Copyright 1991 Deseret News

Thirty-six years ago, Rolland Bivens actually endured what would later become a constant fear for U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf war: a biological weapons attack.The Army intentionally used germ warfare on Bivens and other U.S. soldier volunteers in the deserts of Utah in 1955 as part of an until-now secret experiment at Dugway Proving Ground.

"I remember some monkeys nearby," Bivens says. They were caged with real guinea pigs near the human guinea pigs. "It was night. I remember hearing in the distance some motors running. We were told they were creating a cloud of Q fever germs. The cloud came toward us and passed by. It was invisible, though. All we saw was clear air."

Bivens and 29 other soldiers inhaled the poisoned air and were then flown to Fort Detrick, Md., where Army doctors watched to see if they would develop potentially fatal Q fever. The animal guinea pigs and monkeys remained at Dugway.

An Army report later proclaimed, "Positively diagnosed infections occurred in some of the human volunteers. . . . These responses paralleled those observed in the monkeys and guinea pigs exposed at the same stations in this trial."

Thus, the first field test of U.S. germ weapons on humans was "successful" - although controversy about it arises now. And while the press and public have learned about thousands of open-air germ and chemical tests at Dugway through the years, news about using human guinea pigs in them is new.

Details about the experiment are revealed in Army documents obtained by the Deseret News through Freedom of Information Act requests. They were once classified as secret.

The reports and interviews with some soldier guinea pigs tracked down by the Deseret News raise questions about how well volunteers were informed about risks, how well they (and nearby Utahns) were protected and how necessary the experiments were. The Army says such experiments are not now conducted.

Questions also arise about whether people who traveled the old U.S. 40 (the route now followed by I-80) and residents of Wendover might have also unknowingly been exposed to such poison clouds, which in some trials floated off in their general direction.

Highway travelers might even have been able to see caged guinea pigs along U.S. 40 in what the Army called "peripheral sampling stations." Maps show them just off the road - which is miles beyond Dugway base boundaries.

Despite such controversy, soldier volunteers generally feel they were treated well, that the tests were useful and that they helped develop defenses used in the Persian Gulf war. Some are upset, though, that they may have unknowingly violated their religious beliefs by helping develop offensive germ weaponry.

All the volunteers were Seventh-day Adventists who had been drafted into the Army but were assigned to non-combat units as conscientious objectors because of beliefs against war.

With the encouragement of their church, they volunteered for the hazardous work of being human guinea pigs to help develop - they were told - protection for other soldiers. But documents show it helped develop workable germ weapons for offensive use.

"I'm sure I would not have volunteered had I known that. That is my only real concern about the test," said Bivens, who a few years after being an enlisted volunteer rejoined the Army as a career officer and podiatrist. He retired in 1988 as a lieutenant colonel and now has a private practice in Portland, Ore.

The beginnings

"Operation CD-22," the code name for the series of experiments that included the trial on humans at Dugway, was authorized in September 1954 - just after the Korean War. It was "to permit a realistic evaluation of biological warfare as a weapon in its present state of development," documents say.

The U.S. Chemical Corps and the Army Medical Service were ordered to select a germ agent that "could be safely used for human experimentation."

They were also told to recruit and indoctrinate volunteers, determine the infective dose by inhalation of the agent for man through lab experiments at Fort Detrick, and "finally, (conduct) one or more realistic field trials of the agent at Dugway, using practical munitions and human subjects."

Army doctors wrote that they considered two possible germs for use: Coxiella burnetii, which causes Q fever, and Bacterium tularense, which causes tularemia.

The tularemia germ was rejected because tests showed the germ's survival rate in the field fluctuates under various weather conditions and "that interpretation of field test data on humans might therefore be difficult." So the more stable Q fever germ was chosen. Q fever - sometimes called query fever because it puzzled doctors at first or Queenstown fever for the Australian province where it was discovered - is usually not fatal but can be. Medical books say symptoms include high fever, severe fatigue, chills, severe headache, muscle pain, sweats, cough, chest pain and pneumonia. Medical journals report several deaths in recent years from naturally occurring Q fever pneumonia.

Zell McGee, a professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said it can also cause heart valve infection that requires open-heart surgery to heal. He said Q fever is also difficult to diagnose, so victims often suffer from it for long periods, making heart damage more likely.

Finding volunteers

The Army chose to approach the Seventh-day Adventist Church to see whether it would support having its members in the Army - virtually all of whom were conscientious objectors avoiding combat - volunteer for operations such as CD-22 and the testing of new vaccines.

Details of that are shown in a history of Adventists' military medical work now being written by Robert Mole, a retired naval officer who is an Adventist chaplain at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Loma Linda, Calif.

It quotes an Oct. 18, 1954, letter from the Army surgeon general to church leaders saying such voluntarism would allow Adventists to "make yet another significant contribution to our nation's health and to our national security." The surgeon general added that such experiments have "the full concurrence of our highest military and governmental officers," and that the Army had "sought and received the advice of the leading physicians of the United States."

The Adventist General Conference soon thereafter adopted a statement encouraging members to volunteer for such work.

Richard Griswold, now a Fresno, Calif., doctor who volunteered for an early stage of Operation CD-22 at Fort Detrick, said encouragement from the church to find such alternate ways to serve helped sway him.

"I didn't carry a gun, so I felt volunteering was a proper substitute for combat. I was sensitive to that because I had some deferments that had kept me out of the Korean War," Griswold said.

Others volunteered for other reasons. Walter Ray Donachy, now of Severn, Md., said he did because "they told me they wanted Adventists because we didn't smoke or drink and had clean lungs. They didn't say they wanted me because I was a conscientious objector."

Were risks disclosed?

Army reports say that "each volunteer has been fully aware of the aims of the program, its relation to biological warfare, the possible hazards to him as an individual, the fact that assurance of safety could not be given, that the possibility of permanent injury and/or chronic illness existed and that death, while not anticipated, was a distinct possibility."

It said volunteers also signed consent forms acknowledging that.

Most volunteers agree that is correct but report different levels of knowledge of what they would face.

Alton Johnson, now a Charlottesville, Va., pastor who was among the volunteers at Dugway, said his group was warned they faced danger, but he doesn't remember that they were ever told they would be infected by Q fever. "I don't think we knew at the time what it (the agent to be tested on them) was."

Bivens, who was also at Dugway, said he can't remember at what point he heard it would be Q fever, "but they made it sound like it wouldn't be fatal."

Griswold said about his group at Fort Detrick, "Some guys asked how sick they would be. They (officers) didn't want to go into the symptomology because they said they didn't want us to affect the experiment by reporting symptoms we thought we were supposed to have."

Donachy said he was told he was infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever at Fort Detrick at about the same time as the early CD-22 work and became so sick he cannot even remember what happened for several weeks after he was infected.

He later developed liver problems so severe doctors said he must be an alcoholic, though he says he has never taken a drink. When he mentioned the experiment to a VA hospital doctor, he said the doctor told him spotted fever could not be inhaled in a test he described. So Donachy wonders what happened to him - and he is seeking his old Army records to find out.

Joseph Bullock, now a doctor in South Daytona, Fla., said volunteers in his Fort Detrick group were well-informed. "They said you can get sick and die, and if you have any doubts, don't get involved."

And Louis Brand, now of Sedalia, Mo., said officers told his group "that it would not likely be fatal but would make us really sick. They said it could be fatal."

Early CD-22 experiments

The first phase of Operation CD-22 studied use of aerosolized Q fever on animals in a lab at Fort Detrick to figure what dose of germs would likely infect humans.

The second phase tested findings of that dosage work on human volunteers exposed to clouds of Q fever in a huge, steel sphere at Fort Detrick.

Documents said a cloud of Q fever in the sphere was created by a component of the E-4 Navy mine - called "C-type generators" - designed to disseminate germ and chemical arms. Details of how it worked were censored from documents. The same device was later used at the Dugway trials.

Documents said soldiers wore face masks so doctors could measure exactly how much air they breathed inside the sphere through a mask tube.

Wendell John Cole, now of Berrien Springs, Mich., was one who became sick with Q fever afterward.

"It was like the worst case of flu you ever had. My bones ached. It was paralyzing - I say paralyzing because it knocked you out and you couldn't do anything." Cole added that is probably why it would be considered a good germ weapon by armies - it could likely knock out enemies without killing them. Cole said doctors let the sickness develop for 24 hours after onset of symptoms, then started treating it with antibiotics. "It took another 24 hours before I started feeling better."

Others did not get sick at all or developed antibodies in their blood to Q fever without getting sick. Brand said. "All the group before us got sick. So when anyone in my group started showing any symptoms at all, they started giving us antibiotics. I did not get sick."

Documents showed doctors found the minimum infective dose for man by inhalation was about the same as that for guinea pigs. They found humans can be infected with as few as 10 Q fever organisms - and a single drop of the Army's Q fever slurry can contain hundreds of thousands of them.

They also found that antibiotics successfully fought the sickness, which normally took nine to 17 days to incubate depending on how large a dose of Q fever was received.

Dugway experiments

The third phase of CD-22 moved to Dugway to test Q fever on animals and mechanical measuring devices in battlefield conditions on the desert during three trials on March 18, 23 and 31, 1955.

For them, Fort Detrick sent 3.5 liters of potent Q fever infected egg slurry. When turned into an aerosol, documents indicate it had enough germs to infect up to 1 billion people.

Five C-type generators from Navy mines were set up in the des-ert north of Granite Peak. They were stationed 400 feet apart in a straight line for three tests on animals in March 1955.

Monkeys, guinea pigs and mechanical detectors were placed at different lengths and angles downwind to test the likelihood of infection at different distances. Cadmium sulfide - a toxic chemical that is easy to trace because it fluoresces - was added to the mix to make the otherwise invisible clouds easier to follow.

Clouds from two of the tests were carried northwest by evening winds blowing 6 mph, heading roughly in the direction of U.S. 40 (about 35 miles away) and Wendover (about 60 miles away).

The cloud from the other test headed northeast about 3 mph, toward the Cedar Mountains and possibly other parts of U.S. 40, which was then the main route from Salt Lake City to northern California.

Documents add that for some tests, "guinea pigs were used to accomplish the peripheral sampling conducted along the north and northwest edges of the Salt Flats. . . . Immediately after agent release, four guinea pigs were emplaced" at some of the stations.

Maps show that 24 of those "peripheral sampling stations" were along U.S. 40 (but only even numbered stations were used) and that nine were placed on the Utah-Nevada border south of Wendover. All sites on maps appear to have been off the Rhode Island-size Dugway base.

Documents obtained do not list any results from monitoring at such stations. All of that worries McGee, the doctor at the University of Utah, because of a "grand rounds" lecture once given by a Fort Detrick officer to Utah doctors who might have to treat people infected by accidents at Dugway.

"He said germ weapons could cover a 100-square-mile area very easily," McGee said. "When we as physician scientists do research using human volunteers, we have to get signatures on carefully worded consent forms. But people in Wendover and on U.S. 40 may have been involved in experiments without their knowledge or consent."

Also, some have questioned through the years whether Army use of Q fever in open-air tests at Dugway may have infected wildlife in Utah's desert.

Investigative journalist Charles Piller wrote in The Nation in 1988 that documents he obtained say the Army is unsure whether Q fever existed around Dugway before it was used in a variety of field tests there.

Piller said Army documents even say, "The disease unquestionably reached (epidemic) proportions in the wildlife in 1959 and 1960." Because Q fever was then well-established in the environment, Piller wrote that reports suggested that further tests using it would be all right because the disease was then in the environment.

Records at the Utah State Health Department show that few cases of Q fever have ever been reported in the state, but all that were came after 1955 - the year of Operation CD-22.

State epidemiologist Craig Nichols said a 1978 report by the health department showed that one human case of Q fever was reported in the period 1955-59; four were reported in 1960-64; and two in 1970-74.

No human cases were reported from 1940-1954 and in the periods 1965-69 and 1975-77. The report added that no animal cases of Q fever were reported at all in the period 1940-76, despite what Piller wrote about Q fever among wildlife. "It's a disease rarely seen here," Nichols said.

Use of human guinea pigs

"The culmination of the objectives of the other three phases was effected when human volunteers were exposed in an actual field trial," documents say.

To be exact, a cloud of Q fever germs was spread on July 12, 1955, over 30 humans, 75 rhesus monkeys and 300 guinea pigs - then it floated off toward the Cedar Mountains and possibly U.S. 40.

During the week before that trial, a number of other trials that used actual Q fever germs were conducted "to perfect field techniques under various meteorologic conditions. Data from this series of `dry runs' are not included in the present report," one document said.

That means at least three more poisonous clouds had likely headed north toward U.S. 40 and/or Wendover.

The soldier-volunteers brought to Dugway remember that week of waiting well. Most had been recruited for it straight out of their basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

"We had to wait several days until the wind was just right," Johnson recalls. Bivens added, "We were really pleased because we had a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables there that we hadn't had for a while."

But Cole said, "I got a strep throat out there in the 10 days that we waited for the weather to be favorable." That would keep him out of the actual experiment. "I was out of bed by that day, but the doctor didn't want me exposed."

Cole - who had earlier contracted Q fever at Fort Detrick and recovered - was among several soldiers who had been given Q fever vaccine or had the disease previously, who were to be included in the test to see if they could be reinfected.

The night of the actual experiment, Bivens and Johnson said they remember being taken out to what on maps is called BW (biological warfare) Grid No. 4.

Ten of 64 test stations arranged a few feet apart in a long line had three soldiers each - one vaccinated and two not vaccinated, documents say. Bivens said all soldiers may not have realized that. "I was not aware of anyone vaccinated ahead of time for Q fever."

Each of the 10 test stations with humans also had seven or eight rhesus monkeys and 20 guinea pigs. More guinea pigs and mechanical samplers were scattered elsewhere along the long line of test stations.

Documents also said that to help keep findings more scientifically precise, "all volunteers were provided with chairs of an appropriate height to accomplish sampling at 5 feet above terrain." But Johnson and Bivens said they do not remember sitting on the chairs, but rather just standing out in the desert.

Because the wind was blowing to the northeast that night, the germ dispensing weapons were moved off center toward the southwest - so the prevailing wind would carry the thickest part of the cloud to where the human guinea pigs were stationed.

At 11:30 p.m., the wind was blowing 9 mph to the northeast. The summer night temperature was a pleasant 69.3 degrees, and the relative humidity a dry 34 percent.

Crew members then placed 175 milliliters of somewhat diluted Q fever slurry in each of the five germ dispensing weapons. Reports suggest that was enough combined to infect up to 25 million people.

The weapons then made the poisonous-but-invisible cloud and lofted it toward the volunteers. Johnson said simply, "We stood around, and it went by."

The results

The human volunteers were flown back to Fort Detrick and watched closely by doctors to see if anyone would get sick.

"I did not come down with anything, but I was informed that I probably developed some immunity to the disease," Bivens said. "The fellow across the hall from me got sick, but he wasn't sick very long. They seemed to have everything under control."

Johnson said simply, "A few got Q fever and had some headaches."

Formal results of the tests - such as how many volunteers at Dugway became sick - were censored by the Army out of the rec-ords released, saying revealing them would hurt national security.

However, uncensored portions did say that 38 of the 121 men exposed to Q fever or used as controls during all phases of CD-22 (including lab work at Fort Detrick) became sick with Q fever.

It added that 28 of 31 human subjects who were exposed to what were measured as high concentrations of Q fever at Dugway or Fort Detrick developed the disease. "For a non-homogeneous, non-inbred group, this is a very high response," documents said.

Documents said the infections on humans paralleled the infections seen among guinea pigs and monkeys. They also said experiments showed that Q fever appeared not to be spread by interpersonal contact, that Q fever vaccines appeared effective and that Q fever could easily be controlled with antibiotics.

Documents suggested more tests to see how Q fever germs would penetrate various shelters and protective clothing, how easy it is to detect and how effective treatment is in field conditions.

They said the Q fever germ "appears to possess very desirable qualities for such studies, being amenable to therapy, predictable in effect, having a very low decay rate and being capable of initiating infection with very small doses."

The use of Seventh-day Adventist volunteers was also so successful that it led to the formation of Operation Whitecoat (as in the white coats worn by doctors). It continued to use Adventist volunteers to test such things as new vaccines until 1973 when the draft ended.

A 1956 document also said, "Arrangements have been made for a continuing follow-up of these men during the remainder of their military service." But as Johnson noted, "They never followed up at all after we left the service."

In fact, locating former volunteers was somewhat difficult. Mole - the chaplain writing a history of Adventist volunteers - struggled over time to find some of the estimated 3,000 volunteers of Operation Whitecoat and the earlier Operation CD-22.

He obtained a list of about 500 from a former Army doctor. And Mole then took out ads last year in Adventist newsletters seeking others. He helped the Deseret News locate several CD-22 veterans for interviews.

Mole said no Adventist volunteer ever died in a test, that all but a handful he has contacted feel they were treated well and most are proud of their work, believing it helped develop experience, vaccines and defenses used in the Persian Gulf war.

"I was also amazed at the high number of these men who later became doctors because of their experiences in Operation Whitecoat," Mole said.

Griswold, one of the CD-22 veterans who became a doctor, said looking back on the experiments now as a physician, he feels comfortable that the Army took sufficient steps to protect him and others with constant medical sur-veil-lance and treatment.

Religious beliefs violated?

But some volunteers were upset to find from the Deseret News that documents suggest they helped develop U.S. germ weapons.

"We were told it would be used only for defense," Bivens said, adding he would not have volunteered otherwise.

Almost all volunteers said the Army told them how some U.S. troops in World War II had contracted Q fever in Italy by sleeping in an infected barn, and that the Army needed to develop defenses against it.

Cole said, "They never mentioned it (the program) was offensive because of the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It preaches peace and no fighting - and that you should do everything in your power for peace.

"I'm sure they never told us that it was offensive. I don't know that they lied, though. They just didn't divulge the information," he added.

Documents, however, clearly state the test was to realistically test germ warfare "as a weapon in its present state of development" and showed they helped work out technical problems with the germ disseminating device used.

McGee, the doctor at the University of Utah, adds that if the test were just for defensive purposes - such as testing susceptibility to a disease or the worth of a new vaccine - it should have been done in a laboratory where strict controls and measures are available.

"But having a bunch of guys sitting out in the desert with the damn wind blowing is not good experimental design. That does not compute," he said. "It sounds to me like it was for offensive purposes, for testing to see whether weapons worked."

Have such tests stopped?

The military has said chemical and germ warfare experiments using humans do not now occur.

In response to a Deseret News Freedom of Information Act request last year, the Department of Defense prepared a document saying that currently "there is no research being conducted using chemical or biological agents which involve human subjects."

It said some such research is allowed under federal rules, but rules require "that informed consent is obtained from each individual prior to his or her participation in a research study." Similar signed consent was obtained from Operation CD-22 volunteers, other documents said.

But Steve Erickson, spokesman for the activist group Downwinders, which has opposed Army plans to build new labs for testing of defenses against Q fever germs and other more deadly agents, said Operation CD-22 demonstrates some of his group's worst fears.

"We know that the Army is no longer conducting these sorts of outrageous human experiments today. But it is indicative of what has happened and could happen when there is total secrecy and lack of congressional and citizen oversight of military operations," he said.


(Additional Information)

Army documents reveal surprises\

Operations: Deseret News has uncovered variety of secrets, including open-air tests, undetonated munitions.

While new documents reveal that the Army used human guinea pigs in germ warfare tests at Dugway Proving Ground, Deseret News investigations revealed in recent years other surprising operations at the base. Some include:

- Revelations earlier this year that Dugway researchers dropped toxic cadmium sulfide over the entire eastern United States in the 1950s as part of experiments on how germ weapons might spread when dropped from airplanes.

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- Revelations that the Army figures a 66-square-mile area - the size of Washington, D.C. - of public land adjacent to the Dugway base is likely contaminated with undetonated munitions, including chemical weapons.

- Revelations that at least 279 major open-air germ and chemical warfare tests have occurred at Dugway through the years. Each experiment may have had up to dozens of open-air trials, meaning thousands of open-air tests likely occurred.

- Open-air tests included spreading germs that cause Q fever, tularemia, brucellosis, anthrax, undulant fever, parrot fever, botulism, the plague and coccidioidomycosis.

- While the Army has said use of such deadly "pathogens" in open-air tests has been stopped, it is using less dangerous germs to simulate their characteristics that some scientists still say can be dangerous - especially to the already sick.

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