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The Armed Forces Epidemiological Board

The AFEB began in 1939 as the Army Epidemiological Board (AEB) which was a version of the ongoing Army Medical Corps and  Office of the Surgeons General. Its founding mission was established in its original name, the “Investigation on Influenza” and its first committee, the “Commission on Epidemiological Survey”. The purpose of the AEB was ostensibly to prepare for WWII, but its organizational reach was to create a pattern of military and civilian interface which is the legacy of medical infrastructure today. We have a ‘militarized’ medical system, and with it, a priority of complementary research expedients designed for military use.

Content page of the US military medical history http://history.amedd.army.mil/books.html

The AEB was organized by two men:

James Stevens Simmons – Dean of Harvard School of Public Health

 Stanhope Bayne-Jones – Dean of Yale Medical School

Brig. General ‘Steve’ Simmons and Col. Bayne-Jones handpicked a core group of  AEB leaders to create a “Commission System”, each commission to have a research specialty in a particular type of epidemiology.  Thomas Francis Jr. was chosen to direct the “Commission on Influenza”. The ‘Survey’ set about creating ‘listening posts’ at every hospital, clinic, and university in the United States with reporting duties. It appears that the AEB sought to avoid a recurrence of the 1918 pandemic Spanish Flu –in fact, as the Commissions quickly developed, so did the scope of activity which covered every known type of infectious disease. At the end of the war, the Commission on Epidemiological Survey, which was the lead committee of the AEB, was ‘absorbed’ into the structural organization and became the basis of bioweapons development at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

The Commission system existed from 1939 to 1977 and employed 608 medical scientists over that period, roughly 50 to 100 at any given time. During WWII, the AEB contract grants went to the following institutions, listed in descending order of funds:

1 – Yale University – accounts for approx. half of all wartime medical funding (and served as the office of the AEB/AFEB president)

2 – University of Michigan (HQ of Commission on Influenza)

3 – University of Pennsylvania

4 – University of Chicago

5 – New York University

6 – Johns Hopkins University

7 – Boston University

8 – Columbia University

9 – Rockefeller Foundation


During World War II, the AEB maintained 10 Commissions: http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/itsfirst50yrs/section1.1.html

Commission on Epidemiological Survey Director: Dr. Francis G. Blake
Headquarters: Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Commission on Influenza Director: Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr.
Headquarters: University o f Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan; >>>members; Jonas Salk

Commission on Acute Respiratory Diseases Director: Dr. John H. Dingle [president of AFEB, Harvard MD]
Headquarters: Respiratory Diseases Commission Laboratory, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Commission on Air-Borne Infections Director: Dr. O. H. Robertson [trained at RIMR 1915-1917]
Headquarters: University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Commission on Hemolytic Streptococcal Infections Director: Dr. Chester S. Keefer [Dean of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Director of Boston University Medical Center]
Headquarters: Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

Commission on Measles and Mumps Director: Dr. Joseph Stokes, Jr.
Headquarters: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania >>>Stokes Jr. assisted William Hammon with the gamma globulin polio trials in Provo in 1951 during Operation Buster-Jangle

Commission on Meningococcal Meningitis Director: Dr. John J. Phair
Headquarters: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Commission on Neurotropic Virus Diseases Director: Dr. John R. Paul
Headquarters: Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut;  “Poliomyelitis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, and all types of encephalitis are the special subjects of investigation by the Commission on Neurotropic Virus Diseases… In April [1943], the Commission, at the request of the Surgeon of the Middle East Theater, organized an expedition to investigate sandfly fever, infectious hepatitis, and poliomyelitis in Egypt and North Africa. The group sent out to do this work consisted of Dr. Paul, Director; Major Albert B. Sabin, M.C.; and Major Cornelius Philip, Sn.C. The Commission established a laboratory near Cairo shortly after arrival… In August, Major Sabin returned to this country with valuable material for use in a continuation of the studies at Cincinnati. Cases of poliomyelitis in the Middle East were investigated and material returned for further study at laboratories in the United States.”

Commission on Pneumonia Director: Dr. Colin M. MacLeod
Headquarters: New York University, New York, New York

Commission on Tropical Diseases Director: Dr. Wilbur A. Sawyer
Headquarters: The Rockefeller Foundation, New York, New York


Alphonse R. Dochez –“Dr. Dochez, a distinguished member of the Rockefeller group of medical scientists, was a charter member of the Board and served on several of its Commissions, including the Commissions on Pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Diseases… Dr. Dochez was a pioneer in the field of acute respiratory infections. He is credited as the first scientist to isolate the cold virus and transmit it to humans in a controlled environment.”

Karl F. Meyer, DVM — “Karl Meyer, like John Enders and John Paul, was a godfather of the AFEB and its Commissions… Encephalitis, plague, brucellosis, psittacosis, leptospirosis, and poliomyelitis were some of his chief interests…He directed the prestigious George Williams Hooper Foundation in San Francisco.”

“The Outbreak of Jaundice in the ArmyThe extensive epidemiological investigation of the outbreak of jaundice following vaccination against yellow fever was completed in association with the International Health Division of The Rockefeller Foundation..”



In 1946 the AEB was trimmed from 10 Commissions to 6, and reorganized for peacetime. A small committee of 1 president and 4 members directed the activity of the newly named (in 1948) Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB) which hired a body of 25 ‘consultants’ to serve on the Commissions.

(5 +1)Members of the 1946 AEB reorganization, AFEB planners:

Francis Gilman Blake – pres.- Yale

Oswald T. Avery – RIMR

A. R. Dochez – RIMR

Kenneth F. Maxcy – Johns Hopkins

O.H. Perry Pepper and

A.J. Warren – RIMR

PICTURE of the men named above http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/CC/G/M/F/H/

A roster of the AEB/AFEB is listed here: http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/itsfirst50yrs/membersofthecommissions.htm

The 6 Commissions of the postwar AFEB:

1) Acute Respiratory Diseases – director – John H. Dingle

2) Environmental Hygiene

3) Influenza – director(s) –  Thomas Francis Jr., 1939-1955; Fred Davenport,1955-1971; Gordon N. Meikeljohn, 1971-1973

4) Malaria

5) Tropical Diseases

6) Virus and Rickettsial Diseases

Publications of the AFEB and its various committees and commissions were produced by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) bulletins. The  AFEB expanded and regrouped the Commissions as needed, particularly during the 1950s ‘nuclear-testing/Korean-War/Cold-War’ era. Many documents and reports from this time period through the 1960s are “missing”.

AMEDD history in the Korean War –http://history.amedd.army.mil/korea.html


From Gary Matsumoto, “Vaccine A”, on the subject of adjuvants:

By all accounts, the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 wasn’t really Spanish at all. It was American. In fact, it was an Army flu. The first victim, the “index patient,” was an Army private named Albert Gitchell who worked as a cook at the Army’s Camp Funston on the vast Fort Riley military reservation in Kansas. It is believed that U.S. troops heading to Europe brought this flu with them. Before it was over, more than 20 MILLION people had died of influenza around the world—the deadliest natural disaster in world history. Army scientists wanted to prevent another global killer from emerging from an Army post where new recruits might become an unintended hatchery for some vicious new flu strain that once again could wipe out millions of people. Trying out a new oil additive on troops seemed like a relatively modest risk in comparison to the benefits of a better flu vaccine.

The Fort Dix experiment took place with the blessing of Fort Detrick. It was funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), which would later oversee the development of the new anthrax vaccine and newer oil additives too. The Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB), which would be sponsor a large number of the experiments conducted on military personnel, would later recommend the injecting an experimental flu vaccine containing oil into every man and woman in the U.S. military without their informed consent. The risk of an outbreak of killer flu seemed too great to do otherwise. To run this experiment, the Army would contract none other than Jonas Salk. Salk had already tested Freund’s Incomplete Adjuvant on medical students at the University of Pittsburgh under the sponsorship of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, and with funding from the Army Surgeon General. Based on this study, Salk thought it was safe.

Over the next two decades, the entire U.S. public health establishment – civilian and military – kept watch on what happened to the troops from Fort Dix. Everyone wanted in on the act. USAMRDC funded this study and its follow-ups. The National Academy of Sciences, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) did the initial round of surveys. Then the list started to grow. The National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council organized more studies at the request of the Veteran’s Administration, the Army and the U.S. Public Health Service “in collaboration with the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board.” At the 17-year mark, academia got involved too. An AFEB scientist on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Public Health organized yet another follow-up. No one, it seemed, wanted to be left out of such an important experiment.

And the experiment that seemingly had no end. Twenty-one years after Salk first injected unsuspecting soldiers with a theoretically new and improved flu vaccine, the Fort Dix troops were under the microscope yet again. The list of sponsors included many of America’s most respected public health institutions: the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, the American Cancer Society, the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Commission on Influenza of the Armed forces Epidemiological Board. USAMRDC bankrolled this study, just as it did the first one. What was remarkable about this 21-year project – involving the military, civilian public health authorities and a major university – is that at no time during its execution did any of the scientists involved publicly discuss whether it was ethical to run a medical experiment on people without telling them. If these doctors had any concerns, they did not publish them.

Long before the last study was completed, AFEB proposed the adoption of an experimental flu vaccine with oil for everyone in the military. In 1963 and 1964, AFEB recommended injecting every man and woman in the armed forces with the new vaccine. The board also recommended that Department of Defense also commence studies with oil added to tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, and polio vaccines. , Army doctors seemed determined to add oil to every vaccine they could.

Here is what they were not telling anybody. By 1964, the year when everyone in the military was supposed to get immunized with an oil-boosted influenza vaccine, the Army already knew the risks this vaccine presented for a very specific type of illness. AFEB’s Colonel Abram S. Benenson had drawn up a list of diseases that investigators should watch out for in veterans injected with the oily flu vaccine at Fort Dix. Benenson’s list read like the contents of a chapter on autoimmune disease in an immunology textbook. It included multiple sclerosis, myelitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, uveitis, neurodermatitis circumscripta and disseminata, amyloidosis, lupus erythematosus, dematomyositis, scleroderma, chronic pericarditis, Raynaud’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid myositis and acute glomerulonephritis—all of them autoimmune diseases.

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