The Cold War was a time of great concern and worries for the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Both countries were concerned with what could happen during a nuclear attack. Most importantly, they needed to know how much the human body could sustain of radiation in case of a catastrophe. It was important information so that soldiers could protect themselves. So, the government decided to conduct a secret experiment on African-Americans.
From 1960 to 1971, Dr. Eugene Saenger, a radiologist at the University of Cincinnati, led an experiment exposing 88 patients with cancer, poor, and black to whole body radiation. By this time, the use of whole body treatment had already been discredited cancer treatment for the patients.
The patients were not asked to sign consent forms, nor were they told the Pentagon was behind funding the experiment. Patients were told that they were being given treatments that might possibly help their condition. Patients were exposed, in the period of one hour, to the equivalent of about 20,000 x-rays worth of radiation. Nausea, vomiting, severe stomach pain, loss of appetite, and mental confusion were the results. A report in 1972 indicated that as many as a quarter of the patients died of radiation poisoning.
However, not just cancer patients were being experimented on, other radiation experiments during the time included a wide array of studies, involving things like feeding radioactive food to mentally disabled children or conscientious objectors, inserting radium rods into the noses of school children, deliberately releasing radioactive chemicals over U.S. and Canadian cities, measuring the health effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear bomb tests, injecting pregnant women and babies with radioactive chemicals, and irradiating the testicles of prison inmates, amongst other things.