Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments
Executive Order 12891
January 15, 1994
William J. Clinton
- The Advisory Committee shall evaluate the extent to which human radiation experiments were consistent with applicable ethical and scientific standards...
- The Advisory Committee shall review experiments conducted from 1944 to May 30, 1974.
Key committee findings include:
- Between 1944 and 1974 the federal government sponsored several thousand human radiation experiments. In the great majority of cases, the experiments were conducted to advance biomedical science; some experiments were conducted to advance national interests in defense or space exploration; and some experiments served both biomedical and defense or space exploration purposes. As noted, in the great majority of cases only fragmentary data are available.
- Information about human experiments was kept secret out of concern for embarrassment to the government, potential legal liability, and worry that public misunderstanding would jeopardize government programs.
- Where programs were legitimately kept secret for national security reasons, the government often did not create or maintain adequate records, thereby preventing the public, and those most at risk, from learning the facts...
While the Advisory Committee evaluation focus was from 1944 to 1974, history views Einstein's letter to Roosevelt, dated August 2, 1939 as a first step toward the Manhattan project, the ultra-secretive research project to develop atomic weapons. The letter follows:
- Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations. In the course of the last four months it has been made probable through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America that it may be possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
- This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable though much less certain that extremely powerful bombs of this type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove too heavy for transportation by air.
- The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is in the Belgian Congo.
- In view of this situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust the task with a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an unofficial capacity. His task might comprise the following:
- a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium ore for the United States.
- b) to speed up the experimental work, which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining co-operation of industrial laboratories which have necessary equipment.
- I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsacker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.
In the October 19, 1939 reply, Roosevelt informed Einstein about the initiation of the Advisory Committee on Uranium established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 12, 1939. Lyman J. Briggs, director of the National Bureau of Standards, became head of the Advisory Committee on Uranium.
In June 1940, the President transferred the Uranium Committee to the newly created National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). Roosevelt appointed Vannevar Bush, president of the Carnegie Foundation, to head the NDRC. On January 19, 1942, following a National Academy of Scientists determination of the feasibility of the bomb, President Roosevelt approves production to begin. At Vannevar Bush's recommendation, Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 8807 on June 28, 1941, which established the Office of Scientific Research and Development. The office housed parallel weapons and medicine committees.
The research phase of the bomb, according to the official Department of Energy website, began in 1939; yet, Executive Order 12891 stipulates a review of radiation experiments conducted from 1944. What was the human experimentation atmosphere that preceded 1944?
Susan E. Lederer writes of the OSRD in the book Subjected to Science: Human Experimentation in America before the Second World War,
- Established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941, the Office of Scientific Research and Development coordinated medical research through the Committee for Medical Research (CMR). Charged with mobilizing the medical and scientific personnel of the nation, the CMR, under the direction of pharmacologist A. Newton Richards, administered 450 contracts to universities and 150 to research institutes, hospitals, and other organizations. In order to solve pressing military medical problems, the CMR committed funds for non-therapeutic research involving orphans, the retarded, prisoners, and the mentally ill.
Chapter three of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments Report (ACHRE Report) addresses another sad chapter in U.S. human experimentation that, according to a FDR quote, may have roots in the FDR administration.
The CIA program, known principally by the codename MKULTRA, began in 1950 and was motivated largely in response to alleged Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean uses of mind-control techniques on U.S. prisoners of war in Korea. Because most of the MKULTRA records were deliberately destroyed in 1973 by order of then-Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, it is impossible to have a complete understanding of the more than 150 individually funded research projects sponsored by MKULTRA and the related CIA programs.
Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, quotes President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Science, The Endless Frontier: A report to the President on a Program for Postwar Scientific Research.
- New frontiers of the mind are before us, and if they are pioneered with the same vision, boldness, and drive with which we have waged this war we can create a fuller and more fruitful employment and a fuller and more fruitful life.
Meanwhile in Germany, a May 15, 1941 letter from Dr. Sigmund Rascher to Heinrich Luitpold Himmler requested the use of Dachau inmates for German experiments on the physiology of high altitude flight. The Medical Case Transcript from the Nuremberg Trials addresses Rascher’s research,
- According to the proof, the original proposal that such experiments be carried out on human beings originated in the spring of 1941 with a Dr. Sigmund Rascher. Rascher was at that time a captain in the medical service of the German Air Force, and also held officer rank in the SS. He is believed now to be dead.
- The origin of the idea is revealed in a letter which Rascher wrote to Himmler in May 1941 at which time Rascher was taking a course in aviation medicine at a German Air Force Headquarters in Munich.
- According to the letter, this course included researches into high altitude flying and "considerable regret was expressed at the fact that no tests with human material had yet been possible for us, as such experiments are very dangerous and nobody volunteers for them."
- Rascher, in this letter, went on to ask Himmler to put human subjects at his disposal and baldly stated that the experiments might result in death to the subjects, but that the tests theretofore made with monkeys had not been satisfactory.
- Rascher's letter was answered by Himmler's adjutant, the defendant, Rudolf Brandt, who informed Rascher that: "Prisoners will, of course, gladly be made available for the high flight researches."
While the Nuremberg Trials condemned the actions of Nazi scientists, behind the scenes the U.S. actively recruited German scientists. One of the estimated â€œ1,600 scientists and their dependents recruited and brought to the United States by Project Paper-clip and its successor projects through the early 1970sâ€ was Dr. Wernher von Braun, a leading World War II Nazi rocket scientist. Braun experienced great success in his new environment within the Marshall Space Flight Center and was a key figure in the development of both the Saturn V rocket and NASA's Apollo program.
A significant activity of the Counter Intelligence Corps(CIC) was participating in Project Paperclip. A June 16, 1988 report by the Special Investigations (OSI)Â of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice entitled Robert Jan Verbelen and the United States Government: A Report to the Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice states:
- This is the second investigation conducted by the Justice Department concerning the employment of a convicted war criminal by the Counter Intelligence Corps.
In March 1983, the Criminal Division conducted an investigation into the relations between Klaus Barbie, the "butcher of Lyon," and the CIC. The findings in this investigation prompted the United States Government to make a formal apology to the Government of France for the actions of certain CIC officials who protected Barbie from due process of law.
The book, Body Snatchers in the Desert by Nick Redfern, takes the topic of Paperclip a step further. According to the author, unnamed unrelated sources state government research along with paperclip scientists conducted high altitude human experiments in the New Mexico desert in 1947. The author alleges the experiments exposed persons with disabilities like Progeria to high altitude medical tests. Progeria is a congenital disorder characterized by individuals with a baldhead, pinched nose, and large head with a small face, prominent eyes. The book suggests the downed remains of this high altitude experiment comprise the Roswell stories of alien bodies at covert unidentified crash retrieval in the New Mexico dessert in 1947.
Depending on individual perspective, either one can suggest 1.) An accident associated with covert research and development resulted in allegation of creatures at unidentified crash retrievals or 2.) Creatures found at unidentified crash retrievals motivated covert research and development. The "need to know" atmosphere of covert research and development will always leave doubt.
The Administrative History of the Office of Scientific Research and Development written by the Deputy Director of the OSRD, Irvin Stewart, with a foreword by Vannevar Bush, director of OSRD, states U.S. research and development since the inception of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) in 1940 operated in a compartmentalized manner. Thus, only personnel directly involved in a program would have knowledge of the program. The Deputy Director of the OSRD states:
- Another step in the maintenance of security was that of compartmentalization of information. The Committee adopted as a guiding principle that no person associated with it desired to have or would be given any classified information except that needed for the performance of the particular tasks which had been entrusted to him. In practice this meant that relatively few individuals were acquainted with the entire program of operations of NDRC.
Whether an unidentified craft crashed or government research elicited a response from honest citizens during the U.S. World War II pre-war stance,Â the often-quoted Eisenhower January 17, 1961 Farwell Address to the Nation still rings true:
- In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals.
Irvin Stewart Deputy Director OSRD and President West Virginia University, Science in World War II Office of Scientific Research and DevelopmentÂ Organizing Scientific Research for War (Boston: Little, Brown and Company 1948) 35
 Mariano-Florentino Cullar, Securing the Nation: Law, Politics, and Organization at the Federal Security Agency, 1939 1953
 MEMORANDUM TO: Members of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments FROM: Advisory Committee Staff DATE: April 5, 1995 RE: Post-World War II Recruitment of German Scientists--Project Paperclip.