May 4 , 2000, Korean crew arrives for interview on Frank Olson and BW in Korea

In Korea the debate about the possible use of biological warfare in the Korean War is heating up. A crew from the Korean network MBC is preparing a documentary on the subject, interviewing people like Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman whose recent book The United States and Bioogical Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea argues strongly that BW was used in Korea on a limited “experimental” basis.

The Korean crew also interviewed scholars skeptical of these claims, like Kathryn Weathersby and Milton Leitenberg (Center for Internation and Security Studies, University of Maryland). The findings of these two researchers are presented in “Cold War Flashpoints” (Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issue 11, Winter 1998, from the Woodrow Wilson International Center). (Copies of this publication are available for downloading online from the Wilson Center.)

Frank Olson figures in this very controversial story for many reasons. The Korean War had ended in the summer of 1953 just before Olson died. If BW had been used in Korea, particularly if it were used on an experimental basis, it is almost certain that Olson’s Special Operations Division at Detrick would have known about it.

There is, however, a connection between the issue of BW in Korea and the death of Frank Olson that transcends the literal question of whether BW was actually employed or not. Biological warfare and mind control had become linked in Korea in the “germ warfare” confessions made American servicemen who had been captured, and brainwashed. This bizarre interface been BW and mind manipulation was precisely the boundary zone in whch Detrick’s SOD, together with the CIA’s TSS (Technical Service Staff) were working at the time of Olson’s death.

At the end of the Korean war at least 500 American servicemen were held as POWs in North Korea. These men were never released—a fact that did not become generally known in the US until 1996. These American POW’s were used in terminal mind control experiments conducted by the North Koreans, the Soviets, and the Czechs. Within the countries which conducted them these these experiments were so tightly guarded that they were regarded not merely as “top secret” but as “state secret.” (New York Times, Sept. 17, 1996.)

These mind control experiments were of precisely the sort that the CIA’s MKULTRA project was interested in: A former Czech defense official said in 1996 that the American POW’s were “drugged in a program to ‘develop comprehensive interrogation techniques, involving medical, psychological and drug-induced behavior modification.’ At the end of the testing the Americans were reported executed.” (New York Times)

“Cold War Flashpoints”