A Memoir of Chemical Weapons Research

Beginning in the mid-1950s, the U.S. Army conducted research involving thousands of human subjects on various chemical agents, including LSD, BZ and marijuana derivatives, to assess their utility for chemical warfare applications.

Now one of the leading participants in that enterprise, Dr. James S. Ketchum, has published a memoir entitled “Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten.”

“It is a detailed autobiographical reconstruction of the Edgewood Arsenal program of evaluating possible incapacitating agents in human volunteers (enlisted men) during the 1960s,” he told Secrecy News. “It reveals facts buried in restricted archives for many years and includes a voluminous appendix of research data acquired, much of which has not previously been released to the public.”

The self-published volume is a candid, not entirely flattering, sometimes morbidly amusing account of a little-documented aspect of Army research.

“I had early misgivings that my [manuscript] might raise some red flags in [the Army] Security Office, but was pleasantly surprised when none appeared,” he writes.

Among other things, Dr. Ketchum co-authored the chapter on incapacitating agents in the CBW volume of Textbook of Military Medicine.

“Definitely someone to take seriously,” a colleague of Secrecy News wrote. “Although I expect to disagree with much of his opinion, the historical information will be very useful, much of it not available elsewhere.”

Further background and book order information is available here.

0 thoughts on “A Memoir of Chemical Weapons Research

  1. If the military is not objecting to this being published, then I am suspicious about its accuracy. Is this a limited hangout (a sanitized version)? And what does “not entirely flattering” mean? Flattering? You mean like Frank Olsen’s murder, er, suicide?

    [Skepticism in such matters is always appropriate, but the author has a serious professional track record that justifies attention. "Not entirely flattering" was my shorthand -- too short -- for the fact that the author and his colleagues engaged in practices and behaviors that are ethically questionable. Frank Olson died in the CIA's MKULTRA program, not in the Army research program the author writes about. --SA]

Leave a Reply