Pandemic Biological Warfare

In 1346, the bodies of Mongol warriors who had died of plague were thrown over the walls of the besieged Crimean city of Kaffa (now Theodosia). After a protracted siege, during which the Mongol army under Jani Beg was suffering the disease, they catapulted the infected corpses over the city walls to infect the inhabitants. It has been speculated that this operation may have been responsible for the arrival of the Black Death in Europe.

The Native American population was devastated after contact with the Old World due to the introduction of many different fatal diseases. There is, however, only one documented case of germ warfare, involving British commander Jeffrey Amherst and Swiss-British officer Colonel Henry Bouquet, whose correspondence included a reference to the idea of giving smallpox-infected blankets to Indians as part of an incident known as Pontiac's Rebellion which occurred during the Siege of Fort Pitt (1763) late in the French and Indian War. It is uncertain whether this documented British attempt successfully infected the Indians.

During the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army conducted human experimentation on thousands, mostly Chinese. In military campaigns, the Japanese army used biological weapons on Chinese soldiers and civilians. Plague fleas, infected clothing, and infected supplies encased in bombs were dropped on various targets. The resulting cholera, anthrax, and plague were estimated to have killed around 400,000 Chinese civilians.

Diseases considered for weaponization, or known to be weaponized include anthrax, ebola, Marburg virus, plague, cholera, typhus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, brucellosis, Q fever, machupo, Coccidioides mycosis, Glanders, Melioidosis, Shigella, Psittacosis, Japanese B encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever, and smallpox. China possibly suffered a serious accident at one of its biological weapons plants in the late 1980s. The Soviets suspected that two separate epidemics of hemorrhagic fever that swept the region in the late 1980s were caused by an accident in a lab where Chinese scientists were weaponizing viral diseases. In January 2009, an Al-Qaeda training camp in Algeria had been wiped out by the plague, killing approximately 40 Islamic extremists. Experts said that the group was developing biological weapons.

Further Reading


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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011

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