Book Review: “This Must Be the Place: How the U.S. Waged Germ Warfare in Korean War & Denied It Ever Since”
There is no historical controversy as contentious or long-lasting as the North Korean and Chinese charges of U.S. use of biological weapons during the Korean War. For those who believe the charges to be false — and that includes much of American academia, but not all — they must assume the burden of explaining why the North Koreans or Chinese made up any bogus claims to attack the credibility of U.S. forces. Because they had no reason to do that.
In other words, massive war crimes are already self-evident, and if there is any mystery, it is how historical amnesia and/or callous disregard for crimes such as those committed by the U.S. and its allies in Korea, or the millions killed by the U.S. in Southeast Asia, can go ignored today.
But the U.S. media and academia largely ignore evidence of U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction in its wars against independence struggles and for imperial dominance, or hock their wares to support propaganda that claims such crimes never took place. Evidence to the contrary, such as the 1950s International Scientific Commission investigation into U.S. use of bacteriological weapons in the Korean War, or the many confessions under interrogation by U.S. Air Force personnel, were generally suppressed. (I published myself the ISC’s summary report earlier this year.)
The suppression of the ISC investigation was, as Chaddock points out, at least in part because ISC chair, Sir Joseph Needham, was not shy in mentioning the connections between the US use of BW in Korea and China and Japanese use of biological experimentation and warfare against China during World War II. This was of high sensitivity to the U.S. as they publicly denied that, having made a deal with Shiro Ishii and the Japanese war criminals of Unit 731 to not prosecute them if US scientists from Fort Detrick and the CIA could get Japanese data and samples — of human tissues gathered via vivisection! — and use them for the US’s own secretive BW program in the early years of the Cold War.
One man with evident integrity and unwilling to let the truth be buried is Dave Chaddock. His book, This Must Be the Place: How the U.S. Waged Germ Warfare in the Korean War and Denied It Ever Since, is a superb exercise in historical rebuttal. The falsifications and lies and secrets propounded by the U.S. on the issue of its crimes has been going on for decades now. For instance, the U.S. populace did not learn of its government’s post-war deal with Nazis, or its amnesty of the Japanese Imperial Army’s Unit 731, until nearly 40 years had passed from the time of these events. If the book seems partisan at times, it is understandably the passion of someone outraged at what he has discovered — just as many who have served in America’s imperial wars returned home outraged, and too often broken, by what they had seen and endured.
Chaddock builds on the seminal work of Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, whose 1998 book, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea, laid out the best case we have thus far for proving the U.S. BW campaign really did take place. Chaddock takes on Endicott and Hagerman’s critics, and has a particularly trenchant critique of the discovery of Soviet documents that indicate the BW evidence was “faked.” The documents were oddly serendipitously discovered at the time Endicott and Hagerman were publishing their book. (The actual documents have not been publicly released, if they in fact exist.) Chaddock shows that the Soviet “fake”, as presented, could not possibly have covered all the sites and evidence of biological weapons used in as short a time as given to create such a fantastic fraud.
Chaddock also takes on the controversy that surrounded the testimonies (“confessions”) of downed flyers interrogated by North Korean and Chinese captors. The flyers’ testimony was considered very convincing at the time, and the U.S. scrambled to find a way to discredit it. (The U.S. separated the flyers’ upon repatriation, with one group claiming they were tortured, and the other insisting they told the truth. All were threatened with court-martial if they did not recant.)
This Must Be the Place is unique in delving into the actual matter of the U.S. flyers’ confessions themselves. Chaddock makes a number of convincing observations. He notices that many of the flyers spoke to their shock at being told the U.S. was involved in germ warfare. One said he was shocked “beyond words,” while Air Force Colonel Walker “Bud” Mahurin described how pilots in his command reacted to his revelations surrounding the U.S. “campaign of germ warfare” with looks of “great shock.”
There is certainly more that could be unearthed about these confessions, and their aftermath, revelations that would add to Chaddock’s heavily documented analysis. For one thing, it is of high interest that Boris Pash, then chief of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), and formerly a member of the secretive Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), not to mention the head of security on the Manhattan Project and the leader of the mysterious Alsos Mission, AND also a CIA assassin, was involved in the interrogations of the returned flyers, and the threats to prosecute some of them. Also of high importance is the fact the record of those interrogations have been “lost” by the military.
The CIA and military created a cover-story that the men that confessed to use of BW had been “brainwashed.” This so-called brainwashing was then used as an excuse to increase funding in their own mind-control programs, the most famous of which was MKULTRA. The CIA pushed the “brainwashing” story even though, as a memo by then CIA chief Allen Dulles showed the Agency knew there was “little scientific evidence to support brainwashing.”
Nevertheless, CIA efforts to push the “brainwashing” charges included recruiting the leading members of a generation (or two) of social science and psychological/psychiatric academics and practitioners, whose experiments on use of drugs like LSD, and on sensory deprivation, and mock torture at government “survival” camps, led ultimately to an institutional use of torture by the U.S. government itself after 9/11. Chaddock details much of this history, and as with other topics he covers, refers readers to ample numbers of sources and references. His bibliography is an important assemblage of modern literature on the entire controversy.
Given the scare campaigns that are still used by the West about use of chemical or biological weapons by any country dubbed “evil” by the U.S., Chaddock’s book takes on added relevance, if not urgency.
Chaddock’s book is a real treasure. It presents in an entertaining and convincing fashion what Chaddock himself calls the “overwhelming evidence” of BW use by the Americans during the Korean War.
This is a time when independent thinking is in short supply. Curiosity and a zest for fact and truth are not traits highly valued today, particularly not when it comes to politics or historical controversies. But if you are someone who really wants to know the truth, who wants to see what someone who has spent a good deal of time researching this subject has to say, then Chaddock’s book is just the thing for you.