Of Bugs and Bombs
Introductory note by Kenn Thomas
Rumors have it that the movie version of X Files may have something
to do with specially bred bees used to deliver a deadly viral plague. In part to
forestall the routine trivialization and distortion of important historical realities
which often accompany that show, Steamshovel Press offers a real life look at
the possibility of insect-borne viruses. It comes from Colonel Frank H. Schwable,
a US pilot captured by the Koreans during the Korean War who confessed to his role in a bacteriological
warfare project that utilized populations of germ-infested flies and mosquitos dropped
on the enemy in bombs, replete with miniature parachutes.
The story has another angle, however. It might have been coerced from Schwable
under Korean brainwashing torture. Other airman captured during the Korean War
claimed that similar "confessions" were forced from them.
After Korean complaints over the germ bug bombs, promised investigations by the
International Red Cross and the World Health Organization never materialized. A 1952
scientific commission, which had as a member a witness to WWII Japanese germ
warfare who spoke fluent Chinese, concluded that the charges were
true. A preliminary investigation of Schwable after the war went nowhere. Secret post-
WWII deals between the US and the infamous Shiro Ishii's Unit 731, the germ warfare
program of imperial Japan, are documented by Jonathan Vankin in
in Steamshovel Press #9.
Authors Jon Holliday and Bruce Cummings note in their history, Korea The
Unknown War (Pantheon, 1988) that "The argument that probably carried the
most weight [that Schwabel's charges were false] was that the USA could not have
used a weapon as horrible as germ warfare, though nothing can be established
by this assertion. The USA was engaged in germ-warfare research. It has employed
Japanese and Nazi germ-warfare experts and was at the time rushing through work
on the nerve gas Sarin, a chemical weapon that was banned by the Geneva convention.
The evidence shows preparations for using germ warfare (which do not prove anything
about whether it was used or not.)" Sarin gas, of course, is chemical weapon of
choice for the Aum Shinrokyo sect.
Interestingly, after the Korean War US church groups began the Heifer Project, a
program to rebuild the Korean insect population lost to the widespread use of
DDT. It shipped over planeloads of honey bees.
U.S. Wages Germ Warfare in Korea
Statement of Prisoner of War,
Colonel Frank H. Schwable
Colonel Frank H. Schwable, 04429, former Chief of Staff of the
United States First Marine Aircraft Wing, broadcasting in North
Korea in February, 1953, the full details of the
strategic plan and bacteriological warfare operations of American
aircraft in Korea
The [North Korean] Hsinhua Agency has made public the
following full text of the signed deposition made by Colonel Frank H.
Schwable, Chief of staff of the U.S. First Marine Aircraft Wing, disclosing
the strategic plan and aims of the American Command in waging germ
warfare in Korea.
I am Colonel Frank H. Schwable, 04429, and was
Chief of Staff of the First Marine Aircraft Wing until
shot down and captured on July 8, 1952.
My service with the Marine Corps began in 1929
and I was designated an aviator in 1931, seeing duty in
many parts of the world. Just before I came to Korea,
I completed a tour of duty in the Division of Aviation
at Marine Corps Headquarters.
DIRECTIVE OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
I arrived in Korea on April 10, 1952, to take over
my duties as Chief of Staff of the First Marine Air-
craft Wing. All my instructions and decisions were
subject to confirmation by the Assistant Commanding
General, Lamson-Scribner. Just before I assumed full
responsibility for the duties of Chief of Staff, General
Lamson-Scribner called me into his office to talk over
various problems of the Wing. During this conversa-
tion he said: "Has Binney given you all the background
on the special missions run by VMF-513?" I asked
him if he meant "suprop" (our code name for bac-
teriological bombs) and he confirmed this. I told him
I had been given all the background by Colonel
Colonel Arthur A. Binney, the officer I relieved as
Chief of Staff, had given me, as his duties required
that he should, an outline of the general plan of bac-
teriological warfare in Korea and the details of the
part played up to that time by the First Marine Air-
The general plan for bacteriological warfare in
Korea was directed by the United States Joint Chiefs
of Staff in October, 1951. In that month the Joint
Chiefs of Staff sent a directive by hand to the Com-
manding General, Far East Command (at that time
General Ridgway), directing the initiation of bac-
teriological warfare in Korea on an initially small,
experimental stage but in expanding proportions.
This directive was passed to the Commanding Gen-
eral, Far East Air Force, General Weyland, in Tokyo.
General Weyland then called into personal conference
General Everest, Commanding General of the Fifth
Air Force in Korea, and also the Commander of the
Nineteenth Bomb Wing at Okinawa, which unit
operates directly under FEAF.
The plan that I shall now outline was gone over, the
broad aspects of the problem were agreed upon and
the following information was brought back to Korea
by General Everest, personally and verbally, since for
security purposes it was decided not to have anything
in writing on this matter in Korea and subject to pos-
The basic objective was at that time to test, under
field conditions, the various elements of bacteriological
warfare, and to possibly expand the field tests, at a
later date, into an element of the regular combat
operations, depending on the results obtained and the
situation in Korea.
The effectiveness of the different diseases available
was to be tested, especially for their spreading or
epidemic qualities under various circumstances, and
to test whether each disease caused a serious disrup-
tion to enemy operations arid civilian routine or just
minor inconveniences, or was contained completely,
causing no difficulties.
Various types of armament or containers were to
be tried out under field conditions and various types
of aircraft were to be used to test their suitability as
bacteriological bomb vehicles.
Terrain types to be tested included high areas,
seacoast areas, open spaces, areas enclosed by moun-
tains, isolated areas, areas relatively adjacent to one
another, large and small towns and cities, congested
it's and those relatively spread out. These tests were
to be extended over an unstated period of time but
sufficient to cover all extremes of temperature found
All possible methods of delivery were to be tested
as well as tactics developed to include initially night
attack and then expanding into day attack by special-
ized Squadrons Various types of bombing were to be
tried out, and various combinations of bombing, from
single planes up to and including formations of planes,
were to be tried out, with bacteriological bombs used
in conjunction with conventional bombs. Enemy reac-
tions were particularly to be tested or - observed by
any means available to ascertain what his counter-
measures would be, what propaganda steps he would
take, and to what extent his military operations would
be affected by this type of warfare.
Security measures were to be thoroughly tested-
both friendly and enemy. On the friendly ride, all pos-
sible steps were to be taken to confine knowledge of
the use of this weapon and to control information on
the subject. On the enemy side, every possible means
was to be used to deceive the enemy and prevent his
actual proof that the weapon was being used.
Finally, if the situation warranted, while continuing
the experimental phase of bacteriological warfare
according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive, it might
be expanded to become a part of the military or tac-
tical effort in Korea.
The B-29s from Okinawa began using bacteriolog-
ical bombs in November, 1951, covering targets
all over North Korea in what might be called
random bombing. One night the target might be in
Northeast Korea and the next night in Northwest
Korea. Their bacteriological bomb operations were
conducted in combination with normal night armed
reconnaissance as a measure of economy and security.
Early in January 1952, General Schilt, then Com-
manding General of the First Marine Aircraft Wing,
was called to Fifth Air Force Headquarters in Seoul,
where General Everest told him of the directive issued
by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and ordered him to have
VMF-513-Marine Night Fighter Squadron 513
of Marine Aircraft Group 33 of the First Marine Air-
craft Wing-participate in the bacteriological war-
fare program. VMF-513 was based on K8, the Air
Force base at Kunsan of the Third Bomb Wing, whose
B-26s had already begun bacteriological operations.
VMF-513 was to be serviced by the Third Bomb Wing.
While all marine aircraft (combat types) shore based
in Korea operate directly under the Fifth Air Force,
with the First Marine Aircraft Wing being kept in-
formed of their activities, when a new or continuing
program is being initiated, the Fifth Air Force normally
has initially informed the Wing as a matter of cour-
Towards the end of January 1952, Marine night
fighters of Squadron 513, operating as single
planes on night armed reconnaissance, and carrying
bacteriological bombs, shared targets with the B-26s
covering the lower half of North Korea with the
greatest emphasis on the western portion. Squadron
513 coordinated with the Third Bomb Wing on all
these missions, using F7F aircraft (Tiger Cats) because
of their twin engine safety.
K8 (Kunsan) offered the advantage of take-off
directly over the water, in the event of engine failure,
and both the safety and security of over-water flights
to enemy territory.
For security reasons, no information on the types
of bacteria being used was given to the First Marine
In March 1952, General Schilt was again called to
Fifth Air Force Headquarters and verbally directed by
General Everest to prepare Marine Photographic
Squadron I (VMJ-1 Squadron) of Marine Aircraft
Group 33, to enter the program. VMJ-1 based on K3,
Marine Aircraft Group 33's base at Pohang, Korea,
was to use F2H-2P photographic reconnaissance
The missions would be intermittent and combined
with normal photographic missions and would be
scheduled by the Fifth Air Force in separate, top-secret
The Banshees were brought into the program because
of their specialized operations, equipment, facilities
and isolated area of operations at K3. They could
penetrate further into North Korea as far as enemy
counteraction is concerned and worked in two-plane
sections involving a minimum of crews and disturb-
ance of normal missions. They could also try out
bombing from high altitudes in horizontal flight in
conjunction with photographic runs.
During March 1952, the Banshees of Marine Photo-
graphic Squadron 1 commenced bacteriological opera-
tions, continuing and expanding the bacteriological
bombing of North Korean towns, always combining
these operations with normal photographic missions.
Only a minimum of bomb supplies were kept on hand
to reduce storage problems, and the Fifth Air Force
sent a team of two officers and several men to Y\3
(Pohang) to instruct the marine specialists in handling
The Navy's part in the program was with the F9Fs
(Panthers), ADs (Skyraiders) and standard F2Hs
(Banshees), which as distinct from the photographi--
configuration, used carriers off the east coast of Korea.
The Air Force had also expanded its own operations
to include squadrons of different type aircraft, with
different methods and tactics of employing bacterio-
This was the situation up to my arrival in Korea.
Subsequent thereto, the following main events took