History of biological warfare shared

November 19, 1997

History of biological warfare shared


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Some of the U.S. observers on the United Nations team that left Baghdad last week are from Army biological research labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., the former chief of biomedical engineering at Fort Detrick said Wednesday.

Nicholas Black, who retired in 1992 after 20 years in the Army, talked about the history and use of biological warfare, past and current U.S. doctrine on biological weapons and Desert Storm to students and faculty members at Penn State Mont Alto.

"The first use of biological weapons goes back to 250 B.C. when the Romans, Tartars and Greeks launched disease-ridden bodies over the walls and into cities they held under siege," said Black, who was an instructor at the Army Biomedical School and was chief of the Biomedical Maintenance Division for the Army's Third Corps.


"It was a cheap weapon and even if the disease didn't kill a lot of people, it destroyed their will to fight," he said.

"The only effective defense they had against it was to burn the body and anything it touched. That's still true today," he said.

The British used biological warfare against the Indians during the French and Indian War by giving them blankets tainted with smallpox, he said.

The Japanese used biological weapons against the Chinese from 1930 to 1944 during World Way II, he said.

He said in the 1950s, the Army released a cloud of what was believed to be harmless organisms off the coast of San Francisco in order to track their movement from person to person.

"Some people got sick, but the government never confessed," he said.

During the Gulf War, "Iraq had a well-developed biological warfare program with missiles loaded with anthrax that were pointed toward 600,000 American and coalition troops who had no protection. There could have been 250,000 killed, the worst disaster in military history," he said.

The United States had only 40,000 doses of anthrax vaccination during Desert Storm.

He said Army brass demanded that 1 million doses be sent to the troops. None was sent because officers there refused to choose which 10 percent of the troops would get the vaccines, he said.

Black said the United States will not be able to stop Iraq from making biological weapons.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would yield to U.S. military pressure, "but it won't stop him, Black said.

"How do you stop someone from making something that's so simple to make? He can pack it up in a truck and move it anywhere," he said.

The U.N. observers had gone to Iraq to determine whether Baghdad had complied with U.N. orders requiring that Saddam destroy all long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The U.N. team left Iraq last Friday after members of the U.S. team were expelled from the country.

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