Harlingen, Texas, January 7, 2009: “I made this trip fifty years after the fact to squarely face my devils”…. “I finally came to the realization that it was not the place, but the people at that place who had changed many of us forever. We were the victims and became the walking wounded casualties of the Cold War who can never be made whole again….“
These are the words of Eric Muth, one of 7,120 soldiers and airmen who were subjected to secret chemical weapons and drug tests at the Edgewood Arsenal, northeast of Baltimore, Maryland. His journey back to that site was made in an attempt to gain some grain of understanding concerning his battle with the United States government to obtain assistance and compassion for those thousands of young men whose lives were permanently damaged by CIA and military human experimentation.
Muth, a 60-year-old veteran, was a volunteer at Edgewood in 1958. He said he was exposed to hallucinogenic drugs and toxic gas. The after effects of those exposures left him with a bipolar disorder and periodic suicidal thoughts.
The Edgewood experiments were conducted as a CIA effort to develop some effective mind control programs. Though never confirmed by the United States government, survivors of those experiments say the Agency used Nazi war criminal scientists to perform the work on what was called Project 112. These tests involved the use of synthetic marijuana, LSD, THC, BZ, two-dozen psychoactive drugs and other hallucinogens, plus a variety of biologicals and chemicals, including Saran and mustard gas agents. Though the various government agencies have reported all of the volunteers were completely aware of what agents were being used, most veterans claim the recruiters said only that they would be “participating in secret tests”.
Because the government stonewalls any and all attempts to obtain detailed information on this testing program, exact dates cannot be confirmed. Most people involved agree the program, in various forms, ran from 1953 until 1975. During those years, 7120 military personnel ranging from 17 to 20 years of age were participants in a wide variety of tests and experiments. Ten years later 385 of these volunteers were dead. Though the government again will not confirm the numbers, in 2006 the Department of Veterans Affairs identified only 3,000 of those veterans as living. Logically it can be assumed that 4,120 of those heroic volunteers must have gone to their final reward. It had previously been reported that more than 40% of the Edgewood volunteers met their deaths before age 65.
The Department of Defense and the VA seem to be co-conspirators in the government’s attempt to deny responsibility for health related problems encountered by the Test Veterans. In most cases involving these volunteers DoD and the VA claim records were destroyed, lost or cannot be located. When victims seeking assistance provide them specific dates and locales, the veterans’ military service cannot be verified because the information is “secret”.
In a report by Dr. William Page of the Institute of Medicine issued in March 2003, it was concluded that veterans exposed to Saran showed high rates of brain tumors and sleep disorders. The National Institute of Health reports chemical warfare agents such as GA, GB and VX produce long-term health effects including delayed onset cardiac problems.
In October 2003 the VA published a manual for Chemical, Biological and Radiological Weapons Exposures. Many of the known medical problems caused by chemical weapons were listed. Even with this manual as an official source, very few veterans have had their medical concerns acted upon by the government. A few have been given treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
According to testimony in front of Congress, “It is easier to treat and diagnose veterans for PTSD and other mental conditions, because there is little recognized research and reports to guide healthcare providers. The neurological and physiological effects of toxic environmental exposures are neglected.” The end result of this is the further jeopardizing of veterans’ already fragile health conditions.
Even with the congressional hearings and medical reports that have been provided to Congress, the Army still claims all volunteers were fully informed and that no veteran suffered any long-term effects from the testing.
It should also be noted that no government agency has been able to explain the high percentage of veteran deaths in the volunteer group, nor has there been any meaningful attempt by any governmental body to assure adequate medical care for those who were participants.
Finally, after decades of attempting to get the government to face up to its medical obligations, the Test Veterans have reached the end of their patience. On January 7, 2009 a lawsuit was filed against the Central Intelligence Agency claiming the U.S. A. has failed to provide care for human subjects in the once-secret tests. The suit charges veterans were treated as human guinea pigs in tests involving nerve gas, hallucinogenic drugs and mind control experiments that left them with permanent disabilities. This lawsuit also gives a different name to the program, saying it way codenamed MKULTRA and that it ran from the 1940s until 1976.
Though many of the veterans believe this litigation will bring final settlement to their more than fifty years of battle with government bureaucracies, they should remember another medical care battle waged against the armed forces. Military retirees from World War II and Korea, led by Medal of Honor recipient Colonel George “Bud” Day, fought a 20 year battle against the government to win officially promised medical care for life. The Department of Defense was relentless in fighting the litigation and the Supreme Court finally defeated it. That should be a strong reminder to all of the Test Veterans that the nightmare called Edgewood is far from any meaningful resolution.
Thomas D. Segel