NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

Illustration by roaar01


In the latest issue of The New Yorker, journalist Raffi Khatchadourian writes about a secret chemical weapons testing program run by the U.S. Army during the Cold War. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, at the now-crumbling Edgewood Arsenal by the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, military doctors tested the effects of nerve gas, LSD and other drugs on 5,000 U.S. soldiers to gauge the effects on their brain and behavior. “People who were getting sarin, people who were getting other nerve agents that the Nazis had developed, they would … experience giddiness, lassitude, depression, and at some point, someone said, ‘Can we just focus on these side effects? Can we make a weapon that will incapacitate people mentally and not kill them?’ ” Khatchadourian tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. A class-action lawsuit, brought by the surviving soldiers against the federal government, goes to court next year and accuses the Army of, as Khatchadourian writes, “recklessly endanger[ing] the lives of its soldiers — naive men, mostly, who were deceived or pressured into submitting to the risky experiments.” Though the soldiers did sign consent forms to participate in the experiments, they didn’t know that they were being exposed to dangerous nerve gases or psychochemicals such as LSD. Some of the soldiers have suffered physical and psychological trauma since the tests. There was no followup by the Army. MORE

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