Germ Warfare Scientist Wallace L. Pannier, Dead at 81
August 12, 2009
HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Wallace L. Pannier, a germ warfare scientist whose top-secret projects included a mock attack on the New York subway with powdered bacteria in 1966, has died of respiratory failure and other natural causes, his widow said.
Photo: Wallace Pannier worked at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. (Christopher T. Assaf/The Baltimore Sun/File 2009)
He died Thursday in Frederick. He was 81.
Mr. Pannier worked at Fort Detrick, a US Army installation in Frederick that tested biological weapons during the Cold War and is now a center for biodefense research. He worked in the Special Operations Division, a secretive unit operating there from 1949 to 1969, according to family members and published reports.
The unit developed and tested delivery systems for deadly agents such as anthrax and smallpox.
In 2004, Mr. Pannier told The Baltimore Sun that team members staged their mock attack on the New York subway in 1966 by shattering light bulbs packed with powdered bacteria on the tracks. They tracked the germs with air samplers disguised as suitcases.
“People could carry a brown bag with light bulbs in it, and nobody would be suspicious,’’ Mr. Pannier told the Sun. After a bulb broke, releasing the powder, “the trains swishing by would get it airborne,’’ he said.
The bacteria used as mock weapons, Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens, were believed to be harmless, but have since been classified as human pathogens.
A year earlier, the unit released Bacillus globigii in the air at Washington National Airport and at bus stations in Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco, a 1975 Senate investigation found.
Mr. Pannier also said he had posed as a fisherman, an air-quality tester, and a motorist with car trouble to measure germs leaking from a pharmaceutical plant on the Susquehanna River. The readings would help US spies trying to identify Soviet bioweapons plants.
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