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1950s Promo film for biological warfare

Ft. Detrick Maryland US Army


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"Operation Whitecoat"


The program ran from 1954 to 1973.

The volunteers were called "whitecoats" and all of them were conscientious objectors.

2,300 in all, most of them trained medics, were infected with viruses and bacteria.

What were they exposed to?

Q fever, yellow fever, Rift Valley fever, hepatitis A, Yersinia pestis (plague), tularemia (rabbit fever), and Venezuelan equine encephalitis and other diseases.

Only 23% of the volunteers exposed to these subjects were ever surveyed after the program was complete. Of the ones who were surveyed, no follow up blood work was ever done.

For those who suffered from illnesses, including asthma and increased frequency/severity of headaches, the government has a pat answer:

"Sample size not large enough to 'assert with confidence that the statistical associations with asthma and headaches were real.'

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