Shaken, Not Stirred: ‘It felt like you were on fire.’

September 25, 2016
Jim Bond

Jim Bond

Shaken, Not Stirred. A blog by Jim Bond.

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Writers note: Many people have commented on last week’s column, either directly to me or through Mason County Press Editor-in-Chief Rob Alway. The story was very personal to me, centering largely on a close friend’s death as a result of Agent Orange.

It was hard to write, harder still for many of you to read because it elicited tender, raw emotions you may have experienced through the death of friends and loved ones.

I respect your desire for anonymity in responding to the blogs I write. But I also urge you to make, as you feel appropriate, comments on MCP’s Facebook page, since one of the things I hope to accomplish is a dialogue.

Anton Chekhov once stated: “The task of a writer is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly”.

I hope I’m stating the problems correctly, whether on the subject of junk mail, the rudeness of public cell phone usage, or the intentional medical experimentation by the United States government on the people tasked with defending us. And, on unsuspecting citizens.


I’m not a huge fan of Bill Maher. It appears to me that he feels he’s the only one with the right answers. Everyone else is stupid. I suffer from that same intractability at times though. But there is a Bill Maher quote from several years ago which really sticks with me: “Land of the free, and home of the brave…act like it”.

I like this quote because it urges us to confront fear, as a nation. Not necessarily the fear and apprehension created by terrorist attacks, but the institutional fear of admitting our guilt for grievous acts and trying to correct them. The examples are plentiful and shameful: slavery, the slaughter and subjugation of native Americans, the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent in WWII. The list goes on.

Today though, I want to address medical experimentation by the United States government.

Let me be very clear, I do not believe the United States government intentionally poisoned our soldiers during Vietnam. I believe it was calloused disregard and a politically spawned momentum to win at all costs.

Access information about government sponsored experimentation during the Korean ‘police action’. Pay particular attention to a 1950 experiment in which bacteria was sprayed from naval ships over San Francisco and the 1953 release of zinc cadmium sulfide over the city of St. Louis (I was living in St. Louis at the time, I was 6) and other notable experiments.

This was all part of Operation Large Area Coverage. Its purpose was to assess biological attack threats, ostensibly from the Godless Soviet Union. Well, what a Christian, American thing for the United States to do, experiment on its own citizens to protect its own citizens. The St. Louis aerial spraying was over poorer, black neighborhoods of the city.

It has been alleged that radioactive particles may have been added to the mixture. These charges were taken seriously enough to initiate a congressional probe and report during the Clinton Administration, establishing human radiation experiments in the United States.* It’s a long read, about 1,000 pages. Essentially though, it was proven that human experimentation did take place, without the knowledge of the subjects. Further investigation was rejected by the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations.

My, my…land of the free, and home of the brave…indeed.

But then, there is Rollins Edwards. He was a black soldier in World War II.  His story was covered on National Public Radio. I heard the broadcast in a parking lot of a mall in Muskegon. I was glued to the radio, couldn’t pull myself away to go inside to buy the shirt or pajamas which were so important to me at that time.

“It felt like you were on fire,” recalls Edwards, now 93 years old. “Guys started screaming and hollering and trying to break out. And then some of the guys fainted. And finally they opened the door and let us out, and the guys were just, they were in bad shape.”**

Edwards was relating the story of a dozen other soldiers, loaded into a wooden gas chamber (a gas chamber). The door was locked, and then, “…a mixture of mustard gas and a similar agent called lewisite was piped inside”.**

“They said we were being tested to see what effect these gases would have on black skins,” Edwards says.**

My, my…land of the free, and home of the brave…indeed.

“…that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;”

Hmmm…are we our own worst enemy?


Let’s look at current examples of the ‘calloused disregard’ I mentioned earlier. An accepted, universal knowledge of infrastructure issues in our country leading to unacceptable levels of lead in our public water supply. It’s not just Flint, Mich.

It’s also events such as Dakota Access Pipeline, climate change, the current pipeline leaks/spills in Alabama and Georgia. Social issues.

Why is this important? Because we seem hell-bent on slow suicide as a nation.

Can we do better? Definitely.

Will we do better?


“Land of the free, and home of the brave…Act like it”.

In November.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Media Group 31, LLC or its affiliates — Mason County Press, Oceana County Press, Manistee County Press.  



**Printed transcript, NPR. June 22, 2015.


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