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War Bureau of Consultants

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The War Bureau of Consultants WBC was a committee of 12 prominent scientists and several government consultants put together in November 1941 to investigate the feasibility of a US bio-weapons program1 The bureau's recommendations led to the creation of an official US biological weapons program during World War II


  • 1 Background
  • 2 History
    • 21 Creation
    • 22 1942 report
    • 23 Response
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links


Despite World War I-era interest in ricin,2 as World War II erupted the United States Army still maintained the position that biological warfare BW was, for the most part, impractical3 Secretary of War Henry Stimson was mindful of Imperial Germany's BW attack on the Romanian Cavalry using glanders during World War I and of its saboteurs introducing the disease into the United States among the military horses and mules being shipped to Europe see Anton Dilger It was also understood that intelligence reports erroneous as it later turned out clearly stated that Nazi Germany had a BW capability4 Other nations, notably France, Japan and the United Kingdom, had also begun their own BW programs3 However, by the outbreak of World War II the US still had no biological weapons capabilities



The WBC was formed in 1941 The Bureau was formed after a July 1941 meeting of representatives from the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the Chemical Warfare Service, the Surgeon General, and US Army Intelligence5 That meeting recommended that the US further study the threat of bio-weapons and the feasibility of a US biological weapons program5 Secretary of War Henry L Stimson requested that Frank Jewett, head of the National Academy of Sciences, issue a report on the topic5 Jewett passed the task on to Edwin Fred, a University of Wisconsin biologist6

Fred formed the WBC which consisted of himself and 12 prominent scientists6 In addition the WBC included liaisons from the Chemical Warfare Service, US Army Ordnance Corps, the US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the US Army Surgeon's General Office, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Public Health Service56 The War Bureau of Consultants' work was to be conducted in extreme secrecy6

The WBC met for the first time on November 18, 1941, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC7 At that meeting it was decided that the WBC would perform a literature search building up to their report7 Between the WBC's first meeting and its first report Pearl Harbor was bombed and reports began trickling in about the Japanese biological attack on the Chinese village of Changteh7

1942 reportedit

On February 17, 1942, the WBC produced and released its first formal report7 The document was over 200 pages long, included 13 appendices, and an 89-page annotated bibliography7 The report laid out the results of the WBC's literature search, which showed that there was relatively widespread interest in proposals geared toward BW7

The report also made some key recommendations The WBC recommended that the United States take seriously the threat of biological warfare and take steps to defend itself8 Among those steps were the development of vaccines, and protection of the water supplies8 The consultants reported that a US bio-weapons program was a feasible goal9 Their report also concluded that the United States should take steps to develop its own offensive biological warfare capability8


Stimson forwarded the report, and his summary of its contents, to US President Franklin Roosevelt on April 29, 19425 His summary emphasized the danger of biological weapons as well as the US need for offensive and defensive biological capabilities5

The value of biological warfare wrote Stimson will be a debatable question until it has been clearly proven or disproved by experiences The wide assumption is that any method which appears to offer advantages to a nation at war will be vigorously employed by that nation There is but one logical course to pursue, namely, to study the possibilities of such warfare from every angle, make every preparation for reducing its effectiveness, and thereby reduce the likelihood of its use10

As a result of the recommendations made by the WBC, Roosevelt ordered Stimson to create the War Research Service to oversee the official, and secret, US biological weapons program689


  1. ^ The Nat’l Academy of Sciences 2009 Committees on Biological Warfare, 1941-1948 Washington, DC > http://www7nationalacademiesorg/archives/indexhtml > Collections > Committees on Biological Warfare, 1941-1948
  2. ^ Smart, Jeffery K Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare: Chapter 2 - History of Chemical and Biological Warfare: An American Perspective, PDF: p 14, Borden Institute, Textbooks of Military Medicine, PDF via Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, accessed January 7, 2009
  3. ^ a b Garrett, Laurie Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health, Google Books, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 340-41, ISBN 0198526830
  4. ^ Covert, Norman M 2000, "A History of Fort Detrick, Maryland", 4th Edition: 2000
  5. ^ a b c d e f Guillemin, Jeanne Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism, Google Books, Columbia University Press, 2005, pp 59-60, ISBN 0231129424
  6. ^ a b c d e Covert, Norman M Cutting Edge A History of Fort Detrick, "Chapter 4 - Birth of Science", May 1993, accessed January 7, 2009
  7. ^ a b c d e f Regis, Ed The Biology of Doom: The History of America's Secret Germ Warfare Project, Google Books, Macmillan, 2000, pp 19-20, ISBN 080505765X
  8. ^ a b c d Zilinskas, Raymond A Biological Warfare: Modern Offense and Defense, Google Books, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colorado: 2000, pp 229-30, ISBN 1555877613
  9. ^ a b Moreno, Jonathan D, Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans, Google Books, Routledge, 2001, p 44, ISBN 0415928354
  10. ^ Covert, Op cit

External linksedit

  • Committees on Biological Warfare, 1941-1948, The National Academies, accessed January 7, 2009

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