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Army Disputes Report It Shipped Anthrax Bombs

January 14, 1987

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ The Army has acknowledged that the United States made 5,000 bombs to drop deadly anthrax spores on Germany in World War II, but disputed a historian’s claim that the bombs were loaded and shipped to England.

The bombs were made in Indiana in the final days of the war, but the anthrax spores were stored at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., and never put in the bombs, according to Norman Covert, chief of public affairs at Fort Detrick.

None of the 4-pound bombs, loaded or unloaded, was actually sent to England, Covert said Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Randy Morger, also denied that any bombs were loaded with anthrax and shipped.

The Army’s account is contrary to evidence Stanford University history professor Barton J. Bernstein said he found in declassified files in the public record office in London and reported last week in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

A memo to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from Ernest Brown, chairman of Churchill’s secret committee on bacteriological warfare, says that the first batch of 5,000 U.S.-made bombs were shipped to Britain and were ready for testing, Bernstein said.

″The document implies that anthrax was in the bombs, but admittedly it doesn’t say that explicitly,″ Bernstein said.

The 5,000 bombs, Bernstein said, were to be the first shipment from a plant in Vigo County near Terre Haute, Ind., that was gearing up to making 250,000 bombs to carry anthrax, an infectious disease in cattle and sheep that can also be transmitted to humans.

″We produced 5,000 anthrax bombs, but the anthrax was never put into those bombs,″ Covert said. ″There was no reason to make more bombs because the war ended.″

″No biological weapons were ever armed except those which were used in the testing in (laboratory) chambers or those with which simulants were used in the atmosphere″ in Utah and Maryland, Covert said.

″You have a choice of whom you want to believe,″ Bernstein said, ″a high-ranking British official writing an important memo to the prime minister during World War II or someone in the U.S. Army 40 years later who didn’t have anything to do with the operation. I would have to believe the document to the prime minister.″

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