AIMING FOR NUCLEAR SCALE:
The Cold War and the US Biological Warfare Program
The American officers who interviewed Japanese biological warfare scientists in 1947 quickly realized that US achievements were technically superior to those of Gen. Ishii Shiro's program. By the end of World War II, the American, British, and Canadian programs had learned much about airborne infection and about a diversity of biological agents, had improved defenses against some of them, and had come close to mass production of an anthrax bomb.1 The atomic bomb and the Cold War signaled a momentous change in the US biological weapons program. The vision of the scale of intentionally spreading disease expanded to strategic attacks on a par with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and with the Soviet Union and its allies as potential targets. For more than twenty years after the end of World War II, advocates of germ weapons struggled toward the goal of strategic potential and sought to convince the armed forces, especially the Air Force and Navy, that these new weapons should be assimilated. Few in the US government knew about this struggle for expanded offensive capacity. Within the program, research intensified, production capacity increased, and simulations of disease attacks on civilians grew larger and more elaborate until they verged on reality.
During the time the US postwar biological weapons program was being secretly ratcheted up to approximate nuclear scale, members of the American and international public, including scientists, were openly debating the dangers of nuclear weapons. Eventually, especially during the 1960s, the US chemical weapons program and the dangers it posed to civilians and the environment became a source of great contention. Yet, after just a brief flurry of