WASHINGTON- Rep. Mike Honda (D-Santa Clara) on July 23 led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call on the Department of Defense to apologize for race-based chemical weapons testing on American service members during World War II.

Rep. Mike Honda
Rep. Mike Honda

The U.S. military conducted a series of chemical weapons experiments along racial lines in the mistaken belief that dark skin is more resistant to the ravages of mustard gas and other Lewisite blistering agents.

“What the U.S. military did was inhumane and inexcusable. The Defense Department needs to formally apologize to these veterans,” Honda said. “No one can take back the pain these people suffered, but these veterans who were the victims of the testing deserve to have a formal apology from the U.S. government and reparations for such barbaric treatment. And we, as a people, must make sure that our history acknowledges what we did and make sure future generations of Americans know of those mistakes.”

Black, Hispanic and Japanese American troops were used as human guinea pigs for these experiments while white troops were used as scientific control groups. The extent of these race-based chemical weapons tests was not widely known until National Public Radio published a report in June.

Reps. Matthew Cartwright (D-Pa.), Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico), Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) and Mark Takano (D-Riverside) joined Honda in writing a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, calling on him to apologize on behalf of the Pentagon.

Beyond the chemical testing and experimentation, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) failed to locate and compensate at least 4,000 veterans who suffered the most horrific abuses during these experiments. The VA managed to locate only 610 survivors over a period of 20 years, and Honda is demanding that VA take appropriate measures to locate these veterans and ensure that they receive the benefits and compensation they more than deserve.

Reps. Cartwright, Chu, Cohen, Conyers, Grijalva, Lee, Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), McGovern, McNerney, Meeks, Pierluisi, Serrano and Takano joined Honda in sending a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald to ask him to makes sure his department lives up to the nation’s commitment to these veterans.

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