An airplane flies over enemy territory, dropping a shiny cylindrical object near a town. When the townspeople go to investigate, they find flies, spiders, and feathers scattered among bomb fragments in the snow. Biological testing reveals that all the items are contaminated with the anthrax bacillus. The Iran-Iraq war? International terrorism? Or the United States in northeastern China, 1952?
The term "biological warfare" brings to mind images of ruthless dictators, delusional terrorists, and cartoonish movie villains. The assertions made by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, that the United States engaged in germ warfare against China and North Korea in the 1950s, are therefore both shocking and disturbing. The United States and Biological Warfare is an important yet flawed history of the American program, from its origin in 1941 as the Bacteriological Warfare Committee (quickly and obfuscatingly renamed the WBC) to its abrupt closure in the 1960s. The main focus of the book, however, is the United States' activities in Korea and China during the Korean War--where, Endicott and Hagerman claim, the U.S. launched a number of biological attacks to spread anthrax, cholera, and smallpox viruses, as well as other disease-causing agents.
This book is bound to draw criticism from many sides; despite their thorough research, the authors have yet to find a proper "smoking gun." Some of the science is muddled, as well--though it is at times difficult to tell if the confusion began in the military documents or with the authors. The circumstantial evidence and overall argument, however, are quite compelling. What is even more disturbing than these activities (including the fact that scientists who were active in Japan's biological warfare program in World War II were granted immunity for their war crimes in return for sharing their knowledge) is the wartime mentality that causes countries to contemplate and even commit atrocities in the name of national security. A chilling read.
From Publishers Weekly
If nothing else, Canadian historian Endicott and American historian Hagerman will make thoughtful readers see the irony in the U.S. government's ongoing showdown with Iraq over biological weapons. This history of the U.S. biological weapons program alleges that the U.S. actually deployed biological weapons during the Korean War. The authors marshal an impressive array of evidence that the military and executive branch lied to Congress and the public about the development of biological weapons. At the end of WWII, the American military enlisted the aid of top Japanese biological warfare officers; when the Korean War broke out, the U.S. embarked on an ambitious program to produce offensive biological weapons, despite Pentagon protestations that the research was geared toward defensive weaponry. During the war, Chinese officials learned of mysterious outbreaks of disease after some U.S. raids and began to suspect that biological weapons were being used. The authors were the first foreigners allowed to inspect Chinese archival documents dealing with the possible American use of biological weapons. They rely heavily on these sources, as well as on Canadian, British and American documents. The research is bolstered by endnotes and an array of photographs (not seen by PW).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.