Fort Detrick

“ September 1975, Dr. Edward Schantz, a University of Wisconsin professor and former Fort Detrick researcher, testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence Activities, told Sen. John Tower that there was no “formal process” for handling lethal substances at the Maryland facility. Schantz said that researchers routinely “passed [substances] back and forth” to other laboratories with virtually no controls in place.  …Equally embarrassing to the government have been reports over the past five months that were recently confirmed by a December 23, 2001 Baltimore Sun article by reporter Scott Shane. The article revealed that Fort Detrick scientists had harvested bacteria from the dead bodies of persons “accidentally infected” with anthrax. Several former Army researchers who are now retired and live in Florida, including Bill Walter who to reporter Shane, have reported that at least three people affiliated with Fort Detrick who died from anthrax had their cadavers harvested so as to assist in the development of a new virulent anthrax strain. Army officials dispute these reports and say that harvesting was never performed at Fort Detrick. However, the same officials admit that accidental anthrax deaths did occur at the facility.

…One of the allegedly harvested bodies was that of a Fort Detrick microbiologist, Dr. William A. Boyles. According to former colleagues, Boyles died on November 25, 1951 after “accidentally inhaling anthrax spores used in a controlled experiment.” Within 48-hours Boyles fell seriously ill and developed an extremely high fever. According to once classified Army documents, Boyles was first taken to a public hospital in Frederick, Maryland and then within hours transferred to the Fort Detrick Hospital where oddly the day before he had sent home after being diagnosed as having a common cold. Boyles died after slipping into a coma five hours after his transfer. The Army falsified his death certificate and issued a press release stating he had died from bronchial pneumonia. In 1975, after the Army admitted covering-up Boyles’ death, his widow told reporters that she was not bitter about the Army’s deception, but was angry that the private physician who admitted her husband to the public hospital had been harshly reprimanded for bringing in a patient “with such a contagious disease.” (According to the CDC, anthrax is “not contagious.”)

For years speculation that the Arms Textile Mill anthrax epidemic may have been far more than an accidental occurrence has been the subject of debate among scientists. In 1999, former United Nations official and BBC correspondent, Edward Hooper, published a book entitled, “The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS.” Buried deep within the 1,070-page tome is a brief section that concerns the Arms Mill outbreak. Hooper’s research inadvertently led him to the incident through his unrelated interviews with Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin who at the time of the Arms tests worked for the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service and was assigned to medically evaluating the anthrax outbreak. In 1960, Dr. Plotkin wrote a medical paper on the Arms outbreak, which is still widely circulated and studied today among anthrax experts. Published in the American Journal of Medicine and entitled, “An Epidemic of Inhalation Anthrax, the First in the Twentieth Century,” it was co-authored with Dr. Philip S. Brachman who was the U.S. Public Health Service’s chief epidemiology investigator of the 1957 outbreak. Oddly, the paper, which meticulously details the facts of the Arms Mill outbreak, makes no mention whatsoever that Fort Detrick had any involvement in the events surrounding the outbreak or that the mill had been the simultaneous site of anthrax vaccine tests.

In an interview last week, Plotkin said he didn’t “think much of conspiracy theories”…Asked why the Army’s Fort Detrick was involved in the tests, Plotkin said, “I think the answer is obvious. The vaccine had been developed at Fort Detrick and the purpose of our study, aside from protecting the mill workers, was to find out what value the vaccine had against an anthrax attack.” …One 90-page document, dated June 1958 and stamped “Secret,” details a meeting that was attended by several ranking Fort Detrick officials including the heads of its Dissemination and Filed Testing Division, its Engineering and Production Branch, and at least one official from Britain’s Porton Down Biological Warfare Center. Also in attendance were Dr. Philip Brachman and Dr. Stanley Plotkin representing the U.S. Public Health Service…The document describes how Brachman separated the mill’s workers into two categories for purposes of the vaccine tests, which began, approximately 12-weeks before the first reported case of anthrax.

…Former Army researchers report that the Arms Mill was not the only textile operation involved in tests conducted by Fort Detrick’s tests during the 1950s and that “at least four other mills” were involved. A 1960 medical paper also authored by Drs. Brachman and Plotkin verifies this. The paper, entitled, “Field Evaluation of a Human Anthrax Vaccine”, states that “epidemiological studies” were conducted in “four mills located in the northeastern United States” where “Bacillus anthracis contaminated raw material were handled and clinical infections occurred.” The paper identifies the mills only as code-letters: “A, M, P, and S.” The other mills reported no cases of inhalation anthrax but did experience a total of 17 cases of cutaneous anthrax. The Army refuses to identify any of the plants involved in the tests, but other sources have reported that two of the mills were “in the Philadelphia area” and that another was the Arel Textile Mill located near Charlotte, North Carolina.”

Philip S. Brachman

Stanley A. Plotkin

“An Epidemic of Inhalation Anthrax” 1960:


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