Forgotten Crimes Continue to be Revealed at Various Locations in Korea: Germ Warfare in South Korea?

August 1, 2001

Personal report as member of six-person
Veterans Delegation to South Korea
August 2-9, 2001


Introduction: Continuation of the Phenomenon of "Haan" in Korea

On this, my seventh trip to Korea, I again listened to numerous testimonies of people from 12 different sites in 9 communities who witnessed massacres that occurred more than 50 years ago. For five decades they have held deeply within their psyches incredible memories of extraordinary personal traumas. Their associated feelings of intense grief and rage, repressed for so long, now were displayed openly through voluminous tears interspersed with loud moaning, constant bobbing of heads back and forth, pounding of hands on tables, and many pauses in between segments of painful oral testimony. In Korea this phenomenon is called "Haan." It reminded me of my own painful expressions that had been repressed for only 15 years following my Vietnam traumas.

My Vietnam experiences shook me out of my innocence and ignorance as a young U.S. American over 30 years ago. I was in shock when I learned through firsthand experience in 1969 the lies regularly uttered by officials representing my government in conducting that criminal war, a pattern that was confirmed beyond doubt once the Pentagon Papers became public. I found it abhorrent that the U.S. was not interested in seriously distinguishing between civilians and genuine combatants. But I suppressed my memories of the war until the 1980s, when flashbacks erupted and I relived the experience of witnessing hundreds of villagers being bombed out of existence or maimed for life.

For decades U.S. policy has been concealed by the concept of "plausible deniability" which our officials felt necessary because the covert policies were so demonic that if the public knew of them they would be vigorously opposed to them being carried out or even conceived. Our conduct during World War II disclosed a dramatic drift toward total war with indiscriminate saturation bombings in Germany and Japan, an enhanced belief in scorched earth policies, use of massive incendiary weapons, and the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. The history of arrogance and racism manifesting in use of military violence in furthering "development" of the U.S. "civilization" is depressingly overwhelming. I have regrettably concluded that the U.S. — i.e., my so-called noble government and the people it represents, touted so highly by so many to distinguish it from all other civilizations — has known, and still knows, no limits to what it has been willing to conceive of and implement in the name of preserving the American Way Of Life (AWOL).

As I sat quietly listening to the grief of these humble Korean people, tears falling down my cheeks, I wondered how many other human beings in how many other countries had similar stories to recount as victims of the Cold War that followed World War II. In my mind I envisioned a world map on which I could see dozens of countries where I know my own government has intervened at one time or another. I am aware of over 200 overt interventions, and as many as 10,000 covert operations, designed to contain or eliminate independent people’s movements that were perceived as a threat to (touted deceptively as a "Communist" assault on) the Western (Capitalist) Way Of Life. Millions of people’s lives have been tragically devastated or cruelly snuffed out simply because they were poor and expressed some interest in relief from their misery through collective organizing.

The grief I felt as I listened to the Koreans’ testimony of suffering manifested in low-level stomach pains. This physical discomfort was my reaction to the heavy burden of knowing the carnage my country has caused all over the world. Even more sickening, this historic reality remains covered up by sheer fantasy about the nobility of the "American" experiment as espoused ad nauseum by the sophisticated PR mechanisms of our government, the media, and most of our educational and religious institutions.

I have now visited 17 of the dozens and dozens of Korean massacre sites scattered across the provinces that have been identified since the shocking revelation on September, 29, 1999 about the No Gun Ri railroad viaduct massacre committed by U.S. military forces 100 miles south of Seoul. I have heard testimonies in 2000 and 2001 from spokespeople representing hundreds of surviving witnesses at these different sites. The final number of atrocity sites — explicit locations where murders of countless numbers of civilians were committed by U.S. ground as well as air forces, or by Koreans working under their command — will undoubtedly be in the hundreds when all is said and done. In some cases the Koreans were murdered elsewhere and then taken in trucks to be deposited in out-of-the-way burial sites such as forced-dug mass graves and abandoned Japanese mines.


Example of Germ Warfare in South Cholla Province in September-October 1951?

One of the sites examined on this recent trip was quite distinct in character from the others I visited. It was located on the rugged 3,900-foot Mudung Mountain, the tallest point in South Cholla Province, only a few miles east of Kwangju City, visible from the Kwangju Cemetery and associated May 18 (1980 massacre) Memorial. Local people accompanied us to the forested, rocky mountain site, providing 4-wheel drive vehicles for those of us unable to make the climb on foot. Survivors explained that on several occasions in September and October 1951 they witnessed aerial spraying of a white cloud or mist from light planes. They claimed that this spray seemed to lead directly to the development of quick sickness, then a period of brief recovery before dark skin discoloration was alarmingly noted. Most of the people present at that time — local villagers, temporary refugees, and guerrillas in hiding — ultimately died. Though I was aware of documented evidence of germ warfare employed by the United States in North Korea and China in early 1952, this was the first time I had heard of any accusations of its use in the South.

Knowing what I now know about the history of U.S. intervention policies, and our government’s lack of veracity in revealing the nature and extent of those policies, I could not take these allegations lightly. Yes, at first I was tempted to think that they were possibly the product of hysterical sentiments that erupted during the hardships of a cruel war. Many times I have felt overwhelmed when initially hearing of war crimes allegations from various people in different locations around the world. However, when I ponder the weight of the accumulated evidence from the documented historical pattern of aggressive U.S. policies, often originally shielded from the U.S. public by being deemed secret, covert activities, I am compelled to pursue all new allegations of past crimes when brought to my attention.


The Historical Evidence of U.S. Use of Germ Warfare

Let us examine the evidence. Historically, we know that the United States intentionally used germs in military campaigns. For example, in the nineteenth century the U.S. Army deliberately used smallpox-contaminated blankets to eliminate thousands of Indigenous Americans, especially in the central Plains region. British General Jeffrey Amherst had earlier used this same tactic against Chief Pontiac and his Indigenous forces in the summer of 1763 in what is now western Pennsylvania, at the conclusion of what is known as the French and Indian War, when the British acquired Canada from the French. Chief Pontiac had sided with the French and in so doing stirred the ire of Amherst, who responded with orders to "extirpate" the Indigenous with smallpox-infected blankets and handkerchiefs. The town of Amherst, Massachusetts was proudly named after General Lord Jeffery Amherst.

In 1925, the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of A
sphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare was signed, but it was not ratified by the U.S. until 1975, fifty years later. Japan did not even sign the protocol. In 1937, Japan initiated its offensive biological weapons program, Unit 731 in Harbin, Manchuria, under the guidance of Japanese physician and army officer, Lt. General Shiro Ishii. Over a period of eight years at least 10,000 prisoners were killed in experiments, including as many as 300 U.S. POWs. Unit 731 studied botulism, brucellosis, gas gangrene, glanders, influenza, meningococcus, plague, smallpox, tetanus, tularemia, songo (hemorrhagic fever), bubonic plague, anthrax, tick encephalitis, typhus, dysentary, typhoid, undulunt fever, cholera, fugu toxin, mucin, salmonella, toutsugamushi (scrub typhus), tuberculosis, and various plant diseases. The Japanese research included inducing hemorrhagic fever.

The U.S. formalized its own germ warfare program with the creation in 1943 of the Biological Warfare Laboratories at U.S. Army Camp Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. Following defeat of the Japanese in 1945, the U.S. War Department’s (later called the Department of Defense) Chemical Warfare Service (later the Chemical Corps) formulated a general plan for continuing the bacteriological warfare program. The Far East Command Medical Section created its Unit 406 Medical General Laboratory for such purposes in 1946 near Atsugi air base in Yokohama, Japan. Later it added branches in Tokyo and Kyoto.

In 1946, the U.S. chose to grant immunity from war crimes prosecution to General Ishii and his top Japanese scientists in return for their cooperation in sharing their advanced knowledge of biological warfare with the U.S., and explicitly not with the Soviet Union. In addition to involvement of the top U.S. chemical and biological warfare scientists, the Far East Command, the Adjutant General, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the War, State, and Justice Departments, and the U.S. chief war crimes prosecutor lent their weight to assure the immunity deal, hiding the terrible crimes against humanity committed by the Japanese scientists. U.S. scientists examined nearly three dozen Japanese reports, 8,000 medical slides detailing more than 800 different tests, hundreds of pages of autopsy reports, and conducted numerous interviews with the Japanese scientists. The briefings included ways of inducing, as well as learning the effects of, hemorrhagic fever. The U.S. scientists were greatly impressed and found that the work of the Japanese in this field "greatly supplemented and amplified" our knowledge. The U.S. produced more than twenty reports using the Japanese material.

It should be noted here that the U.S. also made immunity agreements with thousands of Germans, many of them former Nazis, freeing them from prosecution for war crimes, in return for working for the United States in counter-espionage and paramilitary activities against the Soviet Union and its so-called satellites, and to provide scientific assistance in the space, military and nuclear programs during the Cold War. This was called Operation Paperclip.

By the time the Korean "hot" war started, the U.S. already had an operational biological weapons system. In June 1950, prior to the June 25 date used for the start of the war, the Ad Hoc Committee on Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Warfare recommended construction of a new biological warfare production facility, implementation of field tests of biological warfare agents and munitions, and expansion of biological warfare research. By the fall of 1950 advanced testing had begun at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah and a production facility was constructed at Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas. By July 1951, the U.S. was testing anti-animal biological agents at Eglin Air Force base in Florida.

Also, at the time the Korean War broke out, the Far East Command’s Medical Unit 406 included departments of epidemiology, bacteriology, entomology, and viral and rickettsial diseases. Their work required large quantities of small animals — 20,000 monthly — for the testing and manufacture of biological agents. Experiments extended beyond Japan to Okinawa and Korea. The Unit 406 was always rumored to be the cover for the integration of Ishii’s germ warfare program into the U.S. program after the immunity agreement. Unit 406 scientists were already working on hemorrhagic fever in 1951 before Korea’s first fatal case of the unusual disease was reported in April 1951. There had been no history of hemorrhagic fever in Korea but it had been confirmed in Manchuria in China, the areas controlled by Japan in the1930s and up to her surrender in August 1945. By the spring of 1952 there was an outbreak of the often fatal fever among U.S. troops. The monthly technical report of Unit 406 for August 1951 stated: "New activities relate to studies of a disease heretofore considered Leptospirosis, but resembling that described by Japanese as Epidemic Hemorrhagic Fever." That part of the report was preceded by noting that "Work of a classified nature, for security reasons, is reported elsewhere." The classified work referred to has never been identified. This report was issued just prior to the September-October 1951 dates of the spraying of the "white powder" in South Cholla Province as described to our delegation in August 2001.

In October 1951, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) hand-delivered a secret order to General Mathew B. Ridgeway, then commander of all U.N. forces, to start germ warfare on a limited experimental scale in Korea. In December 1951, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett ordered that "actual readiness be achieved in the earliest practicable time" for offensive use of biological weapons. The First Marine Air Wing operating under the direction of the Fifth Air Force carried out the secret missions. The U.S. had a number of CIA operatives in North Korea and China collecting data on the effectiveness of the germ warfare program. If uncovered, the U.S. was to fall back on the fact that it had not ratified the 1925 Geneva Protocol on biological warfare, and had not participated in the 1907 Hague Convention that outlawed chemical weapons.

It is also worth noting that Unit 406, in 1952, added to its resources the 8003 Far East Medical Research Laboratory, timed, coincidentally, with the U.S. Air Force crash program to develop and unleash biological weapons. The Air Force had already been planning a covert biological warfare capability with its Far Eastern air wing.

An early study examined the allegations of the use by the United States of bacteriological and chemical weapons in Korea. The Commission of International Association of Democratic Lawyers’ Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea, March 31, 1952, concluded that the U.S. used both germ ("deliberate dispersion of flies and other insects artificially infected with bacteria, with the intention of spreading death and disease") and chemical ("use of poison gas bombs and other chemical substances") warfare against both civilians and combatants in North Korea. Established at the September 1951 Berlin Congress of the Association, the Commission consisted of eight lawyers, one each from Austria, Italy, Great Britain, France, China, Belgium, Brazil, and Poland. The Association had been prompted by a Report of the Committee of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Korea, May 16-27, 1951, an international commission of 22 women from18 countries (including Canada and 7 Western European nations) that found systematic war crimes by a number of means were being committed by U.S. forces and South Korean forces under the command of the U.S., though it did not specifically discuss use of bacteriological or chemical weapons.

China convened its own international study, Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacteriological Warfare in Korea and China, issued in Peking in 1952, finding significant use by the U.S. of germ warf

Of course, the U.S. denied the various allegations and accusations of its use of biological and chemical warfare, and does so to this day. However, thanks to two York University professors in Toronto, Canada, Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, we now have the benefit of their 20-year exhaustive study, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998). Carefully researched, their report concludes that the United States experimented with and deployed biological weapons during the Korean War, and that the U.S. government lied both to Congress and the U.S. public in saying that its biological warfare program was purely defensive (for retaliation only). A large and sophisticated offensive biological weapons system had been developed in the post-World War II years, and was used in North Korea. However, their study does not identify any use of germ warfare in South Korea.


The Mudung Mountain Site: "A White Cloud or Mist"

Let us return for a moment to the Mudung Mountain site where villagers claimed that a "white powder" or "mist" was sprayed from light planes, believed to be of U.S. origin, on several occasions in September and October 1951. People were reported to have developed fevers shortly thereafter, collapsing, while their skin discolored toward black. Of the 300 to 400 residents in the area at the time, most died. Survivors claim that when the ROK Army came through the area in October and/or November anyone found still alive was burned, then shot, apparently for good measure. What might have been the ingredients in the whitish spray emitted from the light planes? Were any epidemiological studies conducted on any of the victims in South Cholla Province in 1951?

At the time of the Korean War the U.S. also had three types of gases in its inventory of chemical weapons — Phosgene, Mustard and Sarin. But the symptoms described seem to rule out gas. However, the symptoms do suggest the possibility that the people contracted a kind of hemorrhagic fever. And we know that the U.S. was experimenting with inducing hemorrhagic fever, among other biological warfare tactics. And spraying from airplanes was one of the methods for dispensing the agents. The program was shrouded in secrecy then, as now.


Other Global Locations of Similar Reports

In 1971, reports of the use of chemical or biological weapons began to emerge from Laos. H’Mong tribesman reported seeing yellow mist, or a yellow-green powder, being sprayed on their villages, with resultant discoloration of their skin, swelling, numbness, and severe hemorrhaging. Vomiting and involuntary defecation were also reported. Several years later, similar reports came from Kampuchea (Cambodia), and in 1979 from Afghanistan. According to the people in these targeted regions, evidence was found on captured Soviet and U.S. aircraft that they claimed had been employed to disseminate toxic chemical or biological agents by sprays, rockets, and bombs. Similar reports came from Yemen in the late 1960s as well as from Ethiopia. Though some have concluded that the "yellow rain" was nothing more than bee feces, there seems to be a debate about different types of yellow spray/mist, some of which is natural and relatively harmless, and some apparently much more toxic.


A Leading Suspect: Mycotoxin T-2

Because all of the areas where this spraying reportedly occurred are remote, confirmation of the exact nature of the attacks and recovery of the alleged chemical or biological agent have remained difficult to the present day. However, reviewing materials prepared by the Chemical Warfare academic program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California suggests a likely suspect — a species of Fusarium fungi, such as Mycotoxin T-2, a very hemorrhagic toxin.

Though tricothecene mycotoxins (produced by fungi) are members of a large group of 40 or so naturally occurring toxins produced by a species of Fusarium fungi, one of the trichothecenes implicated as a warfare agent include the T-2 toxin, first recorded as possessing a poisoning effect in Russia in 1891. The initial effects include burning sensation in the mouth, tongue, throat, esophagus and stomach, and inflammation of gastric and intestinal mucous. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain often accompany this burning and inflammation stage. The white blood cell count begins to drop, though during this second stage the patient often feels well and is capable of normal activity for a week to several weeks. However, a transition to a third stage occurs rather suddenly when hemorrhages manifest on the skin of the trunk, arms, thighs, face, head, in the mucous membranes in the mouth, palate, tongue and tonsil areas, and in the nose, stomach and intestines. Skin discoloration becomes obvious. Death of cells begin to be experienced on the lips, fingers, nose, jaws, eyes, and in the mouth. The vast majority that reach this stage will die. Without treatment, the mortality rate approaches 100 percent. These toxic tricothecenes have been shown to affect both DNA and protein synthesis.

Much time has elapsed, i.e., 50 years, since the date of the spraying in the Mudung Mountain area of South Korea. It would be helpful if there was a team of epidemiologists, biochemists, and others with appropriate technical skills who would commit to investigating whether in fact the U.S. experimented with or employed biological (or chemical) warfare in remote regions of South Korea during the Korean War. The Korean people deserve no less in order to bring some righteous justice to their lives after having been so cruelly divided, assaulted, maimed, and killed due to the unilateral decisions of the U.S. government beginning in 1945.


Continued Use of Germ and Chemical Warfare By the U.S. after Korea

It is important to note that the U.S. pattern of using chemical and biological warfare has continued beyond Korea. In Vietnam, under President’s Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, the U.S. used globally unprecedented amounts of chemical warfare when it sprayed from the air 20 million gallons of various herbicides in concentrations far beyond that even recommended by their seven major manufacturers. Agent Orange pesticide alone destroyed 14 percent of South Vietnam’s forests. An area the size of the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined (6 million acres/9400 square miles/24,400 square kilometers/2.4 million hectares) was decimated with chemicals that today remain in the Vietnamese food chain, causing a continuing tragedy of elevated cancers and birth defects. And subsequent documents reveal that the chemical companies knew no later than 1965, and that the U.S. government knew as early as 1967, and perhaps earlier, of the long-term health risks and sought to keep that information from the public, and from its own troops.

When President Nixon was in office (1969-1974) the U.S. waged bacteriological warfare against Cuba. First Nixon directed that clouds be seeded over non-agricultural areas to induce torrential downpours causing flooding, while attempting to prevent rains over cane and other agricultural areas to induce drought. Then the CIA introduced African Swine Fever which decimated Cuban pig herds, a major source of protein in Cuba. The Cubans were forced to slaughter 500,000 pigs. This was the first outbreak of this disease in the Western hemisphere in the Twentieth Century. Under President Reagan and Vice President Bush, there were new outbreaks of African Swine Fever, and two outbreaks of hemorrhagic dengue. It was the first eruption of hemorrhagic dengue in generations in Latin America.

Thus the notion of disease as a weapon, an example of biological and/or chemical warfare, is historically rooted in the policies of the U.S. government through its military and CIA.

Furthermore, the U.S. has thwarted the international community in its recent efforts to adopt a new Geneva Protocol that would set up a strin
gent enforcement regime for carrying out on-site inspections at military and bio-tech locations to assure compliance with the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) banning germ and toxin weapons. The U.S. signed the BWC, but took three years to ratify it. In 1975, the U.S. Senate finally ratified both the 1925 Geneva Protocol (for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare) and the BWC. However, most believe the 1972 Convention (BWC) lacks teeth. The U.S. rejection of the new protocol is based on fear that its commercial and military secrets will be exposed, especially its likely exploitation of dual-use technology and development of offensive biological warfare, each of which violate the stringent terms of the BWC. According to Francis A. Boyle, Professor of law, University of Illinois, who has carefully reviewed the Biological Defense Research Program (BDRP), the U.S. government’s biological warfare research program includes continued studies of tricothecene mycotoxins at the very University of Illinois where he teaches. The U.S. possesses nearly half of all the bio-industry and bio-defense facilities in the world. The U.S. continues to want its cake and eat it too, espousing a double standard about who can possess weapons of mass destruction, and who cannot, whose weapons can be inspected, and whose cannot!



The claims of use of bacteriological (or possibly chemical) warfare by the survivors that were present in the village(s) on and around Mudung Mountain near Kwangju City in South Cholla Province in the fall of 1951 should be the object of a formal, professional inquiry. From the limited information available at this time, it appears that some kind of biological, rather than chemical, agent was used. One possibility is the hemorrhagic toxin, Mycotoxin T-2.

The U.S. government at the time possessed an active, offensive biological warfare program incorporating the Japanese biological warfare experiments conducted in Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s, including the inducing of lethal hemorrhagic fevers, among many poisoning agents. Though shrouded in top secrecy then as now, it is known that the U.S. used biological warfare in North Korea and portions of China in early 1952, possibly in late 1951. Thus, the evidence suggests that it is totally possible there were similar "experiments" with these disabling biological poisons in remote regions in South Korea around the same time.

It is time to explore all the crimes committed during (and before) the Korean War on the Korean Peninsula. This pursuit of truth will contribute to a long overdue healing for the Korean people and their culture. It will also begin serious confrontation of the historical impunity enjoyed by the United States during its decades-long journey, in the name of preserving the American Way Of Life (AWOL), of eliminating through a variety of grotesque criminal and inhumane policies the emergence and existence (and threat to hegemonic capitalism) of local independence movements around the world.

Then, too, the United States might become healed from its addiction to insatiable materialism and the violence so necessary to maintain that addiction!


* * * * * * * * * *

NOTE: Of special importance for understanding the history of biological warfare in Korea, SEE The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets From the Early Cold War and Korea by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998). Also SEE Textbook of Military Medicine: Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of the Army, 1989).

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Real Time Web Analytics