5 Military Experiments That Told Ethics To F*ck Right Off
I don't know if you've noticed, but sometimes it kind of seems like the military doesn't hold the greatest regard for human life. This is especially true during those times in history when they're trying to build some new, Pentagon-boner-inducing superweapon. They need to test that shit, and test that shit hard. And if on the receiving end of those tests there just happen to be a bunch of innocent civilians? Well, as they say in the military: Tough titties, folks.
They Released Hundreds Of Thousands Of Mosquitoes
So you're walking on the streets of your 1950s small town, tipping your 1950s hat to your 1950s neighbors and minding your own 1950s business, when it suddenly occurs to you that you're living in an environment eerily similar to the pre-explodey prologue of a Fallout game. Right on cue, the skies go dark and the townspeople gasp in horrified awe. Hastily making your peace with the fact that you were never anything but a background character in an origin story for a dystopian future mass murder desert, you turn your gaze up at the inevitable mushroom cloud. Only there's not one to be seen. Instead, the skies are black with mosquitoes. Just hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes, spreading out in all directions.
What the fuck?
"Nice place you've got here. Would be a shame if anything happened to it."
As will become evidently clear in this article, the middle decades of the 20th Century were a weird time in the world of weapon design. Just as the CIA was left free to experiment with mind control and drugs (frequently both), the military constantly attempted to one-up America's assorted enemies by trying to weaponize any and all bugfuck ideas their researchers could dream up. Very few of those ideas were more literally bugfucking than their attempts to find out how badly mosquitoes could fuck up the enemy. If you're into cringe-inducing military documents, feel free to dig into the declassified file behind that link and mentally cry-laugh at the intricate calculations of just how much it would cost to breed a bunch of yellow-fever-infected mosquitoes and disable the enemy with them ($112,875 per battalion, adjusted for inflation). For the non-masochists, here are quick Wikipedia summations of the two main tests of the project, Operation Big Buzz and Operation Drop Kick.
Because if your plot requires you to play the heel to entire residential areas, you might as well name it after a wrestling move.
Taking place in 1955, Big Buzz involved a series of tests which released a total of 330,000 mosquitoes in various areas in Georgia, to see how they interacted with the local public. It wasn't just a simple "Eh, carry the sacks of mosquitoes to the town square and release them" operation, either. Along with releasing the mosquitoes from ground locations, they also stuffed them in munitions and dropped them from planes. They made mosquito bombs!
Then they did all that shit again in Avon Park, Florida. Only Operation Drop Kick was spread over a few years, and this time they released 600,000 mosquitoes.
The aim of the operations was to find out how disease-spreading bugs would fare in military use (fine), and how many people they'd bite (many). Fortunately, the people in charge of this particular research hadn't lost quite all their marbles. Although they unleashed a million mini-vampires on the unwary world, they had the courtesy to not actively infect these particular mosquitoes with anything, so it was a matter of people getting a bit itchy but not actually harmed. The same can't be said for ...
An Actual Chemical Attack On San Francisco
Biological warfare has been devastating people since at least the time the Mongols started wiping out enemy cities by catapulting diseased corpses over their walls, but its grand, mustard gas-y upgrade in World War I all but ensured that most every military worth its salt started dabbling in inhalable horrors. The U.S. military was no exception, but where most military organizations were content keeping their terror-bacteria in laboratories, they wanted nothing to do with such lame-assery. Instead, from September 20-27, 1950, they carefully sprayed the entire city of San Francisco with enough Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii bacteria to expose the area's 800,000 residents to new, vile lifeforms.
Not unlike a similar outbreak a few decades down the line.
To be fair, Operation Sea-Spray was intended to be (slightly) less "Fuck San Francisco, amirite?" move than it seems. The operation's aim was to find out whether enemy agents could unleash a biological attack on a coastal city, and the researchers were allegedly fairly sure that the bacteria they had used was almost certainly harmless. However, it was in fact anything but. Within days, people with mysterious, difficult-to-treat infections caused by a hitherto extremely rare bacteria called -- all together now -- Serratia marcenscens started trickling into the area's hospitals. By November, one patient had died. The doctors didn't have a clue what was going on, because the military hadn't bothered to inform the health officials before, you know, covering their whole city in strange bacteria.
What's worse, the bacteria may never really have gone away. Weird infections have sporadically cropped up in the Bay Area ever since the experiment, and doctors speculate that the military-introduced Serratia may well be the culprit. A Serratia infection killed a man as recently as 2001. In 2004, the bacteria managed to contaminate a local pharmaceutical company's entire stock of flu vaccinations.
"To be fair, after that one, I did briefly go visit Baltimore."
Luckily, the military realized they were reaching a point where they were precisely one cape and funny hat short of full-blown supervillainy, and vowed in a Senate hearing to never do anything like that again. That is, after spending the next 20 years secretly spraying 292 other populated areas with bacteria.
The Manhattan Project Had Human Experiment Side Ops
The Manhattan Project is known for many things, but ... no, wait, that's a lie. The Manhattan Project is known for precisely one thing. Its name escapes me right now, but it goes boom while kind of looking like a fungus. You know the one. I'll remember it in a moment.
The thing most people forget is that the Manhattan Project dabbled in all sorts of radioactivity shenanigans, and its most famous product actually came to be pretty early on in the process. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were but pit stops. The Project marched on for more than a year after that, and since the worst had already pretty much happened, their next experiments didn't exactly shy away from hurting people in creative ways. So creative, in fact, that sometimes the test subjects actually thought the researchers were helping him. Take the times Manhattan-Project-affiliated doctors straight-up gave unwitting patients plutonium injections to see what would happen.
(Spoiler: Not a fucking lot of good would happen.)
"Uh, doc, why are you wielding that glowing syringe in a supervillain pose?" "Am not!"
No one's sure who gave the order to start sneakily injecting hurt people with radioactive bullshit. Red tape and contradicting statements have made sure of that. But at some point in 1945, doctors started locating patients with interesting ailments and injecting them with several micrograms of plutonium. Researchers then collected their excretions and took bone samples to see how much plutonium the body retained and expelled. Ebb Cade, the first injectee, also had 15 of his teeth pulled for research. At no point did anyone inform him why. Finally, the man figured out he was used as a test subject and fled the hospital at night, somehow going on to live for eight more years until his heart failed in 1953.
Further experiments followed. Men, women, and children alike were targeted, although the researchers did attempt to only use cancer patients who had less than five years to live. However, bookkeeping on this particular detail seems to have been muddy at best. In one particular incident, a dude named Albert Stevens was injected, but it turned out that the "cancer" he was suffering from was just an ulcer. When the relieved Stevens considered moving away, the researchers actually offered him a stipend to stay in the area so they could continue their tests on him.
In December 1946, the disbanding Manhattan Project finally came to their senses and ordered the injections to stop. Unfortunately, the Atomic Energy Commission nigh-immediately took over and spent a good chunk of 1947 vaccinating 18 further patients with a toooootally mysterious "new substance" which "no one knows what it does," but was "definitely" "good" for "you." Their bone tissue removals and poop monitoring went on until the 1950s, and once some of the test subjects had the courtesy to drop dead, they actually grave-robbed their bodies for further study.
Gay Soldiers Were Tortured And Given Unwanted Sex Changes
Hey, we're not in America anymore! Other countries are awful too! Hooray!
Apartheid was a pretty shitty picnic for anyone who might be called a "minority" (only usually using a more racist term) by a well-fed, middle-aged white dude. It wasn't any different with homosexuals, especially if the gay person happened to be a member of the South African Defense Forces. In that case, your default status of "living in mortal fear" could be updated to "a character in a Tom Six movie" at any passing second. The mad doctor in this analogy is Dr. Aubrey Levin, and he was the driving force of the Aversion Project, which ran from 1971 to 1989, targeted gay soldiers, and medically mistreated the everloving shit out of them.
The fact that Levin himself is a convicted sex offender is probably juuuuust a coincidence.
Here's what a gay soldier identified by the Aversion Project could expect: quack psychology, electric shocks (often combined with porn to create a Pavlovian reaction), hormone treatment, and if they were really unlucky, chemical castration. For the people who somehow didn't magically un-gay themselves after these horror movie sanatorium methods, there was always the ultimate solution: forced sex change operations. They pulled that shit out on an estimated 900 people, sometimes at the pace of 50 surgeries a week. This eventually caused a modicum of poetic justice, when people who were desperate for gender reassignment but could never obtain their goal in the everything-but-white-cis-guys-phobic South African society started joining the army for the specific purpose of getting the surgery. Still, the operations were ... not always executed with the utmost skill, and it was not unheard of for unwilling subjects to end up with, say, female breasts and male package. Which is not necessarily an awful situation, but it presumably still kind of blows when you had no intention of spending your life that way.
Strangely, and despite these terrifying practices, SADF wasn't necessarily the worst place to be if you were gay. See, they were really, really confused about the whole gay issue, so more often than not, they resolved the problem (and perhaps their own strange emotions) by just putting the gay soldiers in their own battalions and sort of shoving them off to the sidelines to do their own thing.
The U.S. Tested Chemical Weapons On 60,000 Soldiers
Hey look! We're back in America!
By now, you know that we're looking at some pretty terrifying bullshit here, and since this is the #1 entry, it's probably worse than the rest combined. So here, have facts:
As I mentioned above, chemical warfare isn't new, but after mustard gas terrorized World War I trenches, most every enterprising military entity started dabbling with their home chemistry kits. Everyone knows America's hands aren't exactly clean in this matter, but few people realize that the Agent Orange antics in Vietnam were far from the first time America has used chemical warfare. In fact, the U.S. military busted out chemical terrors way back in World War II. Only, it used the stuff on its own soldiers.
"Didn't expect to see you guys here at ze meeting of ze 'Gassing Our Own Citizens Club.'"
Yep! During the one damn giant war we've had in which chemical weapons were actually few and far between, the military took it upon themselves to introduce around 60,000 American volunteers (or "volunteers," as sources insist on writing the word in this case, for some reason) to that ol' World War I favorite mustard gas, occasionally mixed with equally terrifying substances such as the arsenic compound Lewisite. It wasn't just one accidental case of a lone mad general-doctor pulling a "stand in that corner, the lot of you, and don't mind the mist that makes your faces melt," either. People got enlisted in special units devoted to chemical weapon testing straight out of basic training. And as you can probably guess, a whole lot of the guys who ended up with the program were black, Japanese American, Puerto Ricans and -- you get the drill. They already knew how white dudes react to mustard gas from World War I, so why sacrifice them?
They still used white soldiers as a control group, though, because America damn well brought enough for everyone.
So what were the tests like, then? Quoth Rollins Edwards, who was drafted into the program in 1944 and found himself in a wooden gas chamber with 12 other black soldiers as the gas started to pour in:
"That's when everybody went crazy. It just felt like you were on fire sure enough. And the guys started screaming and hollering and trying to break out. And then some of the guys fainted and finally opened the door and let us out and the guys were just -- they were in bad shape because they just couldn't control themselves."
To this day, Edwards has chemical burn marks on his arms. Many ended up worse. However, for uncertain reasons (but presumably thanks in no small part to the copious threats of prison that they were pelted with), the people who took part in the program kept their mouth shut well into 1980s, and when some of the most badly affected finally started seeking compensation, it turned out that the people in charge of the testing had kept curiously bad books, and the victims of the tests had to actually prove that they had been gassed. It took until 1991 for the Department of Veterans Affairs to create guidelines to take care of these cases, which coincided neatly with the tests finally becoming declassified in 1993.
So yeah. At this point, I'd normally link a picture of a kitten and lighten the mood with a dick joke, but you know what? Right now, I'm too depressed to finish this one on a light note. I'll just move straight to the customary post-column writing bottle of whiskey. Hi, my name is Pauli, and this has been my light comedy article about awful bullshit. Go help a veteran.
For more tales of governments gone bad check out 5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened) and 7 Insane Conspiracies That Acutally Happened.
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