13 Horrifying U.S. Government Human Experiments

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The U.S. government has purposefully inflicted countless tortures upon citizens, and this list represents some of the most horrifying government experiments to date.

From mind-control to STDs, the U.S. government has purposefully inflicted countless tortures upon citizens both at home and abroad. Conspiracy theory nuts are known for being out there, but once you read the wild government stories on this list, you will be a believer too.

1: Project MKUltra

Beginning in the early 1950’s, the U.S. government started conducting illegal experiments on U.S. and Canadian citizens (including children) with the intention of developing drugs and procedures used to interrogate and torture. The program specifically focused on breaking down and controlling the mind, and incorporated numerous methodologies, such as the use of LSD, hypnosis, and sexual abuse, to name a few.

MKUltra memorandum.
MKUltra memorandum.

Many of the experiments were done without people’s consent, and sometimes left victims with psychological problems, amnesia, and brain damage. Some of the more extreme experiments resulted in death. The MKUltra Program was coordinated by the CIA in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps.

MKUltra patient.
MKUltra patient.

2: Involuntary Mustard Gas Tests on Soldiers

During WWII, the U.S. carried out numerous secret tests on U.S. military personnel to determine the effectiveness of various bio-weapons, including mustard gas. For decades these experiments had been hidden from the public until the 1990s when Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began to investigate them.


During their investigation, Congress and the VA designated the soldiers involved in the tests as “volunteers,” however according to the Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics, many of the men had been ordered to participate in these activities, and some were completely unaware—since the Department of War did not classify the tests as experiments, consent was not necessary.

Soldier after involuntary exposure to mustard gas via gas chamber.
Soldier after involuntary exposure to mustard gas via gas chamber.

According to NPR, some of the tests subjects were selected by race to see if certain chemicals have the same effect on African-Americans and Asian-Americans as Caucasians, though more Caucasians had been involved since there were more of them enlisted in the military. Records for these experiments were poorly kept, and it’s impossible to tell exactly how many were subjected to these chemical tests, however it’s believed that many veterans who experienced health issues like emphysema, respiratory cancers and leukemia (all of which are related to mustard gas exposure) never realized the connection.

3: U.S. Grants Immunity to Monster-Surgeon

Another offense committed by the U.S. government during WWII was its willingness to “condone human torture for advancements in biological warfare” by granting Dr. Shiro Ishii, monster-surgeon of the infamous Unit 731, immunity based on their interest in the results of his research.

Dr. Shiro Ishii.
Dr. Shiro Ishii.

Ishii was responsible for a multitude of horrific atrocities, which included using vivisection techniques on his human subjects without anesthesia.

Vivisection is the act of conducting experimental surgery on living creatures (with central nervousness) and examining their insides for scientific purposes. So basically, he was giving unnecessary surgery to prisoners by opening them up, keeping them alive, and not using any anesthetic.

While the U.S. was not directly responsible for Ishii’s acts, the fact that they granted him immunity shows their willingness to support such heinous tactics.

4: Deadly Chemical Sprays on American Cities

It has been discovered that the government, with the help of the Navy and the CIA, have conducted a series of biochemical warfare simulations on American cities to see how the effects would play out.


Rankers lists the following air strikes/naval attacks:

In 1950, the U.S. Navy, in a simulated biological warfare attack, sprayed San Francisco with large quantities of bacterial pathogens (Serratia marcescens), which at the time were considered harmless. Many citizens developed pneumonia as a result, and at least one person died (William, 206, p. 147–149).

(Democracy Now report from July, 2005.)

In 1955, the CIA supposedly released a whooping cough virus on Tampa Bay with boats, causing a whooping cough epidemic that claimed the lives of 12. While there are a few sources that support this claim, others refute that the CIA was responsible with the belief that the accusation was a propaganda campaign by the Church of Scientology.

Ranker also lists Operation Big Buzz, which was a U.S. military entomological warfare (EW) field test conducted in the state of Georgia. The operation was intended to test the feasibility of “producing, storing, loading into munitions, and dispersing from aircraft the yellow fever mosquito,” according to Med Library. While Ranker claims the mosquitos were infected with yellow fever and dengue fever, leaving numerous Americans to struggle with fevers, typhoid, respiratory problems, and stillborn children, no source was provided, and all other sources found claim the mosquitos were not infected.

5: U.S. Infects Guatemalans with STDs

In 2010, the government admitted that it had conducted medical experiments on Guatemalans during the 1940s in which people were infected with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. Originally, U.S. researchers used prostitutes to infect soldiers, prison inmates, and insane asylum patients, however they later began to infect people directly through different procedures, and this included orphaned children.


In a statement from Paul Bekman, one of the attorneys who represented the victims and their families in Guatemala:

“They kept a lid on it, making sure that nobody knew about it, and they actively deceived these people. There was no consent obtained for and from anybody.”

According to the Washington Post, the experiments were sponsored by the Public Health Service, the National Institute of Health, the World Health Organization’s Pan American Health Organization, and the Guatemalan government. In April it was reported that a lawsuit has been filed against Hopkins University, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and the Rockefeller Foundation for their involvement in the study as well.

6: Secret Human Experiments to Test the Effects of the Atomic Bomb

Before dropping the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. scientists secretly tested the bomb’s effects on unsuspecting U.S. citizens. During the Manhattan Project, 18 patients were injected with plutonium. This includes Project Oak Ridge, located in what is now known as Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in which soldiers were injected with micrograms of plutonium. Later, three patients at the Chicago hospital were also injected.

As well as testing plutonium, researchers later began testing uranium. Funded by the Manhattan Project, Dr. William Sweet of Massachusetts injected 11 patients with uranium.

And in exchange for the uranium he received from the government, he would keep dead tissue from the body of the people he killed for scientific analysis on the effects of uranium exposure.

7: Holmesburg Program

Between 1951 and 1974, University of Pennsylvania Professor, Albert Kligman, was paid by the Dow Chemical Company, the U.S. Army, and Johnson & Johnson to perform experiments on 320 inmates at Holmesburg Prison involving components of Agent Orange that was rubbed on the skin and injected. After initial experiments did not obtain desired results, Kligman increased the dosage of dioxin to 7,500 mg, which was 468 times the dosage Dow had authorized, causing prisoners to developed acne-like lesions and boils, lupus, psychological damage, as well as a variety of other health problems.

Example of a reaction from exposure to dioxins.
Example of a reaction from exposure to dioxins.

During Vietnam, the U.S. used Agent Orange for biological warfare, resulting in generations of birth defects and deformities. Warning, the following video may be disturbing to some viewers:

8: Testicular Implants at San Quentin Prison

For nearly four decades (until 1951), Dr. Leo Stanley served as San Quentin’s chief surgeon. During this time, he performed a wide variety of experiments on hundreds of inmates, many of which involved testicular implants.

Pictured above is Dr. Leo Stanley with a San Quentin inmate.
Pictured above is Dr. Leo Stanley with a San Quentin inmate.

Believing he could rejuvenate the elderly, limit criminal behavior, and prevent the reproduction by those deemed “unfit to be parents,” Stanley’s experiments included removing the testicles from executed inmates and inserting them into living inmates. In other experiments, he would implant the testicles of goats, rams, and boars into prisoners as well. When the victim’s body rejected the implants, Stanley would then puree the animal’s testicles “to the consistency of toothpaste,” and then inject it into the victim’s abdomen.

9: Infecting Puerto Rico with Cancer

It was discovered in 1931 that, under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Institute, Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads had infected Puerto Ricans with cancer to, supposedly, study the effects. Interestingly enough, the accusation came about by Rhoads own admittance in this note he wrote to a colleague:

“The Porto Ricans (sic) are the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever to inhabit this sphere… I have done my best to further the process of extermination by killing off eight and transplanting cancer into several more… All physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.”

After the note became public, Rhoads tried to defend himself by saying his comments were written in anger and meant as a joke. In an effort to protect Rhoads, and by extension, Rockefeller interests, the U.S. government conducted a whitewashing campaign, and the scandal was forgotten until 2002.


The American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), who had established the Cornelius P. Rhoads Memorial Award, commissioned a new investigation in 2002 headed by Jay Katz of Yale Law School. Katz was still unable to find evidence of Rhoads’ unethical practices due to the government’s whitewash campaign, however the AACR decided to strip Rhoads if his honor due to his racism.

10: Cancer Patients Treated with Extreme Radiation

Between 1960 and 1971, whole body radiation experiments were performed on poor, African-American cancer patients without their consent. The experiments were funded by the Department of Defense to determine the effects of high levels of radiation on the human body, however the victims were led to believe they were receiving a “treatment” for their cancer. Fearing repercussions for their immoral practices, one of the doctors, Robert Stone, began to refer to his patients only by their initials. According to him, this was so “there will be no means by which the patients can ever connect themselves up with the report.”


During those same years, Dr. Eugene Saenger (pictured above), also performed full body radiation experiments on more than 90 poor, African-American cancer patients with funding from the Defense Atomic Support Agency. The consent forms needed to perform the tests were forged, and none of the patients were informed of the risks. They were given 100 or more rads (1 Gy) of whole-body radiation which often caused intense pain and vomiting.

ARVE Error: Syntax error

During the Cold War, the government conducted literally thousands of radiation experiments on citizens who were poor, sick, and powerless. This included (but was not limited to) feeding radioactive food to mentally disabled children, inserting radium rods into the noses of schoolchildren (as well as soldiers), releasing radioactive chemicals over U.S. and Canadian towns, injecting pregnant women and their babies with radioactive chemicals, and irradiating the testicles of prisoners.

11: Operation Midnight Climax

Operation Midnight Climax, a sub-project of MKUltra, was a CIA mind-control research program that began in the 1950s. The project was ran out of safe houses located in New York and San Francisco where CIA-paid prostitutes lured their victims, at which point the victims were secretly dosed with a variety of substances, including LSD.

Multiple operational techniques were developed from the project, including research into sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and the use of mind-altering drugs in field operations. Operation Midnight Climax officially came to an end in 1966.


12: Thermonuclear Bomb Test Fallout

Between 1946 and 1962, a number of sights in the Marshall Islands and Pacific Ocean, referred to as the Pacific Proving Grounds, were used by the U.S. government to conduct nuclear testing.

Part of Operation Crossroads, here is a photo of the “Baker” explosion, a nuclear weapon test conducted at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia—part of the Pacific Proving Grounds.
Part of Operation Crossroads, here is a photo of the “Baker” explosion, a nuclear weapon test conducted at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia—part of the Pacific Proving Grounds.

Many local residents of other islands were exposed to the fallout from the blasts, causing radiation sickness, birth defects, and cancer. Most of the islands are still contaminated, and those living on the islands have suffered from increased health problems.

13: Tuskegee

Started by the Public Health Service and in collaboration with the Tuskegee Institute, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment began in 1932 during the Great Depression and lasted until 1972. The study focused on the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men who believed they were being treated for “bad blood.” 600 men in total were chosen from Macon County, Alabama, and of these men, 399 had contacted syphilis before the study began, 201 had not had the disease.

Photo of a doctor drawing blood from a Tuskegee test subject.
Photo of a doctor drawing blood from a Tuskegee test subject.

None of the men were ever informed of their infliction, and none were treated with penicillin when it became a proven treatment. After receiving pressure from the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee, President Bill Clinton issued a formal apology on May 16, 1997 stating:

“What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry… To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist.”

Ranker’s article mentioned Operation Paperclip as well, in which the U.S. government brought to America and employed more than 1,500 German scientists, engineers, and technicians from Nazi Germany, most of which were members of the Nazi Party, or at the very least, participated in activities or supported Nazi militarism. Considering the magnitude of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during WWII, Operation Paperclip is definitely worth mentioning, however there are plenty of actual experiments to fill the list.

This article only covers a portion of the experiments the U.S. government has either directly conducted, sponsored, or at the very least, condoned throughout the last century, and as mentioned before, these are only the ones we’re aware of. One can’t help but wonder what other experiments are being conducted without the people’s knowledge at this very moment.


Asis, Adrian. The Richest. Aug 1, 2015. (http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/10-most-unethical-experiments-performed-on-humans/?view=all)

Blum, William (2006). Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. Zed Books.

Kaye, Jonathan. “Retin-A’s Wrinkled Past”, Pennsylvania History Review, Spring 1997.

Schultz Vento, Carol. Defense Media Network. Sep 14, 2013. (http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/americas-mustard-gas-experiments-and-world-war-ii/)

Wabash, Robert. Ranker. 2015. (http://www.ranker.com/list/the-13-most-evil-u-s-government-experiments-on-humans/robert-wabash?page=3)

AnonHQ. (http://anonhq.com/heres-a-list-of-the-most-horrifying-u-s-government-experiments)

Baxter Dmitry
About Baxter Dmitry 6056 Articles
Baxter Dmitry is a writer at The People's Voice. He covers politics, business and entertainment. Speaking truth to power since he learned to talk, Baxter has travelled in over 80 countries and won arguments in every single one. Live without fear.