NPR just published an exposé about nine secret experiments performed by the US military on 60,000 Black, Japanese-American, & Puerto Rican enlisted soldiers during WWII. There have been previous exposés about US government human experiments, including CIA experiments, from 1940 through 1970. The WWII experiments were all racist-based–as were many of the later ones.
The WWII experiments were with mustard gas which affects a person within seconds, producing burns & irreversible damage, including cancer, chronic skin diseases, respiratory illnesses, eye problems. Mustard gas was first used as a weapon of war by the Germans in WWI so US scientists knew damn well what mustard gas did to human beings: skin blisters, vomiting, blindness, internal & external bleeding, stripping of mucus membranes in the bronchial tubes.
According to NPR, because the experiments were secret, they were not recorded on the men’s military records so they have no proof they went through them. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. They were not volunteers but were ordered or offered incentives to participate. Rollins Edwards, a participant & the man in this photo, said he never questioned the experiments. “Defiance was unthinkable especially for Black soldiers,” he said. “You do what they tell you to do & you ask no questions,”
Participants were also threatened with dishonorable discharge or military prison time if they told & were unable to disclose the cause of their disfiguring & chronic health problems to doctors after they were discharged.
Now here’s the kicker! Given what we already know about human experiments, especially the large number of racist experiments conducted by US government scientists–(that includes Tuskegee, eugenics experiments on Black, Latina, Native American, & disabled women, & on women in Guatemala & Puerto Rico)–NPR should have felt entirely confident asserting the unmitigated racism of these experiments that rival Dr. Josef Mengele & other Nazi scientists in debasement.
Instead, showing the corporate sponsorship to which they dance, NPR pulled its punches. They said we should remember the US & its scientists were preparing for chemical warfare in WWII–as if that justified racist experiments on human beings. They claimed scientists wanted to see if there were variables between how different ethnicities reacted to chemicals & that “at the time” scientists thought Blacks were more resistant.
“At the time” has to be one of the most atrocious & banal excuses for historic crimes ever invented. At the time of these experiments, there was a major political campaign to desegregate the US military. At the time, Black & Puerto Rican soldiers were coming home in body bags, all shot up, missing limbs just like every other soldier. So they can cut the crap on that “at the time” stuff.
Rollins Edwards is here showing the scars from exposure to mustard gas 70 years ago as part of the WWII experiments. He says he has constant itching on his arms & legs which break out in rashes where he was burned. During outbreaks his skin falls off in flakes & he carries a jar of the flakes to show people what happened to him.
(Photo by Amelia Phillips Hale for NPR)