It had been a year and a half since the Merck Report on the biological weapons threat had been released, and an influx of congressional funding had transformed Camp Detrick into a state-of-the-art bioweapons research and development facility. The army purchased 545 acres of land adjacent to what had been called “Area A” and created a new area, designated “Area B,” where some of Detrick’s first postwar field tests with crop dusters and spray hoses would occur. During the war, dangerous pathogens like anthrax and “X” had been tested and cultured inside Detrick’s germ lab, a rudimentary wooden building covered in black tarpaper and nicknamed the Black Maria by scientists. During the war, an industrial-size boiler, used for fermenting, sat on the lawn outside the germ lab. Now, given the scope of work planned for the immediate future, Detrick needed an aerosol chamber that was bigger and better than anything else like it in the world. The job of designing such a structure was assigned to a bacteriologist named Dr. Harold Batchelor.
Detrick’s British counterparts, at Porton Down, had an excellent chamber of their own, but it fit only two or three mice. What Batchelor came up with was a monstrous spherical one-million-liter chamber called the Eight Ball, shaped like a giant’s golf ball and held upright by iron “legs.” The Chicago Bridge and Iron Works was commissioned to build the Eight Ball to specifications that made it airtight and bombproof. The Eight Ball was to have portholes, doors, and hatchways and steel walls of one and a half inches.
Inside the Eight Ball, airflow would simulate weather systems, with scientists on the outside controlling temperatures on the inside within a range of 55 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity could be controlled inside the Eight Ball to fluctuate between 30 and 100 percent. This state-of-the-art environmental control would allow Detrick’s scientists to understand how aerosolized biological agents would work at different altitudes in the open air. The sphere would weigh more than 131 tons and would stand four stories tall. A catwalk around its center would allow scientists to observe, through portholes, the test subjects sitting inside as they were exposed to the world’s deadliest germs. The Chicago Bridge and Iron Works agreed to a delivery date of 1949.
With the chamber’s design complete, Dr. Batchelor prepared to travel to Germany. There was an important German scientist who was just now becoming available for an interview. This was a man who knew more than almost anyone else in the world about biological weapons. He was particularly knowledgeable about weaponized bubonic plague.
The physician was Dr. Kurt Blome, the former deputy surgeon general of the Third Reich. He had just been acquitted of war crimes at the Nuremberg doctors’ trial. Now he was back on the Paperclip list.
The doctors’ trial had been over for forty-two days. It was October 2, 1947, and a message from Heidelberg, marked “Secret-Confidential,” arrived on the desk of the chief of the Chemical Corps. It read: “Available now for interrogation on biological warfare matters is Doctor Kurt Blome.”
A meeting was arranged for November 10, 1947, between Blome and Batchelor. Present alongside Dr. Batchelor were Detrick doctors Dr. Charles R. Phillips, a specialist in desterilization, Dr. Donald W. Falconer, an explosives expert, and Dr. A. W. Gorelick, a dosage expert. Lieutenant R. W. Swanson represented the U.S. Navy and Lieutenant Colonel Warren S. LeRoy represented the army’s European Command Headquarters. An interpreter and a stenographer were also present. Dr. Blome was told in advance that everything discussed would be classified.
Dr. Batchelor spoke first, setting the tone for the all-day affair. “We have come to interview Dr. Blome personally as well as professionally,” Batchelor said. “We have friends in Germany, scientific friends, and this is an opportunity for us to enjoy meeting [Dr. Blome] and to discuss our various problems with him.” To begin, Batchelor asked, “Would it be possible for Dr. Blome to give us an overall picture of the information that he has? The nature of the world under discussion?”
Blome spoke in English, pausing on occasion for the interpreter to help him with a word. “In 1943 I received orders from Goering for all the research of Biological Warfare,” Blome explained, “all the research for BW [would fall] under the name Kanserreseach.… Cancer Research had already started long before that, and I was already working all the time but in order to keep this development secret [the Reich] disguised it.”https://www.amazon.com/Operation-Paperclip-Intelligence-Program-Scientists/dp/0316221031