Biowar in World War II?

An interesting discussion about possible biowarfare in WW II.

“We know of course that this offensive eventually turned into a disaster in which the German Sixth Army was lost. But nobody knew that then.  The Germans were moving forward with little to stop them: they were scary SOBs.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The Soviet leadership was frightened, enough so that they sent out a general backs-to-the-wall, no-retreat order that told the real scale of losses.   That was the Soviet mood in the summer of 42.

 That’s the historical background.  Now for the clues. First, Ken Alibek was a bioweapons scientist back in the USSR.  In his book, Biohazard, he tells how,  as a student,  he was given the assignment of explaining a mysterious pattern of tularemia epidemics back in the war. To him, it looked artificial, whereupon his instructor said something to the effect of “you never thought that, you never said that.  Do you want a job?” Second, Antony Beevor mentions the mysteriously poor health of German troops at Stalingrad – well before being surrounded (p210-211). Third, the fact that there were large tularemia epidemics in the Soviet Union during the war – particularly in the ‘oblasts temporarily occupied by the Fascist invaders’, described in History and Incidence of Tularemia in the Soviet Union, by Robert Pollitzer.

 Fourth, personal communications from a friend who once worked at Los Alamos. Back in the 90’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a time when you could hire a whole team of decent ex-Soviet physicists for the price of a single American. My friend was having a drink with one of his Russian contractors, son of a famous ace, who started talking about  how his dad had dropped tularemia here, here, and here near Leningrad (sketching it out on a napkin) during the Great Patriotic War. Not that many people spontaneously bring up stories like that in dinner conversation…

 Fifth, the huge Soviet investment in biowarfare throughout the Cold War is a hint: they really, truly, believed in it, and what better reason could there be than decisive past successes?  In much the same way, our lavish funding of the NSA strongly suggested that cryptanalysis and sigint must have paid off handsomely  for the Allies in WWII – far more so than publicly acknowledged, until the revelations about Enigma in the 1970s and later.”

So the argument is that the Soviets aerosolized Tularemia and used it against the sixth army during the initial, very successful push towards Stalingrad.

To arguements about this theory gCochrane says:

“Tularemia is not spread from person to person: it is spread either by arthropod bites or by water. It can, however, can be spread very effectively as an aerosol. Only 10-50 bacteria are required to infect, and it is highly incapacitating.

A. We know tularemia is an effective biological weapon. We weaponized it in the 1960s.

B. We know that the Soviets were researching tularemia (as a weapon) in the 1930s, in Suzdal.

C. We know that there was a tularemia epidemic in the battle of Stalingrad 1942, that eventually hit both Germans and Russians.

D. We know that German disease mortality was way up as early as July, well before any food shortage or extreme cold. The Russians were puzzled at all the illness among the Germans. Later, in investigations, German doctors were also puzzled.

E. We know that the Soviets had their backs to the wall and were mortally afraid of the German offensive.

F. We know the key decisionmaker was Joseph Stalin. I assumed that people knew what he was like, but that was silly of me. He was was one of the most ruthless killers in world history.

 G. We know – or I do, at any rate – that the Russians had little biplanes, Po-2s, (later used for many years as cropdusters) flying over the German forces every single night.

 H. And I have (second-hand) personal communications from Russians saying that they damn well did drop tularemia, and not just at Stalingrad.

 It is impossible to imagine that Stalin did _not_ order its use, and we know that it works.”

It seems like Biowar is the poor mans WMD.  I remember a reading that the black plague was used during a genoese siege in the crimea as a bio-weapon and that use launched it on its career in Europe.  I’m surprised Hitler didn’t use biowar on the ‘slavic’ soviets.  It seems a natural extension of his racial struggle fantasies.  Perhaps he had a loathing for it stemming from being gassed?

One of the commentators, Bruce Charlton, says the hittites might have used biowar.

This makes me wonder about the flu in WWI.

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