Living Weapon

9pm, Friday 23 January

This documentary looks at the US government’s programme to develop biological weapons of mass destruction, which began under the direction of President Franklin Roosevelt and continued for over two decades.

In 1942, the US had just been attacked at Pearl Harbor and was fighting a world war on two fronts. As doctors and scientists prepared to exploit their new understanding of germs, the stage was set for America to enter the business of biological warfare.

The work proceeded under the same top security classification as the parallel Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb. But when World War II ended with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world saw what atomic weapons could do and many questioned the need for biological warfare. Powerful influences in Washington were at work, however, and the Cold War years saw the programme intensifying, with testing carried out in locations across the land.

But on November 25 1969 the research came to an end when President Richard Nixon abruptly cancelled the project. The research may have been abandoned, but scientific knowledge cannot be destroyed. Future generations bear the responsibility of ensuring that it is never used.

9pm, Friday 23 January


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