Secret History: U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps Flyers’ Confessions on Use of Biological Weapons in the Korean War

Jeffrey Kaye
46 min readAug 31, 2021
U.S. Air Force lieutenants Kenneth Enoch (left) and John Quinn (right) shown signing germ warfare “confessions”, circa April 1952, photos released by the former Soviet Union

On the morning of the 5th of June, 1952, Colonel Clark, logistics officer of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, called me into his office where he was alone and asked about my progress in becoming familiar with the ordnance job….

[Colonel Clark] paused and asked: “What do you think of the use of the germ bomb?” I said: “Sir, it’s not only against my own principles but it would also certainly leave a black mark against the Marine Corps’ reputation.” The colonel said he didn’t approve of its use either, nor did anyone else in the Wing but we were ordered to do so by higher authority and there was nothing to do but obey our commands.

— from deposition of USMC Major Roy H. Bley, January 21, 1953

I do not say the following in defense of anyone, myself included, I merely report as an absolutely direct observation that every officer when first informed that the United States is using bacteriological warfare in Korea is both shocked and ashamed….

Tactically, this type of weapon is totally unwarranted — it is not even a Marine Corps weapon — morally it is damnation itself; administratively and logistically as planned for use, it is hopeless; and from the point of view of self respect and loyalty, it is shameful.

— from deposition of USMC Colonel Frank H. Schwable, December 6, 1952

Nobody comes out of the biological warfare program smelling like a rose.

— unnamed military official to U.S. Air Force historian Dorothy Miller, quoted in History of Air Force Participation in the Biological Warfare Program, 1951–1954 (p. 66)

[Author’s prefatory statement, added March 22, 2023: Since writing and publishing the following article, further research revealed that the flyers discussed in this article were likely all given instructions prior to the onset of their Korean service that if captured, they were to tell their captors whatever they knew. They were not to be bound to silence, or the mere rendering of name, rank and serial number.

This revelation came out of an examination of the Marine Corps’ Board of Inquiry into the actions of Colonel Frank Schwable