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Bad trip to Edgewood - US Army drug testing, television documentary archive

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0099 KCLMA Bad trip to Edgewood
Held at: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London - click here to see details of the physical location of collection
Full title: Bad trip to Edgewood - US Army drug testing, television documentary archive
Date(s): 1950 - 1993
Level of description: collection
Extent: 9 boxes or 0.09 cubic metres
Name of creator(s): Michael Bilton, Yorkshire Television
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

Yorkshire Television is an independent television company based in Leeds, Yorkshire. It was established in 1968 and is presently one of the largest independent television companies. In 1997 it became a franchise of the Granada Media Group, later Granada Compass.

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Bad trip to Edgewood consists of, interview transcripts, research files and videos for a television documentary on US Army testing of chemical and biological warfare agents on human 'guinea pigs' between 1955 - 1975, and includes files of mainly photocopied documents, reports, scientific articles, letters and newspapers articles, with some printed brochures, as well as videotapes. There is also a video copy of Bad trip to Edgewood which was produced by Michael Bilton, Yorkshire Television, and broadcast as a First Tuesday film in March 1993.

The files focus on secret projects carried out by the US Army Chemical Corps at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Edgewood, Maryland USA, between 1955-1975, in which US Army volunteers were used to test the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), benzilates such as BZ (3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, also known a QNB) and glycolates.

The testing programs were suspended in 1975 when information about them became public. A number of volunteers claimed to have suffered long term mental health effects from the tests. They also claim they were not informed at the time of immediate or long term effects of the agents tested. In 1977 US Army notified 686 volunteers who has been tested with LSD and conducted a follow up study of their health. The LSD follow-up study report released in 1980 found 'the majority of subjects evaluated did not appear to have sustained any significant damage from their participation in the LSD experiments'.

There are notes and transcripts of interviews conducted with former US Army personnel who were volunteers in the research programmes, individuals involved in the running testing programs, medical experts and lawyers.

Several files relate to particular law suits including that of Sgt James B Stanley, US Army, volunteer at Edgewood during 1958. In 1977 he was informed by the army that he had been given LSD as part of the testing program. In 1987 a controversial judgement by the US Supreme Court found against Stanley, effectually granting immunity from liability for money damages for all federal officials who intentionally violate the constitutional rights of those serving in the military.

Other notable cases frequently mentioned in the files include that of Frank Olson and Harold Blauer. Dr Frank R Olson, US Army scientist at Fort Detrick, apparently suicided, on 28 November 1953. In 1975 the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States (the Rockefeller Commission) revealed Olson had been given LSD without his knowledge while attending a meeting of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel eight days before his death. A civilian, Harold R Blauer died on 8 Jan 1953 after being given a lethal injection of Experimental Agent 1298 supplied by the US Army Chemical Corps to the New York State Psychiatric Institute where he was a patient. A 1975 Senate investigation revealed the facts of his death. Files also contain material on bacteriological testing by the Army and the CIA carried out in Washington DC, Florida, San Francisco, and New York. Particular reference is made to the case of Edward Nevin, a civilian, who died on 1 Nov 1950 in San Francisco as a result of a rare bacterial infection Serratia Marcescens, which coincided with a significant and unexplained outbreak of this infection between Oct 1950 and Feb 1951. In 1976 it was revealed that the US Army had conducted bacteriological warfare experiments with Serratia Marcescens over San Francisco Bay during September 1950.

There is a small amount of material relating to the role of American Citizens for Honesty in Government, a Church of Scientology sponsored organisation who campaigned during 1979 for a full investigation of the testing and storage of BZ and compensation for volunteers suffering long term effects from testing of the substance, and to chemical testing carried out in the UK at Porton Down, Wiltshire, UK and production of chemical agents at Nancekuke Base, Cornwall, and Anglo American cooperation in this area.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

Material has been divided into three sections, documentary videos, interview transcripts and collected evidence. The collected evidence files have been arranged in roughly alphabetical order, in which they were received, and retain their original titles.

Conditions governing access:

Open, subject to signature of reader's undertaking form.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Trustees of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, attention of the Director of Archive Services.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue available on-line and in hard copy in the Centre's reading room.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Not all of the files listed in File 1/11 were received as part of the collection. Most notably the photographs were not deposited, and there are a number of other discrepancies.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented to the Centre by Michael Bilton, Yorkshire Television on 18 Aug and 24 Sep 1993.

Allied Materials

Related material:


Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the RSLP DOMIC project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
August 2001

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