The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress
112/SHAD TASK FORCE REPORT
New Energy In The Fight
BY JACK DEVINE, CHAIR
A re-energized task force has
helped win some significant legal victories that have
generated major media attention and galvanized some members of
Congress to action.
The task force is now more focused on its primary mission: to
pursue the truth about the testing of chemical and biological
agents, simulants, tracers, and decontaminants on American
military personnel--in many cases without their knowledge or
consentduring the 1960s and early 1970s. The hoped-for
outcome is threefold: justice for those whose health may have
been compromised by their exposure to the wide variety of
toxic agents, including nerve agents GB and VX and biological
simulants Bacillus globigii, Serratia marcescens, and
E-coli; justice for officials at the VA and Department
of Defense who for years stonewalled and refused to release
information that might help SHAD veterans get treatment and
compensation from the VA for service-connected conditions that
may have resulted from their participation in the 112/SHAD
tests; and assurance that current and future members of our
armed forces are not exposed unwittingly to toxic agents by
our own government.
Project 112 was one of some 150 initiatives undertaken by
Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under Presidents John F.
Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. SHAD is the acronym for
Shipboard Hazard and Defense.
VVA and 21 SHAD veterans are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that
cites McNamara and several officials of both the Departments
of Defense and Veterans Affairs for having participated in a
decades-long cover-up of the facts. Following some mixed
decisions by the court in Vietnam Veterans of America v.
McNamaramixed because the judge ruled some months ago to
remove VA officials as defendantsour attorneys, Doug Rosinski
and David Cynamon of the Washington, D.C., law firm Shaw
Pittman, hit a home run.
The court permitted the deposition of the 77-year-old former
technical director of the SHAD program, J. Clifton Spendlove.
His testimony in Decemberdespite some lapses in memory of
events that occurred some 40 years agowas open and
forthright. He acknowledged that "boat drivers" were, in fact,
exposed to chemical and biological substances during some four
dozen SHAD tests. His testimony torpedoed DoD contentions that
it had thoroughly investigated and found little about which to
With the release of the transcript of the deposition testimony
in early January, VVA President Tom Corey sent a letter to key
members of the Senate and House, calling on Congress to begin
an investigation of the continuing cover-up. At the heart of
the issue is that the military has been investigating its own
"Dr. Spendlove’s testimony demonstrates that the DoD’s
investigation is, at best, inadequate, and, at worst,
fraudulent and leaves absolutely no doubt that military
veterans were used as 'human samplers' without their knowledge
or consent and are victims of our own 'weapons of mass
destruction' test program," Corey wrote.
He called on Congress to:
- demand that the responsible
Pentagon agency grant immediate and unfettered access to all
Project 112/SHAD information in its possession and release
all information found to be medically relevant by SHAD
- convene hearings on the
conduct of DoD's SHAD investigation and demand that all
officials explain their seemingly complicit actions and
- demand accountability from
those determined to have improperly conducted themselves as
government officials, "including resignation and termination
- require the VA and the
Institute of Medicine to review the "dose to humans" data
whenever obtained and consider this information in
evaluating potential service-connected health effects
- review congressional
oversight to Pentagon officials who "failed to prevent or
uncover such long-standing abuses."
- "Action must be taken now,"
Corey said. "Veterans have the right to know what they were
exposed to whether or not DoD believes it is harmful. DoD
officials have forfeited the right to decide what is
relevant to SHAD veterans."
- Reaction to Corey’s letter
and revelations of Spendlove’s testimony were swift in
coming. David Goldstein of the Kansas City Star wrote
the first major article. He was quickly followed by John
Ryan in the Daily Journal and Robert Gehrke of the
Associated Press. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who has
been in the forefront of the effort to uncover the truth
about 112/SHAD, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
asking for an immediate briefing about 112/SHAD files that
the Pentagon has kept under wraps and asking when these
files will be made available to Congress and the American
Previously, Congress passed a bill introduced by Rep. Ciro
Rodriguez (D-Texas) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) that
authorizes the VA to provide veterans who participated in
the chemical and biological tests higher priority for
medical treatment and nursing home care without any
requirement of proof of service-connection through December
31, 2005. The law now embraces what VA Secretary Anthony
Principi had already ordered.
Visit The VVA Veteran
to locate back issues.
E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org