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

Jeffrey Kaye
26 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

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.