The SKELP Directives: U.S. Secret Financing of Germ Warfare during the Korean War

Jeffrey Kaye
25 min readAug 29, 2022
Picture of “bacterial bombs” modified from U.S. psychological warfare leaflet bombs, from the September 1952 “Report of International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China,” pg. 357 (For history of this report, click here.)

The General was irritated. It was mid-January 1952, and from accounts subsequently released by China, North Korea, and international investigators, a campaign of aerial bombardment with biological weapons (BW) was taking place over both China and North Korea.

The germ weapons attacks allegedly were aimed at both military personnel and civilians, and included the dissemination of plant diseases. Now, suddenly, the bureaucrats in the Pentagon were turning off the secret money spigot for some of the most classified projects of the war!

What happened?

This essay is the first historical account of the secret funding used for the research into and production of chemical and biological weapons during the Korean War. It is based largely on declassified documents available in the U.S. National Archives, many of which are available at the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” collection at brillonline.com.

Besides clandestine forms of funding their secret weapons, this article will also look at other ways in which the BW program was kept secret, including the use of unwritten orders, the false labeling of weapons during shipment, and extraordinary security procedures taken during the movement of such materials.

The Korean War-era BW allegations have remained controversial for decades. A few years ago, this author posted online a few dozen declassified CIA communications intelligence (COMINT) reports documenting the fact that various Communist military units were indeed reporting, in encrypted dispatches with authorities and other military units, U.S. attacks by biological weapons in the early months of 1952. Units from China’s People’s Volunteer Army and the DPRK Korean People’s Army continued making such internal reports at least through the end of the year, and existing evidence argues these reports continued until nearly the armistice agreement in July 1953.

Despite such clear evidence of BW attack by U.S. forces, Western historians and commentators have ignored the CIA COMINT reports, relying on dubious documentation from “experts.” At the same time, historians have been unable to ignore the fact that the U.S. military, with assistance from the CIA, vastly accelerated its BW

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