Black Veterans and the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments

0 Posted by - May 11, 2022 - BLACK MEN, BLACKS IN THE MILITARY, History, LATEST POSTS, Racism

The U.S. government was known to have a number of secret or vaguely described programs. The Edgewood Arsenal experiments fall into this category. There were several projects at Edgewood between the 1940s into the 1970s.

The psychochemical experiment focused in part on a “bloodless war” with LSD, PCP, and other drugs being tested. There were also conventional chemicals tested for warfare applications–mustard gas, lewisite, and so on. The experiments were declassified in the early 1990s and revealed in 2009.


In 2015, NPR did an interview with a Black World War II veteran who was at the Edgewood Arsenal. Rollins Edwards recalled a dozen Black soldiers being sealed in a gas chamber with chemical weapons such as mustard gas, phosgene, and lewisite. The goal was to see how the chemicals affected Black skin. Edwards said that soldiers were screaming and trying to escape.

The military was able to perform the experiments on the basis of it being part of their duty to the country. There was no actual incentive to participate in these health-threatening experiments–unless one counts wanting to avoid prison for refusing to do testing as an incentive.

It should also be noted that Black soldiers volunteered for to go to Edgewood. However, they weren’t told specifics about the testing. In addition, servicemen were the also the prime test subjects for these experiments. Testing was done on civilians prior but soldiers were trained for combat and in peak condition.

Black soldiers weren’t the only focus of the military’s race-oriented testing. Japanese Americans and Latino Americans were also subjected to the same experiments for the same reasons. A similar project was done in Fort McClellan, Alabama in September 1953 under the name “Operation Top Hat.”

Years after the testing was ended at this site, veterans were dealing with a number of adverse health effects. These included burns, peeling skin, cancer, motion disorders, and psychological problems. It was concluded that race didn’t matter when it came to testing the chemical weapons.

-Bad Trip Edgewood (documentary):


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