"No Practical Capabilities": American Biological and Chemical Warfare Programs During the Korean War

Much controversy still surrounds accusations that American forces in the Far East during the Korean War used biological warfare against North Korea and China. An analysis of recently declassified documents reveals that, although the United States attempted to accelerate its development and acquisition of such weapons during that period, its efforts to create a viable biological warfare capability were unsuccessful. Plans to similarly expand chemical warfare stocks and capabilities were also frustrated. Technological difficulties, personnel shortages, bureaucratic battles between the armed services, and policy limitations combined to hold back advances in American chemical and biological warfare. In light of the recent fears of terrorist attacks with such weapons, this analysis highlights the great difficulties involved in developing, acquiring, and delivering such capabilities.