The United States Military Tested the Biological Warfare on San Francisco

Maybe it sounds like a prime conspiracy theory, but if you write on Google that’s a lot of what you find, but for a time of minimum 20 years, the United States army carried out simulated open-air biological warfare attacks and that on their own cities.

The United States military, in the wake of World War II, was unexpectedly worried about and keen to examine the threats posed by biological warfare. They began with experiments searching how the bacteria and their damaging toxins may spread, just using harmless stand-in microbes. They tested these on the military bases, infecting their soldiers and their families who lived together with them, but after all they stepped things up a notch. Revealed in 1977, it looks that the United States military accomplished 239 secret open-air tests on its own citizens.

In one of its biggest experiments – names Operation Sea-Spray – the military used huge hoses in order to spray the bacterial cloud of Bacillus globigli and Serratia marcescens, both thought to be not harmful bacteria at that time, and that from a Navy ship that was docked off the coast of San Francisco. They wished to research how the iconic fog of the city may help with the spread of bacterial warfare. And they spread it. It is confirmed that all of the 800,000 residents of the city breathe in millions of the bacteria over the next few weeks.

At the time S. marcescens looked like the ideal proxy for a deadly bacterial strike, like the one using anthrax. It lives in the soil and produces a bright, handy, blood-red pigment, a property, usually exploited in microbiology like a biological marker permitting scientists to track the transmission in many situations. It would seem perfect then to track a simulated biological warfare attack. Except now we know that it is not the benign bacterium that we thought it was.

The blood red pigment of S. marcescens, useful as a biological marker. Credit: Dbn/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The blood red pigment of S. marcescens, useful as a biological marker. Credit: Dbn/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

These military experiments are known to have been the reason for the death of at least one person named Edward J. Nevin, and the hospitalization of ten persons, all of whom suffered from infections in the urinary tract. It is known that the S. marcescens is able to cause infection, especially in the respiratory and urinary tract. In fact, it’s even been advised that the expansion in cases of pneumonia in this city following the Operation Sea-Spray also could have been as a result of the bacterial cloud.

These experiments didn’t stop here. As reported, the military realized over 200 tests like those across the country, starting from New York to Washington DC., spraying bacteria and some other microscopic and fluorescent particles into the air, and one of them is the zinc cadmium sulfide, which now is thought to cause cancer. They even went so far in another series of experiments, as they simulated an attack on the Greyhound bus station and airport in Washington.

But, these tests were not limited just to the American shores. In conjunction with the Ministry of Defense, the scientists like part of the DICE trials, S. marcescens was sprayed together with phenol and anthrax simulant from a ship over the coast of Dorset located in southern England and its spread tracked. But this is only one of over a hundred experiments like those achieved over the United Kingdom by the British military that is well-known to have sprayed, across large swathes of the country – zinc cadmium sulfide.