The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

May/June 2006

Unduly Dangerous


We are very pleased with the excellent articles by John Prados and Richard Currey concerning the 112/SHAD operations in the last issue of The VVA Veteran. To these articles I would like to add quotes from page 13 of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2003 publication, Health Effects from Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Weapons:

“Expectations regarding human rights, patients’ rights, research ethics, and government accountability have been debated, defined, and established in laws and regulations; these laws and regulations continue to evolve.

“When veterans judge past events by today’s standards, some who were (or believe they were) exposed as research subjects to chemical or biological (or radiological) agents feel that they were unwitting ‘guinea pigs.’

“1. In hindsight, some of these experiments now appear to have been unduly dangerous, posing risks that might not withstand ethical review today.
“2. Current scientific knowledge reveals that the level of risk associated with certain experimental agents was greater than was known at the time of the experiments.
“3. In addition, contemporary risk assessments consider a more comprehensive list of potential adverse effects (e.g., including psychological ones).”

The above fairly well defines the thoughts of many of us who participated.

We are trying to find out the identities of veterans who served in the 112/SHAD program, and the intensity and duration of the exposures to the agents and simulants tested, as well as the decontaminating chemicals that were used. We have been striving, with some success, to insure that a 112/SHAD veteran can receive whatever medical care is needed. I believe that civilians who were exposed during 112/SHAD tests also should be eligible for care.

As John Prados explained in his article, these tests were conducted over a long period of time but were not formalized into the 112/SHAD program until 1962. Health concerns revolve around the toxicity and exposures to the named simulants, trace elements, and decontamination agents. Since they are already in the public domain, we continue to wonder why the Department of Defense continues to keep exposure information classified. This question begs an answer, which is why we support the bill introduced by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), H.R. 4259, The Veterans Right To Know Act.

As of this writing, 31 Members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 4259. The Hawaii State Legislature has passed a resolution asking its delegation and others to support this much-needed legislation. Elected officials from the Territory of Guam have indicated their willingness to pass a similar resolution. And, most recently, the California legislature has passed a similar resolution. A state senator in Alaska has indicated a willingness to sponsor a resolution in Juneau.

The interest shown by the legislatures in Hawaii, California, and Alaska exists because we have shown them that some of the 112/SHAD tests took place within their state boundaries. The woefully inadequate “fact sheets” put out by DoD, many of which we believe are rife with errors, acknowledge that the islands of Oahu and Hawaii and the Gerstel River area of Alaska were test sites. The long California coastline was used for 112/SHAD operations, and an article in the San Francisco Chronicle indicates at least one civilian casualty is connected to these operations.


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