Pentagon Seeks Chemical Test Vets

From: "Bruce K. Melson" <>
Pentagon Seeks Chemical Test Vets

 AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon has agreed to search its records for
the names of ships and crew members who participated in a series of
1960s exercises designed to test ships' ability to withstand attack from
chemical and biological weapons.

The Pentagon notified Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., of the decision last
week, following a request by the Department of Veterans Affairs in August
to provide information that could help the department process claims filed
by veterans who believe they suffered health damage from their
participation in the tests.

The decision to provide the names and other information was first reported
Wednesday by CBS News.

The fact that the exercises were held has been known previously, although
originally the work was classified secret.

The tests were among 113 conducted as part of a project called SHAD, or
Shipboard Hazard and Defense. Some apparently involved the use of
chemical and biological agents, although the Pentagon said the two of
interest to the Department of Veterans Affairs used simulants rather than
live chemical or biological agents.

In a letter dated Aug. 23, Army Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Cosumano told the
Department of Veterans Affairs that both simulants in exercises ``Autumn
Gold'' in 1963 and ``Copperhead'' in 1965 ``are considered by the medical
community to not pose a health risk to man.'' He also said that all
participants were briefed in advance on the details of each exercise.

CBS News, however, interviewed Navy veterans who said they were given
no information about the materials used in the tests. One veteran, Robert
Bates, whose ship was part of the ``Autumn Gold'' test, told CBS earlier
this year, ``There were people with chemical suits on the ship with some
kind of apparatus apparently monitoring what was going on. They wouldn't
talk to you. You'd try to carry on a conversation, try to find out what was
going on, they just flat ignored you. It always bothered me.''

The two simulants used were bacillus globigii and zinc cadmimum sulfide,
which is a florescent powder. Bacillus globigii is found worldwide in soils
and on root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Los Alamos National
Laboratory said last year when preparing to use bacillus globigii in outdoor
tests of detectors for airborne biological agents that the simulant is
harmless to humans except the extremely ill.

In a reply letter to Cosumano, Thompson thanked the Pentagon for
agreeing to search classified and unclassified documents for ship names
and logs, crew rosters, test results and medical records that may identify
service members who participated in the tests.

Thompson said the Pentagon also agreed to provide a list of the chemical,
biological and other agents used in the tests and to consider waiving
secrecy agreements that test participants may have been required to sign.

``These steps represent a significant improvement in the way in which our
government can assist those service members who participated in these
tests and who, as a result, may be suffering from medical problems,''
Thompson wrote.

[Bruce K. Melson]