The Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of Facts Concerning Bacteriological Warfare in Korea and China (ISC report) published at the height of the Korean War, validated claims by North Korea and China that the US had launched bacteriological warfare (biological warfare, BW) attacks against both troops and civilian targets in those two countries over a period of several months in 1952.
This 667 page truth commission report has the dubious distinction of being the most vilified written document of the 20th Century. The report's release in September, 1952, brought a withering international attack. It was roundly denounced by American and British politicians of the highest rank, ridiculed by four star generals, accused of fraud by celebrated pundits, misquoted by notable scientists, and scorned by a compliant Western press. Charges were made against the quality and truthfulness of its science. Its “unstated” political agenda was denounced. The ethics of interviewing captured US pilots was excoriated and its authors were publicly flayed as communist dupes. The report was red baited in the US halls of Congress and deemed unpatriotic to read, and therefore went unread and deliberately forgotten over the years, which has been the fate of Korean War history in general. In subsequent decades, volumes placed in American university library collections were quietly and permanently removed from circulation.
When the rare copy came up for auction, it was discretely purchased and disappeared from public view. This critical 67-year-old truth commission document from the Korean War was slipping towards oblivion. For these very reasons, historians and truth seekers should exalt the wondrous rebirth of the ISC Report from near extinction with the publication of this new electronic edition. We welcome the sunshine that re-publication brings to a shadowy and suppressed chapter of American Cold War history.
The most controversial content of the ISC report, were the interviews conducted with four captured American airmen. The airmen were: Lt. KL Enoch; Lt. John Quinn; Lt. FB O'Neal; Lt. Paul Kniss. Eventually, twenty-four POW airmen confessed to conducting BW attacks from airplanes.
From a scientific viewpoint, interviewing the pilots made perfect sense, but politically it caused an uproar. The Western press found it a reprehensible breach of war etiquette; clearly the Commission had overstepped legal and ethical bounds. US politicians denounced the report as prejudicial, and the commissioners as communist sympathizers The US Army claimed the airmen had been tortured to extract their confessions. When the airmen stated they were being treated humanely, the Army's psychological warfare staff proposed a novel explanation— the airmen had been “brainwashed” by having their memories erased and false memories implanted by a devious “new Chinese communist interrogation technique”.
Efforts to discredit the ISC report continued long after its 1952 publication, and a brief selection is worth reviewing. The BW denial lobby has proposed various “plausible denial” arguments, but the shaky logic of denialism is only propped up by government financed right-wing think tanks. Denial positions have been walked back so many times that it amounts to a complete confession.
Readers are invited to decide for themselves…