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Office of the Special Assistant for Military Deployments Office of the Special Assistant for Military Deployments About Us Current Deployments Medical Readiness Past Deployments Contact Us News Current Issues Lessons Learned FAQs Search

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Project 112 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What is The Deseret Test Center? How does it relate to Project 112 and Project SHAD.
A1. From 1962 to 1973, the Deseret Test Center, headquartered at Fort Douglas, Utah, conducted a series of operational chemical and biological warfare tests in support of Project 112. The purpose of the tests done under Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense was to identify U.S. warships' vulnerabilities to attacks with chemical or biological warfare agents and to develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining a war-fighting capability. The purpose of the land-based tests was to learn more about how chemical or biological agents behave under a variety of climatic, environmental and use conditions. Investigators identified 5,842 service members who were involved in one or more of these tests. The Deseret Test Center planned 134 tests; 50 were conducted and 84 were cancelled.
Q2. When did the test series take place?
A2. The test series began in 1962 and ended in 1973. .
Q3. Where were they done?
A3. SHAD tests were conducted on the open sea in the North Atlantic, open water locations of the Pacific Ocean and near the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the California coast. Land-based tests took place in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, Florida, Utah, Georgia, and in Panama, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Q4. Some Deseret Test Center tests have names, but others have just numbers. What’s the difference? Are the numbered ones more dangerous, or more secret.
A4. All Deseret Test Center tests were designated by test numbers. Initially the test center assigned cover names to the tests as well, but in the later years of the program this stopped. There is no difference between these later tests and the others in terms of the level of security or risk.
Q5. Was Deseret Test Center an Army program?
A5. Deseret Test Center was a joint service program based at Army facilities with staff from all the services. Army and Navy vessels were used, as well as Marine Corps and Air Force aircraft, and members of all four services were involved.
Q6. When did DoD begin its investigation.
A6. At the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the DoD accepted the mission to provide data related to the SHAD tests in September 2000. A team was assembled to learn which ships and units were involved in the tests, when the tests took place, and what substances were used in testing and decontamination. The investigations was expanded to include all tests done by the Deseret Test Center under Project 112.
Q7. Why did this investigation take so long.
A7. The information the VA needed was classified and was not centralized. The Deseret Test Center, the organization that ran the original tests, was closed in 1973. The investigation required a search for 40-year-old documents and records kept by different military services in different locations. It also required declassification of medically relevant information, without releasing military information that remains classified for valid operational security reasons.
Q8. How many people died from these tests.
A8. Our investigation has not revealed any cases of illness related to exposures at the time of the tests. We have found no evidence in DoD records that anyone died as a result of exposures during any Deseret Test Center test.
Q9. How many are sick today.
A9. Symptoms resulting from exposures would be expected to occur soon after exposure. Long-term adverse health consequences would not be expected.
Q10. How many of these tests were there, and where are they listed?
A10. The Deseret Test Center planned 134 chemical and biological warfare tests to be conducted between 1962 and 1973. DoD’s investigation has confirmed that 84 of these tests were not executed and 50 are known to have been conducted. You can view information on all of the tests at http://www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml.
Q11. If these tests were safe, why wasn’t this information released earlier.
A11. The purpose of the tests done under Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense was to identify U.S. warships' vulnerabilities to attacks with chemical or biological warfare agents and to develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining a war-fighting capability. The purpose of the land-based tests was generally to learn more about how chemical or biological agents behave under a variety of climatic, environmental and use conditions. To reveal details of the effectiveness of our defenses and details of our defensive procedures and equipment could compromise the safety of our service members. The DoD had no indication that this operational testing had any health effect on the personnel involved.
Q12. What were you testing? Was the vulnerability of the crew part of the test.
A12. The purpose of the tests done under Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense was to identify U.S. warships' vulnerabilities to attacks with chemical or biological warfare agents and to develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining a war-fighting capability. The purpose of the land-based tests was to learn more about how chemical or biological agents behave under a variety of climatic, environmental and use conditions. Investigators identified 5,842 service members who were involved in one or more of these tests.The information from these tests was used to enhance protection of our servicemembers, and to understand the behavior of chemical and biological warfare agents in varying climates and terrain. At no time were there any tests to determine the effect on people.
Q13. What will the VA do for others who believe they are ill as a result of their work with Deseret Test Center.
A13. The VA has offered a medical evaluation to all Deseret Test Center participants who so wish. The VA can best provide details of the benefits and assistance available to veterans. The VA operates a toll free Helpline at (800) 479-8387 for veterans and maintains a Web site at http://www.va.gov/shad.
Q14. Many of those involved in these tests may be reluctant to come forward for security reasons. What will the DoD and the VA do to ensure they know they may come forward?
A14.

Some veterans have told us they are concerned about possibly releasing classified information about these tests when discussing their health concerns. We have discussed these concerns with staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs and advised them that veterans may provide details that affect their health with their health care provider. In turn, the VA included our response in their notification letter:

"You may provide details that affect your health to your health care provider. For example, you may discuss what you believe your exposure was at the time, reactions, treatment you sought or received, and the general location and time of the tests. On the other hand, you should not discuss anything that relates to operation information that might reveal chemical or biological warfare vulnerabilities or capabilities."

Veterans are welcome to contact our staff at (800) 497-6261 for confirmation that they will not violate security requirements by stating that they were involved in Deseret Test Center tests.

Q15. What should a veteran do if he believes he was affected by one of the Deseret Test Center tests?
A15. Veterans who have health concerns regarding their participation in a Deseret Test Center test are encouraged to contact the VA’s Helpline toll free at (800) 749-8387.
Q16. How much has this investigation cost?
A16. We have not calculated the costs, and that is not a factor in determining what work we do to protect the health of veterans and servicemembers. This work was fully integrated into all the other activities of our office, so its cost would be difficult to separate.
Q17. Have you provided names to the VA?
A17. Yes, for each fact sheet that we published we provided the VA lists of those known to be involved. Because crew lists and unit rosters are not classified, we provided them to the VA while the declassification effort was underway. This gave the VA an opportunity to begin converting service numbers into social security numbers to find addresses for these veterans in advance of the announcement.
Q18. Is an effort under way to notify those affected?
A18. Yes, the VA has taken the responsibility for outreach to veterans. In addition to personal notification by letter, the VA operates a toll free Helpline at (800) 479-8387 for veterans and maintains a Web site at http://www.va.gov/shad. Please contact the VA Public Affairs office at (202) 273-5705 for more details about their program to contact veterans.
Q19. Were civilians involved in these tests?
A19. Some government civilians were involved in the tests, all of whom were Department of Defense employees or contractors. For some of the land-based testing using simulants still believed to be harmless to humans, it appears people may have been exposed without their knowledge.
Q20. Were the FDA and CDC aware of these tests, and did they approve them.
A20. The agencies that became the CDC and the Public Health Service were aware of the conduct of the tests and assisted in their planning to assure the safety of the U.S. population and those participating. The FDA would not normally exercise any regulatory authority over this type of test, so they were not involved.
Q21. The biological agent sprayed in Florida is sometimes called "wheat rust." Was it sprayed in other states?
A21. Our investigation into the work of the Deseret Test Center has found only one test that they conducted using Wheat Stem Rust, DTC Test 69-75 at Yeehaw Junction, Florida in late 1968..
Q22. What warfare agents and simulants were used in these tests?
A22. Each fact sheet lists the agents, simulants, tracers and decontaminants used in the tests. This information is available on our website at: http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/current_issues/shad/shad_intro.shtml.
Q23. We have heard that some sailors received nasal swabs or throat gargles during the tests. Is this true? Why were these medical tests done?
A.23. DHSD investigators questioned the Deseret Test Center personnel they interviewed on the reason for taking gargle samples and nasal swabs from vessel crewmembers. The practice was an informal, and largely undocumented, supplement to the mechanical samplers positioned throughout the test ships to measure organism penetration and dispersion. It appears that the data gathered may have been used to help validate mechanical samplers in the early tests where Bacillus globigii was the biological simulant being used, allowing the practice to be discontinued once samplers were optimally positioned. One known exception is that during the Autumn Gold test, gargle samples and nasal swabs were taken of crewmembers wearing protective masks to determine the effectiveness of the masks. These sample readings are documented in the Autumn Gold test report, but unfortunately are not linked to the crewmembers whom provided the samples.