Korean War, insects, biological weapons, women
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Did US Deploy Bioweapons During Korean War?

Recently Unearthed Report Shows US Dropped Plague-Infected Fleas on North Korea


A recently unearthed 1950s report by an international commission concluded the US used bioweapons on North Korea. It raises doubts about claims that captured Americans were brainwashed into confessing the use of such weapons.

In 1952, in the early stages of the Korean War, North Korea accused the United States of using biological weapons — a claim the US has always denied. Journalist and retired psychologist Jeffrey Kaye found a copy of a report by the International Scientific Commission on the issue, originally released in 1952. Its investigation concluded that the US used a number of biological weapons, including anthrax, plague, and cholera, and that the confessions of many captured American airmen provided confirmation.

Those confessions were characterized by the US as the result of torture and brainwashing, which Kaye now believes were exaggerated to discredit the biowarfare claims. He describes the events of March 25, 1952, when a swarm of fleas — later found to be infected with bubonic plague — was dropped from aircraft on the North Korean village of Kang-Sou.

Jeffrey Kaye is a retired psychologist and the author of Coverup at Guantánamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri (publisher: Jeffrey S. Kaye, PhD, 2nd edition: September 10, 2016). He has written widely about torture, asylum, and many other issues related to the US military.

Related: JFK Files Reveal US Biological War Plans Against Cuba

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Full Text Transcript:

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Peter B. Collins: Welcome to Radio WhoWhatWhy. I’ve got another podcast for you today. I’m Peter B. Collins in San Francisco and today I’m joined by Doctor Jeffrey Kaye. He is a retired psychologist who’s been moonlighting as a journalist for many years now and he’s covered a variety of topics in great detail with a real objective approach to ferreting out the facts. He was based in San Francisco but he recently retired to the big island of Hawaii where he joins us by Skype today. And he’s on the island where Kīlauea is currently spewing ash and lava but Jeff is not near the volcano itself so he can join us without being too worried about having to evacuate at any moment.
Doctor Jeffrey Kaye, welcome.
Jeffrey Kaye: Hi Peter, thank you.
Peter B. Collins: Well, it’s great to talk with you again and in a series of posts at Medium, starting on February the 20th I have it, and also a subsequent piece on April the third, we will embed your articles with this podcast package at WhoWhatWhy.  You have uncovered some fascinating history about the use by the United States of bio weapons in the war on North Korea back in the 1950s and Jeff I find this a fascinating context for the current discussions that are underway between North and South Korea and the impending summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. First of all tell a little bit about the big picture because I was born in 1953 and I really only have received information about the Korean War. You have provided important new details about the American military operations and also about the alleged brainwashing of captured American soldiers which we’ll get to in a bit. What first drew your interest to this subject and to digging up the information that you have shared with us?
Jeffrey Kaye: Well, they don’t call the Korean War the Forgotten War for nothing. The leaders of the United States would like people to forget what happened in Korea in terms of the US campaign because it was one war crime after another. These war crimes have not been totally wiped off the map and in fact there are books written about the Korean War that describe the bombing campaigns, the air campaigns. The mainstream media will publish these days admissions that the United States totally flattened North Korea with aerial campaign.
I was just reading the other day in a document the US admission that they flew over half a million air sorties over North Korea. They dropped more tonnage of bombs on North Korea per square mile or per person than was done in any other war ever. People were reduced to using ox carts and living in tunnels. Even General MacArthur, himself bellicose, wanted a nuclear war against China. When testifying to Congress, told him that when he actually went to North Korea, looked after the invasion in China and they advanced to the Yalu River, you know, that he was sickened. I mean, he was made nauseous by the destruction that he saw and it didn’t make him stop it but it just gives you an idea that if even MacArthur is sickened how horrible was this. One of the main things that the United States kept secret was the use of biological weapons against the Koreans and the Chinese who of course had entered the war in support of the North Koreans in late 1950.
The reason they did this of course is because it was considered a war crime by most of the world. The United States however, of course had not at that time signed the treaty against the use of biological weaponry but even so it was understood that it was … that this was something that sickened people when they heard about it. Making people ill on purpose was a perversion of science, a perversion of medicine. In Nurnberg, Nazi doctors, some of whom in fact did experiments on precisely this kind of thing, were jailed or sentenced to death.
Peter B. Collins: Jeff, the key decision makers at the time were President Harry Truman and the Dulles brothers, John and Allen. Is that a correct assertion here?
Jeffrey Kaye: Well, I would add, and very importantly because it’s in … In the end it’s hard to believe Truman didn’t sign off on this. Really very difficult to believe but the Dulles brothers, certainly the CIA was involved in these operations in a covert aspect. This was a covert campaign but the US military really bears… what I can see personally looking at the documents as I still continue to go through them, in conjunction with the CIA, they worked together, but the sign off on the orders for the campaign according to Colonel Frank Schwable, who was Chief of Staff for the Marines and regiments in North Korea at that time — who was later captured by the North Koreans, or the Chinese rather — told them that the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 1951 gave clearance for the use of biological weapon campaign.
Now I’ll tell you something that no one has read because I haven’t published on it yet but I would retrieve from the National Archives a document that was in their OSS files, that’s the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA, that in fact the Joint Chiefs of Staff had also given clearance for the use of biological weaponry against plants. This is not widely known but biological warfare is not always used against people. It’s also used against plants and animals because you’re using this type of warfare against civilian populations or against a nation state so if you live off of rice and you can deliver tons of biological and chemical material like defoliants, like Agent Orange which was done during the Vietnam War, then that’s another form of attack against the nation and this was cleared for use at the end of World War II. Nobody knows this yet but now you know it and I will publish on it and people can read the document. It’s not online currently. I will put it online.
Peter B. Collins: Now Jeff, if you would, give us a brief inventory of these biological weapons that surface in the documents and then we’ll talk about the origin of the report, the International Scientific Commission.
Jeffrey Kaye: Okay, the main thing to understand about the weaponry that was used is that the decision in certainly the first phase of the biological war campaign of the United States was experimental in nature. And they used, they decided to use, apparently they used some aerosolization. That is, they sprayed toxic substances, germs if you will, over areas of land. When it became operational later they were particularly interested in bombing areas that were close to railway lines because railway transit was the way the North Koreans and the Chinese moved around ordinance and supplies and military people. So they would come in and they would bomb an area, a strategic area such as a railway yard and then at the end they would come… at the very close of it they dropped the biological weaponry so that disease, you know when workers came into clean up and fix up the railway lines so they could be used again they would, hopefully from the US standpoint, be inoculated with plague or some other terrible disease, dysentery.
You asked what kinds of weapons. They utilized the weaponry approach of the unit 731 Japanese Biological Warfare Unit. And this was another reason why this had to be kept top secret and this is very, very important. It’s in my articles that from the very beginning the United States made a deal with the Japanese biological warfare unit known colloquially as Unit 731. It had a longer name. It was a fake cover name about preventing disease and doing water treatment but there were a number of other units under this umbrella, Unit 100. They were in Singapore. They weren’t even just in Japan. They were in, rather in Manchuria which is where Unit 731 was centered. They were in China. They were in Singapore. They were in Pacific Islands and what this massive unit did, or massive division of the Japanese Imperial Army, was they did experiments on tons, thousands of prisoners that were captured. Some of them just common criminals or political dissidents in many cases. Some of them of course prisoners of war including American prisoners of war by the way. And they did experiments to see how lethal their diseases that they were brewing up in vats in secret, you know, in Harbin, China where their headquarters was and other places.
In some cases dissecting the prisoners alive to see how the disease progressed. They wanted to learn everything without any inhibitions of the normal, medical ethics that would be involved. The United States was aware of this going on and there are documents about that as they became more and more aware and when the Americans first came to Japan for the occupation one of the very first things they did was track down the people involved. They wanted to interview them and find out what their biological war campaign was about in full detail and then they offered them amnesty. Even though these people were high war criminals who had done some of the worst types of, I say Nazi-like because it was, but in fact not one prisoner survived. After they were used they were put in ovens and they were cremated. They were incinerated just like at the concentration camps.
Peter B. Collins: Jeff, this disclosure about Unit 731 is very much news to me and I was aware that the CIA recruited many Nazi scientists for missile programs, and nuclear development programs, but I had never heard of Unit 731 and you write about how it was confirmed in 1999 that the US granted amnesty to the chief of Unit 731, General Shirō Ishii and some of his associates. And you also say that it had been a secret for years but it was first revealed by a journalist named John Powell in 1981 in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
The effort to keep this suppressed has been largely successful, would you say?
Jeffrey Kaye: Absolutely, now there have been, since, books written that… the most prominent and most famous book some of your listeners may be familiar with is Factories of Death by a US historian by the name of Sheldon Harris, Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-45, and the American Cover-Up. This is published by Routledge. It’s available at your favorite bookstore or online and there have been other books written and the details of this, the fact as the revelations came out around this, believe it or not, it was Dianne Feinstein and a few other people who championed… This is shortly after … This came out after the revelations about the Nazis that you mentioned, like in Operation Paperclip and others being recruited by the US. I think that really came out from the Klaus Barbie revelations in the ’80s and a bill was passed and a declassification of a lot of documents took place in the 1990s leading to some of these books like Sheldon Harris’s Factories of Death and others.
You can read in great detail. In fact the recent documentary Wormwood on HBO eludes to some of this as well as to the covert campaign the US was conducting through Fort Detrick, with its headquarters really in Fort Detrick, Maryland where it was the place where the US testing of biological weaponry, at least that was their headquarters.
Peter B. Collins: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey Kaye: It was the CIA, Frank Olson was in fact a CIA agent, a doctor, excuse me, not doctor, scientist. At some point he joined the CIA. I don’t know when but he did and other CIA officials were utilizing Japanese technology among their own of course technology that they had been working on since 1941/42. The US had begun its own big biological warfare campaign. In fact people don’t know this but, or very few know this, maybe you don’t, that after the Manhattan Project which was the scientific operation to create an atom bomb, that the second largest and most secret project the United States had going during World War II was in fact its biological warfare project which was hidden under a lot of very innocuous name like The War Service Board and things like this.
In fact, the campaign for the War Service Board which was running this biological warfare campaign itself was hidden within the Social Security Department or at least the same division.
Peter B. Collins: No.
Jeffrey Kaye: Yes, absolutely, I’m not kidding you. It’s very, this thing is very covert. It’s been hidden for years because that’s what a covert operation is. We still don’t know everything about the current torture program that was conducted by the US under Bush/Cheney because so much of it is still secret and they argue about what they can declassify, say about Gina Haspel. Why does any of it have to be, why isn’t it all declassified? What do they have to hide?
Peter B. Collins: Well, they have a lot to hide. I think that’s pretty clear from what has been released or declassified to date. Jeff, in a moment I want to ask you because you detail one of the alleged American attacks using biological weapons in Kang-Sou and I want to get to that in a moment, but talk a little bit about how in the early 1950s, as you just described, the US acquired some of this biowarfare technology from the Japanese. They deployed it on a test basis in Korea and then they kind of made it a program. This resulted in real-time protests from the Koreans and I believe from the Chinese as well, that they had suspected that they were being subject to these bio weapons being deployed in the theater of war and that led to the creation of the International Scientific Commission led by a British scientist of some renown named Joseph Needham. And the ISC included scientists from Sweden, France, Italy, and Brazil. This was an international commission and the US didn’t appear to cooperate with this commission. Is that correct?
Jeffrey Kaye: I don’t know to what degree they were asked to cooperate with the commission. They certainly didn’t stop the bombing when the members of the commission quite courageously entered North Korea and went to Pyongyang themselves to look at documents, talk to the scientists and doctors who had been evaluating the evidence that they had found about biological warfare, and then later traveling to the far north of North Korea to interview some of the American flyers who were confessing to the use of biological warfare.
No, the United States certainly denied and they vociferously attacked as lies and propaganda, pure propaganda, the assertions of the North Koreans and the Chinese, and by the way the Soviets too who were, Soviet Union was also participating in these charges.
You were mentioning the technology. I wanted to make one important point. The Japanese technology in other words was the use of insect vectors was the term, scientific term for what it’s used. In other words the insects become the place, used insects to infect people or to, in some cases, to infect other insects, and it gets kind of diabolical, who then infect other people. In other words the ecology of the use of this can get intricate but in general, so for instance in the article you mentioned, they used fleas, human fleas, the species that preys on humans, Pulex Irritans, and dumped them in areas where human beings might come in contact with them that were already pre-inoculated with the human plague virus to spread plague. That’s one way in which you can, and this had been done earlier by the Japanese in China quite famously in 1941 at a place called Changde that was documented. And in fact the same Chinese scientist at that time who was not a Communist by the way but had written a report on this that came to the attention of the Americans and it was this report of wide scale Japanese use, operational use of biological warfare, not just research, that scared the Americans and precipitated in 1941 the beginnings of this massive scaling up of biological warfare research and capacity by the Americans.
It gets more complex. There’s not enough time to go into it because it wasn’t just Americans. It was also the Canadians and the British who were involved in these kinds of research.
Peter B. Collins: In the article I quote “The report concluded that the US had used a number of biological weapons including use of Anthrax, plague, and cholera disseminated by over a dozen different devices or methods including spraying, porcelain bombs, self-destroying paper containers with a paper …” I’m jumping to the next page here.
Jeffrey Kaye: Parachute.
Peter B. Collins: Huh?
Jeffrey Kaye: Parachute.
Peter B. Collins: Thank you, yes and so these are … It’s diabolical but also kind of clever what they were doing and tell us how you acquired a copy of this ISC report, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Kaye: Well, you had asked me before how I got interested in all this and the way I became interested was that the tales of the tortured airmen or supposedly tortured airmen, was used as an example of what SERE was. SERE was the Survival Escape Resistance Evasion program of the US military to protect captured American soldiers, and officers in particular, and train them how to resist torture and interrogation.
As I’d read the histories of these things and they’d say “Well, the SERE people, they took as their model the Chinese torture used on these American airmen to give false charges of biological warfare during the Korean War” and so I thought “Wow, what a story. Wow, that’s interesting. I’d like to read about it more.” As I did so I’d see that, I’m always someone who’s looking for the original documents because you can’t always trust the spin that somebody’s giving you. You really have to read a lot especially in controversial areas to form your own opinion and I encourage all your readers to do that. That’s why I like to publish documents with what I write and I couldn’t find it. I could not find this International Scientific Commission Report anywhere.
I couldn’t find it in a, I’d write to a library. The report, you say you have it. Well, it’s missing. What? It’s missing. Or later when I found … I started to look on these online book places, Amazon, ABE Books, et cetera and they didn’t have it either but you could set up a wish list, you know, if that ever comes in email me, and that’s how I got the report.
Peter B. Collins: Really? You got it from a wish list.
Jeffrey Kaye: It was as simple as that, ABE Books. Yes, I don’t know if wish list is the proper term. It’s an alert that somebody’s selling this book and so first I got the report. The report itself is the first 60 pages, or actually it’s 60 pages roughly long, and it’s, itself, fascinating and it’s really, very compactly summarizes the entire situation. It’s really worth reading but what I was really Jonesing for, if you will, was the hundreds of pages of documentation that accompanied that report, the so-called appendices to the International Scientific Commission Report because in there I would need that to assess the evidence. Here I didn’t have evidence. I had a report.
It would be as if we had this executive summary on the torture report released by the Senate Select Committee of Intelligence on the CIA program but they don’t want to release the thousands of pages of documentation that go with it. That’s where you’re really going to find out what’s going on and so I kept searching and searching and after a period of some years, like three or four years, finally one of them came up for sale and I purchased it and I read it and as I began to look into it I was amazed. I was astounded at the level of detail, the scientific rigor which I had read in a few places that they had, which is not surprising.
The man who led the Commission, Joseph Needham, was one of the foremost British scientists of his day. He was a biochemist by training and made major contributions to our understanding of human cellular and organism development back in the 1920s and later went to China, was there as a major British scientific representative to Chinese scientists and doctors during World War II and it was at that time that he came in contact with the Japanese Unit 731 Biological Warfare Campaign. He knew firsthand what was going on. No doubt he reported that back to the British as well.
Peter B. Collins: Now Jeff, I’m sorry. I wanted to interject here that I have seen a lot of evidence about Fort Detrick, about the covert programs of the 1950s, MKUltra. You have co-authored pieces with H.P. Albarelli who did a deep, deep dive on the Frank Olson case and published a book called The Terrible Mistake which I continue to recommend. But the biggest takeaway from your analysis of the ISC report is that you think that the allegations, widely believed including by me, that many of the Americans who were captured by North Korea were subject to a very sophisticated brainwashing program. That they used torture and interrogation techniques some of which showed up with Mitchell and Jessen into the next century but the idea that Americans were tortured and brainwashed by the North Koreans is something that I took as an article of faith because it has been repeated so many times. And let me briefly site that I interviewed an expert on coercive persuasion, Doctor Margaret Singer, back in the 1970s related to the use of some of these tactics by Reverend Moon and the Unification Church, to some extent by other groups that were, at that time, recruiting young people. And so Margaret Singer based a lot of her research on Moon’s use of coercive persuasion on her body of work related to the Korean War.
So, for me, this was something that was always a matter of fact and you say this deserves a pretty good reevaluation.
Jeffrey Kaye: Yes, what we don’t have there, and this led me to another search for documents, is that it all sounds good so where are the confessions, the brainwashed, tortured confessions of these soldiers, these military men? They should be put forth because if we really want to condemn the Chinese and North Koreans for torture let’s present the evidence to the world. They love to do that when they have it. They didn’t have it. Instead what they had were a series of confessions that, if you read them today, sound very straight forward. Some of them are published within the International Scientific Commission Report and they comment upon them. There are actually video tapes of these that you can find online at YouTube. You can watch them yourself and listen to the anguish of these airmen as they talk about how they were sickened when they were told that they were conducting germ warfare. It made them sick to their stomach that the United States government would be involved in such a thing. But when you were interviewing Margaret Singer there was no YouTube and these videos weren’t around and even to this day very difficult to find.
I finally tracked down the only copy of the Chinese published depositions of 19 US airmen and there was a supplement with a few others in 1952/53 and there wasn’t one copy in the United States library anywhere. Wow, and it was published in English by the way and distributed because there wasn’t one copy in a US library. I finally found a copy and it turned out to be Joseph Needham’s own copy in the Imperial War Museum, London, at the Needham collection there of his papers.
If you read, over time, if you’re really assiduous you might find, I was able to find Colonel Schwable’s. Somebody had published that in a book somewhere and that was it really. Sometimes you get little pieces here and there. You read it and you begin to assess is what they’re saying consistent with other sources of data that we can gather. That’s how you figure out if something is true or not, right? You tell me you did something. Well, how do I know? I try and see if it’s consistent with other things I know and that’s what I did. I sat down and began to look and sure enough it was consistent. These days it’s a lot easier thank goodness. I can look online. If Frank Schwable says “We had a secret place where we were creating” tells the Chinese we were creating biological weapons at Fort Detrick it was octagonal shaped and it looked like a giant bomb. Wow, guess what? I could find online evidence that Fort Detrick had a building exactly like that and it was used in fact for this purpose so he was telling the truth.
Now, whether he was coerced to tell the truth is a separate story. By the way, Joseph Needham himself felt, and I believe this too, that if there were no confessions by US airmen, psychologically it changes the dynamics of this story but factually not really. He felt that he had more than enough scientific evidence based on the data about looking about where insects fell, the pathology reports, and all the other evidence that they had gathered, witness evidence, the bomb casings, et cetera to make the case the US was using biological warfare without any confessions at all. That they were just another aspect, another piece of the puzzle that they were using to put together but not the necessary piece and I agree with them but it is a fascinating story. It’s what drew me in and I do believe that when I looked, as I began to look at this more carefully, that includes looking at the retractions that were later published by these airmen. They all recanted the confessions.
Of course, what most people don’t know is they did that under threat of court martial and they had been interrogated for hours on end on a ship coming back from North Korea. It took a while to get back to the United States and, from Korea not North Korea, and they were interrogated by, over and over again, and one wonders to what degree they were brainwashed. In other words, by brainwash in the popular sense. That they were coerced to tell a version of truth if you will or a version that the government wanted you to know or story that they wanted you to know. Of course, the man in charge of that was a CIA guy by the name of Boris Pash which I mention in one of the articles.
Peter B. Collins: You do?
Jeffrey Kaye: Yeah, and you can read about it in the article. One that’s not mentioned there that I’m going to write up you might have heard of is Lieutenant Colonel James L. Monroe. Lieutenant Colonel Monroe was the officer, air staff officer related at the time planning and operational matters concerned with Far East Air Force Command. Anyway, operation support for these kind of things and his name appears on the documentation sent to the UN about the recantations of the flyers’ confessions of use of germ warfare. So what was James Monroe who later would become the Executive Secretary and then later the leader of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, in other words the CIA’s MKUltra front? Monroe was given special citation and thanks by the editor of a book called The Manipulation of Human Behavior edited by Albert Biderman which was a collection of mostly CIA MKUltra related scientists’ discussion about the use of psychological torture and how to break individuals down.
I believe we certainly have a lot of evidence already, and by the way Monroe was later involved in research at SERE. It wasn’t called the SERE then. It was called Survival Training Programs. The resistance portion of the program, in studying and researching people involved in mock torture campaigns which later, increased to this day by the way, but that the CIA does this kind of research. They study, scientifically, how to break individuals down. They study differences in their biology. They study differences in their background. They study differences in personality and intelligence. They look at every aspect from a scientific standpoint of how to break individuals down and they’re the ones that were doing this. They’re own people said that the Chinese and the North Koreans really didn’t do anything much different than police did around the world, kind of the third degree if you will. That was the brainwashing that was involved insofar as there was brainwashing. But as I said, when I look at it, I believe that it wasn’t all one thing. I believe that the higher officers who confessed, the Colonels of which there were a few, that more coercion was put upon them. I would call it torture. Use of solitary confinement primarily, some stress positions and threats I think were made to them as well or at least they claimed they were.
The Chinese and North Koreans say “Of course we didn’t do any torture at all” so it’s an open question but I’ll even accept that they did but that doesn’t change the fact that what they wrote, if you look at what they actually wrote, they claimed for years “Oh, it was just gibberish. They said crazy things. No one could believe it” but they didn’t want to show you what they actually said and when you see what they actually said or read what it is you find out it makes total sense.
Peter B. Collins: Jeff, as we wrap up here I want to ask you to share with our listeners the incidents that occurred in Kang-Sou in south Pyongyang province. The date of this is March 25th, 1952 and in context you say that this is about nine months into the Korean conflict. Pick up there with the story of the dispersion of these fleas in this town and how they impacted the water supply.
Jeffrey Kaye: Yeah, there was a young peasant who was about 26 years old, Pak Yun-Ho, and he was having trouble sleeping on the night of March 25th, 1952, because there was a plane that was circling around his village and he knew it was an American plane, I guess, because it wasn’t like North Korea had planes circling villages and they had heard tales of planes, of course they were dropping bombs everywhere. He certainly knew about the tales of use of biological warfare so he goes to get water in the early dawn hours and it’s like the communal water jug with a giant opening about almost two foot wide to get your water out some yards away from the village and he sees a bunch of fleas floating. He’d never seen that before, floating on the surface of the water and he runs back. He figures he should report it, finds his friend. They go and report it and there had already been set up because by the way, the charges of biological warfare predate 1952 which is when the campaign really sped up but there had been earlier cases. In fact, the North Korean foreign minister had protested the use of biological warfare agents to the United Nations in 1951 some months earlier than Pak Yun-Ho’s finding.
Sadly for him, he contracted plague, a disease which by the way had not been documented in North Korea in approximately 500 years. Now suddenly there were cases of plague popping up and they all seemed to follow, according to International Scientific Commission interviews with hundreds of witnesses, followed American planes and people seeing things drop from these planes and he contracted plague and died within a week or so.
Certainly I wrote this up. I mean, many people died during the North Korean War, really millions died, horrible to say and he was just one person but I wanted to humanize it and show you what it was like. How did they really find these? How did they handle? What did they do when they heard that there was fleas? They’d already had an Epidemic Prevention Corps that had been created by the government to come out and deal with these things so they’re out there by four, five hours later and they’re investigating the fleas and they’re sending them to laboratories and they’re also destroying them. Mainly it’s a public health thing so they would, one of the things that they discovered from the use of biological weapons and this was something that the Chinese learned during the Unit 731 years, World War II, was that if you have a really good public health program and you really mobilize the society and you become kind of insect freaks in trying to wipe out insects wherever you can, that you can mitigate to a great deal, at least the use of insect vectors in the use of biological warfare.
In many ways the US biological warfare campaign was a failure and they truly underestimated the determination of the North Korean regular people, just peasants like Pak Yun-Ho and his sister who took care of him, to be mobilized, to be vigilant and to work against these kinds of things. But not everyone survived and I think I mention in the article, about a month or so before Pac died there had been another attack in another village and two or three dozen people died in that attack of plague.
Peter B. Collins: Well, let me quote, your right. “There were seven incidences, the earliest dating from the 11th of February. Six of them the presence of the plague bacteria was demonstrated and in the village of Bal-Nam-Ri out of a population of 600, 50 were infected with plague and 36 died.” Is there an estimate for the total population of people who were infected by these purported American biological weapons?
Jeffrey Kaye: No, I’m sad to say and I’ve looked. There isn’t. I certainly wish and maybe if there is a greater peace process that does occur with North Korea or China that they would be willing to open up their archives about this and when they opened up the archives around Unit 731 what came out was that there were far more deaths, thousands more deaths than had previously been recorded.
One belief that I’ve read is that they didn’t want to report how many people had died is because… so they underestimated it because they didn’t want the Americans to think they were doing well. They certainly just didn’t want the Americans to know how effective their campaign was at all so that’s hence the secrecy and in fact the Americans, for those who read the ISC report, you’ll see that there was a campaign to actually send covert, excuse me, to send spies to covertly surveil the health situation in North Korea to see the effectiveness of the biological war campaign. Some of those spies were caught by the way and one of them was interrogated by the ISC, or interviewed to talk about the orders he got and what that was about so unfortunately we don’t know.
It’s believed to be low or at least far lower than you would imagine for a campaign of this sort and that’s sometimes used as evidence when people today will talk “Well, this was a fake. If that was true where’s all the people who died?” Well, back in 1952 when the International Scientific Commission published their findings, they were quite open about the question that there certainly didn’t seem to be that many deaths and they discussed that and that discussion is in the report. I’m not going to go into all of its details now. People could read it, so this isn’t something new.
In fact, I found in every case where there was an instance, because these people were so rigorous and they looked at what dis-confirming evidence they could have. For instance, you mentioned there were seven incidents also where fleas, where just numbers of fleas were discovered after the passage of American planes but only six of them had plague bacteria only, six of them but what about the other one. If this was a fake, why not all of them? There was a scientifically dis-confirmed and there were a number of places in the report where you will see “Oh you know, they said that this had plague or some other virus but it didn’t.” Or they said “This was an insect. Guess what, it was misinterpreted.” One of the, and I’m working on this right now, I’ll close with it. I’m working on an analysis of a previously, only very recently declassified, American Signals Intelligence Reports and commentaries made by CIA individuals during the Korean War itself. These were top, top secret cables from the field that the United States had been able to decrypt and listen into North Korean and Chinese radio operations and cables that were being made about this situation on a real-time basis.
The only thing that slowed them up a little bit was translation but they got it down to within a couple of days and anyway, the CIA declassified a bunch of this. I recently looked online and they’re pulling some of them away now.
Peter B. Collins: Oh really?
Jeffrey Kaye: Yeah, they really are but I’ve got all of them and too late for them, and other people too, have them all. Anyway, what it shows is that you’ll get a cable like the North Koreans saying “Please don’t send us. This is wrong. This sample does not have biological stuff in it, germ warfare materials in it. You’re mistaken.” They wanted the real thing. Even the CIA people admitted that the North Koreans were looking very seriously for evidence of, real evidence that they could use on the use of biological warfare and they discounted others that weren’t … This wasn’t a hoax as the Cold War scholars of today and the press who just lavishly repute whatever they say, don’t do any research of their own will tell you. No, this was serious stuff.
So, sometimes we have to look for the dog that didn’t bark kind of thing, right?
Peter B. Collins: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey Kaye: When six of seven don’t have plague, I mean have plague, the one that doesn’t is proof that they were honestly looking. This wasn’t a setup. This wasn’t a hoax. This wasn’t a put up. That this really happened.
Peter B. Collins: Well Jeff, this is fascinating work that you’re doing and I thank you for sharing it with the public and talking with us about this today. As you alluded, the talks that are underway between North and South Korea that could expand into a plan to execute a treaty to formally end the 1950s Korean War will present an opportunity for full disclosure by the United States and we’ll watch and see if that happens. I’m not terribly optimistic but it would be a move that could really clear the air and pardon that if you take it as a pun but this is an area that the US should be forthcoming on and I hope that we’ll see some honest disclosure in the coming months.
Doctor Jeffrey Kaye, thanks for joining me today. Great talking with you again here at WhoWhatWhy.
Jeffrey Kaye: Thank you, thanks very much Peter.
Peter B. Collins: Thanks for listening to this WhoWhatWhy podcast with Doctor Jeffrey Kaye. Send your comments to me, and please be as generous as you can and support the work of independent investigative reporters here at WhoWhatWhy.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from fleas (The People’s Pictorial / Wikimedia).


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