“When I was about the age of six, I was pulled into a program that we refer to as the MILAB program.
They identified me through standardized testing originally.
Come to find out, my family has been a part of a multi-generational experiment as well, going back to World War II when my grandfather took part in Operation Whitecoat.
So this was something I was sort of born into that I found out about more recently.”
— Corey Goode, Conscious Life Expo 2017
The Adventist Contribution to Biowarfare
A U.S. Army project that ended over 25 years ago is once again the subject of scrutiny. Project Whitecoat was the Army’s code name for a series of germ warfare studies conducted on about 2,300 Seventh-day Adventist servicemen from 1954 to 1973. Now the Army is investigating the long-term effects the project may have had on participants. Whitecoat veterans gathered recently for a reunion in Frederick, Maryland. Most are proud of the role they played in the nation’s defense and report little or no adverse impact on their health, according to recent stories by the Associated Press and National Public Radio. While there may be few who support the use of human guinea pigs in biowarfare research, there are larger issues that are once again emerging from Project Whitecoat. They center around the role the Seventh-day Adventist Church played in the U.S. Army’s development of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) of mass destruction.
Under strict secrecy, the U.S. Army established Camp Detrick outside of Frederick, Maryland during World War II for the sole purpose of developing germ weapons. The program was controlled by the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service, a branch that had worked with gas weapons that were used by the U.S. in World War I. The Army began to study both the offensive and defensive aspects of biowarfare.
In 1952 the Army Medical Corps stationed a medical unit at Fort Detrick and in 1954 this unit began using Seventh-day Adventist soldiers in its research, presumably in the defensive aspects of germ warfare. In 1956 the medical unit was reorganized into a permanent and independent unit named the United States Army Medical Unit, Fort Detrick. In 1969 the name was changed again to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Fort Detrick was home to what became known as “Project Whitecoat,” the code name for the group of Seventh-day Adventist soldiers who were used as human guinea pigs in biowarfare research.
Human Guinea Pigs Supplied by Adventist Church
Project Whitecoat was unique in the armed forces in that it exclusively used as test subjects soldiers who were Seventh-day Adventists. These young Adventist men had been drafted into the army and registered as “conscientious objectors,” those who refused to perform combat roles on religious grounds. These objectors were given a 1-A-O classification and sent to the U.S. Army Medical Training Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. There they trained to be Army medics. It was from this non-combatant medical corps that the Army selected its test subjects for Project Whitecoat.
If only half of the non-combatants training at Fort Sam Houston were Seventh-day Adventists, why were Adventists the only ones selected from that pool of soldiers? The reason for this was a “handshake” agreement Adventist leaders had with the army. Spectrum magazine reported:
In October 1954 then Surgeon General George Armstrong sent a letter to Theodore R. Flaiz, secretary of the General Conference Medical Department, in which he noted that Lieutenant Colonel W. D. Tigertt, commanding officer of the medical unit at Fort Detrick, had been invited ‘to present to representatives of the Seventh-day Adventist Conference a request for their assistance in the conduct of a study of the highest importance to our nation’s health. Only through the use of volunteers can the necessary information be obtained.’  (emphasis supplied)
A warm reply from Doctor Flaiz was dated the following day. In that letter he acknowledged receiving Gen. Armstrong’s letter and hearing the presentation by Col. Tigertt. Flaiz wrote:
We feel that if anyone should recognize a debt of loyalty and service for the many courtesies and considerations received from the Department of Defense, we, as Adventists, are in a position to feel a debt of gratitude for these kind considerations. The type of voluntary service which is being offered to our boys in this research problem offers an excellent opportunity for these young men to render a service which will be of value not only to military medicine but to public health generally. I believe I speak not only the sentiments of our administrative group in this office, but also of our Adventist young men in the services, in observing that it should be regarded as a privilege to be identified with the significant advanced step in clinical research.  (emphasis supplied)
It is clear that the army’s correspondence with the church portrayed this joint venture as an important public health project which would yield “a significant advanced step in clinical research.” For a denomination that prides itself for its emphasis on health, the opportunity to highlight their “humanitarian” zeal may have been too good to pass up. The Adventist Review later explained why the army sought the help of Adventists in its germ warfare program. The 1969 article states:
Adventist medical servicemen were known to be highly motivated for humanitarian service. Thus the Seventh-day Adventist Church was approached to ascertain whether this would be considered something an Adventist serviceman might be able to volunteer for. After thorough study, the Medical Department of the General Conference and the General Conference Committee agreed that this was humanitarian service of the highest type, and that any Adventist serviceman might feel free to volunteer.
Colonel Dan Crozier, then commander of USAMRIID stated earlier that “because of high principles and temperate living, Adventist men are more nearly uniform in physical fitness and mental outlook. We find [Adventist] soldiers to be cooperative and willing to serve.”
Adventists’ good health and humanitarianism did not render them immune to army flattery, according to Neil C. Livingston, a Seventh-day Adventist living in Spokane, Washington who has researched and written about Project Whitecoat. “They were flattered into this by the army,” he said. “It was a big snow job.”
After church officials agreed that Adventist draftees could participate in the research at Fort Detrick, Gen. Armstrong praised their belief in “the benefit of all mankind.” Livingston contends that “the real opinion of the Army is that Seventh-day Adventists are the only ones dumb enough to volunteer their youth for such a dangerous … project.”
Road to Biological Warfare Paved with Good Intentions
“…entirely…defensive…and thus humanitarian.”
The potential dangers of Project Whitecoat, as well as its relationship to offensive biological warfare are issues that were raised by several groups during the 1960’s. In 1962 the Canadian news magazine Macleans reported:
Using human volunteers to test new chemical and biological agents is not without risk. The English experiments have resulted in at least one death which was discussed in the House of Commons. During the past ten years, in the American program, it is reported that there have been at least three deaths, and some 715 cases of illness and injury of “varying intensity.” The American volunteers are recruited from the penitentiaries and the armed forces. Many of the human guinea pigs in the latter group have been young Seventh-Day Adventists. Pacifists by conviction, they prefer to engage in nonmilitant activities while in the army. 
Adventist church officials and the army insist that Project Whitecoat volunteers were used solely in defensive biological warfare research, or in the research of “infectious diseases” as they put it, and that USAMRIID was completely partitioned from offensive biological research at Fort Detrick. Army officials claim that Whitecoat volunteers contributed to the development of vaccines for yellow fever, hepatitis A, anthrax and plague, as well as still-experimental vaccines for tularemia, Q fever, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.
Clark Smith, former Director of the (Adventist) National Service Organization (NSO), a military chaplaincy department in the General Conference, reported that from 1956 to 1969 USAMRIID had published 160 papers in the professional journals of many countries. The unit’s research is not classified and is freely available in any adequate medical library, supposedly making Project Whitecoat a significant contributor in the fight against infectious diseases around the world. 
The estimate of 160 research papers is misleading, however, in that this pertains to all research done at USAMRIID between 1956 and 1969. Project Whitecoat, a part of USAMRIID and the only program at Fort Detrick to use human guinea pigs, produced only five published research papers during the first twelve years of the project, and a total of 23 by the time the project closed in 1973. The facade of “public health research” and “military medicine” was attempted by army and church officials but failed to hold up. Even Smith departed from the “public health” nonsense when he admitted:
[Project Whitecoat] goes back to the 1953-1954 period with the original concept for study to determine the vulnerability of man to attack with biological weapons and to test the efficacy of Q fever and tularemia vaccines…. [a concept carried forward to 1973].
It should be pointed out that since the published work of USAMRIID is freely available, those working in the offensive field may utilize this information as any other interested party might do. [A back door way of admitting the research benefited the offensive field].
However, in the opinion of this study committee the work of the Adventist volunteers in USAMRIID is entirely in the defensive area of biological warfare and thus humanitarian in nature. The committee feels that the efforts and sacrifices of these volunteers are perfectly proper for the Christian who wishes to enter this field. (emphasis supplied) [He admits Adventists were involved in biological warfare research].
At this point the reasoning mind may have some difficulty reconciling “humanitarian” with “biological warfare.” The question arises now as it did in the 60’s: In what area of biological warfare should a Christian church involve itself?
Recruiting the Lambs
“…good old Adventist salesmanship”
The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia states: “Another example of noncombatant heroism while in the service of their country is ‘Operation Whitecoat’, a project involving medical experimentation, staffed entirely by SDA volunteers…. ”  (emphasis supplied) While that ratio may be due in part to the USAMRIID’s partiality to Adventist specimens, statements by church officials and volunteers indicate the church was actively involved in recruiting Adventist boys into the project.
Along with his above statements, NSO director Clark Smith stated that Whitecoat “volunteers are recruited from military personnel during basic and Advanced Individual Training at the U.S. Army Medical Training Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.”  (emphasis supplied)
A 1963 Youth’s Instructor article said that “during this period of training the Adventist draftees are given information concerning Operation Whitecoat. Two or three times each year the director of the project, Colonel Dan Crozier, of Frederick, Maryland, and Elder J. R. Nelson, secretary of the National Service Organization of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists travel to Texas to interview possible volunteers for the project.”  (emphasis supplied)
“A friend of mine was attending Mount Ellis [Adventist] Academy in Bozeman, Montana,” Neil Livingston told The WINDS. “When he graduated in 1957, he was recruited by NSO representatives…” into Project Whitecoat.
Whitecoat veteran Cesar Vega wrote, “I did have a little college experience at La Sierra [Adventist] College. During that time I was told of the experiment for the first time (it wasn’t called the Whitecoat Project yet and I was one of the very first to take part in the experiment)…. Why I did it I still don’t know. I’m sure it was mostly peer pressure and good old Adventist salesmanship.”  (emphasis supplied)
Whitecoat veteran G. R. Bietz stated: “I don’t recall how they recruited us … I remember a man from the conference, I can still see his face, but I don’t recall his name.”  (emphasis supplied)
An article in an Adventist periodical states: “A colonel and a representative of the General Conference National Service Organization appeared at a special meeting [of draftees]and talked about an unusual medical research project and asked for volunteers.” 
A General Conference man, along with a high official of the army, came to Fort Sam Houston to seek volunteers for a secret government program called “Project Whitecoat.” It sounded like a good way to serve my country, and, after all, the program was endorsed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 
From the testimonies of church officials and draftees alike, it appears the role the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists played in Operation Whitecoat was not merely a passive sanctioning of church member participation. It appears, rather, that they actively recruited for the USAMRIID, acting in an adjunct capacity.
Were They Really Volunteers?
“The truth is, we were getting killed pretty good over there in Vietnam…”
The word “volunteer” runs throughout articles and documentation surrounding Project Whitecoat and, indeed, those that participated did “volunteer” for the project. After signing on, they remained free to withdraw from the project at any time. In accordance with the 1947 Nuremberg Code, Whitecoat volunteers were fully informed by competent physicians about the possible effects each experiment could have on their bodies. After becoming infected, volunteers were provided with excellent medical care and, yet, in spite of apparent quality assurances, it’s clear that it was coercion that held the project together.
“The church had agreed with the government to convince these young men they should do this so they don’t have to go to Vietnam,” Livingston told the Associated Press in October . It was the fear of facing combat duty as field medics in Vietnam or Korea that kept Project Whitecoat flush with new Adventist volunteers.
“We were told that if we did not volunteer we would receive combat duty overseas,” one volunteer told Livingston in a telephone interview. “I volunteered for this experiment so I would not be sent overseas,” wrote Wilson Wynn, another volunteer.  “The truth is, we were getting killed pretty good over there in Vietnam …. There’s not too many of us [Adventists], I would think, that wouldn’t have gone to Vietnam if we hadn’t volunteered [for Whitecoat],” explained Whitecoat veteran Lester Bartholomew in an interview with The WINDS. 
“Most of the men who took part were draftees who chose Whitecoat rather than go to Korea or Vietnam”, wrote John E. Keplinger, Chaplain (COL.) AUS, Ret. 
Evidently, it was fear rather than “humanitarian ideals” that kept Adventist’s draftees in Project Whitecoat because as soon as the draft ended, the project folded, apparently for want of “volunteers,” “The Whitecoat project was terminated in January 1973 with the end of the draft,” wrote former USAMRIID commanding officer Col. Dan Crozier. 
Q Fever Battlefield Simulations at Dugway
“We were not told this was a ‘germ warfare’ project…”
Tom Kopko was an Adventist who was drafted into the Army in 1954. He volunteered for Project Whitecoat and was among the first group of Adventist servicemen “to serve a highly classified experimental germ warfare project conducted at Fort Dugway, Utah,” according to a statement he signed in 1989. (emphasis supplied). “It sounded like a good way to serve my country, and, after all, the program was endorsed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” he wrote. The project was a Q fever experiment performed on human test subjects at the Dugway Proving Ground where the Army conducts CBW testing. This is where many of the first Project Whitecoat volunteers were sent.
Kopko and his fellow volunteers were separated into eight groups of about ten soldiers each and transported to test locations about 25 miles out on the Utah salt flat. They were made to sit in chairs situated at different levels on a high wooden platform. Around them were cages of mice, monkeys and guinea pigs. Just after midnight, when wind conditions were right, the officers put on their gas masks and the test began. A cool mist laden with the infectious Q fever virus was dispersed on the volunteers by large fans or reportedly dropped from aircraft overhead. After becoming infected, the soldiers were flown back to Fort Detrick for tests and observation. Some soldiers did not go to Dugway to be exposed but, instead, inhaled the Q fever virus from a face mask at Fort Detrick.
Kopko reported getting mildly sick while there were others who got “deathly sick” from the experiment. “We had to pass by their rooms very quietly because the slightest noise would drive them crazy,” he wrote. One of those was Cesar Vega, a Whitecoat volunteer from Riverside, California. He said that he was fine for a week after being contaminated at Dugway, but then came down with a terrible fever and lost consciousness. He awoke two days later to find the medical staff had covered him with ice in attempts to bring his fever down. He was sick for the next three weeks. The Q fever experiments at Dugway were conducted at the beginning of Project Whitecoat, while subsequent tests were done at the USAMRIID headquarters at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
“We were not told this was a ‘germ warfare’ project as I understand it really was,” wrote Whitecoat veteran Harry V. Wiant, Jr., who participated in the Dugway Q fever experiments. 
Experiments with Tularemia
After initial experiments with Q fever, Project Whitecoat moved on to a host of other exotic diseases such as yellow fever, anthrax and tularemia, all potentially fatal. Lester Bartholomew was a 20-year old Seventh-day Adventist when he was drafted in the mid-sixties. He told The WINDS that he volunteered for Project Whitecoat while in basic training at Fort Sam Houston. After transferring to the Whitecoat unit at Fort Detrick, he participated in three projects where he was infected with tularemia, black plague and rabbit fever. During the first project he was infected by breathing from a face mask. The next two were administered by injection.
Bartholomew said he became extremely ill, coming down with a fever of 106 degrees at one point. The medical staff packed him in ice and took frequent blood samples. Bartholomew was hospitalized and recovered, but experienced reoccurring fever and fatigue after being discharged.
Thomas Ford is another Whitecoat veteran who was infected with tularemia. He, too, recovered after hospitalization, but after being discharged, he experienced a relapse of “high fever, chills and malaise” as well as “a chronic rapid heartbeat.” 
About 2,300 Adventists were involved with Project Whitecoat between 1954 and 1973. The Veterans Administration has reportedly not recognized any claims related to the program.
The Big Lie
“My primary objection to the Q fever project was that it was misrepresented to us as a humanitarian undertaking, not germ warfare.” Harry V. Wiant, Jr.
USAMRIID and the Seventh-day Adventist Church both have claimed the research performed on Adventist volunteers was purely defensive and yielded important vaccines and data. They have emphasized the separation between the offensive and defensive aspects of biowarfare, calling Project Whitecoat “the study of infectious diseases,” a phrase that carries a purely medical connotation. But is “defensive” and “offensive” CBW research as separate as black and white? Isn’t “germ warfare” another way of saying “infectious disease warfare?”
The advent of Project Whitecoat in 1954 corresponded with the U.S. Army’s increasing reliance on CBW as a viable component of its overall strategy. In 1959 the Army commissioned a public relations campaign code named “Operation Blue Skies” that was intended to create a positive image of CBW in the public mind. Alarmed by the trend, Wisconsin Congressman Kastenmeir introduced a resolution reaffirming the U.S. policy since WWII that this country would not use CBW first in military conflict. In a speech on the floor he warned that the army was trying to reverse this policy. His resolution failed, largely because of the active opposition of the Departments of Defense and State.
Corresponding with the army’s “Blue Skies” campaign was a series of articles by Don A. Roth in the Youth’s Instructor, an Adventist periodical, in October 1963. Roth related the story of young army private Tom Kopko, a Whitecoat volunteer, who had just boarded an army air transport headed for Fort Dugway, Utah. While in his seat the young private thought back to his basic training. Roth wrote:
The place was Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and he had nearly completed his post induction basic training. A colonel and a representative of the General Conference National Service Organization appeared at a special meeting and talked about an unusual medical research project and asked for volunteers. He did not then quite understand all of the fine details about the program, but he felt that he should join the project. The full and complete answer to his queries gave him assurance that this was a worthwhile undertaking. His patriotic blood surged through him as he anticipated doing something of material benefit for his country. His name went on the dotted line. 
When compared to Kopko’s 1989 statement, it is clear this story was a sanitized promotion of Adventist participation in CBW research. In a second article Roth wrote:
The project simply involves medical experimentation. But as a result of this activity the Army Medical Service has made material advances in the development of suitable methods of prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. As these studies reach completion the information gained is reported directly to the medical profession of the United States. Thus all citizens benefit from the program, not only members of the armed forces. 
However, some army physicians apparently had more scruples than the Seventh-day Adventist Church as to the possible implications of “medical experimentation.” This led USAMRIID commander Col. Tigertt, in an article published in Military Medicine the same year, to criticize physicians who balked because of the moral implications. He wrote:
What is surprising is that many physicians have refused to deal with the [research]problem. They explain their apathy by stating that ethics prohibit their participation in any endeavor, the derivatives of which might be used to produce suffering or cause loss of life…. Such attitudes, whether fully developed or not, cannot be ignored because they seriously hamper efforts to get appropriate investigations under way.  (emphasis supplied)
This apparent “apathy” targeted by Col. Tigertt was caused by that Hippocratic oath which says:
I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing. Neither will I administer poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. (emphasis supplied)
Perhaps the Code of Ethics in Wartime of the World Medical Association also dampened research enthusiasm by stating: “It is deemed unethical for doctors to weaken the physical and mental strength of a human being without therapeutic justification and to employ scientific knowledge to imperil health or destroy life.”  (emphasis supplied)
Was this the same Col. Tigertt, so eager to subvert the oath to “do no harm,” the one who swept Adventists off their feet by offering the opportunity to participate “in the conduct of a study of the highest importance to our nation’s health?” It was and, yet, the “humanitarian” veneer is so thin that this program’s fangs protrude at almost every point.
A Nerve Gas Accident and More Lies
Five years after the Col. Tigertt and Youth’s Instructor articles appeared, uncomfortable questions arose over CBW and its support from “medical research.” This began with an apparent accident at the Dugway Proving Grounds, the same installation where Project Whitecoat volunteers were infected with the Q fever virus.
On March 24, 1968 the Associated Press reported that on March 13 a mist of lethal nerve gas “was blown 30 miles from a top-secret army chemical warfare test area … killing 6,400 sheep in western Utah’s Skull Valley.” 
The accident may have served to awaken some people about the potentially devastating effects of CBW. Almost a year later, NBC’s First Tuesday ran a segment on the topic of CBW. The program showed the effect of various agents on animals, and then interviewed a young Seventh-day Adventist man who had been a Project Whitecoat volunteer.
In July, 1969 CBS’s 60 Minutes examined the subject of CBW. Again a young Project Whitecoat volunteer was interviewed. Evidently, the news media wasn’t buying the “we’re only involved in defensive research” line. This troubled the Adventist leadership, which responded with two articles in the Adventist Reviewdefending the church’s participation in Project Whitecoat. The article in the March 20, 1969 issue reads:
The United States Government decided that as soon as a definitive treatment could be developed for a disease, the findings would be given wide publicity in medical journals around the world. This publicity would effectively remove that particular disease from the potential arsenal of biological warfare. At the same time it would also spread medical knowledge on treatment worldwide, so that those presently afflicted by that particular disease could be helped.
The author of the Review article defends the research conducted at USAMRIID on the premise that as treatments are developed for a particular disease, it would be removed from the potential arsenal of biological warfare. Thus non-combatants and the Adventist Church at large would help eradicate biological warfare by participating in the defensive research at USAMRIID, according to the Review. Perhaps this author also had some swamp land and a bridge to sell.
Project Whitecoat Essential to Offensive Biowarfare
A Spectrum magazine article invites a far different conclusion, one that suggests that Project Whitecoat has actually served to expand the CBW arsenal. Martin Turner wrote in 1970:
As we have already seen, it is not certain that the existence of an effective treatment or vaccine for a disease is sufficient to ensure its removal “from the potential arsenal of biological warfare.” In fact, such treatment must exist for the disease to be included in that arsenal. (emphasis supplied)
The U.S. Army learned well in World War I, a war that produced over a million casualties from gas weapons alone, that any unforeseen shift in the wind brings your agent right back on your own men. Biological warfare is the same. An army’s leadership would be criminally negligent to use a biological agent anywhere near their own personnel unless bio-countermeasures like vaccines were logistically in place. Launching CB weapons without these would be the same as shooting one’s self in the foot, except on a much larger and deadlier scale.
The value of “defensive” measures such as vaccines to a CBW offensive was underscored by microbiologist Ivan Malek who said, “In the case of intended microbiological attack it is possible to prepare one’s own personnel, for instance, by vaccination against selected microorganisms, so that they would not be seriously endangered when entering the infected area.”  In other words, before launching anthrax at the enemy, our soldiers would be inoculated with vaccines which may have been tested on Project Whitecoat volunteers at USAMRIID.
Martin Turner confirmed this with Project Whitecoat commander Col. Crozier, who admitted the integral role USAMRIID played in the offensive CBW mission. Turner wrote:
The medical unit furnishes the offensive research laboratory with vaccines developed through experiments on Whitecoat volunteers. Colonel Crozier acknowledged that these vaccines are indispensable to the work of the researchers in the offensive area and that they would have to develop the vaccines themselves if the medical service did not. He saw no ethical problem, however, and explained that “we are engaged only in the study of infectious diseases and we can’t help what use others may make of our work. I have no problem at all reconciling my work here with medical ethics, none at all.” (emphasis supplied)
The fuzzy line dividing the apparent “offensive” and “defensive” sides of germ warfare all but disappears, leaving even casual observers to conclude that they are one and the same. This was the conclusion of Dr. Malek who said:
One of the characteristic features of biological weapons is that it is difficult to distinguish work done purely for defensive ends from that which is mainly offensive …. That is why military establishments working on the development of these weapons do it mostly under the label of defense. (emphasis supplied)
Turner also quoted from CBW expert Elinor Langer who said:
With few exceptions, such as development of detection and protective equipment, little CBW research can be accurately described as defensive…. Because of the nature of chemical and biological weapons, research even in seemingly ‘pure’ areas, such as the development of vaccines, has at least equal implications for offensive and defensive use. 
Perhaps the clearest evidence pointing to the true mission of Project Whitecoat may be found in an army CBW manual which states clearly that “CB defense is a prerequisite to attack capability.” 
While doing research for the Spectrum article, Turner interviewed Congressman Richard McCarthy who was an opponent of CBW in the late sixties. Turner wrote of McCarthy:
At a conference on CBW in December  he stated that he was convinced by his investigation that Project Whitecoat was being used for offensive rather than defensive purposes. “The whole thrust of it in its essential conception was a deterrent one, an offensive one, that we threaten to use a disease on somebody else if they use it on us. Now what they have done of a defensive nature is minimal and they even admit it themselves. We don’t have any measures to inoculate the American people against this kind of germ warfare…. My knowledge of [Project Whitecoat], and I base that on the statements made by very responsible people, is that it is offensive not defensive and that the Seventh-day Adventists are being duped.” (emphasis supplied)
Whitewash, Stonewall and Lie, Lie, Lie
On November 27, 1969, the Adventist Review printed an interview with (Adventist) National Service Organization director Clark Smith. Smith’s comments echoed the statements made in the Review article of March 20 that not only defended church participation in Project Whitecoat but, in so many words, defended the entire CBW program at Fort Detrick. Smith’s apparent damage control was strangely absent of the slightest open mindedness toward the charge that Project Whitecoat might be aiding offensive capability in some way. Absent was even the slightest disapproval towards the development of germ weapons that he conceded were being developed at Fort Detrick. It is apparent that the church leadership lacked any sort of healthy distrust of the government’s secret germ warfare program.
In his defense of Project Whitecoat, Smith relied heavily on a Clintonesque legal definition of defensive and offensive research at Fort Detrick, i.e., USAMRIID and offensive research were under different commands and in completely separate buildings on the base. He said the only connection between the two was “a piece of experimental equipment costing in excess of a million dollars” that they shared, and he almost praised the “financial prudence” of the army for not duplicating this expenditure.
Smith also asserted that USAMRIID facilities were “open” to any visitor “with a purpose” and that its research findings were released to the public, whereas the offensive research unit was enclosed behind a fence, open only to those with the proper clearance, its findings classified. All clerical paperwork connected with Project Whitecoat was completed by Adventist officials “so that there is nothing secretive about the entire project,” Smith claimed.  Smith criticized the “current agitation” of those who questioned the church’s contribution to CBW research, scolding them over “the importance of getting the facts and getting them straight.”
It is quite clear that if Seventh-day Adventists believed their leadership, they didn’t get the facts straight. Their leaders failed to reveal the cozy relationship between defensive and offensive CBW research which has been evidenced by qualified experts. When questions arose within the denomination, the General Conference appointed a committee to investigate. In 1969 this committee went to then USAMRIID commander Col. Dan Crozier who assured them that Project Whitecoat was purely defensive. Col. Crozier even went so far as to claim that “no serviceman has ever received any vaccine until he and some of his staff of researchers had tried it in their own bodies for any untoward effects,” a preposterous falsehood Smith passed on to church congregations with a straight face.
Instead of investigating further, the committee stopped with their interview with Col. Crozier and issued the conclusion that “the work of the Adventist volunteers in USAMRIID is entirely in the defensive area of biological warfare and thus humanitarian in nature.” It is the opinion of some Adventists that this is the conclusion the church leadership sought. In other words, it was a whitewash.
Needless to say, the separation between the two CBW programs was not as airtight as the church led its members to believe. Whitecoat veteran Tom Kopko, in his 1989 statement, said that the Q fever experiments he participated in were “secret” or classified and hidden from the public, just as the offensive program was. “We were ordered not to say anything for ten years,” he said. In fact, all Adventist volunteers in Project Whitecoat had to receive a “secret” security clearance before going “on project.”
Whitecoat veteran Lester Bartholomew told The WINDS that he had to wait for five months before receiving his security clearance. He and one other Adventist were then assigned to work in building 427 which housed the virology division of the offensive CBW research unit, a “hot area” requiring a top secret clearance. This was his “duty station” between projects. Bartholomew said that his job was to ship the “bad stuff,” glass vials containing biological agents, to military posts around the world including Fort Dugway, Utah and Guam which was a supply staging area for the Vietnam War. Bartholomew suspects much of the “bad stuff” he packaged and shipped was used in Vietnam. At one point, a virology staffer told him that if he dropped the two vials he was handling, he would “wipe out the state of Maryland.”
Bartholomew realized that Project Whitecoat was really offensive in nature when he was “on project.” In the clinic he spent an entire week before a box that flashed lights and numbers, requiring him to do quick calculations to test his mental reflexes. The tests were repeated after he had been infected with tularemia. At one point, Bartholomew asked one of the people administering the test what it was all about. “Well, if we’ve got the enemy sick, we can tell how it will effect them,” was the response. “Since then, I tell you what, I don’t trust the government and I don’t trust the church because they both lied to me,” Bartholomew told The WINDS.
Why the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church places great emphasis on health, perhaps more than any other Christian denomination. Its system of hospitals and clinics can be found in many countries, and it is proud of its achievements in medical research and health education. Adventist teachings warn against the use of alcohol, tobacco and flesh meats, and abstinence from these are generally required for church membership. Historically, the church has anticipated a threat to their religious liberties from the circles of government, making even greater the following dichotomy: how does a Christian church that places such strong emphasis on health, that anticipates a threat from government, be found at the forefront of a germ warfare research program in partnership with the government?
“It seemed like they were just trying to get along with the government and stroke the government so they wouldn’t have any problems,” Lester Bartholomew told The WINDS. “As a church we really want to get along with you, we don’t want to be known as a cult, and so we provide you with guinea pigs,” was the church’s reasoning.
Other Adventists point to the mid-fifties when this shift occurred in the thinking of Adventist leadership. The church historically remained separate from the other Christian denominations, but changed that stance when it joined the Evangelical conferences of 1955-56. This move into the ecumenical movement coincided with the advent of Project Whitecoat, both a result of the church’s quest for acceptance in the mainstream.
“No other church would have gotten away with this,” Neil Livingston told The WINDS. He points to court cases in the 70’s and 80’s establishing that “the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the most centralized of all major Christian denominations in this country.” Livingston asserts that the church is hierarchical rather than congregational, with power flowing from the top down rather than the other way around. This made Adventist leaders in Takoma Park, Maryland useful agents to military brass in nearby Frederick and Washington. Centralized church government gave NSO officials the leverage they needed to recruit Adventist boys into Project Whitecoat. “Other denominations would have never tolerated this type of outside interference” from church leaders, said Livingston, citing the loose, congregational type structure of other Protestant denominations.
Livingston also cited the Adventist educational system’s impact on the church culture as another reason for their usefulness to the army. “From the time these youngsters enter high school, they are away from home,” he said. Many Adventist children go away to church boarding school and then to college where they live in dormitories. “The church has them from a young age … and this has caused them to look at the leadership with awe,” thus making them more vulnerable to suggestions from the top as happened with Project Whitecoat.
Project Whitecoat ended 25 years ago with the end of the draft. It would seem that time has relegated this subject to the “case closed” file, a footnote to the Vietnam era and the Cold War. This may be so, but it still provides an interesting lesson on how the Christian churches in the United States have sold out to the ruling powers behind the scenes. Project Whitecoat was only one step on that road upon which the Adventist church and its fellow Protestants have traveled far. It may be safe to say they have reached the end of that road — the end of their usefulness to those in power.
Another reason Project Whitecoat remains worthy of examination is the issue of responsibility, from which no person or church can escape. Even though a biological weapons convention (BCW) was signed in 1972, it lacks verification and enforcement and permits “defensive” research. This research speeds along, producing such nightmare weapons as Israel’s “ethnic bullet” that targets only the Arab genetic structure. Bio-technologies such as these are the cutting edge, and how much of it builds upon the research done at USAMRIID prior to 1973?
There are enormous stockpiles of an aging generation of CBW ordinance, much of it produced during the heyday of Project Whitecoat. This ordinance is now unstable, as are the world’s political structures. Only one or a number of calamities working together could release a deadly pestilence. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, because of its phony pretense to good health and good works, would share a large portion of the curse such a disaster would bring.
The issues surrounding CBW are myriad. There are moral issues at stake over the manipulation of life forms for the purpose of mass killing. There are the issues of when to use them if they are available. There are issues over compensation to its victims, both civilian and military. All of these continue to remain unsettled, as are the mysterious illnesses and deaths surrounding several Whitecoat veterans and, more recently, thousands of Gulf War veterans.
The issues that loom larger than everything else is the spectre of hypocrisy, the weightiest crime in the cosmic scales. Some may see no issue; Adventists merely traded the battlefield for a research laboratory. While this may be true for those who believe in war, it is not true for Seventh-day Adventists who historically refused to participate in war. In 1864 their General Conference wrote to Michigan governor Austin Blair stating the Adventists take the Bible as their guide and “are unanimous in their views that its teachings are contrary to the spirit and practice of war. … Hence our people have not felt free to enlist into the service.”
The following year their General Conference issued a statement which declared that Adventists “acknowledge the justice of rendering tribute, custom, honor, and reverence to the civil power, as enjoined in the New Testament. While we thus cheerfully render to Caesar the things which the Scriptures show to be his, we are compelled to decline all participation in acts of war and bloodshed, as being inconsistent with the duties enjoined upon us by our divine Master toward our enemies and toward all mankind.”
This is the true meaning of “conscientious objector” — one who refuses to participate in war on grounds of conscience, but Adventists stretched this meaning over the years to permit service as field medics and Whitecoat volunteers, even though the Army field manual clearly stated that “the mission of the medical service in a theatre of operations is to contribute to the success of the military effort.”  Thus, by maintaining a benevolent exterior and while purchasing peace from the government, Adventists abstained from having to kill a few of the enemy on the battlefield in favor of assisting in the killing of potential millions. This is worthy of our strongest condemnation. We will borrow Martin D. Turner’s closing paragraphs in the Spectrum article where he wrote:
A conscience that is sensitive to the dangers of coffee and wedding rings, but fails to be concerned with the moral implications of participation in biological warfare research, and in war itself, must seem paradoxical to a great many thinking people. [Then Turner quotes Dr. Malek:]
The guardians of the Adventist Church … are content with a morality of form without substance, one in which the arts of disease can be presented as the healing arts, and in which germ warfare can be embraced in pious obedience to divine injunction against death. 
- Adventists debate church role in Vietnam-era warfare research, David Dishneau, Associated Press, October 8, 1998.
- All Things Considered, National Public Radio, October 13, 1998. (Requires RealAudio player).
- PROJECT WHITECOAT, Martin D. Turner, Spectrum magazine, Summer, 1970.
- PROJECT WHITECOAT, Adventist Medics in America volunteer to Serve Humanity, Adventist Review, March 20, 1969
- OPERATION WHITECOAT (part II), Don A. Roth, The Youth’s Instructor, October 15, 1963.
- PSYCHOCHEMICAL WEAPONS, Sydney Katz, Associate Editor of Macleans, April 21, 1962.
- see reference 1.
- PROJECT WHITECOAT, An Interview with CLARK SMITH, Director of the National Service Organization, Adventist Review, November 27, 1969.
- see reference 3.
- see reference 9.
- Seventh-Day Adventist Encyclopedia, Second Revised Edition, Art. “Noncombatancy.”
- see reference 9.
- see reference 6.
- Letters and statements related to Project Whitecoat obtained from Neil C. Livingston who contributed some of his research to this report.
- Letter from Cesar Vega dated 10-12-89 (ref. 15).
- Telephone interview with G. R. Bietz, 11-9-89 (ref. 15).
- OPERATION WHITECOAT (part I), Don A. Roth, The Youth’s Instructor, October 8, 1963.
- Statement by Whitecoat veteran Thomas Kopko, signed October 10, 1989 (ref. 15).
- See reference 1.
- Letter from Wilson Wynn dated 10-12-89 (ref. 15).
- Lester Bartholemew of Oregon in phone interview with The WINDS, 10-19-98.
- Letter from John E. Keplinger, Chaplain (COL.) AUS, Ret. dated 10-12-89 (ref. 15).
- Letter from Colonel Dan Crozier, USA MC, Ret.CommandingOfficer, USAMRIID [Project Whitecoat] dated 11-7-89 (ref. 15).
- See reference 19.
- Letter from Harry V. Wiant, Jr. dated 11-15-89 (ref. 15).
- See reference 1.
- See reference 18.
- See reference 6.
- W. D. Tigertt, Status of Medical Research Effort, Military Medicine, pp. 142, 143, (February 1963) in Turner (ref. 3).
- World Medical Association, Code of Ethics in Wartime (New York: 1956) in Turner (ref. 3).
- Associated Press as printed in the Newark Sunday News, Sec. 1, March 24, 1968.
- Dr. Ivan Malek quoted by Stephen Rose (editor), CBW: Chemical and Biological Warfare (Boston: Beacon Press 1969), p. 124. in Turner (ref. 3).
- Elinor Langer, Chemical and Biological Warfare, Science 155, 174-179 and 299-305 (January 13 and 20, 1969) in Turner (ref. 3).
- United States Army Field Manual FM 101-140, Armed Forces Doctrine for Chemical and Biological Weapons Employment (1962), p.10.
- See references 3 and 9.
- Army Field Manual FM 8-10, Medical Service Theatre of Operations.
- Reference 3, Turner also quotes from reference 33 in final paragraph.