The Vigil at Fort Detrick

An Appeal
to Stop Preparation for Germ Warfare
From July 1, 1959 to July 4, 1960 a vigil was held at Fort Detrick, Maryland to protest against the germ warfare research that was being conducted there.

Helen Corson and other members of London Grove Meeting were active in the vigil. Below is a drawing of the vigil that was included in vigil materials in the fall of 1959. Then there are two ads from 1960 that were placed in The News of Frederick, Maryland. Helen is shown as a member of the Vigil Committee in each of the ads. The ads detail the issues and, coming as they do from the end of the vigil, they include an assessmentof what has been achieved and point to an ongoing strategy.
From: Mid-Maryland History: Conflict, Growth and Change
From: The News (Frederick, Maryland) 14 Jun 1960, Tue
The News (Frederick, Maryland) 1 Jul 1960, Fri
Vigil Auntie
In the page below, from Mid-Maryland History: Conflict, Growth and Change, we get a snapshot of the vigil and find Helen as "Vigil Auntie."

From Mid-Maryland History: Conflict, Growth and Change

 Germ Warfare Today
It is impossible to know what effect the Vigil at Detrick had on public opinion and government policy. This article from PBS, Nixon Ends Biological Weapons Program, describes the remarkable change that occured in the 15 years following the Vigil at Detrick:

"In November 1969, President Richard Nixon surprised the American public, and the world, by ordering the United States to unilaterally discontinue its biological weapons program, thus ending further research into their development. Though this decision came as a shock to many who operated the offensive biological warfare program at Fort Detrick, Pine Bluff Arsenal, Dugway Proving Ground, and elsewhere, its seeds had been planted years earlier."

"The Biological Weapons Convention"

"Whatever Nixon’s motivations, his decision had the desired international effect. Negotiations on a treaty banning all biological weapons intensified, and after the Soviet Union dropped its opposition, in April 1972 the Biological Weapons Convention was completed and became open for signature by the nations of the world. The U.S. Senate ratified the convention in December 1974, and it went into effect in March 1975, the same year the Senate also finally ratified the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning the wartime use of bacteriological weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention was a historic accomplishment, not merely restricting biological weapons but pledging their complete elimination. Unfortunately, one of its key signatories, the Soviet Union, continued a secret biological weapons program in direct violation of the treaty’s terms, a fact that would only become known years later."

Click for slide show.
  Much has changed since the Vigil at Detrick. We have a Biological Weapons Convention which has surely dettered the development and utilization of biological weapons to some degree.

Despite the Convention biological weapons continue to be manufactured and on occasions to be used. As reported in the Congressional Record the United States supplied biological materials, including anthrax, to Iraq in the 1980's. When I wrote to my Representative and asked why we had done so, his response was that Iraq had been at war with Iran at the time and that it seemed like a good idea. He did not say that it was, in retrospect a mistake.

This American Scientist article, The Growing Threat of Biological Weapons is 15 years old and has an urgency that has mostly been ignored. Terrorism is a wild card in the effort to eliminate the manufacture and use of biological weapons.