Organized Collections

Committees on Biological Warfare, 1941-1948

Following a directive from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson in October 1941 called upon the NAS to form a committee to assess the then- current state of knowledge in the field of biological warfare. The W.B.C. ("War Bureau of Consultants") Committee was thus organized by the NAS in November. Initially charged with investigating the possibility that enemies of the United States could use biological agents to attack human, agricultural, and livestock targets, the Committee issued a comprehensive report of its findings in February 1942. It also recommended that a civilian agency look further into the defensive and offensive aspects of biological warfare. With the establishment of that agency -- the War Research Service (WRS) -- later in 1942, the W.B.C. Committee was disbanded.

In January 1943, the NAS formed a second committee on biological warfare, the ABC Committee, to advise the WRS on its work in locating and developing agents suitable for use in biological warfare. With the disbanding of the WRS in June 1944, the ABC Committee was discontinued. The ABC Committee was followed by the Academy's third biological warfare committee, the DEF Committee, which was organized in September 1944 and finally disbanded in 1948.

(Because their work was so secret, the second and third NAS committees on biological warfare were given names that would be unrevealing. Thus "ABC and "DEF" are not acronyms; they are simply arbitrarily chosen letters that deliberately stood for nothing.)

The WBC Committee Papers contain correspondence, reports, and meeting minutes, and cover the years 1941-1948 for a span of 3 linear feet.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: W.B.C. (War Bureau of Consultants) Committee.

This series contains the records of the activities of the NAS-NRC's W.B.C. Committee. Includes correspondence, meeting minutes, background materials, committee members' biograhpical information, and the W.B.C. Committee's Final Report of February 1942.

Series 2: ABC Committee.

This series contains records documenting the activities of the NAS-NRC's ABC Committee. Includes correspondence and meeting minutes.

Series 3: Chemical Warfare Services.

This series contains the records of the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service's activities in relation to the NAS-NRC committees on biological warfare. Contains material on Chemical Warfare Service projects pertaining to biological warfare, and on the establishment of the Camp Detrick research facility.

Series 4: War Research Service.

This series contains the records of the biological warfare research activities of the civilian Federal Security Agency's War Research Service (WRS). Includes correspondence, conference and meeting minutes, personnel reports, and progress reports of WRS projects. Also includes the "Historical Report of the War Research Service" of 1944.

Series 5: DEF Committee.

This series contains the records of the activities of the NAS-NRC's DEF Committee. Includes correspondence, contracts, meeting minutes, and materials on research projects. Also includes the 1945 Merck Report to the Secretary of War, "Biological Warfare."

Series 6: Name Files.

This series contains correspondence files for individuals involved in the work of the NAS-NRC committees on biological warfare.

See Committees on Biological Warfare Files List.

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