The French Connection

Part II Polio -- Then, Now, and Forever

Jenny Lake
There is near to nothing truthful about the mainstream version of polio allowed to remain in the textbooks and retrospectives, beginnng with it's false name of "Infantile Paralysis". The first, and only first, major epidemics up through 1916 claimed high mortality and infection among children, but in the coming years of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, percentages of child victims under ten would slip to 30% or less. Richard Bruno informs us, "In Massachusetts before 1916, nearly 70% of polio patients were less than four years old; by 1952 the number had dropped to less than 20%....Between 1950 and 1955, just over half of the polio patients admitted to one Massachusetts hospital were older than sixteen, and nearly a quarter were older than thirty....Unfortunately, the older you were when you got polio, the worse its effects." Those effects being best demonstrated in The Polio Paradox as conditions of "late-onset" post-polio sequelae, called PPS.(1). Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously contracted polio at the age of 39 after a day of summer fun at his family's estate in 1921. The 1920s trend continued to become an increasing affliction of young adults upwards to 80% of victims, though stuck with the moniker of "infantile". The infantile label has much bearing on the perspective of viewing vaccine development. All the vaccine trials in the 1950s were arranged for children, and preferably children under tens years old, the least likely age group by then to contract the disease out of an entire population that was no longer "virginal". The issue of seniors with new polio-like illness is not addressed, not then and not now, however a shift in the attitude of geriatric treatment from "unprofitable" to "profitable" raises these issues and will be touched upon further in this work. An example of polio infection in adults can be found in the personal story of Robert Strange McNamara, when both he and his wife contracted polio in 1945.(2).
The persistently mistaken concept of polio as a childhood illness, then, shaped the vaccine field-trials on a false footing at their inception. Statistically, the child-rates of the paralytic and nonparalytic (95-99%) polio cases were known to the medical investigators, who were indoctrinated military men on the inside-track of the massive Influenza surveillance program instituted in 1940 by the army. Polio infection was "flu-like" when symptoms were present and had been emphasized to general medical practitioners as a "reportable" illness prior to WWI, a situation that carried an even stronger requirement after the great Spanish Flu pandemic. The vaccine developers were a small clique of colleagues who functioned as "team" leaders, with various personnel and technicians, under a larger organization of professional cooperation --a public/private partnership with the government, you could say. When the gamma globulin field-trials by William McDowell Hammon were evaluated in 1953, it was his colleagues Albert Sabin, Jonas Salk, and Thomas Francis Jr., who would pass judgement on G.G.s merit, having already successfully made vaccines for the army. The first chosen locale of the first official vaccine tests by Hammon in 1951, was not by accident the city of Provo, Utah. Residents of Provo have the distinction of hosting Utah's only Insane Asylum, which had swollen it's institutional occupancy to an all-time high in the 50s. In spite of that, it did not host a major hospital for the public, (though it is the home of Brigham Young University), and the polio vaccine team had to shuttle samples up to Salt Lake. Medical infrastructure in the state of Utah did not exist until the army placed it there, starting out with expedient structures erected in WWI. Of the 500,000 or so residents in the whole state before the 1940s, they had their own homespun Mormon ways of handling medical needs, but all that would change during the war years of the 40s. A new medical school and hospital came to Salt Lake City, 50 miles north of Provo, and incorporated into the University of Utah. Doctors from Johns Hopkins and Yale set up shop to teach and practice and as Utah medical historians proudly tell it, "From the beginning, this was no ordinary school." (3).
Utah was no ordinary place. Today, we can think of all of its residents as "downwinders", the ones who at least remained for the better part of their lives over the forty-something years of nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). The Nevadans, of course, are downwinders too in the place already noted to have given rise to chronic fatigue syndrome. But as they say at "we're all downwinders" now. The Utah medical establishment which arose in 1940s Salt Lake City came to be a world-class research environment.. The DoE maintains the staple program of the Human Genome Project there and as this reseach has pointed out, the DoE is the later incarnated organ of the former Manhatten Project (1939), or the Atomic Energy Commission (1946). In the summer of 1951, polio in Utah had reached "suitable magnitude" by projectable criteria to more than qualify for a vaccine trial. But, interestingly enough, from the outset, the results of the Provo trial were never intended to be "statistically significant". The whole venture was treated as practice. Perhaps Hammon and his sponsors had a reason to believe that an unusual outcome might occur in Provo? They entered into the gamma globulin vaccine trial knowing ahead of time that the G.G. could not then be produced in either sufficient quantity or at reasonable cost to make a nationally available vaccine. Perhaps the whole Provo deal was to give them some measure of expectation about what a vaccine, any vaccine, might do in a larger population group exposed to fallout. Excluding the wartime Trinity test in 1945 Alamogordo, homemade fallout had just been dumped over the southwest for the first time. The results from Provo, we're told, were folded into the larger G.G. trials that followed in Texas, Nebraska, and Iowa. (4).
World fallout levels were making a dramatic rise for the worse in 1951. Approval for the H-bomb had been signed over by President Truman in December of 1949, said to be reasoned by needed escalation above the Soviets who achieved Bomb status in 1949. Brainchild of Edward Teller, and promoted by Lewis L. Strauss, who headed the Atomic Energy Commission at the height of the Cold War, the H-bomb supporters caused a new political alignment to take shape within government structures. The new Nevada Test Site, situated just north of Las Vegas, near the base of the wedge-shaped state, was prepared for use in January of 1951 as the first round of tests unfolded as Operation Ranger. The largest A-bomb to date was detonated during Ranger, and recorded as blowing out windows in San Francisco over a hundred miles away. In April, the really big "thermonuclear" guns came out for Operation Greenhouse in the Marshall Islands, a four-shot series with its last day on May 25. The biggest shot of Greenhouse happened on May 9 with the 225K "George".. Then back at the NTS in Nevada, after the U.S. declared war on Korea in June, another round of  Bomb tests completed the year as Operation Buster-Jangle in October and November. Buster-Jangle coincided with the Provo G.G. vaccine observation period which covered the 84 days following inoculations on Sept.6, neatly taking the whole endeavor to its extended end-date on December 1. According to the fallout maps, Provo got a major dose of radioactive exposure from the "Sugar Shot" on 11/19, viewed here The "Baker" and "Charlie" shots blanketed Iowa and Nebraska, and Texas was dosed heavily by "Dog" and "Easy" --these states being the next destinations for the G.G. vaccine trials that would expand the number of participants to what would amount to something statistically significant. 
It was already a long and costly way from the first "peacetime" Bomb test back in 1946, Operation Crossroads. Crossroads was a planetary media event that did just as it was intended to do--scare the bejeezus out of everybody, but no data on the public health dangers had yet been collected and published. The military feared a loss of the Pacific Marshall Island test area due to the Korean War, but would conveniently find the new Nevada Proving Grounds amenable to manuevers for the latest obsession, the "nuclear battlefield". Speculation has it that the military has always disregarded enforcement of safety protocols because of this obsession --the only "fair" test of fighting ability in a radiation zone is a real one...the only exposure levels over time that  matter are the ones commensurate with obtaining your objectives, and so on.. All else besides the nuts and bolts of everyday soldiering lay somewhere beyond the pale. It was up to the semi-civilian auxilliary corps to deal with the extracurricular responsibilities. In the meantime, the Cold Warriors were scrambling to invest themselves in pharmaceuticals and vitamins. It is well within the logistic parameters of the nuclear weapons program to view "operation polio" as one more important element. The timing is perfect. The "good" doctors (as opposed to the really good "bad" ones) may have believed the polio vaccines had anti-radiation properties. The unadvertised goal of the collaborative partnership between the NIH and the military was to produce vaccines that would make soldiers immune to the hazards of fallout. It is interesting to note that the pharmaceutical "6-mercaptopurine", which may have been tested in the late 40s during Bomb tests was subsequently used as a treatment for leukemia and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, two known radiation illnesses.
In 1951, on the public front, polio was getting a starring role in the halls of Congress. Two prominent physicians, Drs. Morton Biskind and Ralph Scobey had enough damning empirical evidence to prove that polio was caused by pesticides --DDT in particular, which had been manufactured and sold for use at the rate of  22 million pounds per month by war's end. The ultimate impact of the Biskind and Scobey testimonials was a shift in DDT usage policy away from the direct spraying of people, animals, and feedstocks. Yes, you read it right --Direct Spraying! It is very likely the pesticide inputs that helped to characterize polio as a "summer disease" from the rising statistics that got national attention in the 1930s. DDT did not come into commonplace use until after WWII but it was "invented" in 1874 by the I.G. Farben cartel, originally as a human-targeting bioweapon. Discovery for its use on other pests appears incidental. In the 30s, the "Central Dogma" of polio took shape as a middle-class, white, urbanized, infantile, and summertime affliction, but as mentioned in the opening statement of this article, almost none of that is now known to be true. All effort, it seems, has been expended to keep up appearances. Richard Bruno informs us that the 1916 polio surveys taken by 1935 proved "that immigrant New Yorkers...had nearly four times more polio than native-born Americans....Across the river in Newark, NJ...'unsanitary tenements'...bore the brunt of Newark's epidemic" and "children on 'Relief ' (todays welfare) had almost 200 percent more polio than children in wealthier families"..."Both the Los Angeles and Illinois studies found that polio and pregnancy was a dangerous combination...Pregnant women who developed polio were about 5 times more likely to study found that nearly 80 percent of women who got polio had their menstrual period a few days before to a few days after the beginning of their illness."..."possibly because [of] hormonal changes". (5). We can speculate here about the early knowledge of polio as an effective depopulation agent in the hands of deviant eugenicists.
Albert Bruce Sabin, at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital, became the reigning king of polio investigators, taking on the mantle from a retiring Simon Flexner at the Rockefeller who passed  his baton in 1936. In the Polio chapter of "Viruses, Plagues, & History" author Michael B.A. Oldstone recounts some history of the oral polio vaccine based on the writings of Hilary Koprowski. After the Salk vaccine (the injectable IPV) scandals in 1955 of "accidentally induced" polio, the stage was set for the oral "attenuated" vaccines developed by Koprowski and Sabin. An insiders committee was to choose which of the men's vaccines to distribute. Oldstone writes, "the decision was based not on scientific facts...but on political considerations....Koprowski wrote,. 'My suspicion was confirmed at Christmas of the same year [1960] when Joseph Smadel, a member of the Committee, told one of my friends at a party that the Committee knew that there was no difference between the strains of all investigators but Sabin was an 'old boy' and since we decided only one set of attenuated strains will be licensed, we have chosen his strains.'....Such political positioning, disappointment, and resentment with the development of the poliovirus vaccine were no different than for the earlier smallpox and yellow fever vaccine". (6). In the case of yellow fever, the winning vaccine accolades (he won a Nobel) were bestowed on Max Theiler, a Swiss "South African" whose father was a legendary veterinarian from Basle, Switzerland. Theiler and Koprowski were no strangers, both of them working for Rockefeller. Koprowski immigrated to Brazil from his native Poland to work on yellow fever for the Rockefeller lab in Rio de Janeiro before coming to New York. Albert Sabin, who immigrated from his birthplace in Bialystok, Russia with his family at the age of 15, undoubtedly found the support to overcome his scientific rivals. Its still rather unclear from records about how well Sabin's family members were connected to the establishment of the First National Bank of Chicago, but more apparent is the family business of medical practice. A.B. Sabin's first cousin, Dr. Saul Krugman at NYU made a name for himself as a vaccine policy advisor and author of  "Krugman's Infectious Diseases of Children". Krugman is implicated in contributing knowledge to the creation of  AIDS/HIV as a larger part of the "special virus" cancer programs. (7). Koprowski on the other hand, has had to fend off charges that his vaccine version developed in the Belgian Congo was the true source of AIDS in Africa.
Reviewing the situation up to the 1950s, polio research which had been begun by medical chemist Karl Landsteiner in Austria was carried on in the hands of Simon Flexner. Michael Oldstone writes, "the viral cause of poliomyelitis [was] shortly confirmed by Simon Flexner and Paul Lewis at the Rockefeller Institute...Thus by 1909, the groundwork was laid to develop a vaccine...however, forty-five years passed before an effective vaccine actually developed." He goes on to note the early optimism as, "In the spring of 1911, Simon Flexner reported in the New York Times, 'We have already discovered how to prevent the disease, and the achievement of a cure, I may conservedly say, it is not now far distant '...(NYTimes, Mar.9, 1911)". The absence of the long promised cure is explained as a "sad combination of circumstances"..."A major factor delaying vaccine production was that a few authorities controlled the field and its scientific direction....Simon Flexner, director...[with] his rigidly held belief that...poliomyelitis invaded the respiratory system and from there moved straight to the central nervous system...became the prevalent, although wrong, opinion for many years". Others then, would have to prove that polio infection arose in the intestines...delay and more delay...while others still would prove with X-rays that radiation had a devastating effect on the vulnerable lymphatic tissue of the small intestine. In the meantime, the "attenuation" process, intended to reduce virulence by passing the virus through a series of animal hosts, seems not to be true in the case of polio. Richard Bruno writes, "Albert Sabin could not understand why people did not become immune to poliovirus infection as they aged" and adds, "there seems to be a kind of natural selection process whereby virulent polioviruses become more dangerous as they move from host to host...susceptibility actually increased and survivability decreased." This is not the model of immunity in which we are led to believe. It is worth considering how polio was held back for development as a bioweapon. From the time that William Hirsch collected the known analyses in 1899 to the stalled but eventual vaccine trials that came in the 50s, a remarkable amount of knowledge had been gained about polio, including its ability to cause the "grippe", a disease that ran the streets since the industrial revolution and was pandemic during the years of WWI. Sabin conclusively determined that grippe was another variant of poliovirus.
In April of 1955, the Salk injected vaccine was announced to be "safe and effective" fulfilling the advance notice given to Wall St. and the pharmaceutical houses that had their pre-ordered doses ready and paid for. Ralph Scobey called it "the largest human experiment in medical history". The Salk vaccine was given to nearly 1/3 of the U.S. population in its first year. The thousands of cases of  "provocation" polio caused by the Salk vaccine were scapegoated on the Cutter Labs of California, but widened quietly and without fanfare to include the other manufacturers as well, leading to a program stoppage in May until the furor had settled. As vaccinations resumed in full force, the whole world was approaching the peak of atmospheric fallout. In Massachusetts and eastern Canada, the highest of all polio stats climbed to a 700% increase. Fallout maps of the 1955 Operation Teapot and 1957 Operation Plumbob show this area as continually showered by fallout from testing. In 1953, radioactive rain was falling in the northeast and recorded in Troy, New York.(8). In between these huge nuclear operations at the NTS, the disease of polio was made to disappear. It became an array of assorted afflictions based on new diagnostic criteria, technicalities in other words, similar to the PPS noted in the introductory segment. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his diagnosis changed --posthumously!-- to Guillain-Barre syndrome, which you can observe at the Polio Hall of Fame. In the book, The Polio Paradox, we are introduced to a PPS patient..."Ray's initial illness occurred in Massachusetts in 1976 after being vaccinated for the swine flu. Ray didn't have polio; he had Guillain-Barre syndrome. GBS is caused by the immune system attacking not the neurons but the axons [the neurons little arms and legs!] and the myelin insulation surrounding them. GBS can be triggered by an infection with a variety of viruses...", this from the true believer whose motto is "every child vaccinated".
Notes and References
(1) from the book, The Polio Paradox, by Dr. Richard L. Bruno
(2) Robert S. McNamara, pres. of Ford Motors, Sec. of Defense to JFK and LBJ, and pres. of the World Bank is noted in this Vietnam history as an adult polio survivor. His wife Margy was severely afflicted when they both contracted the disease in 1945
(3) Utah medical history, noted here that "Utah was selected as one of four centers funded to develop a polio vaccine; the breakthroughs came in Pittsburgh [Salk] in 1953 and Cincinnati [Sabin] in 1954."
(4) The public announcement of the Hammon G.G. vaccine trials expanding beyond the original "inconclusive" trial in Provo, from Time magazine,9171,806555-1,00.html, dated Mon. Nov. 3, 1952. Operation Tumbler-Snapper took place earlier in the spring at NTS, and Operation Ivy had begun in the Pacific only 2 days before this article on Nov.1
(5) quotes from The Polio Paradox
(6) the book: Viruses, Plagues, & History  by Michael B.A. Oldstone, 1998 Oxford Univ. Press
(7) Dr. Saul Krugman, first cousin of Albert B. Sabin, incriminated as a bioweapons developer at his home institution of NYU, listed here at a website belonging to Dr. Len Horowitz
(8) Fallout maps for the 1955 and 1957 operations at NTS, "Teapot" and "Plumbob"
 and reposted here from the introduction of Polio --Then, Now, and Forever, the review of the gamma globulin field-trials in Provo