2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Aimee Houghton <aimeeh@cpeo.org>
Date: 13 Aug 2003 17:09:01 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Fort Greely: A Legacy of Cold War Weapons Testing
[The following excerpt appears in the August 18th edition of The Nation magazine. The entire text appears only in the print edition of the magazine. CPEO will only re-print articles in their entirety with the consent of either the author or publisher.]

The Nation
August 18/25, 2003
Pg. 32
Northern Exposure

Delta Junction, Alaska - In spring 2002, construction crews excavating silo
pits for a missile defense site in Fort Greely, Alaska, chanced upon a
disturbing discovery-a buried cache of twenty-four mysterious
fifty-five-gallon drums leaking a toxic solvent used to neutralize highly
lethal chemical weapons. Construction was halted, workers were rushed to the
hospital and a hazardous materials team descended upon the site. The
surprise dumpsite is one of several that have come to light since Fort
Greely was last used in the early 1970s as a top-secret chemical and
biological weapons test center.

The refusal by the Department of Defense to fully release information about
those experiments-and Fort Greely veterans' fear that they may be prosecuted
under the Army's nondisclosure order if they speak publicly-have kept the
bases' activities largely' out of the public eye. Now, however, a lawsuit
filed against the DOD last fall on behalf of veterans and the release of
previously classified documents are undermining the department's efforts to
hide this disquieting chapter of military history. They reveal that the test
site at Fort Greely was operated with cavalier disregard for the health of
both military personnel and the residents of the small towns that surround
the base. This new information also suggests that deadly materials used at
the site are still unaccounted for.

Prior to the release of these documents, glimpses of what occurred at Fort
Greely only came to light because of the tireless work of local
organizations and veterans concerned about its safety. The Tanana Chiefs
Conference, an organization that represents the native villagers who live
near the base, has fought a David and Goliath battle with the Army for more
than five years. After failed attempts to access Army records, the TCC
invested its scarce funds in sending researchers to the national and Army
archives in Washington, DC, Seattle and St. Louis, and in hiring
investigators to interview Fort Greely veterans and longtime residents.
It's now clear that the Army created a 19,000-acre reserve in 1952 for the
explicit purpose of testing deadly chemical and biological weapons.
Activities at the Gerstle River Test Site, as it was known, were so secret
that they remained a mystery even to Delta Junction, the 800-person town
that borders the site. Between 1962 and 1967 the Army blasted hundreds of
rockets and bombs filled with sarin and VX nerve agent into the region's
wildlife-rich forests. Because of the base's remote location, disposal of
unused weapons was often haphazard and reckless, say veterans of the cold
war tests.

Aimee R. Houghton
Associate Director, CPEO
1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
tel: 202-452-8039; fax: 202-452-8095
Email: aimeeh@cpeo.org

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