National Public Radio has compiled the first database of U.S. veterans who were exposed to mustard gas in military experiments during World War II.

The veterans were sworn to secrecy for decades, and have had difficulty getting help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many have passed away.

Effects of exposure to mustard gas include painful skin blisters and burns, and life-threatening illnesses such as leukemia, skin cancer, emphysema and asthma.

VA officials told NPR that since 1993, the agency could only locate 610 test subjects to offer compensation to those who were permanently injured by the secret experiments. NPR’s database, compiled over six months, includes more than 3,900 individuals and information about the last known location of more than 1,700 of them.

Information in the database comes from records NPR obtained in the course of reporting on the experiments. The investigation found that the VA denied compensation to qualified veterans, and that in addition to evaluating protective suits and gas masks, some of the tests were conducted to look for racial differences that could be exploited in combat. Japanese American, African American and Puerto Rican men were recruited to participate in the tests.

A June 22 broadcast by NPR investigative reporter Caitlin Dickerson included interviews with family members of deceased Nisei veterans —  David Bessho, son of Louis Bessho, and Susan Matsumoto, wife of Tom Matsumoto.

The younger Bessho quoted his father as saying, “They were interested in seeing if chemical weapons would have the same effect on Japanese as they did on white people. I guess they were contemplating having to use them on the Japanese.”

Matsumoto said her husband was okay with the testing because he felt it would help prove “he was a good United States citizen.”

The list of participants is incomplete and will be updated periodically as NPR gains access to additional documentation and names.

“We don’t want to tell people how to use the database, but the fact is up until now there was no way to check whether your family member or someone that you knew had been exposed to mustard gas,” said Dickerson. “… Anyone can go online and they can look up veterans by their names, their birthdays or their last known city of residence.”

For more information, click here.

The database includes the following names with date of birth, last known city of residence, and date of death. All served in the Army. The date and city of enlistment are also available for many of the veterans.

Arai, George K., November 1914, Los Angeles, August 2002

Asari, Tokio, June 1917, Walworth, Wis., June 1986

Bessho, Louis, May 1919, Decatur, Ga., January 1991

Fukui, George T., September 1916, Palo Alto, September 2007

Fukushima, Jack, March 1919, Yuba City, February 1976

Hayase, Satoru, March 1920, Pacific Grove, September 2010

Hayashi, Willie Nobuyoshi, November 1918, San Diego, October 1994

Higashi, Sho, August 1917, Pocatello, Idaho, May 1992

Itaya, Sam Minoru, October 1918, Stockton, December 2010

Iwanaga, Nobuyuki, August 1917, Santa Cruz, November 1957

Kajimura, George, January 1918, Corpus Chrsti, Texas, November 1972

Kaneko, Royal M., October 1917, Tremonton, Utah, May 1946

Kanemoto, Akira Bill, August 1919, Gardena, September 2009

Kataoka, Harry Hikaru, October 1919, Seattle, April 2011

Kawai, Akira, April 1915, Pasadena, April 1992

Kawasaki, Paul H., December 1917, Sacramento, November 1990

Kusumoto, Ted, May 1921, Diamond Bar, May 2004

Kuwahara, James Masashi, September 1918, Gardena, August 2004

Masumoto, Fred S., November 1917, San Diego, September 1998

Matsumoto, Matsuo, born 1918

Matsumoto, Rihachi, October 1915, Gardena, June 1984

Matsumoto, Tom T., April 1916, Kalaheo, Hawaii, December 2004

Miki, Tsutomu (Ben), May 1914, Denver, March 2004

Mitsuda, Roy S., July 1916, Los Angeles, January 1969

Miyake, Edwin Kazuo, June 1915, Waipahu, Hawaii, October 2008

Miyake, Yachi, April 1913, Los Altos, October 1999

Miyoko, Noboru, June 1919, Tooele, Utah, April 1945

Moreta, Mitsuri

Nishimatsu, Rikio, September 1916, San Jose, September 2009

Ogami, Isamu, September 1913, Los Angeles, March 1972

Oshita, Frank M., November 1918, Sacramento, March 1985

Sakuma, Satoru, December 1917, Seattle, July 1966

Sasaki, Isao, April 1916, Altadena, October 1996

Sato, Johnny Masaji, November 1919, Glendale, Ariz., September 2012

Shimada, Toshio, April 1917, San Francisco, July 2009

Shimakawa, George J., January 1914, Stockton, July 2010

Tanaka, Masaru, March 1918, Los Angeles, September 1980

Tanamachi, Willie R., March 1921, Houston, Texas

Tsudama, Jack H., February 1920, Fresno, September 2001

Yamashita, Masaharu, February 1916, Bainbridge Island, Wash., December 1991

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