WASHINGTON -- Swarms of mosquitoes, the type notorious for transmitting yellow fever, were released in Georgia and Florida in the 1950s by the Army to see if the insects could be used as biological warfare weapons, documents show.
However, none of the mosquitoes, specially bred by the Army Chemical Corps, was infected when released in Savannah, Ga., in 1956 and at Avon Park, Fla., in 1956 and 1958, according to declassified documents made available Tuesday.
The Church of Scientology, which is involved in a long-running legal battle with the federal government, obtained the 1960 Army Chemical Corps documents under the Freedom of Information Act and made them available to reporters.
The mosquitoes, specially bred for the tests, were of the Aedes Aegypti type. The female of that species, when infected, is notorious as a carrier for yellow and dengue fever in humans and a number of animal ailments.
From April to November 1956, the Corps released an undisclosed number of uninfected female mosquitoes in a residential area of Savannah, and then, with cooperation of neighborhood residents, estimated how many mosquitoes entered houses and bit people, the documents said.
Meanwhile, Savannah was trying to control a mosquito problem during the summer of 1956.
Also in 1956, the Corps released 600,000 uninfected mosquitoes from a plane at Avon Park Bombing Range in Florida, the report said.
'Within a day, the mosquitoes had spread a distance of between 1 and 2 miles and had bitten many people,' it said.
In 1958, further tests at Avon Park showed that mosquitoes could easily be disseminated from helicopters, would spread more than a mile in each direction, and would enter all types of buildings, the report said.
In assessing the mosquito as a weapon, the report noted, 'Yellow fever is a highly dangerous disease. A person begins to show symptons of the fever from two to 10 days after he has been bitten. ... Of the clinical cases since 1900, one-third of the patients have died.'
Further, yellow fever 'has never occurred in some areas, including Asia, and therefore it is quite probable that the population of the U.S.S.R. would be quite susceptible to the disease.'
The report said that, in 1960, the Army's Biological Warfare Laboratories at Fort Detrick, Md., 'were capable of producing a half million mosquitoes a month, and the Engineering Command designed a plant capable of producing 130 million mosquitoes a month.'