This next story is so unbelievable that we didn’t think it could possibly be true” stated KSDK news anchor Mike Bush. This was the sentiment expressed in the documentary film ‘Target St. Louis.‘ directed by actor-director Damien D. Smith.  

During the 1950’s and 60’s, human testing was heavily prevalent in St. Louis, Missouri. Top scientists in laboratories from famous universities and the government collaborated to develop these radioactive experiments to be dispersed in the air.

After that, the army conducted a series of secret airborne tests to find effective ways to spread the bacteria. The negligence was catastrophic as blacks all over were used as guinea pigs. Millions of people were exposed without their knowledge or approval. 

Men in protective suits regularly sprayed a mysterious mist into the air, from the tops of buildings and through spouts that were attached to vehicles driving through the predominantly black neighborhoods. Young black families bought homes where radioactive material in the area had migrated off-site contaminating the land and Cold Water Creek that runs into the Missouri River and the Mississippi River.

Moreover, the rivers are the main source of drinking water for St Louis.

Sarah Barnes who was a North Side resident from 1960-1969 said she still has acquaintances to this day who have illnesses without diagnoses. Due to, no one felt the brunt of these tests more than the residents of Pruitt-Igoe.

Many residents stated that  Pruitt-Igoe wasn’t that bad in the beginning. Everyone got along in that community. There were outside activities for the children and tenants held meetings about what they were going to do for the building. Being that it was a high-rise,

The people of Pruitt-Igoe had elevators and even a better view of the city than rich people. It wasn’t until the big tornado hit in 1959 throughout Coleman St. is when things took a turn for the worst. 

It displaced a lot of the people and moved a lot of the residents to Pruitt-Igoe, the stay was supposed to be temporary. But the stay became permanent. Benton Smith, who was a north-side resident from 1950 to 1965 stated that “the program started moving the black into the housing developments in the 50s, people were segregated so attorneys, teachers and everyone stayed in the same neighborhoods”.

Once grant funding was stripped from the community, Pruitt-Igoe and the surrounding areas became rundown.

 This opened up the area for human testing. The government was putting up smoke screens. stating they were killing bugs. The army even told the mayor’s office they were gonna conduct a study where they would spray a cloud of material to conceal the city from aerial observation.

This was done so they could use areas that were similar to Moscow and St. Louis fit the bill. This allowed them to spread radiation in a cloud. Ben Phillips who was a North Side resident from 1956-1961 said that “trucks would drive down the street spraying a mist that was coming out from the back of the truck.”

They were told that the people were spraying bugs. Secrecy became paramount after physicians and scientists were sworn to never talk about the experiments that were taking place.  Dennis Robinson, a resident from the Northside of St. Louis from 1963 to 1967 stated that the army had no concern about where they sprayed it.

Kids were playing outside and they still sprayed it.” Tony Perkins, was a resident in the surrounding area of Carr Square which was a low rise. He talked about how each unit had yards with steel pole fencing that stuck up out of the ground. One day he was playing outside and fell on one of these poles that stuck him in the stomach.

After going to the hospital.6 months later a massive mass started to grow around his face. The doctor explained to him and his parents that it was a keloid. Tony believes this illness came from the testing.

The U.S. government released documents in 1994 revealing that it had been spraying zinc cadmium sulfide, a toxic substance, in St. Louis and other cities as part of a military experiment. Today, many residents are still impacted by the open-air studies even 50 years later.

Courtesy of Show Me St Louis/KSDK

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