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March 2nd, 2012
01:12 PM ET

Vets feel abandoned after secret drug experiments

The moment 18-year-old Army Private Tim Josephs arrived at Edgewood Arsenal in 1968, he knew there was something different about the place.

“It just did not look like a military base, more like a hospital,” recalled Josephs, a Pittsburgh native. Josephs had volunteered for a two-month assignment at Edgewood, in Maryland, lured by three-day weekends closer to home.

“It was like a plum assignment,” Josephs said. “The idea was they would test new Army field jackets, clothing, weapons and things of that nature, but no mention of drugs or chemicals.”

But from 1955 to 1975, military researchers at Edgewood were using Army volunteers to test chemicals ranging from potentially lethal nerve gases like VX and sarin to incapacitating agents like BZ. The military also tested tear gas, barbiturates, tranquilizers, narcotics and hallucinogens like LSD.

This top secret Cold War research program initially looked for ways to defend against a chemical or biological attack by the Soviet Union, thought to be far ahead of the United States in “psycho-chemical” warfare. But the research expanded into offensive chemical weapons including one that could, according to one Army film obtained by CNN, deliver a “veritable chemical ambush” against an enemy.

Join CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta for more from his investigative report on U.S. soldiers used as drug test subjects. CNN Presents premieres Sunday at 8pm ET, re-airing at 11pm and 2am ET.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Tim Kellogg

    Alrhough this story is horrifying it legally can still happen. Read CFR21 part 50.23 (d) (1)

    March 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  2. D. Doobora

    I have a client who remembers being given drugs that had LSD-type effects at Fort Holabird as a very young child, perhaps 4 years old. Any way to find out more about such experiments done on children?

    March 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  3. ndorfun

    I appreciate the comments that express approval of the Edgewood Arsenal drug research and of my book. Thank you.

    James Ketchum

    March 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  4. Wanhi bar

    This was a good presentation. However just the tip of the iceberg was covered. The people who serve this nation deserve better than this. CNN reported the same things happening in their achieves, to veterans under the Sr. Bush administration ,in hospitals in the US without the patient even knowing. 1500 cases at one point.
    GI s did not sign up for that. This is a crime against humanity. Human rights violations that have gone unchallenged. It is a form of torture performed on our own.
    A person who is serving this nation is treated worst then a lab animal. Something that activist protests and brings attention to. Yet we do nothing. The veteran has to live with the lies improper treatment, pain and suffering all their lives, many not knowing why.
    There should be an immediate investigation as to how many service people were affected by this. Who gave authorization to administer? What companies benefited. (Example) A politician is in bed with an industry like petroleum byproducts or Medical, biochemical research. Now when the politician, (funded by those industries) is in his position legislates that service people are used in this capacity. It’s convenient. The require medical trails are quickly assessable. Product can be released and on the market or potential weapon produced without delay. What service person signed up for this?
    This is a crime, The same type of crime Dr Mengele and the Nazi were hunted down for around the world. The Leaders, politician, and companies that profited were getting fat off the suffering of our service people. They shall not go scot free. Some still in office!
    Service people are not criminals even a criminal shouldn’t be treated such. Demand an investigation! Give them justice!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  5. Kevin Ketchum

    An interview with Dr. James S. Ketchum (retired Col./US Army), would have been excellent choice in validating the work completed at Edgewood. For a very accurate depiction of the activity conducted by military in the 60's, you may want to consider reading the book "Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten".

    March 5, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Jeff Jefferson

      I read the is what got me wondering what I was given. After 45 years I got curious...and did a lot of goggling...and found out about the book. After reading it..I figured out what I had been administered. It is a very interesting read.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  6. vinnie

    What about soldiers that participated in "experiments" in locations other than at

    March 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  7. Knowledgeable Nick

    Interesting segment this evening. I was honestly surprised that I did not see any African American soldiers featured in the segment. I have read various articles that reference allegations that many soldiers were made (knowingly or unknowingly) parts of various infectious disease experiments (including STDs)...perhaps there can be a follow-up study on those service members. I have heard from various service members of color who are very angry about those studies. What can be done to bring that matter to light? Our country owes a debt to ALL of these men and women before these individuals find no other avenues for their frustration. There is only so far that this frustration can go. Something needs to be done that is above board. Thanks, Nick

    March 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  8. Thom

    Wait a second.. So you've named the entire hour-long TV program "Soldier Guinea Pigs" and only about 15 minutes were actually pertaining to that? Great program this week, but I think the name was misleading..

    March 4, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  9. Joseph Budnack

    Great story – but your dates are wrong. My Dad was a test subject at Edgewood Arsenal in the 1940's. It took him 50 years to come forward and file a VA Claim and a few years to prove it – but he had kept every document the army gave him - including a citation for volumteering and a list of names of over 200 others who also got the citation!

    March 4, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  10. Jeff Jefferson

    Will be interesting to see if you interviewed James S. Ketcham...the Col. who was in charge there for years.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • James S. Ketchum, MD

      I was gladly interviewed by telephone on three occasions prior to the presentation on CNN last night. I provided a copy of my book "Chemical Warfare Secrets Almost Forgotten" to the producer. It gives the actual facts about the Edgewood Arsenal Program and describes it in detail. Volunteers were all told that chemicals would be given to some of them to help develop antidotes to protect our troops and US citizens. No one was forced to participate nor told they would be punished or imprisoned if they chose not to take part. Those who participated all received letters of commendation and all received thorough medical evaluations before and after being in the program. Long term follow-up was offered free of charge in 1978 to those who had agreed voluntarily to receive LSD. No statistically significant adverse effects were found. Studies of the entire 7500 soldiers who volunteered between 1955 and 1974 were published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1982. The cases were reviewed by national civilian experts and showed no significant evidence of medical or psychiatric damages. In 2003, Dr. Page reviewed cases who received Sarin and found no medical adverse effects that could be attributed to this nerve agent. It had been was given, to willing volunteers. They helped us, patriotically, to find effective antidotes that could save future soldiers from enemy attacks with this gas. My book provides truth, while the film does not. I hope those who are interested will read it and recognize the false claims made by CNN's program on Sunday night. Use your browser to check my name and the book title for numerous reviews and supportive articles published in the last 6 years.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
      • Jeff Jefferson

        Dr Ketchum....I have read your book and found it very interesting. In fact it made me curious as to what I was given, as I was never told that. Then after 45 years I found out I could get my medical records from Edgewood...and did. It turned out I was given BZ. Of course I had to do some digging to find out what BZ was. :^))
        I sir,am one of the lucky ones I my health was and has been good. I have never had any ill effects.
        Nice of you to post, sir. Thank you.

        March 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
      • Dennis Paul

        Save your money, check it out of the library.

        March 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  11. Ruth Tudor

    My first husband was in the 15th Chemical Corps from 1960 until he was discharged on 50% medical disability after having been "tested" with gas and drugs while we were stationed in Germany from 1960 to 1962. He came home after being on a 6-weeks training exercise and had blisters all over his body and saying and doing things that did not make sense. We were shipped back to Edgewood Arsenal so he could be treated at Walter Reed. He never could work because he could not handle stress. He had to be hospitalized over and over in a psychiatric hospital, civilian and VA. He had clearance for military secrets and would start telling anyone he met about them. I had to divorce him for the sake of our 4 children's and my sanity. He passed away about 4 years ago.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  12. Karle Smith

    I was in Ft Devens at the time when they brought us to the theater asking for volunteers for the MedVol Program at Edgewood Arsenal. I volunteered in the spring of 1974 and spent 2 months there doing various tests. Most were 2pamChloride and Schopolomin tests done under various controlled environments. At the time it was good duty for a private..if you weren't on a scheduled test you were off. The area was nice and I and my buddies pretty much enjoyed our stay there on the Chesapeak. I drove down in my 68 VW bus and even brought my Irish Setter with me. Had to hid her from time to time. I retired from the Army in 1993 and retired from civil service working for the Army in Nov., 2011. Other than being old (63) I feel pretty good now.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  13. James Bradbury

    This article reminds me of a book I read "The Alchemist's Children" where and unknowing population was subjected to genetic research. Although it is fiction, It holds similarities with these stories.

    March 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  14. Jeff Jefferson

    I was at Edgewood in the spring of 1966. Was only on one test with drugs....but it took me 45 years to find out what drug was tested. Is now interesting to read the paper work that they kept during those 3 days. Some of it I remember...most of it I don't.

    March 3, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Jeff Jefferson

      BTW....I was given BZ. Your pdf file, you have posted, was from 1964...but they were still testing BZ when I was there in '66.
      Wanted to thank you guys for airing not much has been made public over the years. Every once in a while something would crop up in the paper, but not much.

      Thanks again. Jeff J

      March 3, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  15. Buck Conder

    I was at Edge wood in 1964, I got a phone call around July 2000, they told me and sent me a letter that they had used sarin Gas on me. I talked to a few guys that was there also. I was told at least 2/3 are dead. I also heard that a leak of gas got into the ground and was in our water supply. I have blood diseases which I believe that come from there.
    I have other information if wanted. Thanks Buck

    March 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm |