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Secret Radiation Experiments: Controversy and Missing Files

One of the frustrating aspects of an investigation is when you know that – at one point – there was important data that can no longer be found. And, no matter how deep you dig, it never surfaces. The one good thing, however, is that if it did exist, then there’s still a possibility of getting your hands on it. I’ve seen this situation occur over and over again in relation to two issues more than any other: (a) the UFO subject; and (b) the “Human Radiation” affair of the 1990s. I’ll start with the radiation issue: In January 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed an Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE) that was tasked with investigating unethical medical experimentation undertaken on human beings from the mid-1940s onwards. The ACHRE was quick to realize that Paperclip personnel played a considerable role in post-war human experimentation on American soil. According to an April 5, 1995 memorandum, from the Advisory Committee Staff (ACS) to the Members of the ACHRE:

“The Air Force’s School of Aviation Medicine (SAM) at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas conducted dozens of human radiation experiments during the Cold War, among them flash-blindness studies in connection with atomic weapons tests, and data gathering for total-body irradiation studies conducted in Houston. Because of the extensive postwar recruiting of German scientists for the SAM and other US defense installations, and in light of the central importance of the Nuremberg prosecutions to the Advisory Committee’s work, members of the staff have collected documentary evidence about Project Paperclip from the National Archives and Department of Defense records. The experiments for which Nazi investigators were tried included many related to aviation research. These were mainly high-altitude exposure studies, oxygen deprivation experiments, and cold studies related to air-sea rescue operations. This information about aircrew hazards was important to both sides, and, of course, continued to be important to military organizations in the Cold War.”

Radiation sign

The ACHRE memorandum then detailed the background and scope of the project: “Project Paperclip was a postwar and Cold War operation carried out by the Joint Objectives Agency (JOIA) [Author’s Note: the JOIA was a special intelligence office that reported to the Director of Intelligence in the War Department, comparable to the intelligence chief of today’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.] Paperclip had two aims: to exploit German scientists for American research, and to deny these intellectual resources to the Soviet Union. At least 1,600 scientists and their dependents were recruited and brought to the United States by Paperclip and its successor projects through the early 1970s.”

ACHRE continued: “In recent years, it has been alleged that many of these individuals were brought to the United States in violation of American government policy not to permit the entrance of ‘ardent Nazis’ into the country, that many were security risks, and that at least some were implicated in Holocaust-related activities.” The Committee then turned its attention to two controversial figures in this particularly notorious saga. The first was Hubertus Strughold. Born in Germany in 1898, Strughold obtained a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1922, an M.D. in Sensory Physiology in 1923 and between 1929 and 1935 served as Director of the Aeromedical Research Institute, Berlin.

In 1947, as a result of Project Paperclip’s actions, Strughold joined the staff of the Air Force’s School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field, Texas; and in 1949 he was named head of the then-newly-formed Department of Space Medicine at the School – where, according to documentation uncovered by the ACHRE, he conducted research into “effects of high speed;” “lack of oxygen;” “decompression;” “effects of ultra-violet rays;” “space cabin simulator for testing humans;” “weightlessness;” and “visual disturbances.” Strughold was naturalized as an American citizen in 1956 and, four years later, became Chair of the Advanced Studies Group, Aerospace Medical Center at Brooks Air Force Base. Strughold – whose awards and honors included the USAF Exceptional Civilian Service Award and the Theodore C. Lyster Award of the Aerospace Medical Association – retired in 1968.

The second character of absolutely justified deep and dark controversy was one who, incredibly (and wholly outrageously), rose to a position of major significance within NASA.  Werner von Braun was born in Wirsitz, Germany, on March 23, 1912 and earned his bachelor’s degree at the age of twenty from the University of Berlin, where he also received his doctorate in physics in 1934. Between 1932 and 1937, von Braun was employed by the German Ordnance Department and became technical director of the Peenemuende Rocket Center in 1937, where the V-2 rocket was developed. Von Braun came to the United States in September 1945 under contract with the Army Ordnance Corps as part of the Paperclip affair and worked on high altitude firings of captured V-2 rockets at the White Sands Proving Ground, until he became project director of the Ordnance Research and Development Division Sub-Office at Fort Bliss, Texas. On October 28, 1949, the Secretary of the Army approved the transfer of the Fort Bliss group to Redstone Arsenal; and after his arrival in Huntsville in April 1950, von Braun was appointed Director of Development Operations.

Now, we come to one of the most important aspects of this story. It focuses on my words in the first paragraph of this article. As the committee revealed: “With the assistance of hundreds of federal officials and agency staff, the Committee retrieved and reviewed hundreds of thousands of government documents. Some of the most important documents were secret and were declassified at our request. Even after this extraordinary effort, the historical record remains incomplete. Some potentially important collections could not be located and were evidently lost or destroyed years ago.” In other words, yes we have some fascinating – and controversial – data, but we may never really know what happened to those “potentially important collections.” Just maybe, though, we will.

In the next article, I’ll demonstrate the way in which certain documents have gone missing in relation to UFOs.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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