Throughout history, the US government has managed to keep secrets hidden from the public. When they release these secrets, many are quite surprised and astonished at everything they’ve managed to get away with. Countless conspiracies involving programs such as Area 51 and MKULTRA have become mainstream in modern-day culture. The desire for such secretive knowledge is ever abundant, and no matter how much we think we know, we’re always proven wrong.
Despite the current rise in conspiracy theories involving government testing, there are many verified instances of such cases that have remained hidden from the public for decades. Here are ten of them.
10. Tuskegee Syphilis Study
The US Public Health Service conducted the Tuskegee Syphilis Study beginning in 1932. A total of 600 African American men were chosen to be involved in the study: 399 with syphilis and 201 without. Those with syphilis were denied proper treatment for the disease; the government wanted to ensure that they were able to track its progression without interruption by medication. The men were never given the option to participate in the study because they were never told it was an experiment.
The experiment was only supposed to last for six months, but it became a long-term study that lasted up to 40 years. When penicillin became the main drug to treat syphilis, the patients were denied access and weren’t given the option to opt out of the study. In exchange, they were given free medical exams and burial services. A lawsuit was later filed, and the government granted free burial services to all surviving patients.
9. Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study
The Stateville Penitentiary malaria study was conducted by the US government in the 1940s at Stateville Penitentiary, which is located in Illinois. It involved over 400 prisoners who were illegally infected with malaria and subjected to studies. The goal was to test experimental drugs in an effort to find a cure for the disease. In addition, the tests were administered and documented solely by the prisoners themselves. Not only were they the patients—they were also the proctors.
The prisoners also decided which of them would take part in the experiment. The testing process counted toward their sentence and allowed some to serve much less time. The prisoners would also choose who was eligible to receive a reduced sentence. However intriguing this may have been for the prospective patients, the experimental drugs often had irreversible side effects.
One of the most famous prisoners involved in the experiment was Nathan Leopold, who many may recognize from the Leopold and Loeb murder case in 1924. He stated that the prisoners would often deal with the horrifying side effects without complaint. Despite the immorality of this experiment, it was praised by many for the benefits it would create for society. Citizens saw it as a sacrifice to find the cure for malaria at the prisoners’ expense.
8. Navy-Sponsored Beef Blood Transfusions
Edward Cohn, a biochemist working at Harvard University, conducted an experiment in 1942 with sponsorship by the US Navy. The Navy had contacted Cohn to engage in this secret project to discover a possible biological weapon. His work involved injecting prisoners with cow blood in an effort to detect a protein that could be used in the event of an upcoming war. The 64 subjects who were injected with the cow blood all suffered catastrophic effects, ending in death.
Although this government experiment ended in failure, it was soon learned from Cohn’s methods that the true way to identify the protein was not in cow blood but in human blood. The methods were replicated using human blood, and the protein was not only isolated, but it was also pure. Instead of being used to harm others, this protein was later used to effectively treat shock patients.
7. Plutonium Testing
During the mid-1940s, the US was busy with the Manhattan Project, the effort to create the atomic bomb. Because the effects of radiation from the bomb were largely unknown, the government spent years studying them, including with experimentation on its own citizens.
Plutonium is one of the many radioactive materials the government used in these types of tests. Patients would receive doses of radioactive plutonium in the form of injections. A majority of these patients were terminally ill, which made the results of the experiment difficult to fully understand. They were never told what was being done to them, partly because the word “plutonium” remained a government secret until after World War II.
Although most of the patients did not die from effects of the plutonium injections, the government’s secrecy and willingness to subject its own citizens to such experiments raised suspicion from many.
6. WWII Mustard Gas Experiments
During World War II, the US government conducted many experiments on its own soldiers to test the efficiency of gas masks and protective clothing. It is estimated that nearly 60,000 human subjects were used during the studies, mostly Caucasian men. However, many Japanese and African Americans were also used to identify any possible skin differences within the experiment.
There were several different tests used to determine the strength of such protective clothing, in both gas chambers and the field. Field tests involved releasing the chemicals in an open area outdoors, using human subjects to test particular clothing items and monitor the effects the chemicals had on nature, such as on animals and water quality. There is also evidence that some of the soldiers were not offered any protective gear or clothing. In chamber tests, troops wore the masks and clothing and stood in the deadly gases from one to four hours. The tests were repeated daily using the same people as subjects until they exhibited dangerous reactions to their exposure.
5. Operation Paperclip
In Operation Paperclip, the US raced against the Soviet Union to attain as many Nazi scientists as possible before an impending war. The many advances German scientists had made, including synthetic rubber and much more, led to them being the most sought-after researchers. If the US could employ these scientists, they could use their intelligence to develop many more advancements, ensuring national security if the Cold War were to escalate into another world war against the Soviets.
The US paid the Nazi scientists to work for the government, providing them with immunity from prosecution for their offenses following World War II. This immunity allowed them to escape jail and possibly execution. The US government also offered to care for the scientists’ families if they agreed to work for them. Originally, only rocket scientists were wanted, but the US eventually employed up to 1,600 Nazis until 1990. These actions were highly illegal and remained extreme government secrets for many years.
4. Operation Sea-Spray
In September 1950, the US Army was involved in a secretive experiment to test the possibility of biological warfare near the West Coast. They did so by releasing biological weapons into the streets of San Francisco to test their effects. They released a type of bacteria to gain information on how it would affect the population. This was done without the citizens’ consent.
By the end of Operation Sea-Spray, six different biological warfare tests had been performed on the residents of San Francisco. These releases killed many people and hurt several more. The government then concluded that it is very likely for a coastal city to be affected by such warfare.
One of the many deaths caused by this experiment was Edward Nevin. He died after bacteria from the government testing spread from his urinary tract to his heart. Other cases soon followed him, but many were cured after long, tortuous hospital stays.
3. Operation Big Buzz
This catastrophic experiment conducted by the US government in 1955 may not seem as harmful as it was. The government released millions of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, known to carry yellow fever, into Georgia parks. The bugs quickly dispersed into the suburbs. The goal was to determine how effective insects could be in biological warfare by tracking biting habits on citizens.
Although these mosquitoes weren’t infected with yellow fever, the government still tested the potential for biological warfare by experimenting on its own citizens, with the people of Savannah, Georgia, being the target. It is also recorded that government officials disguised themselves as health care officials in order to effectively record the mosquito bites and track their locations.
Many other experiments similar to Operation Big Buzz were also performed, such as Operation Drop Kick and Operation Big Itch. Operation Drop Kick is very similar in that they both tested mosquitoes in Georgia. Operation Big Itch involved the government releasing fleas into the public to study their biting and travel habits. Like the goal for Operation Big Buzz, Operation Big Itch was meant to determine how effective fleas would be in spreading disease in biological warfare. All of these studies show the government’s determination for developing advanced biological warfare methods.
2. Willowbrook Experiments
The extremely shocking Willowbrook experiments were aimed at discovering a cure for hepatitis. The continuous study lasted from 1956 to 1970. The subjects were taken from Willowbrook State School, which is located in Staten Island, New York. They were mentally handicapped children.
The series of tests involved injecting the children with experimental drugs that were meant to cure hepatitis. Not only were the children unable to provide consent, but they would often die from the treatments. When questioned about their actions, officials justified themselves by stating that hepatitis was prevalent in the institution, and nearly all patients would become infected anyway. The children who did not contract the disease naturally were infected by the administrators to carry on the experiment.
1. Measles Vaccine Experiment
Experiments involving the measles vaccine were conducted from 1990 to 1991 by the Centers for Disease Control. The doctors wanted to know if they could use it to replace natural antibodies in babies. To test this, doctors injected thousands of babies in the Third World with the drug. The vaccine eventually led to several immune problems in the babies and caused many deaths, although the exact number is unknown.
Knowing the drug had this effect, the government still tested on African American and Hispanic babies in Los Angeles. They injected more than 1,500 babies in the United States with the experimental drug. However, the study came to an end when it was discovered that African children were dying at an alarming rate up to three years after receiving the vaccinations.
The CDC later admitted that the parents were unaware that their children were being injected with an experimental drug that had not yet been verified by the Federal Drug Administration.