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E
Interim Report and Addendum

Han K. Kang, Dr. P.H.*

Feasibility of Developing a Cohort of Veterans Exposed to Mustard Gas During WWII Testing Programs

I. Background

In January of 1992 Dr. Susan Mather, ACMD for Environmental Medicine and Public Health, requested that my office investigate whether or not a cohort of WWII veterans who had known exposure to mustard gas could be identified (Attachment 1).

Mustard gas was not known to be used for warfare during WWII but a significant number of US military volunteers were exposed to the vesicant chemical during laboratory experiments on protective clothing, ointments and equipment. Soldiers were also exposed to the chemical during the course of field tests to determine the value of protective clothing, masks and ointments while traversing tropical and sub-tropical terrains contaminated with mustard gas. There is no central roster of sailors and soldiers who volunteered for either the laboratory experiments or the field tests. Therefore the actual number of veterans exposed to the vesicant is unknown.

*  

Director, Environmental Epidemiology Service, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Interim report, June 1992, Addendum, August 1992.



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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite E Interim Report and Addendum Han K. Kang, Dr. P.H.* Feasibility of Developing a Cohort of Veterans Exposed to Mustard Gas During WWII Testing Programs I. Background In January of 1992 Dr. Susan Mather, ACMD for Environmental Medicine and Public Health, requested that my office investigate whether or not a cohort of WWII veterans who had known exposure to mustard gas could be identified (Attachment 1). Mustard gas was not known to be used for warfare during WWII but a significant number of US military volunteers were exposed to the vesicant chemical during laboratory experiments on protective clothing, ointments and equipment. Soldiers were also exposed to the chemical during the course of field tests to determine the value of protective clothing, masks and ointments while traversing tropical and sub-tropical terrains contaminated with mustard gas. There is no central roster of sailors and soldiers who volunteered for either the laboratory experiments or the field tests. Therefore the actual number of veterans exposed to the vesicant is unknown. *   Director, Environmental Epidemiology Service, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Interim report, June 1992, Addendum, August 1992.

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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite II. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Tests A. NRL Lab Log On February 10, 1992, Mr. Larry Stockmoe of my office and I visited the NRL and met with Mr. Dean Bundy, Navy archivist, and Ms. Maria Lloyd, to review and discuss the available records concerning the WWII mustard gas experiments at the NRL. They made all relevant documents including 10 volumes of laboratory notebooks available to us for our examination. The laboratory notebooks contain meticulous records of each experiment with each subject's name listed as a part of the record. However, the volunteers were mainly identified by only their last names and occasionally their initials (Attachment 2). I reviewed all 10 volumes along with other documents and could not find any full names of participants entered in the materials. The NRL staff has abstracted the names for each experiment and also prepared a combined listing in alphabetical order. These rosters were later given to us by the VA Compensation and Pension Service. B. Suitland Federal Records Center During our discussions, Mr. Bundy mentioned that 18 boxes of materials pertaining to the tests were also archived at the Suitland Federal Records Center. He told us it would be highly unlikely that any stored documents would contain personal identification. It was also said that the documents still contain classified information and would therefore be accessible only by individuals with security clearances. We arranged for an inspection of the archived materials by the US Army and Joint Services Environmental Support Group (Attachment 3). During the months of March and April, 1992, Mr. Don Hakenson, Director, ESG, and three members of his staff reviewed the documents and came to the conclusion that none of the materials contain the names of test participants (Attachment 4). C. National Personnel Record Center (NPRC), St. Louis, MO One of the documents that I reviewed was a copy of memorandum from Lt. Commander J.H. Heinen, Jr. (MC) USNR to the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery dated May 20, 1946. The memo stated that the tests at the NRL for the study of vesicant gases with Navy volunteers were approved by the Secretary of the Navy. Furthermore, the memo went on to describe a file card index of all the men who volunteered to participate in the tests. These men were sent to the NRL from the U.S. Navy Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland (Attachment

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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite 5). I contacted Mr. Jan Herman, Naval historian at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and asked him the whereabouts of the 3'' x 5" file cards that were mentioned in the memo. He thought the cards were sent to the NPRC in St. Louis and put into each individual's military personnel record folder. Neither the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery nor the NPRC kept a master list of these volunteers before the cards were sent to the NPRC or before the cards were inserted into the individual personnel folders. This account was corroborated by Mr. Bundy, the NRL archivist. To test the existence of the 3" x 5" card in the personnel folder, we searched the personnel folders of five veterans who contacted the NRL and whose last names also appeared on the list of last names compiled by the NRL. The personnel folders were located for all five veterans. There were 3" x 5" cards or other supporting documents in the folders of four of the five veterans (Attachment 6). It appears very likely that once we identify putative participants from a military source, they can be easily validated by the examination of their personnel records. D. Bainbridge, MD, Navy Training Center Because it is not feasible or practical to search personnel records stored at the NPRC by last name only, we need to somehow narrow down the potential search list. The Navy records indicate that all volunteers for the NRL tests came from the Bainbridge Training Center. Therefore, there is a fair chance that the records of the individuals who were transferred to the NRL for temporary duty exist at the Bainbridge Training Center. I contacted the Military Reference Branch of the National Archives. Indeed, there are 29 rolls of microfilm which comprise the muster rolls of the Naval Training Center at Bainbridge from January 1, 1943, to December 31, 1945. I made arrangements for purchasing the muster rolls. I expect to receive the rolls by June 1992. If there is an entry of temporary duty assignment to the NRL for each volunteer in the muster rolls, the entire 29 rolls of microfilm can be reviewed and their names and service numbers and other relevant information can be abstracted. These individuals' personnel records can then be searched at the NPRC for the 3" x 5" cards and any other corroborating information. If the muster rolls do not contain the records of temporary assignments, we can still search the muster rolls for potential matches by the last names listed in the NRL lab notebook and appropriate time periods. For example, Walker listed in Book #4211, January 1, 1944, to April 29, 1944, full-body chamber tests will be searched among the Bainbridge trainee muster rolls for the appropriate calendar period. There may be only one trainee with the last name Walker or there may be 5, 10, 15 and

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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite etc. These individual's personnel records can be searched at the NPRC for the 3" x 5" card and other supporting documents. E. Conclusions There is no central roster of the NRL test participants with their full names and service numbers. Personnel records archived at the NPRC in St. Louis will contain supporting documents for those who participated in the NRL tests. The muster rolls from the Bainbridge Naval Training Center from January 1, 1943, to December 31, 1945, may contain names of those volunteers or assist us in narrowing down the potential search list. The muster rolls have been purchased and they will be reviewed shortly. III. The U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service Tests A. Special Orders No. 152 The Army also conducted numerous tests of protective clothing, equipment and ointments on volunteers in the laboratory and in the field. The test sites included Edgewood Arsenal (MD), Camp Sibert (AL), Bushnell (FL), Dugwood Proving Ground (UT), and San Jose Island (Panama Canal Zone). Volunteers were mainly from the CWS units, but some field tests were carried out on infantry troops stationed at Camp Paraiso, Panama Canal Zone, and a company of the 94th Medical Battalion at Bushnell, Florida. During the review of the 18 boxes of documents stored at the Suitland Federal Records Center, the ESG team found a document which recorded that the 150th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Panama Canal Zone participated in a field test. The troops entered a contaminated jungle two hours after a test bombing of mustard gas. They remained there for 24 hours. Now a declassified military document, "Medical Research in Chemical Warfare" states that "between September 1943 and February 1945, 1002 enlisted men and officers voluntarily submitted to tests conducted by the Medical Division and were commended by the Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service for participating 'beyond the call of duty by subjecting themselves to pain, discomfort, and possible permanent injury for the advancement of research in protection of our armed forces.' " The actual number of ground troops who participated in the field test is unknown. In reviewing documents submitted to VA for compensation claims by veterans, we came across a copy of Special Orders No. 152 issued on June 25, 1944, by the office of the Chief, Chemical Warfare Service

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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite (Attachment 7). This must be the source document used for the above quoted statement. The special order lists participants by rank, full name, service number and date of participation. We selected a sample of eleven veterans listed in the Special Order and requested the NPRC's assistance in locating and reviewing their military personnel records. The 1973 fire at the NPRC destroyed or damaged the army records from this period and the NPRC could find the personnel records for only four of the eleven veterans. For each of the four veterans there were official documents attesting to their participation in a chemical test (Attachment 8). B. Conclusions There is a roster of approximately 1,000 army volunteers who participated in tests for mustard gas by the Army Chemical Warfare Service during WWII. For those who were listed in the roster, their personnel records archived at the NPRC will contain corroborating documents if the records were not destroyed by the fire. The identity of ground troops who participated in various field tests is unknown. It may require a substantial effort to trace their military unit records and research them. IV. Summary . Establishing a cohort of Navy volunteers who participated in experiments at the Naval Research Lab during WWII is feasible but may require substantial work. . A cohort of approximately 1,000 Army volunteers who participated in various tests for mustard gas during WWII has been identified and the fact of their participation in the tests can be documented. . Some ground troop units are known to have participated in field tests (e.g., 150th Infantry Regiment, 94th Medical Battalion), but it may require a substantial effort to trace these unit records. ADDENDUM AUGUST 1992 I. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Test Participants We have reviewed all 29 rolls of microfilm which comprise the muster rolls of the trainees at the Bainbridge Navy Training Center, Maryland from January 1, 1943, to December 31, 1945. I observed the following:

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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite Approximately 30,000 sailors were present at the center on any given time during this period. The individuals who participated in the NRL experiments can be found on the muster rolls with their full names and military service numbers. There is no record on the muster rolls of any of these NRL test participants having transferred to the NRL for temporary duty. For example, I found the following entries of activities from a particular veteran's personnel records and the muster rolls. Source Date Activities Muster Roll 1-2245 Received by the Bainbridge Training Center Muster Roll 4-9-45 Change of rating from Apprentice Seaman to Seaman 2nd Class 3" x 5" Card & Personnel Records 4-2845 to 6-23-45 Temporary assignment to NRL 3" x 5" Card 6-4-45 to 6-1145 Leave 3" x 5" Card 5-18-45 Participated in Experiment #107 at NRL Muster Roll 6-3045 Transferred to Navy Training Station, Norfolk, VA The muster rolls did not indicate that the veteran was transferred to the NRL for the period from April 28 to June 23, 1945. Consequently, for those veterans with common last names (e.g. Adams, Jones, Smith, Williams), numerous personnel records have to be reviewed at the National Personnel Records Center to identify the individuals who actually participated in the experiment. II. U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service Test Participants On July 20, 1992, Mr. Don Hackenson, Director, US Army and Joint Services Environmental Support Group, Mr. Larry Stockmoe of my staff and I visited the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Three of us reviewed volumes of documents, both classified and unclassified. Most of the documents deal with technical aspects of mustard gas experiments, the status of projects and progress reports of different projects. None of the documents contained names of individuals who participated in the tests. However, in reviewing the documents we came across some names of military units which were subject to field tests. These unit names and times of testing are as follow:

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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite Unit Period 2nd Platoon, Company E, 295th Infantry May 8, 1945-May 22, 1945 94th Medical Gas Treatment Battalion Jan-Feb 1944 71st Chemical Smoke Generator Company "(colored)" July-October 1942 67th Chemical Smoke Generator Company 1944 68th Chemical Smoke Generator Company 1944 27th Chemical Decontamination Company (Puerto Rican) 1944 95th Chemical Company 1944 135th Station Hospital (less nurses) 1944 Company B, 295th Infantry April 1945 Company L, 150th Infantry April 1945 Company C, 295th Infantry April 1945 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry October 11, 1945 I do not know whether the above list includes all of the units which participated in the field tests or to what extent this list is complete. In the meantime, I obtained three additional documents which list names and service numbers of test participants: Special Order No. 61 issued on March 11, 1945, by the Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service, 78 veterans listed. Special Order No. 130 issued on May 27, 1945, by the Chief of Chemical Warfare Service, 32 veterans listed. A memo from Lt. Col. Thomas Thompson to Chief, Chemical Warfare Service dated on May 23, 1945, 42 veterans listed. The total number of Army veterans with full names and service numbers that I have been able to identify to date is 617, which is still short of the number "1002" stated in the historical military document written by Raymond C. Cochrane. Further efforts are required to locate the military records of the units listed above and research them for identification of additional individuals who participated in the tests. As suggested by Dr. Connie Pechura, NAS, I contacted Lt. Col. Richard Parry at Fort Detrick. He did not have or know  of any documents that contain names of WWII test participants. III. Conclusions The muster rolls of the Bainbridge Navy Training Center will help narrow down the number of personnel record reviews necessary to

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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite identify the sailors who participated in the NRL tests. However, it will require substantial manual work. If the total number of Army veterans who participated in the test conducted by the Chemical Warfare Service is "1002" as stated in the historical military documents, over half of them have been identified with their full names and service numbers. Further efforts are needed to locate the military records of the Army units that participated in the tests and to identify individuals who actually volunteered for the tests. At least 12 Army units have been identified as having been involved with the tests.