Pentagon Mustard Gas Experiments: Department Of Defense Admits To Race Based Experiments During World War II

Louis Babcock

National Public Radio announced today the United States Department of Defense admitted to conducting mustard gas experiments on minority American soldiers during World War II. In 1993, declassified documents show that 60,000 soldiers took part in this secret program.

The Pentagon mustard gas experiments were done on African-American, Puerto Rican, and Japanese-Americans. The purpose of the mustard gas experiments was to discover if mustard gas had a different effect on darker pigmented skin as opposed to the skin of whites. White soldiers were used as a control group during these Pentagon mustard gas experiments.

Rollins Edwards is a 93-year-old World War II veteran. Edwards is one of the African-American soldiers who took part in the Pentagon mustard gas experiments. He talks about what it was like to be exposed to this weapon of mass destruction.

"They said we were being tested to see what effect these gases would have on black skins. You had no choice. You did not know where you were going. They didn't tell you anything."

Edwards' story is just one of many from living World War II veterans that were experimented on with mustard gas.

When this story first broke in the early 1990s, the Department of Veterans Affairs made a promise to locate the veterans who took part in the worst parts of the Pentagon mustard gas experiments, and to compensate those that suffered permanent injury. The VA broke those promises.

An investigation by National Public Radio led investigators to veterans and family members of veterans who were exposed to the mustard gas. These test subjects talk about how the VA has denied their claims and how some veterans have stopped trying to get what they are owed due to an unending amount of frustration.

Brad Flohr, a VA senior adviser for benefits, states that the VA has tried to locate the veterans who were forced to be test subjects. The VA claims that they have attempted to contact 610 of these veterans over the course of 20 years. Flohr gave a reason as to why it has been so hard.

"There was no identifying information. No Social Security numbers, no addresses, no... way of identifying them. Although, we tried."
"We weren't told what it was. Until we actually got into the process of being in that room and realized, wait a minute, we can't get out of here. They put the fear of God in just a bunch of young kids."
"There was no handle on the door. You couldn't get out. And that's what I have problems with today. If I go to a locked door, I panic sometimes to try to get out."

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been in the spotlight lately due to problems with patient care and benefits processing. The VA system is clearly not working the way it is supposed to be.

What are your thoughts on the Pentagon mustard gas experiments?

[Image via Edgewood Arsenal]