clearly felt free to use its troops as human guinea pigs. This isn’t surprising. During its wars, the U.S. military uses the troops as cannon fodder.