Nation Involved:The United States of America & Guatemala
When governments conducted experiments on their own people in the 1940s, you normally only saw it happen with just one nation. Yet in this situation, two were involved. From 1946 to 1948, American Public Health doctors infected 700 prison inmates, mental patients, and soldiers with STDs. Prisons in Guatemala allow conjugal visits, and thus, many prisoners get it on with a wife or girlfriend. Yet others can have “fun” with a prostitute. The U.S. National Institutes of Health decided to send in prostitutes already infected with syphilis for the prisoners to “get it on” with.
Many had infectious bacteria rubbed into scrapes or open cuts on their male members, arms, and faces. Those that contracted the illness were given antibiotics to test the effectiveness of the drugs on STDs. Most of these experiments were conducted on Guatemalan citizens with the U.S. only involved medically. Yet these experiments were conducted in partnership with the Guatemalan Health Ministries, and then-Guatemalan President Juan José Arévalo knew about it. In fact, he even cleared it to happen himself. Around 30 people were said to have died directly as a result of these experiments.
Governments conducted experiments on their own people for many reasons, but the United States took things up a notch starting in the 1960s. Several dozens of prisoners from Washington & Oregon were used as test subjects for something most would consider barbaric. The government used them to test the effects of radiation on testicles. Many were bribed with cash as well as the “suggestion” of parole if they took part in the experiment.
That resulted in 130 inmates agreeing to take part in the experiment. The U.S. Government used the University of Washington to conduct the tests. Yet no one seemed to realize how much radiation they were going to be exposed to. They were zapped with around 400 rads of radiation, equal to 2,400 chest x-rays. This would all happen within a 10-minute period. The prisoners did not learn how much they were exposed to until later on. In fact, in 2000, many sued the University over this in a class-action lawsuit. They eventually settled with them for $2.4 million.
Did we mention that the United States was obsessed with mind-control stuff during the Cold War era yet? They tested this out in multiple projects over the years. Usually, when governments conducted experiments on their own people in the mind-control realm, they try brain techniques. As in, they want to try hypnosis concepts or even exposure therapy. However, in Project Artichoke, the U.S. did try those things but also used hardcore drugs as well.
The CIA used LSD in this situation too, but more often than not, they actually used morphine. They would get people addicted to the stuff, then take it away. This forced bad drug withdrawals the CIA hoped would allow them to take advantage of the brain. They also used drugs that often forced people to have amnesia. By the way, every single person was unwilling and had no idea what the government was doing to them. Finally, the U.S. Government shot the project down by the 1960s.
During several wars, especially the Cold War, biological weapons were being employed around the world. This became a huge problem, and America wanted to make sure its Armed Forces were capable of surviving them. That led to the Department of Defense starting Project 112. During this experiment, the government sprayed several ships as well as hundreds of Navy sailors with nerve agents. Sarin and VX were among the ones they used.
The idea was to test the effectiveness of decontamination procedures & safety procedures known at the time. The Pentagon would later reveal that the official name for these experiments was actually “Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense, or SHAD. It was not quite as catchy as Project 112, but it helped many find out about the experiment. The Veterans Administration began studying SHAD and how it affected the Navy sailors. It was found several did have long-lasting problems.
During his investigation, Professor Schmidt also found that the UK used London commuters as test subjects. In fact, while this was sort of known for a bit, Schmidt found out the experiment was done at a far larger scale than previously assumed. It is known that several governments conducted experiments on their own people in the world of transit from the 1910s to the 1970s by now. Of course, it was usually to test how trains, subways, or cars worked for most.
Yet the British government actually decided to carry out a biological warfare field trial on the nation’s capital tube system at some point in May of 1964. Carried out by the government’s Porton Down Research Center, they released a chemical in large quantities known as Bacillus Globigii into the tube. The government scientists wanted to see if long-distance travel of aerosols in the tube network was due to train transportation, or if it simply came through the tube’s air ventilation system.
Back in the 1930s, there were tons of odd experiments taking place. Of course, governments experimented on their own people quite often in this era. Some used blood from younger people and inserted it into themselves to make themselves younger, and much more. However, one experiment conducted by the United States involved literally trying to give people cancer! We’re completely serious, people. The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigations was responsible for “infecting” human subjects with cancer cells.
The man leading the project was Dr. Cornelius Rhoads. He actually helped to form the U.S. Army Biological Warfare facilities in Maryland, Utah, and even Panama. In each one, the government along with the Institute began a series of radiation exposure experiments on patients in both government and civilian hospitals. Most of the experiments were done on minorities, including African American, Japanese, and Puerto Rican Americans. In total, around 60,000 soldiers were included too. Most were left suffering horrible, lifelong side effects. None were actually able to be “given” cancer either.
South Africa is known for its racist Apartheid Era obviously. While America and other nations have a dark past involving race, South Africa also has a horrible history with other people too. Specifically, their treatment of homosexual people during Apartheid was appalling. While governments experimenting on their own people is a common theme here, it has mostly been about race or class. In this situation, it was all about trying to “cure” homosexuality by force.
The man put in charge of this was Dr. Aubrey Levin, who was an Army Colonel and psychologist. The South African government rounded up several people by force for him to test. He often used electroconvulsive aversion therapy on these people. Levin felt it would “reorientate” them. Electrodes were strapped to a person’s upper arm with wires running to a dial from 1 to 10. Homosexual men were shown pictures of naked men whom they were encouraged to fantasize about. Then they were given several shocks to try and make them feel pain when thinking of men, but all of these tests backfired.
Back in the 1950s, governments conducted experiments on their own people quite often as a sort of “preparedness” test. The idea being that biological warfare was already a thing, and we needed to know how to respond to those issues. If something came to mainland America, how would we respond? The U.S. Government certainly wanted to know the answer. This is why they had the U.S. Navy spray a cloud of bacteria over the city of San Francisco.
Since San Fran is the second-largest city in the state of California, it was perfect for the experiment. How could people not see random bacteria in the air? Simple. The city is known for its fog, which makes sense considering it’s near the ocean. This allowed the Navy to hide its bacteria cloud within the fog. The residents of the city were not made aware of the biological experiment, and many became sick with pneumonia-like symptoms. At least one confirmed death even happened as a result.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, the U.S. Government wanted to conduct mind-control experiments. This particular experiment, known as Operation Midnight Climax, might be one of the worst though. The experiment was given its name due to the CIA using prostitutes to lure men into places where the CIA would abduct them. They used San Francisco and New York City as the spots they would do this, forcing men to comply with their experiments without their consent.
The CIA yet again used drugs like LSD among many others, as well as attempted other mind techniques. They never really found anything out in these experiments, like, ever. Usually, when governments conduct experiments on their own people, they at least vary them up. However, the United States continued with similar mind-control experiments. They just differ based on how they found their unwilling participants.
Year(s) Conducted:Sometime Between 664 to 610 B.C.
The Psammetichus Experiment is the oldest known psychological experiment known to history. We know of it due to the story from respected Greek historian, Herodotus. The story goes that the Egyptian Pharaoh Psammetichus I performed an experiment to determine if humans were born with the ability to speak. If so, which specific language is within them to actually use. To find this out, he ordered that two infants be brought up in a remote place by a shepherd.
The shepherd was told to never speak around the children. After two years, the children first began to speak. The word they seemed to repeat most often was “becos.” This is actually the Phyrian word for “bread.” This made Psammetichus feel that the capacity for speech was innate and that the natural language for humans is clearly Phyrian. Of course, there is a lot wrong with this specific experiment. Yet the Egyptian Pharaoh was onto something, causing similar experiments to happen in the future.
Back in the 1970s, there were many people who had a problem with the new way young people were acting. It was the “Hippie Period.” Sex, Drugs, and Rock N’ Roll was the mindset for American youth. Yet homosexuality was also becoming a little more accepted than it had been in the years prior. Yet many were still not cool with it, and that included the American government. While sexually transmitted diseases can pass between men and women, they can also pass between two men as well.
That leads us to the CDC’s Hepatitis B Experiment in 1978. They specifically asked for “promiscuous homosexual males” to test an experimental Hepatitis B vaccine. These experiments were done in the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. It did not seem to result in much at the time. However, just three years later, the AIDS Epidemic managed to break out among homosexual males. The cities it first began to sprout up? Los Angeles, San Fransico, and New York.
When governments conducted experiments on their own people in history up to the early 1900s, it was usually on people society looked down upon. Yet things really changed heavily in Nazi Germany, once Adolph Hitler took power and rounded up Jewish people. He blamed all the nation’s problems on them when there were many problems often unrelated to the Jews. In spite of this, over 6 million Jewish people were rounded up and put into Concentration Camps.
Several people were killed, and many more were put to work in labor camps. Yet some were forced to be Nazi lab rats for their scientists to experiment on. They forced some to drink seawater as a way to find ways to make it drinkable. Others were forced into freezing conditions to test hypothermia symptoms. Many unlucky few tested poisons, while potentially the worst were the surgical experiments. One being bone-grafting. Some were even given tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis, and other diseases to help the Nazis develop vaccines. There were far more than this too.
At some point in 1943, the United States Navy decided it wanted to expose its sailors to mustard gas. The official experiment was supposed to test the effectiveness of new clothing and gas masks. Since the gas was so damaging during World War I, it made sense to want to find ways to battle it. This led them to conduct experiments at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. The Navy recruited thousands of 17 & 18-year-old boys that were all roughly eight weeks into boot camp.
They were told that they needed people to help with experiments that could help them shorten the war. The boys jumped at the chance to help their country. When governments conducted experiments on their own people, as we know, there is always a catch. Only once the boys arrived at the Research Lab, they were told it would involve mustard gas. But they could not get out of the experiment now. Pretty much all of them suffered severe external and internal burns, which were ignored by the Navy. They even threatened some with the Espionage Act, which the nation used to punish spies, terrorists, etc.
Possibly the worst thing we ever did to our own people outside of slavery & war has to be the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. For this study, which began in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service began working with the Tuskegee Institute. They wanted to try to find a way to curb the effects of Syphilis. Yet they also wanted to track the progression of the disease to better understand it too. To do this, they went to Macon County, Alabama, and decided to pick 600 poor, illiterate, black male sharecroppers. 399 of them had previously contracted syphilis. However, they did not know they had it.
The government doctors did not tell them they had it either. However, they did promise them free healthcare, meals, and even burial insurance if they participated in their study. Being poor, this was life-changing for them. Even when we found that Penicillin could cure the illness, the government did not alert them of their syphilis diagnosis. In fact, they followed these men (even as many were dying), up to 1972 before the study was ended. Due to the lack of knowledge, many of the men’s wives caught the disease and their children were often born with congenital syphilis. It even led to a rise in the disease nationwide!