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With the U.S. threatening a pre-emptive attack on North Korea for the latter's pressing development of a nuclear warfare capability, it is more imperative than ever that the history of the U.S.-North Korea conflict be made available to the world, the better to assess the claims made by both sides.
While many see North Korea as a dictatorship run by a madman or evil, others see a rational government - dictatorial, yes - that seeks to defend itself against a power that once obliterated its country in war, and threatened it with nuclear weapons. Indeed, even today, the U.S. says it will not forego using nuclear weapons against North Korea and even executes military war games with South Korea that involve practice runs with nuclear bombers almost up to the border of North Korea.
Back in the early 1950s, during the Korean war, until the Soviets began to fly MiGs over the Korean peninsula in defense of the North Koreans, the U.S. had near unconstrained freedom of airspace over North Korea and China, and in particular, dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of Napalm on North Korea, wiping out nearly every city, and contributing to over a million civilian deaths, maybe 15% of the entire population. Because of the relentless bombing, the people were reduced to living in tunnels. Even the normally bellicose Gen. MacArthur found the devastation wreaked by the U.S. to be sickening.
Most controversially, both North Korea and China maintain that the U.S. used biological or germ warfare weapons against both North Korea and China during the Korean War. The U.S. has strenuously denied this. Captured U.S. flyers who told their North Korean and Chinese captors of the use of such weapons were told under the threat of courts martial to renounce such confessions after they were returned to U.S. custody. They all did so.
To convince the world of the truth of their claims, the North Koreans and Chinese, sponsored a purported independent commission, using the auspices of the World Peace Council, gathering together a number of leftist scientists from around the world. Most surprisingly, this commission, which came to be known as the International Scientific Commission, or ISC, was headed by one of the foremost British scientists of his time, Sir Joseph Needham. The ISC travelled to China and North Korea in the summer of 1952 and by the end of the year produced a report that corroborated the Chinese and North Korean claims that the U.S. had used biological weapons in an experimental fashion on civilian populations.
This posting is not meant to examine the full range of opinions or evidence about whether or not the U.S. used biological weapons in the Korean War. It is instead an attempt to publish essential documentation of such claims, documentation that has been withheld from the American people, and the West in general, for decades. I am publishing here Appendices AA and BB from the Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China.
I introduced that report to the world and posted the report itself online back in January 2015. But the report itself is only some 60-odd pages long, and I was unable at that time to post or publish any of the voluminous appendices that documented the claims of the report. (I am reposting the original executive summary report at the close of this post, for reference sake.) The ISC appendices are crucial in assessing the claims made in the report, and the later denials from U.S. and other allied governments, such as Great Britain.
Appendices AA and BB concern claims of air attacks against various villages in Northeastern China in the Spring of 1952. Using the same kinds of insect (fleas, beetles, etc.) and related "vectors" (such as dropping feathers or rodents) that were studied intensely by Imperial Japanese military scientists and doctors as part of the infamous Unit 731 program. In a matter of proven historical record, but still largely unknown in the United States, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies, with knowledge of scientists working out of the Army's Ft. Detrick chemical and biological warfare labs, gave amnesty to the Unit 731 war criminals, who conducted their biological warfare experiments on live prisoners, who were incinerated after the Japanese scientists were done with them.
In the executive report, the ISC examined claims of a biological warfare attack in the town of "K'uan-Tien, which lies in the southeastern part of Liaotung province near the Yalu River," as well as a number of other "localities in the provinces of Liaotung and Liaohsi." They looked in depth at five "fatal human cases of respiratory anthrax and haemorrhagic anthrax," including "a railwayman, a tricycle-rickshaw driver, a housewife, a school-teacher, and a farmer." They considered the extreme, indeed, unprecedented appearance of this disease in that part of the world, and the fact that respiratory or inhalational anthrax had earlier been the subject of research by Ft. Detrick scientists. The analysis included laboratory examination from the bodies and from insects discovered in the area and believed to be spreading the disease, after being dropped by U.S. aircraft.
The ISC concluded (pg. 34 of the summary report, which can be accessed at end of this post):
On the basis of the evidence presented, and on their own searching and prolonged interrogation of a considerable number of witnesses, both medical and lay, the Commission was compelled to conclude that the delivery of various biological objects contaminated with anthrax bacilli to many places in the two Chinese provinces had taken place, and that this had given rise to a number of cases of a mortal infection hitherto unknown in the region, namely pulmonary anthrax and ensuing haemorrhagic meningitis. Eye-witness statements impossible to doubt indicated American airplanes as the vehicles of delivery of the infected objects.The U.S. denied all biological warfare charges. They demanded the International Red Cross be allowed to independently examine the evidence and document the charges. But unknown to all, in secret meetings of top U.S. Pentagon, the CIA, and State Department officials, gathered together as the U.S Psychological Strategy Board, agreed that there never would be any independent investigation, as the Eighth Army was conducting operations during the Korean War which if they became known ("e.g. chemical warfare") "could do us psychological as well as military damage.” (See full article here.) The scholars Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman found similar evidence of an unwillingness to really examine the North Korean/Chinese/Soviet charges in their 1998 book on the BW controversy.
The controversy has simmered every since.
But convergent evidence of the charges was made in Chapter 13 of the 2006 book Deadly Cultures. Entitled "Allegations of Biological Weapons Use," the chapter was written by Martin Furmanski and Mark Wheelis. While these authors were highly dubious of the claims of U.S. biowarfare, they couldn't discount the anthrax charges. Primarily, they found that the description of inhalational anthrax made at this time - for instance, the wide range of incubational periods reported for the Chinese cases - came before a detailed scientific examination of such cases of anthrax had already been studied. But the ISC description was peculiarly apt and prescient. Furmanski and Wheelis concluded that the deaths documented by the ISC as due to inhalational anthrax had to be real and not faked.
"These results must have been from real human inhalation anthrax cases, since the information did not exist in 1952 to have allowed fabrication using textbook or medical literature sources," Furmanski and Wheelis wrote. (See pg. 260 of Deadly Cultures.)
But I should note, Furmanski and Wheelis in the end did not conclude this was full evidence of biological weapon attack. Indeed, they concluded it must have been of natural origin, though how such a coincidence of widely dispersed, unprecedented appearance of the disease occurred coinicentally with charges of biowar attack.
What they solely relied on for their conclusion was an April 2004 "personal communication" from a U.S. scientist that isolates from the B. anthracis samples from China, which by inference included those from the 1952 putative attack were "subjected to genomic analysis, and all were clearly indigenous to China." Furmanski and Wheelis believe that despite the "highly suspicious" nature of the inhalation anthrax cases discussed in the 1952 ISC Needham report, the genomic analysis proved that the anthrax cases reported to the ISC were of natural origin, and not from a U.S. biological warfare attack.
I have been in touch with all the people involved in this supposed genomic analysis, and while I find it odd that nothing was every published on this genomic or DNA analysis, I will leave a full analysis of the refutation of the ISC report on this score for a future and more scholarly essay. In the meantime, I have decided to publish the ISC documentation as in the West all we ever seem to get are what Cold War scholars publish. Even when critics of the U.S. historical account publish, the actual documentation is thin. This leaves us reliant on the authority of the scholars, which is an extraordinary situation.
I hope that the publication of this material will lead to a greater effort by U.S. and European media and other commentators to assess the real history of U.S. and North Korean and Chinese relations, the better to counter the claims of the hawkish Trump administration and Pentagon spokespeople, who are threatening to plunge this country, and possibly the world, into a terrible new war, painting the North Koreans as unreasonable and dangerous people. But any fair historical account will see that while not by any means perfect, the North Korean regime has plenty to complain about and fear from U.S. intervention.
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