“Duds” or Germ Bombs? A Forgotten Korean War Controversy

Jeffrey Kaye
23 min readMar 24, 2023
U.S. Air Force photo of Korean War leaflet, purportedly warning civilians to stay away from unexploded bombs and military targets like main highways, railroads and military factories (National Museum of the United States Air Force — public domain)

A preponderance of the evidence over the past couple of years has established that the U.S. used biological weapons in its war with North Korea and China in the early 1950s. This is based on CIA, Department of Defense and other government documents, as well as a close reading of the confessions of twenty-five U.S. airmen. It is time now to move on to an examination of how the U.S. pulled off the operation.

The story that follows documents what seems like an unsuccessful attempt by Air Force flyers to tip off the press and government officials to the secret U.S germ warfare campaign then underway in Korea and Northeast China. This attempt at military whistleblowing allows for a wider consideration today of the evidence surrounding the germ warfare charges, especially how the bioattacks were organized.

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On the morning of May 5, 1952, Americans awoke to two headlines concerning the ongoing war in Korea. One story, reported by the United Press wire service, said the U.S. Army had just ordered rationing of “the ‘most important’ kinds of amunition” [sic]. “World War II stocks are just about gone and ‘production still does not equal battle expenditures.’”

Beyond the ammunition woes, it was also reported in the U.S. Senate that “half of the American fighting planes in Korea are ‘obsolete or at least obsolescent.’” As a result, there was a cost in human lives, intoned California’s Republican Senator, and future Senate Majority Leader, William Knowland, as Air Force crew have “unnecessarily died in obsolescent planes in Korea.”

As shocking as that news may have been, a much larger scandal, one that would reverberate for many months and years, was first reported that Monday spring morning.

Screenshot of May 5, 1952 Tri-City Herald, via newspapers.com

The second story, also via United Press, announced that captured U.S. Air Force personnel had told their captors they had been involved in dropping U.S. biological weapons on North Korea and China. Two fliers, 1st Lt Kenneth Enoch and 1st Lt John Quinn, testified to the use of bacteriological or “germ” weapons in a radio broadcast overheard on “Peiping”…

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