The U.S. military conducted experiments on tens of thousands of American troops for 53 years. Although the service members voluntarily agreed to participate, information about potential health risks was kept secret.
At the time, the troops believed the testing was safe, and that their contribution was for the greater good. Forty years later, the long-term side effects have started to show.
Now, the subjects are using the law to uncover the truth behind the testing.
Secret Experiments And Undisclosed Risks
The experiments were meant to assist the military in learning how to create “fear, panic, hysteria, and hallucinations” in enemy soldiers, an Army scientist said. According to NPR, an estimated 70,000 troops were subject to testing, including World War II veterans who were exposed to mustard gas.
In 1968, Bill Blazinski was one of them. When he was 20 years old, he volunteered for the tests because of the benefits.
“There would be a guaranteed three-day pass every weekend unless you had a test,” he said. “There would be no kitchen police duties, no guard duties. And it sounded like a pretty good duty.”
Until they experienced it first hand, the participants didn’t realize what kind of testing they had signed up for. Blazinski recalls being injected with a substance that made him hallucinate. He was injected with an antidote shortly after.
“We were placed in individual padded cells. And you know the nurse left and I’m looking at this padded wall and I knew it was solid but all of a sudden started fluttering like a flag does up on a flag pole,” he recalled.
In 2006, Blazinski became curious about the substance used in the injection. He requested access to the original test documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
“It showed an experimental antidote for nerve agent poisoning with known side effects, and another drug designed to reverse the effects of the first,” he said.
Blazinski has since developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia. If the testing is what gave him cancer, he wants to get to the bottom of it.
And Blazinski is not the only one. Frank Rochelle was another soldier subject to testing in 1968. According to test records, he was injected with an agent referred to by the code name CAR 302668.
Rochelle also recalls hallucinating during the experiments. The freckles on his arms and legs appeared to be moving, and he believed bugs were crawling under his skin. The images lasted for almost 40 hours.
“There were animals coming out of the walls,” he said. “I saw a huge rabbit and he was solid white with red eyes.”
The testing was stopped in 1975 when Congress would no longer provide funding to track the health of the participants. The participants are outraged at the failure to provide health care follow-ups.
“We were assured that everything that went on inside the clinic, we were going to be under 100 percent observation; they were going to do nothing to harm us,” Rochelle said. “And also we were sure that we would be taken care of afterwards if anything happened. Instead we were left to hang out to dry.”
The tests were conducted between 1922 and 1975, and many of the participants have since passed away. But the remaining subjects will no longer take non-disclosure as an answer.
Legal Action Against The Military
The remaining subjects are suing the army in a class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs are seeking information about what was given to them in the experiments. In addition, they want to find out if the army was aware of long-term health risks.
The most likely defense against the litigation is that military researchers didn’t disclose experimental information in order to keep the results from being influenced. Even if that is true, veteran test subjects are still seeking health care coverage for conditions that may have been caused by the testing.
The military is being represented by the Department of Justice. After an appeals court ruled in favor of the veterans in June, the military filed a retrial. If the appeals continue, there is no way to determine when the case will be finalized.
However, the veterans will be pleased to hear that the military has reportedly ended this kind of chemical and biological testing.
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