Welsome spent more than six years tracking down victims whose names long had been classified as top secret during the 50-year-old Atomic Energy Commission documents
In 1987, Eileen Welsome, chanced upon a reference to the plutonium experiment involving human objects in a footnote to a declassified report on animal experimentation at Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to Welsome: "I was stunned by the idea that human beings had been injected with plutonium.... I wanted to learn more. Who were these people Earlier, in February 1976, Arthur Kranish, editor of a newsletter Science Trends had also come across a passage in a study done for the Atomic Energy Commission stating that during 1945-47, as part of the Manhattan Project -the designers of the first atomic bomb- had injected 18 patients, who were diagnosed as having diseases that gave them life expectancies of less than 10 years, with "relatively massive quantities of bomb-grade plutonium" to see how the body reacts to the toxin. It was a compelling saga of government malfeasance and human tragedy.
Simeon, one of the 18 people, was just five when he was injected on April 26, 1946, with a heavy dose of plutonium. About a week later, bone, blood, and tissue samples were taken from the child. Simeon Shaw died eight months after the injection. Similarly, on July 18, 1947, 36-year-old Elmer Allen's left leg was injected with plutonium. Three days later, the leg was amputated at mid-thigh. His hospital chart states that the limb was sent to pathology for radiological study. Allen was reported as having a pre-existing bone cancer. Allen lived until June 10, 1991, with horrible complications.
In October 1986 - after a two-year investigation - Markey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on energy conservation and power, released a 95-page report detailing 31 separate experiments in which the government exposed nearly 700 people to radioactive substances between the mid-1940s and the early 1970s. The report, "American Nuclear Guinea Pigs: Three Decades of Radioactive Experiments on U.S. Citizens," stated that officials had conducted "repugnant" and "bizarre" experiments on hospital patients, prison inmates and hundreds of others who "might not have retained their full faculties for informed consent."
How long will the media stay interested in a story they have dropped repeatedly over the last two decades As some journalists and activists point out, there are still plenty of fresh angles to be explored. They say, for example, the media should closely monitor the DOE's efforts to open files and its recommendations for victim compensation. They also suggest re-porters investigate the scientists and officials responsible for the experiments, some of whom are still in positions of authority.
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Edwin Black's IBM and the Holocaust: