"Proud to be American" Article-Marty
- Project Whitecoat
The Adventist Contribution to Biowarfare
A U.S. Army project that ended over 25 years ago is once again the
subject of scrutiny. Project Whitecoat was the Army's code name for a
series of germ warfare studies conducted on about 2,300 Seventh-day
Adventist servicemen from 1954 to 1973. Now the Army is investigating
long-term effects the project may have had on participants. Whitecoat
veterans gathered recently for a reunion in Frederick, Maryland. Most
proud of the role they played in the nation's defense and report little
no adverse impact on their health, according to recent stories by the
Associated Press and National Public Radio. While there may be few
who support the use of human guinea pigs in biowarfare research, there
larger issues that are once again emerging from Project Whitecoat. They
center around the role the Seventh-day Adventist Church played in the
Army's development of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) of mass
Under strict secrecy, the U.S. Army established Camp Detrick
of Frederick, Maryland during World War II for the sole purpose of
developing germ weapons. The program was controlled by the Army's
Warfare Service, a branch that had worked with gas weapons that were
by the U.S. in World War I. The Army began to study both the offensive
defensive aspects of biowarfare.
In 1952 the Army Medical Corps stationed a medical unit at Fort
Detrick and in 1954 this unit began using Seventh-day Adventist soldiers
in its research, presumably in the defensive aspects of germ warfare. In
1956 the medical unit was reorganized into a permanent and independent
unit named the United States Army Medical Unit, Fort Detrick. In 1969
name was changed again to the United States Army Medical Research
Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Fort Detrick was home to
became known as "Project Whitecoat," the code name for the group of
Seventh-day Adventist soldiers who were used as human guinea pigs in
Human Guinea Pigs Supplied by Adventist Church
Project Whitecoat was unique in the armed forces in that it
exclusively used as test subjects soldiers who were Seventh-day
Adventists. These young Adventist men had been drafted into the army and
registered as "conscientious objectors," those who refused to perform
combat roles on religious grounds. These objectors were given a 1-A-O
classification and sent to the U.S. Army Medical Training Center at Fort
Sam Houston, Texas. There they trained to be Army medics. It was from
non-combatant medical corps that the Army selected its test subjects for
If only half of the non-combatants training at Fort Sam Houston
Seventh-day Adventists, why were Adventists the only ones selected from
that pool of soldiers? The reason for this was a "handshake" agreement
Adventist leaders had with the army. Spectrum magazine reported:
In October 1954 then Surgeon General George Armstrong sent a letter to
Theodore R. Flaiz, secretary of the General Conference Medical
in which he noted that Lieutenant Colonel W. D. Tigertt, commanding
officer of the medical unit at Fort Detrick, had been invited 'to
to representatives of the Seventh-day Adventist Conference a request for
their assistance in the conduct of a study of the highest importance to
our nation's health. Only through the use of volunteers can the
information be obtained.'  (emphasis supplied)
A warm reply from Doctor Flaiz was dated the following day. In that
letter he acknowledged receiving Gen. Armstrong's letter and hearing the
presentation by Col. Tigertt. Flaiz wrote:
We feel that if anyone should recognize a debt of loyalty and service
the many courtesies and considerations received from the Department of
Defense, we, as Adventists, are in a position to feel a debt of
for these kind considerations. The type of voluntary service which is
being offered to our boys in this research problem offers an excellent
opportunity for these young men to render a service which will be of
not only to military medicine but to public health generally. I believe
speak not only the sentiments of our administrative group in this
but also of our Adventist young men in the services, in observing that
should be regarded as a privilege to be identified with the significant
advanced step in clinical research.  (emphasis supplied)
It is clear that the army's correspondence with the church
this joint venture as an important public health project which would
"a significant advanced step in clinical research." For a denomination
that prides itself for its emphasis on health, the opportunity to
highlight their "humanitarian" zeal may have been too good to pass up.
Adventist Review later explained why the army sought the help of
Adventists in its germ warfare program. The 1969 article states:
Adventist medical servicemen were known to be highly motivated for
humanitarian service. Thus the Seventh-day Adventist Church was
to ascertain whether this would be considered something an Adventist
serviceman might be able to volunteer for. After thorough study, the
Medical Department of the General Conference and the General Conference
Committee agreed that this was humanitarian service of the highest type,
and that any Adventist serviceman might feel free to volunteer.
Colonel Dan Crozier, then commander of USAMRIID stated earlier that
"because of high principles and temperate living, Adventist men are more
nearly uniform in physical fitness and mental outlook. We find
soldiers to be cooperative and willing to serve."
Adventists' good health and humanitarianism did not render them
immune to army flattery, according to Neil C. Livingston, a Seventh-day
Adventist living in Spokane, Washington who has researched and written
about Project Whitecoat. "They were flattered into this by the army," he
said. "It was a big snow job."
After church officials agreed that Adventist draftees could
participate in the research at Fort Detrick, Gen. Armstrong praised
belief in "the benefit of all mankind." Livingston contends that "the
opinion of the Army is that Seventh-day Adventists are the only ones
enough to volunteer their youth for such a dangerous ... project."
Road to Biological Warfare Paved with Good Intentions
"...entirely...defensive...and thus humanitarian."
The potential dangers of Project Whitecoat, as well as its
relationship to offensive biological warfare are issues that were raised
by several groups during the 1960's. In 1962 the Canadian news magazine
Using human volunteers to test new chemical and biological agents is not
without risk. The English experiments have resulted in at least one
which was discussed in the House of Commons. During the past ten years,
the American program, it is reported that there have been at least three
deaths, and some 715 cases of illness and injury of "varying intensity."
The American volunteers are recruited from the penitentiaries and the
armed forces. Many of the human guinea pigs in the latter group have
young Seventh-Day Adventists. Pacifists by conviction, they prefer to
engage in nonmilitant activities while in the army. 
Adventist church officials and the army insist that Project
volunteers were used solely in defensive biological warfare research, or
in the research of "infectious diseases" as they put it, and that
was completely partitioned from offensive biological research at Fort
Detrick. Army officials claim that Whitecoat volunteers contributed to
development of vaccines for yellow fever, hepatitis A, anthrax and
as well as still-experimental vaccines for tularemia, Q fever, and
Venezuelan equine encephalitis.
Clark Smith, former Director of the (Adventist) National Service
Organization (NSO), a military chaplaincy department in the General
Conference, reported that from 1956 to 1969 USAMRIID had published 160
papers in the professional journals of many countries. The unit's
is not classified and is freely available in any adequate medical
supposedly making Project Whitecoat a significant contributor in the
against infectious diseases around the world. 
The estimate of 160 research papers is misleading, however, in that
this pertains to all research done at USAMRIID between 1956 and 1969.
Project Whitecoat, a part of USAMRIID and the only program at Fort
to use human guinea pigs, produced only five published research papers
during the first twelve years of the project, and a total of 23 by the
time the project closed in 1973. The facade of "public health
research" and "military medicine" was attempted by army and church
officials but failed to hold up. Even Smith departed from the "public
health" nonsense when he admitted:
[Project Whitecoat] goes back to the 1953-1954 period with the original
concept for study to determine the vulnerability of man to attack with
biological weapons and to test the efficacy of Q fever and tularemia
vaccines.... [a concept carried forward to 1973].
It should be pointed out that since the published work of USAMRIID is
freely available, those working in the offensive field may utilize this
information as any other interested party might do. [A back door way of
admitting the research benefited the offensive field].
However, in the opinion of this study committee the work of the
volunteers in USAMRIID is entirely in the defensive area of biological
warfare and thus humanitarian in nature. The committee feels that the
efforts and sacrifices of these volunteers are perfectly proper for the
Christian who wishes to enter this field. (emphasis supplied) [He admits
Adventists were involved in biological warfare research].
At this point the reasoning mind may have some difficulty
"humanitarian" with "biological warfare." The question arises now as it
did in the 60's: In what area of biological warfare should a Christian
church involve itself?
Recruiting the Lambs
"...good old Adventist salesmanship"
The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia states: "Another example of
noncombatant heroism while in the service of their country is 'Operation
Whitecoat', a project involving medical experimentation, staffed
by SDA volunteers.... "  (emphasis supplied) While that ratio may be
due in part to the USAMRIID's partiality to Adventist specimens,
statements by church officials and volunteers indicate the church was
actively involved in recruiting Adventist boys into the project.
Along with his above statements, NSO director Clark Smith stated
Whitecoat "volunteers are recruited from military personnel during basic
and Advanced Individual Training at the U.S. Army Medical Training
Fort Sam Houston, Texas."  (emphasis supplied)
A 1963 Youth's Instructor article said that "during this period of
training the Adventist draftees are given information concerning
Whitecoat. Two or three times each year the director of the project,
Colonel Dan Crozier, of Frederick, Maryland, and Elder J. R. Nelson,
secretary of the National Service Organization of the General Conference
of Seventh-day Adventists travel to Texas to interview possible
for the project."  (emphasis supplied)
"A friend of mine was attending Mount Ellis [Adventist] Academy in
Bozeman, Montana," Neil Livingston told The WINDS. "When he graduated in
1957, he was recruited by NSO representatives..." into Project
Whitecoat veteran Cesar Vega wrote, "I did have a little college
experience at La Sierra [Adventist] College. During that time I was told
of the experiment for the first time (it wasn't called the Whitecoat
Project yet and I was one of the very first to take part in the
experiment).... Why I did it I still don't know. I'm sure it was mostly
peer pressure and good old Adventist salesmanship."  (emphasis
Whitecoat veteran G. R. Bietz stated: "I don't recall how they
recruited us ... I remember a man from the conference, I can still see
face, but I don't recall his name."  (emphasis supplied)
An article in an Adventist periodical states: "A colonel and a
representative of the General Conference National Service Organization
appeared at a special meeting [of draftees] and talked about an unusual
medical research project and asked for volunteers." 
A General Conference man, along with a high official of the army, came
Fort Sam Houston to seek volunteers for a secret government program
"Project Whitecoat." It sounded like a good way to serve my country,
after all, the program was endorsed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
From the testimonies of church officials and draftees alike, it
appears the role the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists played
in Operation Whitecoat was not merely a passive sanctioning of church
member participation. It appears, rather, that they actively recruited
the USAMRIID, acting in an adjunct capacity.
Were They Really Volunteers?
"The truth is, we were getting killed pretty good over there in
The word "volunteer" runs throughout articles and documentation
surrounding Project Whitecoat and, indeed, those that participated did
"volunteer" for the project. After signing on, they remained free to
withdraw from the project at any time. In accordance with the 1947
Nuremberg Code, Whitecoat volunteers were fully informed by competent
physicians about the possible effects each experiment could have on
bodies. After becoming infected, volunteers were provided with excellent
medical care and, yet, in spite of apparent quality assurances, it's
that it was coercion that held the project together.
"The church had agreed with the government to convince these young
men they should do this so they don't have to go to Vietnam," Livingston
told the Associated Press in October . It was the fear of facing
combat duty as field medics in Vietnam or Korea that kept Project
Whitecoat flush with new Adventist volunteers.
"We were told that if we did not volunteer we would receive combat
duty overseas," one volunteer told Livingston in a telephone interview.
volunteered for this experiment so I would not be sent overseas," wrote
Wilson Wynn, another volunteer.  "The truth is, we were getting
pretty good over there in Vietnam .... There's not too many of us
[Adventists], I would think, that wouldn't have gone to Vietnam if we
hadn't volunteered [for Whitecoat]," explained Whitecoat veteran Lester
Bartholomew in an interview with The WINDS. 
"Most of the men who took part were draftees who chose Whitecoat
rather than go to Korea or Vietnam", wrote John E. Keplinger, Chaplain
(COL.) AUS, Ret. 
Evidently, it was fear rather than "humanitarian ideals" that kept
Adventist's draftees in Project Whitecoat because as soon as the draft
ended, the project folded, apparently for want of "volunteers," "The
Whitecoat project was terminated in January 1973 with the end of the
draft," wrote former USAMRIID commanding officer Col. Dan Crozier. 
Q Fever Battlefield Simulations at Dugway
"We were not told this was a 'germ warfare' project..."
Tom Kopko was an Adventist who was drafted into the Army in 1954.
volunteered for Project Whitecoat and was among the first group of
Adventist servicemen "to serve a highly classified experimental germ
warfare project conducted at Fort Dugway, Utah," according to a
he signed in 1989.  (emphasis supplied). "It sounded like a good way
to serve my country, and, after all, the program was endorsed by the
Seventh-day Adventist Church," he wrote. The project was a Q fever
experiment performed on human test subjects at the Dugway Proving Ground
where the Army conducts CBW testing. This is where many of the first
Project Whitecoat volunteers were sent.
Kopko and his fellow volunteers were separated into eight groups of
about ten soldiers each and transported to test locations about 25 miles
out on the Utah salt flat. They were made to sit in chairs situated at
different levels on a high wooden platform. Around them were cages of
mice, monkeys and guinea pigs. Just after midnight, when wind conditions
were right, the officers put on their gas masks and the test began. A
mist laden with the infectious Q fever virus was dispersed on the
volunteers by large fans or reportedly dropped from aircraft overhead.
After becoming infected, the soldiers were flown back to Fort Detrick
tests and observation. Some soldiers did not go to Dugway to be exposed
but, instead, inhaled the Q fever virus from a face mask at Fort
Kopko reported getting mildly sick while there were others who got
"deathly sick" from the experiment. "We had to pass by their rooms very
quietly because the slightest noise would drive them crazy," he wrote.
of those was Cesar Vega, a Whitecoat volunteer from Riverside,
He said that he was fine for a week after being contaminated at Dugway,
but then came down with a terrible fever and lost consciousness. He
two days later to find the medical staff had covered him with ice in
attempts to bring his fever down. He was sick for the next three weeks.
The Q fever experiments at Dugway were conducted at the beginning of
Project Whitecoat, while subsequent tests were done at the USAMRIID
headquarters at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
"We were not told this was a 'germ warfare' project as I understand
it really was," wrote Whitecoat veteran Harry V. Wiant, Jr., who
participated in the Dugway Q fever experiments. 
Experiments with Tularemia
After initial experiments with Q fever, Project Whitecoat moved on
a host of other exotic diseases such as yellow fever, anthrax and
tularemia, all potentially fatal. Lester Bartholomew was a 20-year old
Seventh-day Adventist when he was drafted in the mid-sixties. He told
WINDS that he volunteered for Project Whitecoat while in basic training
Fort Sam Houston. After transferring to the Whitecoat unit at Fort
Detrick, he participated in three projects where he was infected with
tularemia, black plague and rabbit fever. During the first project he
infected by breathing from a face mask. The next two were administered
Bartholomew said he became extremely ill, coming down with a fever
106 degrees at one point. The medical staff packed him in ice and took
frequent blood samples. Bartholomew was hospitalized and recovered, but
experienced reoccurring fever and fatigue after being discharged.
Thomas Ford is another Whitecoat veteran who was infected with
tularemia. He, too, recovered after hospitalization, but after being
discharged, he experienced a relapse of "high fever, chills and malaise"
as well as "a chronic rapid heartbeat." 
About 2,300 Adventists were involved with Project Whitecoat between
1954 and 1973. The Veterans Administration has reportedly not recognized
any claims related to the program.
The Big Lie
"My primary objection to the Q fever project was that it was
misrepresented to us as a humanitarian undertaking, not germ warfare."
Harry V. Wiant, Jr.
USAMRIID and the Seventh-day Adventist Church both have claimed the
research performed on Adventist volunteers was purely defensive and
yielded important vaccines and data. They have emphasized the separation
between the offensive and defensive aspects of biowarfare, calling
Whitecoat "the study of infectious diseases," a phrase that carries a
purely medical connotation. But is "defensive" and "offensive" CBW
research as separate as black and white? Isn't "germ warfare" another
of saying "infectious disease warfare?"
The advent of Project Whitecoat in 1954 corresponded with the U.S.
Army's increasing reliance on CBW as a viable component of its overall
strategy. In 1959 the Army commissioned a public relations campaign code
named "Operation Blue Skies" that was intended to create a positive
of CBW in the public mind. Alarmed by the trend, Wisconsin Congressman
Kastenmeir introduced a resolution reaffirming the U.S. policy since
that this country would not use CBW first in military conflict. In a
speech on the floor he warned that the army was trying to reverse this
policy. His resolution failed, largely because of the active opposition
the Departments of Defense and State.
Corresponding with the army's "Blue Skies" campaign was a series of
articles by Don A. Roth in the Youth's Instructor, an Adventist
periodical, in October 1963. Roth related the story of young army
Tom Kopko, a Whitecoat volunteer, who had just boarded an army air
transport headed for Fort Dugway, Utah. While in his seat the young
private thought back to his basic training. Roth wrote:
The place was Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and he had nearly completed his
post induction basic training. A colonel and a representative of the
General Conference National Service Organization appeared at a special
meeting and talked about an unusual medical research project and asked
volunteers. He did not then quite understand all of the fine details
the program, but he felt that he should join the project. The full and
complete answer to his queries gave him assurance that this was a
worthwhile undertaking. His patriotic blood surged through him as he
anticipated doing something of material benefit for his country. His
went on the dotted line. 
When compared to Kopko's 1989 statement, it is clear this story was
sanitized promotion of Adventist participation in CBW research. In a
second article Roth wrote:
The project simply involves medical experimentation. But as a result of
this activity the Army Medical Service has made material advances in the
development of suitable methods of prevention and treatment of
diseases. As these studies reach completion the information gained is
reported directly to the medical profession of the United States. Thus
citizens benefit from the program, not only members of the armed forces.
However, some army physicians apparently had more scruples than the
Seventh-day Adventist Church as to the possible implications of "medical
experimentation." This led USAMRIID commander Col. Tigertt, in an
published in Military Medicine the same year, to criticize physicians
balked because of the moral implications. He wrote:
What is surprising is that many physicians have refused to deal with the
[research] problem. They explain their apathy by stating that ethics
prohibit their participation in any endeavor, the derivatives of which
might be used to produce suffering or cause loss of life.... Such
attitudes, whether fully developed or not, cannot be ignored because
seriously hamper efforts to get appropriate investigations under way.
This apparent "apathy" targeted by Col. Tigertt was caused by that
Hippocratic oath which says:
I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and
judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing. Neither will I
administer poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest
a course. (emphasis supplied)
Perhaps the Code of Ethics in Wartime of the World Medical
Association also dampened research enthusiasm by stating: "It is deemed
unethical for doctors to weaken the physical and mental strength of a
human being without therapeutic justification and to employ scientific
knowledge to imperil health or destroy life."  (emphasis supplied)
Was this the same Col. Tigertt, so eager to subvert the oath to "do
no harm," the one who swept Adventists off their feet by offering the
opportunity to participate "in the conduct of a study of the highest
importance to our nation's health?" It was and, yet, the "humanitarian"
veneer is so thin that this program's fangs protrude at almost every
A Nerve Gas Accident and More Lies
Five years after the Col. Tigertt and Youth's Instructor articles
appeared, uncomfortable questions arose over CBW and its support from
"medical research." This began with an apparent accident at the Dugway
Proving Grounds, the same installation where Project Whitecoat
were infected with the Q fever virus.
On March 24, 1968 the Associated Press reported that on March 13 a
mist of lethal nerve gas "was blown 30 miles from a top-secret army
chemical warfare test area ... killing 6,400 sheep in western Utah's
The accident may have served to awaken some people about the
potentially devastating effects of CBW. Almost a year later, NBC's First
Tuesday ran a segment on the topic of CBW. The program showed the effect
of various agents on animals, and then interviewed a young Seventh-day
Adventist man who had been a Project Whitecoat volunteer.
In July, 1969 CBS's 60 Minutes examined the subject of CBW. Again a
young Project Whitecoat volunteer was interviewed. Evidently, the news
media wasn't buying the "we're only involved in defensive research"
This troubled the Adventist leadership, which responded with two
in the Adventist Review defending the church's participation in Project
Whitecoat. The article in the March 20, 1969 issue reads:
The United States Government decided that as soon as a definitive
treatment could be developed for a disease, the findings would be given
wide publicity in medical journals around the world. This publicity
effectively remove that particular disease from the potential arsenal of
biological warfare. At the same time it would also spread medical
knowledge on treatment worldwide, so that those presently afflicted by
that particular disease could be helped.
The author of the Review article defends the research conducted at
USAMRIID on the premise that as treatments are developed for a
disease, it would be removed from the potential arsenal of biological
warfare. Thus non-combatants and the Adventist Church at large would
eradicate biological warfare by participating in the defensive research
USAMRIID, according to the Review. Perhaps this author also had some
land and a bridge to sell.
Project Whitecoat Essential to Offensive Biowarfare
A Spectrum magazine article invites a far different conclusion, one
that suggests that Project Whitecoat has actually served to expand the
arsenal. Martin Turner wrote in 1970:
As we have already seen, it is not certain that the existence of an
effective treatment or vaccine for a disease is sufficient to ensure its
removal "from the potential arsenal of biological warfare." In fact,
treatment must exist for the disease to be included in that arsenal.
The U.S. Army learned well in World War I, a war that produced over
million casualties from gas weapons alone, that any unforeseen shift in
the wind brings your agent right back on your own men. Biological
is the same. An army's leadership would be criminally negligent to use a
biological agent anywhere near their own personnel unless
bio-countermeasures like vaccines were logistically in place. Launching
weapons without these would be the same as shooting one's self in the
foot, except on a much larger and deadlier scale.
The value of "defensive" measures such as vaccines to a CBW
was underscored by microbiologist Ivan Malek who said, "In the case of
intended microbiological attack it is possible to prepare one's own
personnel, for instance, by vaccination against selected microorganisms,
so that they would not be seriously endangered when entering the
area."  In other words, before launching anthrax at the enemy, our
soldiers would be inoculated with vaccines which may have been tested on
Project Whitecoat volunteers at USAMRIID.
Martin Turner confirmed this with Project Whitecoat commander Col.
Crozier, who admitted the integral role USAMRIID played in the offensive
CBW mission. Turner wrote:
The medical unit furnishes the offensive research laboratory with
developed through experiments on Whitecoat volunteers. Colonel Crozier
acknowledged that these vaccines are indispensable to the work of the
researchers in the offensive area and that they would have to develop
vaccines themselves if the medical service did not. He saw no ethical
problem, however, and explained that "we are engaged only in the study
infectious diseases and we can't help what use others may make of our
work. I have no problem at all reconciling my work here with medical
ethics, none at all." (emphasis supplied)
The fuzzy line dividing the apparent "offensive" and "defensive"
sides of germ warfare all but disappears, leaving even casual observers
conclude that they are one and the same. This was the conclusion of Dr.
Malek who said:
One of the characteristic features of biological weapons is that it is
difficult to distinguish work done purely for defensive ends from that
which is mainly offensive .... That is why military establishments
on the development of these weapons do it mostly under the label of
defense.  (emphasis supplied)
Turner also quoted from CBW expert Elinor Langer who said:
With few exceptions, such as development of detection and protective
equipment, little CBW research can be accurately described as
defensive.... Because of the nature of chemical and biological weapons,
research even in seemingly 'pure' areas, such as the development of
vaccines, has at least equal implications for offensive and defensive
Perhaps the clearest evidence pointing to the true mission of
Whitecoat may be found in an army CBW manual which states clearly that
defense is a prerequisite to attack capability." 
While doing research for the Spectrum article, Turner interviewed
Congressman Richard McCarthy who was an opponent of CBW in the late
sixties. Turner wrote of McCarthy:
At a conference on CBW in December  he stated that he was
by his investigation that Project Whitecoat was being used for offensive
rather than defensive purposes. "The whole thrust of it in its essential
conception was a deterrent one, an offensive one, that we threaten to
a disease on somebody else if they use it on us. Now what they have done
of a defensive nature is minimal and they even admit it themselves. We
don't have any measures to inoculate the American people against this
of germ warfare.... My knowledge of [Project Whitecoat], and I base that
on the statements made by very responsible people, is that it is
not defensive and that the Seventh-day Adventists are being duped."
Whitewash, Stonewall and Lie, Lie, Lie
On November 27, 1969, the Adventist Review printed an interview
(Adventist) National Service Organization director Clark Smith. Smith's
comments echoed the statements made in the Review article of March 20
not only defended church participation in Project Whitecoat but, in so
many words, defended the entire CBW program at Fort Detrick. Smith's
apparent damage control was strangely absent of the slightest open
mindedness toward the charge that Project Whitecoat might be aiding
offensive capability in some way. Absent was even the slightest
disapproval towards the development of germ weapons that he conceded
being developed at Fort Detrick. It is apparent that the church
lacked any sort of healthy distrust of the government's secret germ
In his defense of Project Whitecoat, Smith relied heavily on a
Clintonesque legal definition of defensive and offensive research at
Detrick, i.e., USAMRIID and offensive research were under different
commands and in completely separate buildings on the base. He said the
only connection between the two was "a piece of experimental equipment
costing in excess of a million dollars" that they shared, and he almost
praised the "financial prudence" of the army for not duplicating this
Smith also asserted that USAMRIID facilities were "open" to any
visitor "with a purpose" and that its research findings were released to
the public, whereas the offensive research unit was enclosed behind a
fence, open only to those with the proper clearance, its findings
classified. All clerical paperwork connected with Project Whitecoat was
completed by Adventist officials "so that there is nothing secretive
the entire project," Smith claimed.  Smith criticized the "current
agitation" of those who questioned the church's contribution to CBW
research, scolding them over "the importance of getting the facts and
getting them straight."
It is quite clear that if Seventh-day Adventists believed their
leadership, they didn't get the facts straight. Their leaders failed to
reveal the cozy relationship between defensive and offensive CBW
which has been evidenced by qualified experts. When questions arose
the denomination, the General Conference appointed a committee to
investigate. In 1969 this committee went to then USAMRIID commander Col.
Dan Crozier who assured them that Project Whitecoat was purely
Col. Crozier even went so far as to claim that "no serviceman has ever
received any vaccine until he and some of his staff of researchers had
tried it in their own bodies for any untoward effects," a preposterous
falsehood Smith passed on to church congregations with a straight face.
Instead of investigating further, the committee stopped with their
interview with Col. Crozier and issued the conclusion that "the work of
the Adventist volunteers in USAMRIID is entirely in the defensive area
biological warfare and thus humanitarian in nature." It is the opinion
some Adventists that this is the conclusion the church leadership
In other words, it was a whitewash.
Needless to say, the separation between the two CBW programs was
as airtight as the church led its members to believe. Whitecoat veteran
Tom Kopko, in his 1989 statement, said that the Q fever experiments he
participated in were "secret" or classified and hidden from the public,
just as the offensive program was. "We were ordered not to say anything
for ten years," he said. In fact, all Adventist volunteers in Project
Whitecoat had to receive a "secret" security clearance before going "on
Whitecoat veteran Lester Bartholomew told The WINDS that he had to
wait for five months before receiving his security clearance. He and one
other Adventist were then assigned to work in building 427 which housed
the virology division of the offensive CBW research unit, a "hot area"
requiring a top secret clearance. This was his "duty station" between
projects. Bartholomew said that his job was to ship the "bad stuff,"
vials containing biological agents, to military posts around the world
including Fort Dugway, Utah and Guam which was a supply staging area for
the Vietnam War. Bartholomew suspects much of the "bad stuff" he
and shipped was used in Vietnam. At one point, a virology staffer told
that if he dropped the two vials he was handling, he would "wipe out the
state of Maryland."
Bartholomew realized that Project Whitecoat was really offensive in
nature when he was "on project." In the clinic he spent an entire week
before a box that flashed lights and numbers, requiring him to do quick
calculations to test his mental reflexes. The tests were repeated after
had been infected with tularemia. At one point, Bartholomew asked one of
the people administering the test what it was all about. "Well, if we've
got the enemy sick, we can tell how it will effect them," was the
response. "Since then, I tell you what, I don't trust the government and
don't trust the church because they both lied to me," Bartholomew told
Why the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church places great emphasis on health,
perhaps more than any other Christian denomination. Its system of
hospitals and clinics can be found in many countries, and it is proud of
its achievements in medical research and health education. Adventist
teachings warn against the use of alcohol, tobacco and flesh meats, and
abstinence from these are generally required for church membership.
Historically, the church has anticipated a threat to their religious
liberties from the circles of government, making even greater the
following dichotomy: how does a Christian church that places such strong
emphasis on health, that anticipates a threat from government, be found
the forefront of a germ warfare research program in partnership with the
"It seemed like they were just trying to get along with the
government and stroke the government so they wouldn't have any
Lester Bartholomew told The WINDS. "As a church we really want to get
along with you, we don't want to be known as a cult, and so we provide
with guinea pigs," was the church's reasoning.
Other Adventists point to the mid-fifties when this shift occurred
the thinking of Adventist leadership. The church historically remained
separate from the other Christian denominations, but changed that stance
when it joined the Evangelical conferences of 1955-56. This move into
ecumenical movement coincided with the advent of Project Whitecoat, both
result of the church's quest for acceptance in the mainstream.
"No other church would have gotten away with this," Neil Livingston
told The WINDS. He points to court cases in the 70's and 80's
that "the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the most centralized of all
major Christian denominations in this country." Livingston asserts
that the church is hierarchical rather than congregational, with power
flowing from the top down rather than the other way around. This made
Adventist leaders in Takoma Park, Maryland useful agents to military
in nearby Frederick and Washington. Centralized church government gave
officials the leverage they needed to recruit Adventist boys into
Whitecoat. "Other denominations would have never tolerated this type of
outside interference" from church leaders, said Livingston, citing the
loose, congregational type structure of other Protestant denominations.
Livingston also cited the Adventist educational system's impact on
the church culture as another reason for their usefulness to the army.
"From the time these youngsters enter high school, they are away from
home," he said. Many Adventist children go away to church boarding
and then to college where they live in dormitories. "The church has them
from a young age ... and this has caused them to look at the leadership
with awe," thus making them more vulnerable to suggestions from the top
happened with Project Whitecoat.
Project Whitecoat ended 25 years ago with the end of the draft. It
would seem that time has relegated this subject to the "case closed"
a footnote to the Vietnam era and the Cold War. This may be so, but it
still provides an interesting lesson on how the Christian churches in
United States have sold out to the ruling powers behind the scenes.
Project Whitecoat was only one step on that road upon which the
church and its fellow Protestants have traveled far. It may be safe to
they have reached the end of that road -- the end of their usefulness to
those in power.
Another reason Project Whitecoat remains worthy of examination is
issue of responsibility, from which no person or church can escape. Even
though a biological weapons convention (BCW) was signed in 1972, it
verification and enforcement and permits "defensive" research. This
research speeds along, producing such nightmare weapons as Israel's
"ethnic bullet" that targets only the Arab genetic structure.
Bio-technologies such as these are the cutting edge, and how much of it
builds upon the research done at USAMRIID prior to 1973?
There are enormous stockpiles of an aging generation of CBW
ordinance, much of it produced during the heyday of Project Whitecoat.
This ordinance is now unstable, as are the world's political structures.
Only one or a number of calamities working together could release a
pestilence. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, because of its phony
pretense to good health and good works, would share a large portion of
curse such a disaster would bring.
The issues surrounding CBW are myriad. There are moral issues at
stake over the manipulation of life forms for the purpose of mass
There are the issues of when to use them if they are available. There
issues over compensation to its victims, both civilian and military. All
of these continue to remain unsettled, as are the mysterious illnesses
deaths surrounding several Whitecoat veterans and, more recently,
thousands of Gulf War veterans.
The issues that loom larger than everything else is the spectre of
hypocrisy, the weightiest crime in the cosmic scales. Some may see no
issue; Adventists merely traded the battlefield for a research
While this may be true for those who believe in war, it is not true for
Seventh-day Adventists who historically refused to participate in war.
1864 their General Conference wrote to Michigan governor Austin Blair
stating the Adventists take the Bible as their guide and "are unanimous
their views that its teachings are contrary to the spirit and practice
war. ... Hence our people have not felt free to enlist into the
The following year their General Conference issued a statement
declared that Adventists "acknowledge the justice of rendering tribute,
custom, honor, and reverence to the civil power, as enjoined in the New
Testament. While we thus cheerfully render to Caesar the things which
Scriptures show to be his, we are compelled to decline all participation
in acts of war and bloodshed, as being inconsistent with the duties
enjoined upon us by our divine Master toward our enemies and toward all
This is the true meaning of "conscientious objector" -- one who
refuses to participate in war on grounds of conscience, but Adventists
stretched this meaning over the years to permit service as field medics
and Whitecoat volunteers, even though the Army field manual clearly
that "the mission of the medical service in a theatre of operations is
contribute to the success of the military effort."  Thus, by
maintaining a benevolent exterior and while purchasing peace from the
government, Adventists abstained from having to kill a few of the enemy
the battlefield in favor of assisting in the killing of potential
millions. This is worthy of our strongest condemnation. We will borrow
Martin D. Turner's closing paragraphs in the Spectrum article where he
A conscience that is sensitive to the dangers of coffee and wedding
but fails to be concerned with the moral implications of participation
biological warfare research, and in war itself, must seem paradoxical to
great many thinking people. [Then Turner quotes Dr. Malek:]
The guardians of the Adventist Church ... are content with a morality of
form without substance, one in which the arts of disease can be
as the healing arts, and in which germ warfare can be embraced in pious
obedience to divine injunction against death. 
Adventists debate church role in Vietnam-era warfare research, David
Dishneau, Associated Press, October 8, 1998.
All Things Considered, National Public Radio, October 13, 1998.
PROJECT WHITECOAT, Martin D. Turner, Spectrum magazine, Summer, 1970.
PROJECT WHITECOAT, Adventist Medics in America volunteer to Serve
Humanity, Adventist Review, March 20, 1969
OPERATION WHITECOAT (part II), Don A. Roth, The Youth's Instructor,
October 15, 1963.
PSYCHOCHEMICAL WEAPONS, Sydney Katz, Associate Editor of Macleans, April
see reference 1.
PROJECT WHITECOAT, An Interview with CLARK SMITH, Director of the
Service Organization, Adventist Review, November 27, 1969.
see reference 3.
see reference 9.
Seventh-Day Adventist Encyclopedia, Second Revised Edition, Art.
see reference 9.
see reference 6.
Letters and statements related to Project Whitecoat obtained from Neil
Livingston who contributed some of his research to this report.
Letter from Cesar Vega dated 10-12-89 (ref. 15).
Telephone interview with G. R. Bietz, 11-9-89 (ref. 15).
OPERATION WHITECOAT (part I), Don A. Roth, The Youth's Instructor,
Statement by Whitecoat veteran Thomas Kopko, signed October 10, 1989
See reference 1.
Letter from Wilson Wynn dated 10-12-89 (ref. 15).
Lester Bartholemew of Oregon in phone interview with The WINDS,
Letter from John E. Keplinger, Chaplain (COL.) AUS, Ret. dated 10-12-89
Letter from Colonel Dan Crozier, USA MC, Ret.CommandingOfficer, USAMRIID
[Project Whitecoat] dated 11-7-89 (ref. 15).
See reference 19.
Letter from Harry V. Wiant, Jr. dated 11-15-89 (ref. 15).
See reference 1.
See reference 18.
See reference 6.
W. D. Tigertt, Status of Medical Research Effort, Military Medicine, pp.
142, 143, (February 1963) in Turner (ref. 3).
World Medical Association, Code of Ethics in Wartime (New York: 1956) in
Turner (ref. 3).
Associated Press as printed in the Newark Sunday News, Sec. 1, March 24,
Dr. Ivan Malek quoted by Stephen Rose (editor), CBW: Chemical and
Biological Warfare (Boston: Beacon Press 1969), p. 124. in Turner (ref.
Elinor Langer, Chemical and Biological Warfare, Science 155, 174-179 and
299-305 (January 13 and 20, 1969) in Turner (ref. 3).
United States Army Field Manual FM 101-140, Armed Forces Doctrine for
Chemical and Biological Weapons Employment (1962), p.10.
See references 3 and 9.
Army Field Manual FM 8-10, Medical Service Theatre of Operations.
Reference 3, Turner also quotes from reference 33 in final paragraph.
Copyright © 1998 The WINDS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.