Korean War/Biological warfare

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Event.png Korean War/Biological warfare  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Date1951 - 1952
LocationNorth Korea,  North-East China
DescriptionAlleged experimental usage of insect-born biological/bacteriological weapons during the Korean war

This page is a copy from Wikipedia: Allegations_of_biological_warfare_in_the_Korean_War

Allegations that the United States military used biological weapons in the Korean War (1950–53) were raised by the governments of People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union and North Korea in 1952. The story was covered by the worldwide press and led to a highly publicized international investigation. US Secretary of State Dean Acheson and other US and allied government officials denounced the allegations as a hoax.


During 1951 the Communists made vague allegations of biological warfare, but did not pursue them.[1][2] General Matthew Ridgway, United Nations Commander in Korea, denounced the initial charges as early as May 1951. He accused the communists of spreading "deliberate lies." A few days later, Vice Admiral Charles Turner Joy repeated the denials.[2]

On 28 January 1952, the Chinese People's Volunteer Army headquarters received a report of a smallpox outbreak southeast of Incheon. From February to March 1952, more bulletins reported disease outbreaks in the area of Chorwon, Pyongyang, Kimhwa and even Manchuria.[3] The Chinese soon became concerned when 13 Korean and 16 Chinese soldiers contracted cholera and the bubonic plague, while another 44 recently deceased were tested positive for meningitis.[4] Although the Chinese and the North Koreans did not know exactly how the soldiers contracted the diseases, the suspicions soon shifted to the Americans.[4]

On 22 February 1952, the North Korean Foreign Ministry made a formal allegation that American planes had been dropping infected insects onto North Korea. This was immediately denied by the US government. The accusation was supported by the eye-witness accounts of Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett and others.[5]

In June 1952 the United States proposed to the United Nations Security Council that the Council request the International Red Cross investigate the allegations. The Soviet Union vetoed the American resolution, and, along with its allies, continued to insist on the veracity of the biological warfare accusations.[2]

In February 1953, China and North Korea produced two captured U.S. Marine Corps pilots to support the allegations. Colonel Frank H Schwable was reported to have stated that "The basic objective was at that time to get under field conditions various elements of bacteriological warfare and possibly expand field tests at a later date into an element of regular combat operations." [2] Schwable disclosed in his press statement that B-29s flew biological warfare missions to Korea from airfields in American-occupied Okinawa starting in November 1951.[6] Other captured Americans made similar statements.[2]

When the International Red Cross and the World Health Organization ruled out biological warfare, the Chinese government denounced "Western" bias and arranged an investigation by the World Peace Council.[7] The World Peace Council set up the International Scientific Commission for the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in China and Korea. This commission included several distinguished scientists, including renowned British biochemist and sinologist Joseph Needham. The commission's findings also included eyewitness accounts and testimony from doctors together with four American Korean War prisoners who confirmed the US use of biological warfare. [7] Its final report, published on 15 September 1952, concluded that the allegation was true and that the US was indeed experimenting with biological weapons.[8] The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) also publicized these claims in its 1952 "Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea", along with journalist John W Powell.[9][10]

Alleged Japanese assistance

The names of former Unit 731 commanders Shirō Ishii, Masaji Kitano, or subordinates and biological warfare experts connected with other units were often included in the Korean War biological warfare charges.[2] Former members of Unit 731 were linked, initially, by a Communist news agency, to a freighter that allegedly carried them and all equipment necessary to mount a biological warfare campaign to Korea in 1951.[2] The International Scientific commission in its August 31, 1952 news conference, and in its final report that October, placed credence on allegations that Ishii made two visits to South Korea in early 1952, and another one in March 1953.[2] Chinese experts remain insistent that biological warfare weapons created in an American-Japanese collaboration were used in the Korean war.[2]

The Sams mission

The Koreans also alleged that US Brigadier General Crawford Sams had carried out a secret mission behind their lines at Wonsan in March 1951, testing biological weapons.[11] It was reported by the US that he had actually been investigating a reported outbreak of bubonic plague in North Korea, but determined it was hemorrhagic smallpox. Sams' mission had been launched from the US navy's LCI(L)-1091.[12] In 1951 LSIL-1091 had been converted to a Laboratory Ship. During her time in Korea, the ship was assigned as an Epidemiological Control Ship[13] for Fleet Epidemic Disease Control Unit No. 1, a part of the U.S. effort to combat malaria in Korea.[14] After covert missions in North Korea, from October to September 1951, LSIL-1091 was at Koje-do testing residents and refugees for malaria.[15]


The US and its allies responded by describing the allegations as a hoax.[16] The US government also declared IADL as a Communist front organization since 1950, and charged Powell with sedition.[10][17] Upon release the prisoners of war repudiated their confessions which they said had been extracted by torture.[18] US authorities have continually denied charges of postwar Japanese-US cooperation in biological warfare developments.[2]

Disease prevention measures

Recent research has indicated that, regardless of the accuracy of the allegations, the Chinese acted as if they were true.[3] After learning of the outbreaks, Mao Zedong immediately requested Soviet assistance on disease preventions, while the Chinese People's Liberation Army General Logistics Department was mobilized for anti-bacteriological warfare. On the Korean battlefield, four anti-bacteriological warfare research centers were soon set up, while about 5.8 million doses of vaccine and 200,000 gas masks were delivered to the front. Within China, 66 quarantine stations were also set up along the Chinese borders, while about 5 million Chinese in Manchuria were inoculated. The Chinese government also initiated the "Patriotic Health and Epidemic Prevention Campaign" and directed every citizen to kill flies, mosquitoes and fleas.

Subsequent evaluation

In 1986 Australian historian Gavan McCormack argued that the claim of US biological warfare use was "far from inherently implausible", pointing out that one of the POWs who confessed, Walker Mahurin, was in fact associated with Fort Detrick in Maryland, a biological weapons research facility.[19] A 1988 book on the Korean War, by Western historians Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings also suggested the claims might be true.[20][21] In 1989 a British study of Unit 731 strongly supported the theory of United States-Japanese biological warfare culpability in Korea.[2] The official Chinese government stance by the mid-1990s was that biological warfare was a real threat at the time and they reacted properly in order to prevent serious epidemics from spreading throughout North Korea and China.[22]

In 1998, Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagermann claimed that the accusations were true in their book, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea.[23]

Published in Japan in 2001, the book Rikugun Noborito Kenkyujo no shinjitsu or The Truth About the Army Noborito Institute revealed that members of a covert section of Imperial Japanese Army that took part in biological warfare during World War II also worked for the "chemical section" of a U.S. clandestine unit hidden within Yokosuka Naval Base during the Korean War.[24]

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  1. Simon Winchester, The Man who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom, Harper Collins, New York, 2008, pp 199–200; Gavan McCormack, "Korea: Wilfred Burchett's Thirty Year's War", in Ben Kiernan (ed.), Burchett: Reporting the Other Side of the World, 1939-1983, Quartet Books, London, 1986, pp 202-203.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k Sheldon H. Harris (3 May 2002). Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-45, and the American Cover-up. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-203-43536-6
  3. a b Zhang, Shu Guang (1995), Mao's Military Romanticism: China and the Korean War, 1950-1953, Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, p. 181, ISBN 0-7006-0723-4Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.
  4. a b Zhang 1995, p. 182.
  5. Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Kosovo, (revised edition), Prion, London, 2000, p 388.
  6. Schwable, 04429, U.S.M.C., Colonel Frank H.; Thomas, Kenn (December 6, 1952). "Of Bugs and Bombs". Retrieved 5 April 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.
  7. a b Jeanne Guillemin. Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism, (Google Books), Columbia University Press, 2005, pp. 99–105, (ISBN 0-231-12942-4).
  8. Simon Winchester, The Man who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom, Harper Collins, New York, 2008, pp 203-208.
  9. "Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea" (PDF). International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Retrieved 26 May 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.
  10. a b "John W. Powell Dies at 89; Journalist was Tried on Sedition Charges in [[1950s]]". LA Times. December 23, 2008. Retrieved July 31, 2013. URL–wikilink conflict (help)Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.
  11. Sonia G Benson, Korean War: Almanac and Primary Sources, Gale, New York, 2003, p 182.
  12. FEDCU One Fight an Unseen Enemy
  13. "HISTORY OF NAVY ENTOMOLOGY". United States Navy Medical Entomology. United States Navy. 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2007-12-11.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.
  14. Marshall, Irvine H. (1955). "Malaria in Korea". In Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (ed.). Recent advances in medicine and surgery (19–30 April 1954) based on professional medical experiences in Japan and Korea, 1950-1953. Washington: Walter Reed Army Medical Center. p. 282. OCLC 4011756. Retrieved 2007-12-11.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content. (See footnote 5.)
  15. Marshall, p. 272.
  16. Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Kosovo, (revised edition), Prion, London, 2000, p 388.
  17. "Report on the National Lawyers Guild, legal bulwark of the Communist Party". United States Congress House Committee on Un-American Activities. September 17, 1950. The current international Communist front for attorneys is known as the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. This organization is sometimes referred to as the International Association of Democratic Jurists.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.
  18. Lech, Raymond B. (2000), Broken Soldiers, Chicago, IL: University of Illinois, pp. 162–163, ISBN 0-252-02541-5Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.
  19. Gavan McCormack, "Korea: Wilfred Burchett's Thirty Year's War", in Ben Kiernan (ed.), Burchett: Reporting the Other Side of the World, 1939-1983, Quartet Books, London, 1986, p 204.
  20. Auster, Bruce B. "Unmasking an Old Lie", U.S. News and World Report, November 16, 1998. Retrieved January 7, 2009.
  21. Korea: The Unknown War (Viking, 1988)
  22. Zhang 1995, p. 186.
  23. Endicott, Stephen, and Hagermann, Edward. The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea, (Google Books, relevant excerpt), Indiana University Press, 1998, pp. 75-77, (ISBN 0-253-33472-1), links accessed January 7, 2009.
  24. Central Intelligence Agency review of "Rikugun Noborito Kenkyujo no shinjitsu (The Truth About the Army Noborito Research Institute)" By Shigeo Ban. Tokyo: Fuyo Shobo Shuppan, 2001
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