Former sergeant seeks compensation for LSD testing at Edgewood Arsenal

July 11, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A former U.S. Army sergeant whose life "disintegrated" after he was unwittingly tested with the hallucinogenic drug LSD at Maryland's Edgewood Arsenal in the 1950s should receive $625,000 in compensation from the U.S. government, a Florida congressman told a House subcommittee here yesterday.

The House Judiciary Committee's Administrative Law Subcommittee also heard testimony that the LSD testing on the former sergeant, James B. Stanley, and other chemical experiments on thousands of soldiers at Edgewood may have involved former Nazi scientists who worked at the facility between World War II and the 1960s as part of a secret U.S. government project.

Author Linda Hunt, whose just-published book, "Secret Agenda," deals with a U.S. government operation that brought former Nazi scientists to America to work on defense and space projects, told the subcommittee yesterday that at least eight of the former Nazis were involved with chemical warfare and psychochemical research at Edgewood.

More than 7,000 soldiers underwent testing at the research facility in Harford County.

"My research reveals the pervasive influence of former Nazi scientists at Edgewood Arsenal at the very same time James Stanley was there," said Ms. Hunt, whose work included declassified documents and arsenal reports.

Hundreds of former Nazi scientists were brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip. Some, such as Wernher von Braun, eventually became high-ranking officials at NASA.

Jeff Lindblad, a spokesman for the Army Chemical Research Center at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, which now includes Edgewood, referred inquiries to the U.S. Army. An Army spokesman in Washington said yesterday he had no immediate information on whether any former Nazis worked at Edgewood.

"If we learn that these experiments were conducted by former Nazi scientists, [it] is cause for grave concern and further investigation," said Representative Harry Johnston, D-Fla., who introduced the legislation to aid Mr. Stanley.

Mr. Johnston told the subcommittee that Mr. Stanley, who now lives in Palm Springs, Fla., was a 24-year-old sergeant in 1958 when he volunteered for what the Army said was a test of protective clothing for its chemical warfare program at Edgewood.

But instead of donning clothing at Edgewood, Mr. Stanley on several occasions met with a man he thought was a psychologist who instructed him to drink from a glass of water, the congressman said.

"He did not know that glass of water contained LSD," said the congressman. "Ultimately after a series of bizarre and disturbing behavior changes, Sergeant Stanley lost his job with the Army, his marriage, and all he had worked for. A promising life had suddenly disintegrated in a very short time."

LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, has been used experimentally in the study and treatment of mental disorders. Its side effects include bizarre behavior and, reportedly, psychosis and chromosomal damage.

The U.S. Army confirmed in 1975 that it conducted LSD tests on soldiers at Edgewood in the late 1950s as part of a program to develop an incapacitating agent to use on enemy soldiers and populations. But the Army said at the time the volunteers were told they would be receiving the drug, although not when.

"They lied to the man, and they completely wrecked his life," said the congressman.

The Democratic lawmaker said Mr. Stanley learned of the drug in 1975 when he received a letter from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda inviting him to take part in a follow-up study of individuals given doses of LSD in the late 1950s.

"The key piece to the puzzle of the last 17 years had finally fallen into place," recalled the congressman, adding that Mr. Stanley was rebuffed by the Army and the courts when he sought compensation.

In 1987, the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Stanley's claim in a 5-to-4 vote, pointing to a federal law which prohibits soldiers from suing the military. But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said she found the case "so far beyond the bounds of human decency . . . it simply cannot be considered a part of the military mission."

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