CIA, MKULTRA and the Cover-up of U.S. Germ Warfare in the Korean War

Jeffrey Kaye
71 min readFeb 25, 2022

In this article, first published at Counterpunch+ in November 2021, CIA mind-control programs are linked to experiments on returning Korean War POWs. Also revealed is the extent to which CIA officials from Projects Bluebird, Artichoke and MKULTRA collaborated with U.S. biological warfare efforts, including the top secret “processing” of high-ranking POWs who confessed to U.S. use of biological weapons. This is a long involved story, and the full history has never been told before.

Image from CIA’s “Baptism by Fire” pamphlet, 2010, in public domain

It was the propaganda version of an incendiary bomb. In 1952 U.S. Air Force and Marine flyers, shot down during the Korean War, testified publicly that they had been ordered to drop biological weapons (BW) on China and North Korea. This was followed by written depositions that detailed each flyer’s knowledge about the germ war: who ordered it, where the weapons came from, the training involved, and the secrecy that surrounded the entire operation.

The confessions of the U.S. flyers (video 10:00–12:30 min), along with an arguably unprecedented degree of compliance and collaboration among U.S. prisoners of war in general, was cause for alarm among Pentagon brass and CIA officials. It would lead to a number of court-martials over the years following the Korean War, though — with the equivocal exception of Colonel Frank Schwable, who though ultimately cleared, was subjected to a Marine Corps Board of Inquiry — none of the BW POW confessors were court-martialed.

The flyers may not have faced trial, but their confessions had to obliterated from the public’s mind. So the confessions were suppressed, written off as the product of unimaginable torture and diabolical and novel brainwashing techniques. Public retractions of the confessions were arranged. Copies of the confessions were suppressed. At the same time, a covert U.S. psychological warfare campaign was undertaken to challenge the flyers’ statements. Months before any confessions were actually made, military and CIA-linked social scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists were advocating preparation for a spate of confessions.

The belief in widespread collaboration by U.S. prisoners with their Chinese and North Korean captors led to the proposal to use controversial mind control techniques in their…