What Is on the Island?
Lurking in the dark waters of Long Island Sound is a mysterious place known as Plum Island. Just ten miles off the coast of Connecticut, this tiny speck of land has long been rumored to be the epicenter of top-secret biowarfare research. The U.S. government acknowledges that the island is home to a scientific facility. Its stated purpose is to study animal-borne diseases. But investigators are beginning to uncover startling new facts about this forbidding place. Insiders and ex-employees have come forward to tell their stories. From security breaches in germ labs, to escaped diseases and potential mass epidemics, this is the real Plum Island story.
But the government denies anything is wrong.
Plum Island’s Secret Past
Although the origins of Plum Island are shrouded in secrecy, investigations have revealed the startling fact that, in the 1950s, the lab was run by a German scientist named Erich Traub, who was brought to America after the Second World War. His specialty in the Third Reich was virus and vaccine research. Along with rocket scientists like Werner von Braun, Traub was spirited out of post-war Germany to help jump-start the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The well-documented U.S. government project to recruit German scientists and technicians was known as Operation Paperclip. President Truman approved the project, so long as only nominal Nazi party members without SS affiliation were recruited. However, because the Nazi party promoted so many of its top scientists, Operation Paperclip ended up white-washing the pasts of many of its recruits in order to get them into the U.S.
Traub’s particular expertise was in disease-carrying insects—in particular, the common tick. Ticks are often carried aloft by birds, and can therefore quickly spread over large swaths of territory. Called “vectors,” ticks and mosquitoes are also genetically similar. Both contain bacteriophages or plasmids that transfer genetic material into a cell, or from one bacterium to another. In other words, they can infect whatever host animal with which they come in contact. Multiply this by millions, and ticks become the perfect insect army.
Plum Island (Reuters)During the Cold War, both the Soviets and Americans searched for ways to cripple each other, short of a doomsday nuclear attack. One idea was to destroy Russia’s food supply. This is where Traub’s tick army came into play. If the bugs could be injected with lethal pathogens, and somehow released over the Soviet Union, we could literally starve our mortal enemy to death. It’s well documented that Traub was using Plum Island for this research.
In November 1957, U.S. military intelligence explored the elimination of the food supply of the Sino-Soviet bloc, right down to determining the calories required for victory:
In order to have a crippling effect on the economy of the USSR, the food and animal crop resources of the USSR would have to be damaged within a single growing season to the extent necessary to reduce the present average daily caloric intake from 2,800 calories to 1,400 calories; i.e., the starvation level. Reduction of food resources to this level, if maintained for twelve months, would produce 20 percent fatalities, and would decrease manual labor performance by 95 percent and clerical and light labor performance by 80 percent.
Attempts to obtain records about Traub’s past, and his possible connection to Third Reich war crimes, have been regularly rebuffed by Army Intelligence and the CIA. Traub died in Germany at the age of 78.