The U.S. military in 1967 conducted tests using the deadly nerve agent sarin in a Hawaiian rain forest as part of a Cold War series of chemical and biological experiments on land and sea, the Pentagon said yesterday. .
Military units involved in the Hawaii test, dubbed "Red Oak, Phase 1," were not identified, and there was no indication of harm to troops or civilians from explosions to determine the effectiveness of artillery shells using sarin in the jungle.
But the Defense Department, releasing five new reports in a continuing series on tests conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, urged any of the more than 5,000 troops involved who might have suffered ill effects to contact the Pentagon.
The Red Oak tests in April and May 1967 were conducted in the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve on Hawaii and near Fort Sherman in the Panama Canal Zone. The Panama phase used a simulated nerve agent, not sarin.
Sarin is a volatile, deadly nerve agent that can be inhaled or absorbed through the eyes and skin. A sufficient dose within minutes causes difficult breathing, runny nose, confusion and dimming vision -- then coma and death.
Very little information is available involving the long-term effects of low-level exposure to sarin.
The Pentagon yesterday also released details on four other tests -- three in the Panama Canal Zone and a fourth in an unspecified jungle environment -- but said none used deadly chemical or biological agents.
In addition to the riot-control agent tear gas, however, some of the tests used normally occurring bacteria that more recent information has indicated can cause acute infections of the ear, brain lining, lung, urinary tract and other body sites.
The tests were all part of a major U.S. military review put in motion by then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in 1961 shortly after President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. That study consisted of 150 separate projects.
The United States acknowledged in reports during the summer and earlier this
month that it carried out a sweeping Cold War-era test program of chemical and
germ warfare agents at sea in the Pacific and on American soil and in Britain
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