A Brief History
On March 17, 1968, the US Army proved just how dangerous it is to play with weapons of “maaaass” destruction! (Yes, we went there…)
Digging deeper, we find the Army operating Dugway Proving Ground in Utah starting in 1941, a top secret testing area for chemical and biological weapons.
The terrible effect of various poison gas weapons in World War I by both sides caused nervousness during World War II that somebody would once again initiate their use, especially when desperate. The US supposedly contemplated using poison gas against Japanese dug in deeply in islands on the way to Japan, and perhaps even on the Japanese main islands to avoid heavy allied casualties from the expected fanatical resistance. Luckily, those opposed to using such weapons prevailed and the US did not use poison gas.
Adolf Hitler had been wounded by poison gas in World War I, and this incident has been speculated as his reason to shun its use for combat in World War II. Unfortunately, this policy did not apply to concentration camps where millions of people Hitler considered sub-human were gassed to death. (These included Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, homosexuals, retarded people, and generally anyone opposed to the Nazi regime.)
Japanese military forces used chemical and biological weapons against the Chinese during the war in China leading up to World War II as well as during the big war. The infamous Unit 731 was responsible, and the cracked part to this story is that the US gave war criminals that should have been hanged immunity in exchange for sharing their data with the US!
Getting back to Dugway, the US purportedly (by New Scientist, magazine and website) has tested chemical and biological weapons in the open atmosphere around Dugway and produced such weapons from 1941 until 1998! The cracked angle to this fact, is that the US renounced biological weapons back in 1969!
On March 18, 1968, in an area near Dugway but not in the testing area, a large flock of sheep (6,000) were found dead, later testing positive for VX nerve agent. It seems a few days prior to that an Air Force F-4 fighter had made a practice run dispensing real VX over the target area at Dugway, and due to some sort of malfunction continued to dispense the deadly stuff off the reservation and onto the sheep. Lucky it was not on people! Obviously, the US government was embarrassed and did their best to keep the facts from the public and the world, but the details eventually emerged and this incident had a role in President Nixon’s agreement to renounce offensive use of such weapons. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had their share of accidents, which of course were kept secret for as long as possible.
Question for students (and subscribers): Would you use chemical or biological weapons if it meant saving thousands or hundreds of thousands of American lives? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information on the history or nerve agents, please see…
Chaline, Eric. History’s Worst Inventions: And the People Who Made Them. New Holland, 2009.
To see sheep get their revenge, please see…
King, Jonathan, dir. Black Sheep (Unrated). Dimension Extreme, 2007. DVD.