U.S., Britain Plotted To Bomb Germany With Anthrax, Historian SaysAP , Associated Press
Jan. 6, 1987 2:56 PM ET
STANFORD, CALIF. STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ Britain and the United States plotted, in the last years of World War II, to dump American-made deadly anthrax bombs on Germany, but never carried out the plans, says a Stanford University historian.
An American plant, ''probably in Vigo County'' near Terre Haute, Ind., was scheduled to make about 50,000 bombs monthly by the summer of 1944, and 250,000 by that year's end, Prof. Barton J. Bernstein declared in an interview and in an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Monday.
Would British Prime Minister Winston Churchill have approved use of the four-pound bombs if they had been available to him in 1944? Bernstein asked. The historian believes Britain's wartime leader, if not overruled by President Roosevelt, could have overcome ''moral concerns'' and used them.
''Fortunately, the anthrax was not available in 1944,'' Bernstein wrote.
Britain's military leaders had already made a plan to drop anthrax bombs on Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Aachen and Wilhemshafen, he said.
Bernstein said it was impossible to know how many bombs were made after the initial order was filled because the American records were either destroyed, lost or classified.
Bernstein is a member of Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control. His article is part of a larger research project entitled, ''Deterrent, Morality and Awful Weapons in World War II.''
In documents the historian said he examined in England, Lord Cherwell, Britain's chief scientific adviser, informed Churchill in February, 1944 that ''any animal breathing in minute quantities of these N (anthrax) spores is extremely likely to die suddenly but peacefully within the week.''
The head of the British Medical Council's Bacteriological Metabolic Unit unleashed anthrax experimentally on the small island of Gruinart, off the Scottish coast, soon after the war began. The island remains uninhabitable today.
Lord Cherwell, Britain's chief scientific adviser, estimated in a memo to Churchill that about six Lancaster bombers could carry enough bombs to destroy life in a mile-square area, Bernstein said.
In a telephone interview, Vigo County historian Dorothy Clark told Bernstein, ''Yes, we had a plant just south of Terre Haute that was very secret. It was on the highway south of town. Not much has ever been written about it ... People called it a 'poison plant.'''