The Biology of Doom

Book Review



The Biology of Doom


Ed Regis


Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

November, 2001


The Biology of Doom is the saga of The United States biological and chemical weapons program from before the Second World War until it was dismantled under presidential order in 1969. It shows the influences of foreign competition in the field and also summarizes what was learned from study of the files of the infamous Japanese Unit 731.

Get more information about the Biology of Doom at Amazon.comDuring the Second World War, the Japanese developed a secret germ warfare program. According to the book, this program, led by Major General Shiro Ishii, performed  extensive research into the effects of different biological and chemical weapons  agents on humans. The Germans also began crude experimentation with the growth  and dispersal of biological weapons during this period. Seeking to mass-produce weapons of their own, the United States started their own germ warfare program  with assistance from the British.

The Japanese gained extensive knowledge in the field by testing on human subjects and populations in China during the war. The results of these studies were sought after by the United States at the conclusion of the conflict, and after a period of years the documentation and remaining medical samples were finally uncovered. This research gave the United States qualitative information about the effects of different germ weapons that would have otherwise been unobtainable, providing focus on specific strategies.

This story is much more than a dry discussion of the history of germ warfare programs. In addition to providing the sometimes gruesome details of field tests on live animals and people, the author also delivers an insight into the personal lives and feelings of the scientists, government officials, and the volunteer test subjects. The text is presented as a timeline, so that the reader can see the impact and interaction of people and events as they happened, often at different ends of the globe. The story ends with short summaries about the scientists still alive and the fate of the abandoned research facilities.

The Biology of Doom contains a number of surprises. It clearly details the use of humans as test subjects by the United States government. One also learns of the bargaining that resulted in the dismissal of war crime charges against a number of the scientists in Unit 731. Finally, it discovers the status of secret stocks of poisons that were retained even after the germ weapons program ended.

This story seems to give a candid and accurate portrayal of the development of the United States germ warfare arsenal. Close-up looks at the major researchers on three continents gives the story an intimate feel. Anyone wanting to understand the origins of the United States biological warfare research will find this work insightful.

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