The Articles in the Category cover a vast range of history not only in our country but in the world as well. The category is entitled “How We Sold Our Soul”. In many cases our history has hinged on compromises being made by the powers at be. They say hind-sight is 20/20, which is why I am discussing these land mark decisions in this manner. The people that made these decisions in many cases thought they were doing the right thing. However in some instances they were made for expediency and little thought was given to the moral ramifications and the fallout that would result from them. I hope you enjoy these articles. The initial plan is to discuss 10 compromises, but as time progresses I am sure that number will increase.
Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) was a series of tests conducted by the Department of Defense (DoD) in the 1960s and early 1970s to investigate the effectiveness of shipboard detection of and protection procedures against chemical and biological warfare agents (DoD, 2006). Within each test there were typically several separate trials involving exposure of vessels with various agents. In some cases, all the trials within a particular test used the same agent, but for some tests, different agents were used in different trials. Agents included chemical warfare agents sarin and VX; biological warfare agents Pasteurella tularensis, Coxiella burnetti, and staphylococcal enterotoxin B; chemical warfare simulants such as zinc cadmium sulfide; and biological warfare simulants such as Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens. Although the tests were originally classified, public and media interest has led the DoD to investigate these tests and to declassify and make publicly available relevant information from them.
Project SHAD involved mainly service members from the Navy and Marines, numbering more than 5,000. The tests were conducted in several areas of the Southwest Pacific, many around Hawaii, and in the Atlantic. The general procedure for testing ship vulnerabilities to biological and chemical agents and simulants varied slightly for the tests and trials. The most common method of disseminating the materials on the ships was by aircraft. Typically, aircraft would fly in front of the target ship and release the materials from spray tanks mounted on the wings. After the material was released, the ship would then steer through the release cloud and record information. The second most popular method for dispersing agents or simulants was to release the material from a turbine disseminator located at the bow of the target ship. Further material describing the nature and conduct of the tests may be found on the study website (IOM, 2006) under “SHAD March meeting agenda.”
The existence of these tests did not come to light until many decades later. In September 2000, at the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DoD) undertook the task to provide data related to Project SHAD to the VA and others. As a result of their investigations, the DoD publicly released information about the Project SHAD tests and assembled a list of Project SHAD participants. In September 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) agreed to undertake a scientific study, funded by the VA, of potential long-term health effects of participation in Project SHAD.
Long-term Health Effects of Participation in Project SHAD (Ship board hazard and Defense)
The goal of our study was to determine the current health of participants in the Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) tests and compare their health with that of a comparable group of nonparticipant veterans from the same era. As a secondary goal, we hoped to be able to derive separate estimates of health effects for different kinds of participation, extending, if possible, to the estimation of separate effects for different agents used in Project SHAD. Data on current health status came primarily from a health survey, but mortality data were also collected
and analyzed. A panel of expert advisors advised the Medical Follow-up Agency (MFUA) investigators in the conduct of this study.
ORIGIN AND BACKGROUND
Project SHAD was a series of tests conducted by the Department of Defense (DoD) in the 1960s to investigate the effectiveness of shipboard detection of and protection procedures against chemical and biological warfare agents. Within each test there were typically several separate trials involving exposure of vessels with various agents. In some cases, all the trials within a particular test used the same agent, but for some tests, different agents were used in different trials. Agents included chemical warfare agents sarin and VX; biological warfare agents Pasteurella tularensis, Coxiella burnetti, and staphylococcal enterotoxin B; chemical warfare simulants such as zinc cadmium sulfide; and biological warfare simulants such as Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens. Although the tests were originally classified, public and media interest has led the DoD to investigate these tests and to declassify and make publicly available relevant information from them.
To conduct a reasonable study of the effects of participation in Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense), we needed to come to some understanding of potential health effects of such participation. The starting point for this effort was the information published by the Department of Defense (DoD) in its fact sheets. We then did our own literature review, including commissioning a series of papers on the potential health effects of various agents used in Project SHAD. In addition, at the second meeting of the expert panel (described below), we heard from
various sources, including former Project SHAD participants. Further, at the strong urging of the expert panel, a review of Project SHAD classified documents was made by an expert panel member and a Medical Follow-Up Agency (MFUA) staff member with the proper clearances. Finally, MFUA study staff attended Project SHAD “reunion meetings” in Kansas City and Seattle to talk to former Project SHAD participants about the conduct of the study and to hear about their health concerns. Many health concerns centered around current medical conditions of shipmates, and we were given a health questionnaire that was being administered to Project SHAD participants.
Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) was a series of tests conducted by the Department of Defense (DoD) in the 1960s and early 1970s to investigate the effectiveness of shipboard detection of and protection procedures against chemical and biological warfare agents. Within each test there were typically several separate trials involving exposure of vessels with various agents. In some cases, all the trials within a particular test used the same agent, but for some tests, different agents were used in different trials. Agents included chemical warfare agents sarin and VX; biological warfare agents Pasteurella tularensis, Coxiella burnetti, and
staphylococcal enterotoxin B; chemical warfare simulants such as zinc cadmium sulfide; and biological warfare simulants such as Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens. Although the tests were originally classified, public and media interest has led the DoD to investigate these tests and to declassify and make publicly available relevant information from them.
Project SHAD involved mainly service members from the Navy and Marines, numbering more than 5,000. The tests were conducted in several areas of the Southwest Pacific, many around Hawaii, and in the Atlantic. The general procedure for testing ship vulnerabilities to biological and chemical agents and simulants varied slightly for the tests and trials. The most common method of disseminating the materials on the ships was by aircraft. Typically, aircraft would fly in front of the target ship and release the materials from spray tanks mounted on the wings. After the material was released, the ship would then steer through the release cloud and record information. The second most popular method for dispersing agents or simulants was to release the material from a turbine disseminator located at the bow of the target ship.
Summary and Interpretation of Results
We found no statistically significant difference in all-cause mortality between participants and controls in anyof the four analysis groups, nor for the total comparison. Indeed, hazard ratios for all-cause mortality were less than 1.0 in group C and very close to 1.0 in groups A and D. However, heart disease mortality was significantly elevated overall and in groups A and B. The lack of a biological basis for this finding, together with the lack of data on cardiovascular risk factors, makes this finding difficult to interpret. There was a significant elevation of
cancer mortality among group B participants as well, with the same difficulties in interpretation. Generally, hazard ratios associated with Project SHAD participation were not so large as for other significant factors, such as pay grade, but Marines in group B had significantly higher mortality than did Navy subjects. All-cause standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were significantly greater than 100 for all participants and all controls combined, but were close to 100 for all participant and control analysis groups save for group B participants, indicating that mortality was close to that expected in the U.S. general population. Cancer SMRs were statistically significantly higher for group A controls and all controls, with most of this excess due to lung cancer; SMRs for non-cancer respiratory disease were not significantly different from 100 in these two groups. SMRs for injuries and external causes of death were also significantly low among all participants. We must note that causes of death were not available for deaths prior to 1979, and so our cause-specific mortality analyses are incomplete.
In general, although many differences in SF-36 summary scores between participants and controls were statistically significant, most were generally small, around 1 to 2 points. Interestingly, the smallest differences were seen in group C, the only group with potential exposure to active agents. SF-36 summary scores in our study were smaller than age- and sex-specific national norms, indicating that our subjects reported themselves to be less
well than did comparable U.S. males. In contrast, veterans aged 50–64 in the Veterans Health Study, who were receiving VA outpatient care, had an average physical component summary (PCS) score of 37.2 and an average MCS score of 47.0 (Payne et al., 2005), both of which are substantially lower than the participant or control scores in our study.
We made two attempts to look at level of exposure, one in group A and one in group B. Group A participants made up the largest of the groups and contained only men with potential exposure to either Bacillus globigii (BG) simulant agent or methylacetoacetate (MAA). The conduct of the tests made it possible to estimate independently the health effects associated with BG and with MAA. Once again, we found small but statistically significant differences, but when we attempted to analyze the effect of the number of tests as a proxy for exposure, there was no clear gradient. We further looked at the individual numbers of tests at which a participant might have been
exposed to either BG or MAA and again found no clear exposure gradient. However, we did find statistically significant coefficients for linear trend for both BG and MAA for both PCS and MCS scores, evidence that PCS and MCS scores were statistically significantly lower with each additional test in which there was potential exposure to either BG or MAA. On the other hand, when estimating the effects of BG and MAA exposure controlling for the total number of Project SHAD tests, the statistically significant effects of BG and MAA all disappeared, whereas the differences in SF-36 summary scores by total number of tests was statistically significant. It appears that for group A participants, the number of Project SHAD tests is a more important factor than putative exposure to either agent.
Only for a subsample of group B participants did we have individual exposure data that were recorded (ordinal) levels of contamination by trioctyl phosphate (TOF), a simulant with low toxic potential. We were unable to obtain precise, numeric exposure estimates and so analyzed these data by arbitrarily assigning numeric doses to the ordinal levels measured (e.g., trace = 0.5, very light = 1.0, and so on). We found no evidence that our ordinal exposure levels were associated with either SF-36 summary health measures.
In conclusion, we saw no difference in all-cause mortality between Project SHAD participants and nonparticipant controls, and although participants had a statistically significantly higher risk of death due to heart disease, that lack of cardiovascular risk factor data as well as biological plausibility makes this latter difference difficult to interpret. We found overall deaths rates that were higher in both all participants and all controls than the U.S. population, as well as a higher cancer death rate among all controls, mostly attributable to lung cancer. We also found overall worse reported health in participants, but no consistent, specific, clinically significant patterns of
ill health. Both PCS and MCS scores of the SF-36 were lower among participants than controls, but these differences were small in magnitude. Group C, the only group with potential exposure to active chemical or biological agents, reported the smallest differences. We also saw small but statistically significant increases in self-reported memory and attention problems as well as somatization scores. Project SHAD participants reported higher levels of neurodegenerative medical conditions, but most of these were of an unspecified nature, and participants also
reported nearly uniformly higher rates of symptoms, including a symptom without an apparent medical basis, thus raising the question of reporting bias. There were no significant differences in self-reported hospitalization, and in one group (group D), participants reported a higher rate of birth defects than controls; however, this significant difference can be attributed to an unusually low control rate rather than a high rate among participants. While we have found no clear evidence of specific health effects that are associated with Project SHAD participation, we must remark that this does not constitute clear evidence of a lack of health effects. Although the sample seems large, some of the exposure groups are indeed rather moderate in size, and the lack of specific a priori hypotheses of health effects becomes a real limitation. If there were, for example, very specific, targeted effects on a particular organ system, but with a relatively low prevalence, our relatively coarse grouping of health outcomes might well have missed finding such a specific effect.
Were future research to be conducted, several items could be of potential interest. First, some way to reduce nonresponse bias should be considered. The collection of clinical, rather than self-report data, might also be contemplated. Included in this might be a records-based study of birth defects in these subjects; because many Project SHAD ships operated out of Pearl Harbor, data from the Hawaii Birth Defects Program might prove useful. Also of potential interest would be the collection and analysis of cause of death data for early (pre-1979) deaths. Other, similar possibilities would include linkages with population-based cancer registries, the VA’s inpatient database (PTF), and with the Medicare database for subjects 65 years of age or older. These same data sources would provide information to validate self-reported health outcomes. Another way to deal with nonresponse bias would be to mount a separate survey of nonrespondents.
A better method of dealing with exposure data is always welcome in this kind of study, but the lack of exposure-related difference in our group A and group B analyses shows that this may not yield important results. Finally, further analyses of already collected data could be undertaken, especially if some ancillary risk factor data were added, such as service in Vietnam and combat service in Vietnam. These kinds of analyses might also
be focused on the group B Marines in this study, who had significantly higher mortality than Navy personnel, adjusting for age, participation status, race, and pay grade. Marines in group B also had significantly lower PCS and MCS scores, with a large (more than 9-point) difference in MCS scores. Although these latter findings are not related to the original charge of the study, to examine the effects of Project SHAD participation per se, they may warrant some further investigations.
Gazette opinion: What DOD won’t tell SHAD sailors hurts them
Fifty-three years ago, Vida native John Olsen spent three months aboard a U.S. Navy tugboat in the South Pacific as part of a secret U.S. military chemical and biological weapons testing program.
After being honorably discharged, Olsen returned to Montana, earned a business degree from Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings), and worked as a manager — until he started getting sick. Between 1981 and the present, Olsen has suffered a series of severe and sometimes life-threatening illnesses, including five bouts of cancer, extreme high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Over the years, Olsen learned that some of his fellow sailors had similar illnesses, but they had been warned not to talk to anyone about what they did in equatorial waters back in 1963-64.
We’ve got all kinds of problems, breathing and blood problems and cancers,” Olsen said in a recent interview at his Billings Heights home.
Finally, in 2000, the U.S. Department of Defense publicly acknowledged Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense), a series of tests in which U.S. military personnel were exposed to chemical and biological weapons and required to clean their ships with highly carcinogenic chemicals. SHAD was part of the larger Project 112 run out of a Utah military base from 1963 to 1974. It involved both land and shipboard testing of chemical and biological weapons.
As recently as last year, the DOD insisted that there was no proof that Project SHAD caused health problems for the sailors and Marines who participated. An Institute of Medicine report reached that conclusion, but the authors also said that their requests for additional information were denied by DOD because SHAD data remains classified.
Olsen, who became unable to hold management jobs due to his poor health, has received medical care at the VA. But he and other Project SHAD veterans have been denied VA disability benefits because they are denied access to their service records, which are still classified by the Pentagon.
Righting a wrong
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., aim to help veterans like Olsen get the benefits they earned and have been denied for decades.
The senators introduced the Gary Deloney and John Olsen Toxic Exposure Declassification Act that now awaits a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Deloney was a U.S. Navy pilot who flew secret missions that exposed him to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Deloney passed away still waiting for declassification of records that would prove his exposure to the toxic defoliant and qualify him for VA disability benefits.
Project SHAD alone exposed at least 5,900 U.S. military members to chemical and biological agents, according to DOD. Thousands more may have been exposed in other classified U.S. military operations.
S.726 would require declassification only of information necessary for a veteran to prove his or her claim for disability benefits. The bill also would allow the DOD to refuse to release records if the secretary of defense “determines that declassification of those documents would materially and immediately threaten the security of the United States.”
It’s hard to imagine that records proving Olsen’s exposure to hazardous substances more than 50 years ago could be a threat to our national security in 2017.
Olsen obeyed the order to keep mum about Project SHAD, not even telling his wife, Bertha Olsen, until after the DOD acknowledged the project in 2000. The next year, they attended a reunion of Project SHAD veterans in San Diego.
“When we got married, I was not able to tell her anything I had done when I was in the service,” Olsen said.
Military superiors had told him he was selected for this special project that would involve the very best sailors. He spent nearly two years training for it, including training in how to don hazardous materials suits. But during the actual months of testing, the sailors had no hazmat suits. The did get lots of shots that they were told were vaccinations against biological agents that would be sprayed on their ship.
The aerial spraying was always done at night, so the sun wouldn’t destroy the biological agents, he said. Five tugboats would be lined up off Johnson Island. A Navy plane would fly over them, spraying them with something. Then the boat crew would clean their ships with gallons of full-strength chemicals, even cleaning the refrigerators so the food was exposed to the cleaner.
Olsen was 23 when his tugboat was being bombarded with still-classified substances. He’s now 76. Some Project SHAD veterans are deceased. It’s not known how many other veterans secretly exposed during their service to toxic substances are living.
This wrong should have been righted generations ago. Congress should approve the Toxic Exposure Declassification Act without further delay.
On this Memorial Day, there are American heroes being penalized for hazardous duty. It’s time to honor that service. Congress must direct DOD to share information with VA for the sake of U.S. veterans.
We commend Tester and Moran for leading this belated effort. We call on Montana’s Sen. Steve Danies and Wyoming Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso to actively support the bill named for a Vida native who served in Project SHAD.
“Those medical records should not be classified at this time,” Tester told The Gazette, just days after meeting with Agent Orange veterans now living in the Kalispell area. “It’s a problem we shouldn’t have to fix.”
In the chaos of Washington, D.C., Congress can right this longstanding wrong — if Democrats and Republicans work together. Moran and Tester have started the bipartisan drive, time for the rest of the Senate to follow their lead.
My question is why? They knew what these agents can do provided the individual was not protected during the exposure. All of the sailers wore protective garments, that were supposedly able to give them full protection. If they were not sure of the safety of the protective garment, then they should never have used human subjects. So I ask again what was the purpose of these tests. Long term studies were done on the impact of the tests. According to the results the sailers suffered o ill effects from the tests. Or so they say anyway. It is quite possible that the subjects were afraid to disclose accurate information due to a lose in retirement benefits. It is possible. These tests served no real purpose other then that of satisfying a morbid interest. Our military personnel deserve better then to be treated like guinea pigs.
nap.nationalacademies.org, “An Overview of Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense).”; “Long-term Health Effects of Participation in Project SHAD (Ship board hazard and Defense).” By William F. Page, Heather A. Young and Hariet M. Crawford; apnews.com, “Gazette opinion: What DOD won’t tell SHAD sailors hurts them.” By Staff Writer;
How We Sold Our Soul Postings