It's no secret that the United States is one of the few countries in the world to have used chemical and biological weapons. But it's still surprising to watch this newly declassified video, which talks at length about the Navy's development and testing of biological and chemical weapons, including two large-scale tests on the California and Carolina coasts.
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The 1952 video, called "Naval Concepts of Chemical and Biological Warfare," appears to be a training video produced by the US Naval Photographic Center. It details at length "offensive biological and chemical warfare" tactics and capabilities of the Navy, and features footage from two specific tests carried out with non-pathogenic agents in the United States. The video's narrator does not say what specific chemicals were used in the tests but notes that they are stand-ins for biological weapons.
From the video's narrator:
"Navy delivery and dispersion of the agents started with tests made in 1950. A rather crude spraying system was installed on a minelayer, which, in September of that year secretly cruised off the coast of California and sprayed some 50 gallons of biological simulant 2-5 miles off shore. Within an hour, the simulant has been carried ashore by the wind. Sampling tests showed some 48 square miles of heavily populated area was contaminated. Had an infectious agent been used in the spray, there might have been 210,000 casualties."
That's not all. Less than two years later, the Navy carried out a larger-scale test off the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
"The USS Tercel cruised along some 100 miles of coastline, spraying 25 pounds of fluorescent tracer particles. The operation lasted 8 hours," the narrator said. "Sampling tests made throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia indicated an area of 20,000 square miles received these particles, proving that it is possible to contaminate large land areas by releasing sprays at seas under proper weather."
The video, which was published over the weekend on Government Attic, a repository of government documents and videos, goes on and on like this for 14 mind-blowing minutes. It details a missile designed to "fly a tank of agent over the target area and automatically disseminate it," the dispersion of chemical weapons from mines off the coast of Key West, Florida, and various water- and air-based methods of contaminating large tracts of land.
As I mentioned, details of these tests have been published before, but the video footage is newly declassified.
According to the video, biowarfare was designed to accomplish two objectives: "To reduce enemy's production of food by destroying his crops and food producing animals, and to incapacitate the enemy's armed forces and that portion of his human population that directly supports them," the video's narrator said. "The Navy is preparing to accomplish these objectives with both biological and chemical agents."
These tests were carried out during the height of the Cold War and were eventually shut down during the Nixon administration. The capabilities mentioned in the video are but a few of the United States's ventures into the realm of biowar.
"The entire experimental legacy is dismaying," Jeanne Guillemin, a Boston College authority on biological weapons wrote in her book, Anthrax. "Most chilling are the mock scenarios played out in urban areas: light bulbs filled with simulated BW agents being dropped in New York subways, men in Washington National Airport spraying pseudo-BW from briefcases, and similar tests in California and Texas and over the Florida Keys."
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