Excerpt from Lab 257 by Michael C. Carroll, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Lab 257

The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory

by Michael C. Carroll

Lab 257
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2004, 288 pages
    Aug 2005, 352 pages

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As lab chief of Insel Riems—a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island nestled in the Baltic Sea—Traub worked directly for Adolf Hitler's second-in-charge, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials. He packaged weaponized foot-and-mouth disease virus, which was dispersed from a Luftwaffe bomber onto cattle and reindeer in occupied Russia. At Himmler's request, Traub personally journeyed to the Black Sea coast of Turkey. There, amid the lush Anatolian terrain, he searched for a lethal strain of rinderpest virus for use against the Allies. Earlier in the war he had been a captain in the German Army, working as an expert on infectious animal diseases, particularly in horses. His veterinary corps led the germ warfare attacks on horses in the United States and Romania in World War I with a bacteria called glanders. He was also a member of NSKK, the Nazi Motorists Corps, a powerful Nazi organization that ranked directly behind the SA (Storm Troopers) and the SS (Elite Corps). In fact, NSKK's first member, joining in April 1930, was Adolf Hitler himself. Traub also listed his 1930s membership in Amerika-Deutscher Volksbund, a German-American "club" also known as Camp Sigfried. Just thirty miles west of Plum Island in Yaphank, Long Island, Camp Sigfried was the national headquarters of the American Nazi movement. Over forty thousand people throughout the New York region arrived by train, bus, and car to participate in Nuremberg-like rallies. Each weekend they marched in lockstep divisions, carrying swastika flags, burning Jewish U.S. congressmen in effigy, and singing anti-Semitic songs. Above all, they solemnly pledged their allegiance to Hitler and the Third Reich.

Ironically, Traub spent the prewar period of his scientific career on a fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, perfecting his skills in viruses and bacteria under the tutelage of American experts before returning to Nazi Germany on the eve of war. Despite Traub's troubling war record, the U.S. Navy recruited him for its scientific designs, and stationed him at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.2

Just months into his PAPERCLIP contract, the germ warriors of Fort Detrick, the Army's biological warfare headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, and CIA operatives invited Traub in for a talk, later reported in a declassified top-secret summary:

Dr. Traub is a noted authority on viruses and diseases in Germany and Europe. This interrogation revealed much information of value to the animal disease program from a Biological Warfare point of view. Dr. Traub discussed work done at a German animal disease station during World War II and subsequent to the war when the station was under Russian control.3

Traub's detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems, and his activities there during the war and for the Soviets, laid the groundwork for Fort Detrick's offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island.

Traub was a founding father.

Little is publicly available about his clandestine activities for the U.S. military. The names of two studies, "Experiments with Chick Embryo Adapted Foot-and-mouth Disease" and "Studies on In-vitro Multiplication of Newcastle Disease Virus in Chicken Blood," were made available under the Freedom of Information Act, but the research reports themselves (and many others) were withheld. With his "laboratory assistant" Anne Burger, who came over in 1951, Traub experimented with over forty lethal viruses on large test animals.4

The best known PAPERCLIP recruit was Wernher von Braun, the brains behind the Saturn V rocket that brought the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon, the visionary architect of Disneyland's fabled Tomorrowland exhibit, one of the founders of NASA, and the fatherly host of network television specials on outer space. The American public knew him as a warm, affable man with a thick German accent. They didn't know that the U.S. missile program was based upon von Braun's revolutionary V-2 rocket he designed for Hitler, a 50-foot-long, 13-ton intercontinental ballistic missile. And they didn't know that during World War II, von Braun was a major in Heinrich Himmler's SS, and that his V-1 and V-2 rockets—built by some 20,000 slave laborers in his Mittlewerk SS munitions factory—rained destruction upon Europe in Hitler's futile attempt to turn the tide near the end of the war.

From Lab 257 by Michael C. Carroll. Copyright 2004 by Michael C. Carroll. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.
This excerpt starts at page 3 and ends on page 9 of the hardcover edition.

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