The allegations of US use of biological warfare (BW) during the Korean War is one of the lingering bad odors of that long and deliberately forgotten war. The US government and its retainers have vehemently denied the charges for nearly 7 decades, but the allegations of US germ war crimes have persisted because of the mountainous circumstantial evidence which exists supporting the BW charge. For the entire duration of 1952 and well into 1953, the US military undertook a large-scale, experimental campaign of spreading disease pathogens in North Korea and China by dropping infected insects from aircraft over enemy troops and the civilian population, in the hope of initiating disease pandemics to turn the tide of a stalemated battlefield. This large-scale clandestine military campaign failed to change the outcome of the war.
In 1981, my father, John W. (Bill) Powell, in an interview with Morley Safer on 60 Minutes, first used the colloquial phrase, the "smoking gun", to acknowledge that after seven years of Freedom of Information (FOIA) search and 20,000 pages of documents reviewed, he had not been able to find an archival document which admitted to this heinous criminal act of germ warfare.
Powell's research had brought to sunshine the hidden story of Japan's Unit 731 which had committed horrific war crimes in China and Manchuria during WWII. Unit 731 had run a bio-weapon research facility near Harbin, China, and along with Unit 100 of Japan's Kwangtung Army had murdered 400,000 people in North China by poisoning water supplies and spreading contagious disease by airplane. Powell had further exposed the US's quid pro quo role in shielding the Unit 731 war criminals including its mastermind, Dr. Shiro Ishii, from prosecution in exchange for their collaboration and scientific research. These ugly revelations garnered much public attention at the time, but made Powell a scholar-non-gratis. The well-intentioned FOIA did not compel any US military branch or federal government agency to produce any document or even admit to the existence of a document if the information was considered by agency censors to be not in the national interest.
Powell was locked out, but the smoking gun label subsequently gained a life of its own. It became a goal for a few scholars, but more often it became a cudgel wielded by the denial lobby. By labeling new BW revelations as "not the smoking gun", US defenders could discredit revelations categorically without having to address the findings on their merits. That has been an effective tactic for the BW denial lobby, but it has also set up its own ultimate train wreck, for now, at last, that irrefutable document evidence, the smoking gun, has been discovered and laid bare for public inspection by a dogged researcher named Jeffrey Kaye.
Kaye's discovery has lain dormant in a little-known trove of 1300 CIA signal intelligence (SIGINT) documents released electronically in 2010 in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. A collection of these documents - the ones that referenced BW - have been published as a PDF and posted online by Kaye, along with their detailed history and content analysis. Kaye identifies communication intelligence (COMINT), a subset of SIGINT, as intercepted and decoded battlefield radio, telephone, and telegraph traffic. This is a highly prized and reliable form of military intelligence derived directly from the enemy's internal communication. Kaye states at the beginning of his essay:
"The CIA likely did not set out to document the COMINT history of the North Korean and Chinese response to what appeared to be US and/or UN bacteriological, biological, or 'germ' weapons, but that is in effect what happened."
The CIA's Baptism by Fire contains many dozens of intercepted People's Volunteer Army (PVA) of China and the North Korea's People's Army (KPA) internal communications describing US BW attacks by airplane from field commanders with requests to headquarters for instructions, back-up support, DDT and additional provisions. These intercepted communications spread across the war years from 1951 through 1953. They paint a vivid picture of the Chinese and North Korean tactical response to defend themselves from this sustained germ war attack.
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