“False” Confessions Cover-up: U.S. Told Airmen Who Admitted Germ War in Korea They Could Reveal Information If Captured

Jeffrey Kaye
19 min readNov 1, 2022
Screenshot from June 1954 Air Force magazine, pg. 32

This article will explore the long-hidden fact that captured U.S. flyers, who stated under interrogation to their Chinese captors that the U.S. had undertaken a program of biological warfare (BW) in the Korean War, in fact had been told by their superiors that if captured they could tell interrogators whatever they felt they must. Some said they were even instructed to “tell all.”

No sooner were the controversial instructions on conduct under interrogation revealed during a high-profile military hearing in spring 1954 than the revelations from the hearing were classified and removed from public view.

The instructions to talk given to flyers prior to their capture differed significantly from those given to regular enlisted men, who were instructed they could only provide the standard name, rank, serial number and other simple demographic information to their enemy authorities. Airmen and regular troops differed considerably in age and educational status.

Screenshot of 18 Feb. 1954 article on testimony at Schwable trial on instructions to captured Air Force flyers. The Daily Olympian, pg. 2

Even before the war was over, a cover story was concocted that the flyers who provided interrogators detailed depositions about the U.S. germ warfare program were subjected to extraordinary pressures, including Communist “brainwashing” and torture. This has been for decades the mainstream view of most press and academic accounts of the Cold War-era “germ warfare” controversy.

Recent examples of the false confession narrative include such disparate cases as Nicholson Baker’s interview with former prisoner-BW confessor who recanted, Air Force Lieutenant Floyd O’Neal, in Baker’s book, Baseless (pg. 292–295); and a 2021 Amici Curae filing (pg. 8) to the Supreme Court by Physicians for Human Rights and related medical professionals on behalf of U.S. torture victim Abu Zubaydah.

The most powerful evidence regarding the production of “false” biological warfare testimony came from the flyers themselves. Though only approximately eight written recantations were ever produced publicly (see PDF pgs. 44–84), all the…