Some top defence department
officials did not know of the tests

The US Defence Department made the disclosure on Monday, capping a nearly three-year investigation into the so-called “Project 112” and its outgrowth “Project SHAD”.

The tests were carried out secretly over land and sea in various parts of the world, from the Marshall Islands to Panama, Canada and Britain, and involved 5,842 US troops.

“We were very fortunate to find the progress reports,” said lead Pentagon investigator Dee Dodson Morris, who stressed that the project was so thoroughly classified that its scope was not known even to top department officials.

“They served as a valuable template and a roadmap of sorts,” said Morris.

The origins of the programme go back to 1961, when then-Defence Secretary Robert McNamara ordered a series of tests to see if chemical and biological weapons could be an effective part of national defence.

As part of the initiative dubbed “Project 112”, the Joint Chiefs of Staff set up a centre at Fort Douglas, Utah, in June 1962 to manage the programme.

It took the military nearly six months to have the tests up and running.

In January 1963, the Navy launched off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu a series of tests, code-named “Eager Belle”, designed to determine whether aerosols containing a biological agent could penetrate US warships.

During the experiment a Navy ship was sprayed from a tugboat with the non-lethal bacteria Bacillus globiggi “to evaluate the effectiveness of selected protective devices”.