U.S. Army Infantry Divisions operating for a three-year period, 1942 to
The military potential of disease has not been overlooked. If naturally
occurring disease can have a major military impact, how much greater
could that effect be if disease-producing microorganisms were employed
intentionally. Biological operations are not new. The contamination of
water sources by corpses is an ancient technique. The popular notion was
that foul odors and decaying material could cause disease. In the Middle
Ages, this misconception led to the hurling of corpses and excreta into
besieged cities by means of an immense machine called a trebuchet. A
more sophisticated approach was used by the British against the Indians
at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, in 1763. The British commander infected the
local Indian tribe with smallpox by giving them blankets taken from
The Indians had a low biological resistance to the
disease and many died.
In the 20th century, there have been numerous allegations about the use
of biological agents.
There is one case which is supported by
During World War I, Germany used a causative
agent, glanders, to infect French and Romanian cavalry horses.
Biological agent research was active in Germany and Japan during the
The threat that this effort posed to the Free World was
evaluated in the United States by the National Academy of Sciences. This
study determined that "the value of biological warfare will be a
debatable question until it has been clearly proven or disproven by
The wide assumption is that any method which appears to
offer advantages to a nation at war will be vigorously employed by that
nation. There is but one logical course to pursue, namely, to study the
possibilities of such warfare from every angle, make every preparation
for reducing its effectiveness, and thereby reduce the likelihood of its
use." This report led to the development of the U.S. Army Biological
Defense Research Program in 1942.
The ultimate objective of biological operations is to directly or
indirectly reduce the enemy's ability to wage war. This objective might
be achieved directly by attacking individuals. It also might be achieved
directly by attacking food crops, domestic animals, or supplies, thereby
limiting the means of support.
General Characteristics of Biological Agents.
Biological weapon systems are technically feasible.
They possess a mass
casualty potential which cannot be safely ignored.
It is imperative to
be able to defend against biological attack.