===Duty had been quiet for Scott Baranowski at the
Army's Dugway Proving Ground on July 4, 1976, as the nation celebrated
its bicentennial. But everything changed, including his health, forever
when a helicopter crew saw something disturbing."They reported a bunch of dead, wild horses. I was
the first one sent to check it out," he said.
===On duty at the base motor pool, the then-18-year-old was sent to
Orr Springs on the desert base known mostly for its testing of chemical
and germ weapons. He found 20 dead horses. Another 30 would die or be
found dead nearby in coming days.
==="Those horses looked like they died while they were walking and
just fell over," he said.
===He returned again later as part of work crews sent to investigate
the deaths. He watched doctors conduct in-the-field autopsies. He helped
bury some horses.
===Soon afterward, Baranowski came down with a 104-degree
temperature, extreme aches and pains all over, and "I felt like my head
was going to explode."
===Baranowski says it was the beginning of health problems that have
never ended and have disabled him.
===He wonders if whatever killed the horses has also been killing him
slowly and has contributed to his severe form of arthritis and the lung
===The trouble is, the Army concluded that the horses likely died
merely of thirst, even though most were found only a few yards from new
troughs full of water from springs that had been covered and piped. The
Army says that confused the horses enough to stop them from drinking the
water. (Others have disagreed).
===The Army says extensive testing ruled out every other suspected
cause of death. It insists no chemical or biological agents were tested
on Dugway ranges at the time — and that such deadly agent testing in the
open air ceased after a 1969 accident there that killed 6,000 sheep in
nearby Skull Valley when nerve agent VX floated off the base.
==="I don't believe it," said Baranowski, 48, of Scott's Valley,
Calif., of the Army's conclusions.
===Months ago, he contacted the Deseret Morning News, because of its
past investigations of Dugway testing and mishaps, to see if it could
help prove or disprove his suspicions.
===Army documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act
request, interviews with experts and other evidence give no definitive
proof either way. Some bits of evidence suggest something besides thirst
killed the horses and hurt Baranowski. Others suggest the opposite or
that it is a mystery unlikely to be solved.
from the dead
===Any keys to solving the mystery likely are rooted in what Baranowski, Army officials and others discovered 29 years ago while
investigating the dead horses.
===Baranowski describes what he saw — and why he thinks something
besides thirst killed them. He even identifies a germ-war agent he
thinks might have been responsible for the deaths: Venezuelan equine
===Baranowski says maybe the biggest sign that thirst did not kill
the horses is that "many of the horses died right by water." Army maps
show most were within yards of a trough of water filled by water
trickling in from a newly piped spring.
===He adds that he once worked as a cowboy and then found that it is
difficult to prevent a thirsty horse from drinking. "They will drink
almost any water. It's born into their brains," he said.
===Also, he says, a sign that something more exotic killed them is
that some horses "had volcano-type sores all over their bodies with all
kinds of nasty-looking fluids coming out of them."
===He says several appeared to have lost bowel control or had
diarrhea and out of their rear ends "was string-like, hardened fecal
===Baranowski also says as he drove Army scientists around the base
at the time, "they had told me that they were working on some very nasty
stuff" — but he is unclear whether that was only in labs or also in
field tests (despite Army assertion they ended).
===He notes he and others were constantly drilled in the use of gas
masks and other protective gear, so he expects exotic agents may have
been in use in the field.
===Documents show that some Army scientists' notes written early in
the investigation seem to agree that dehydration did not kill the
horses, even though the Army later would reject those initial
===That came as the base's veterinarian wrote about one
still-alive-but-weak colt he found when he arrived. He wrote that it
showed no evidence of severe dehydration because he failed to see
"sunken eyes and tenting up of the skin" on the colt.
===He did see, however, that "oral mucous membranes are ashen gray
rather than pink, indicating presence of a toxin." It died a few minutes
after it was examined.
===The veterinarian also wrote that he found that "some carcasses
have a bloody froth coming from the nostrils." Animals were found to
have widespread internal bleeding.
===He wrote that an early autopsy on another colt found that it had
widespread hemorrhaging in the brain. It also had the same ashen gray
mucous and eye membranes that the veterinarian earlier said indicated
the presence of a toxin.
===The veterinarian wrote that after that autopsy, he and others
decided to collect blood to test specifically for VEE, which is a deadly
disease and potential germ-warfare agent that Dugway has said it has
used in laboratory tests but not in open-air range tests.
What is VEE?
===It is no wonder doctors suspected VEE. Signs of severe VEE for
animals, according to scientific texts, include brain hemorrhage,
diarrhea, weakened state and death. VEE epidemics in recent decades in
Central and South America have killed hundreds of thousands of horses
and livestock and hundreds of humans.
===It is a suspected biological warfare agent because it disables
large numbers of people for an extended time in a battlefield area. It
is also easily genetically manipulated, making vaccinating against it
===Of note, congressional hearings in 1969 (after the Skull Valley
sheep kill incident) revealed that tests showed that animals on private
farms near Dugway had been exposed to VEE, a disease that at the time
had not been seen in the United States outside Florida and Louisiana.
Army officials have contended that is naturally occurring in Utah,
===Baranowski says he remembers overhearing Army doctors talk about
VEE while examining dead and dying horses (which doctors' notes from the
time confirm), and he wondered what it was. He suspects he learned about
its human effects first-hand.
===Within days, "I had a 104-degree temperature. Everything in my
body severely ached, especially the joints. My head felt like it was
going to explode," he said.
===Some of that could be symptoms of VEE, including that it appeared
between a day and a week after possible exposure. That is the normal
incubation time for VEE.
==="Someone with a 104-degree temperature and explosive headache is
certainly consistent with VEE," said Dr. Scott C. Weaver, a VEE expert
and director for tropical and emerging infectious diseases for a
biodefense center at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
===However, he said the aches in the joints reported by Baranowski
would be unusual for someone with VEE. "There is often severe body and
muscle pains. But persistent aches in joints is not typical," he said
===Doctors told Baranowski they did not know what he had. "I was just
sent to bed. The fever only lasted for about a day. They said they never
figured out what was wrong," he said.
===He adds that he has tried to obtain his old medical records from
the time but was told they do not exist.
===Baranowski says he has never been the same physically since the
==="About a month and a half later, I had severe pains in my joints
and all over again. It was not in the muscles, just the joints. It
became worse and worse and worse until I had to quit working. . . . I
have always been in pain since," he said.
===He says years of arthritis-like problems followed, with varying
diagnoses by many doctors. He is now diagnosed with arthritis mutilans,
a severe form of the disease.
==="My bones are disappearing and my cartilage. My pelvis is slowly
being eaten away. Bones and cartilage missing in my feet. It's
degenerative. I can still get around, but it's difficult. I am taking
morphine and methadone" for the constant pain, he said.
===Baranowski also had lung cancer. He acknowledges he smokes, which
could have caused it.
===He has been free of it for five years after surgery that removed a
third of a lung and subsequent chemotherapy.
===Still, Baranowski says he believes the arthritis and cancer could
have been caused by whatever killed the horses, whether it was VEE or
==="Nobody else in my family ever had arthritis or cancer," he said.
"A Web site for veterans at Dugway surveyed how many of them are sick. A
lot reported cancer, and a lot had arthritis."
===Weaver, however, says scientific literature has never showed any
links between VEE and arthritis or cancer.
===But, he said, "Other viruses in the same group can cause arthritic
===Weaver said a blood test could be conducted to see if Baranowski
has VEE antibodies. A positive result would prove he was exposed to it
or was vaccinated against it.
===Baranowski says he received many inoculations at Dugway and cannot
remember for what they were. Nor can he find medical records from the
===Weaver says a negative result from such a blood test could be
ambiguous. He says some people exposed to the disease long ago do not
necessarily have antibodies in their blood now.
===The test is also performed only by a few labs, such as at the
Army's Fort Detrick, Md., and a Centers for Disease Control lab in Fort
Collins, Colo. Baranowski says he is on disability, does not have money
for such tests and receives free medical care through veterans
hospitals. But he is trying to interest his doctors in such a test.
The Army's case
===The Army built its own case, with extensive test data shown
through hundreds of pages of documents released to the Morning News,
about why it concluded that thirst killed the horses and that nothing
exotic infected them.
===But the documents also show that officials at the U.S. Bureau of
Land Management, the agency technically responsible for wild horses on
the base, didn't buy the Army's explanations, but it could not come up
with any better reason for the horse deaths.
===Two days after the dead horses were discovered — and as the news
was first reported and attracted national attention — Dugway held a
meeting of scientists to discuss what tests it should run and what
possible causes of death it should explore.
===They decided to cast a wide net. They would test blood and tissues
of dead horses for nerve and germ warfare agents and other germs and
toxins. They would also test the area's water, soil, plants, mosquitoes
and ticks for disease-causing problems. They would examine rodents and
other animals in the area for signs of similar disease. The group also
decided that as often as possible, it would have outside labs duplicate
work done by Dugway "to assure reliability and credibility of results."
===Documents say that the tests for chemical and germ warfare agents,
including VEE, were negative. Other animals in the area, mostly rodents,
seemed to show no signs of whatever had affected the horses. No poisons
or toxins in amounts that could cause sickness or death were found in
the water, soil or plants of the area.
===Tests for VEE and related forms of encephalitis were performed
with Army-provided blood samples by Dugway itself, the Utah State
Division of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. They jointly
concluded "there is no evidence that the horses suffered from a viral
disease, or that they had suffered from a prior infection with the
===Documents noted that horses that die of VEE also tend to wander in
circles and thrash at the ground, but the Dugway horses did not exhibit
===The Army shifted to look at, and conclude, that a shock syndrome
killed the horses and led to the bleeding and other problems found. They
would conclude that dehydration caused it, even though the horses were
near a good supply of water.
===The Army noted that the deaths happened at a time of drought. The
horses' normal water supply at Wig Mountain had dried up before the herd
searched for water at Orr Springs, so it said the horses were already
dehydrated and weak when they arrived there.
===The BLM had just covered the spring to protect it. Water was piped
to a trough nearby. Also, the BLM had put some short wooden stakes with
flags attached around the trough. And it had piled stakes of creosoted
poles (with a strong oily smell) nearby for a planned future corral.
===Army crews found no horse tracks around the new water trough but
found dying horses pawing nearby at moist soil, seeking water beneath.
When crews poured water from trucks on the ground, they said the horses
drank heavily (killing some of them from drinking too much).
===The Army said tests showing "elevated hematocrit and serum
proteins" in the horses were also "indicative of dehydration."
===So, Lt. Col. George B. Reddin Jr. with the Army's veterinary corps
wrote the Army's official conclusion that the weakened horses were
"unable to locate water at the springs and unable to smell water from
the man-made sources because of the creosote piles" and "alteration of
the normal environment."
===He wrote that they appeared to die from a shock syndrome. He said
tests ruled out all possible causes for that, except dehydration. And
the Army figured that must have been caused by their failure to find the
water amid the changes at Orr Springs.
BLM vs. Army
===Documents show that conclusion upset the BLM, which had piped the
spring and left the stinky poles nearby. It didn't appreciate the Army
blaming it for the horse deaths.
===Several memos mention a meeting at Orr Springs between Dugway
officials — including its commander, Col. Adelbert Toepel — and local
BLM officials Ron Hall and Paul Howard, where they strongly disagreed
with the Army's theory.
==="Mr. Hall made the statement that if a horse was thirsty, he would
drink any place that there was water, referring to the horse trough," a
memo by Dugway official Richard Davis says.
===The Army official also complained in the memo that Howard "had his
mind already made up and was not interested in anything anyone had to
say or show him."
===Another Dugway scientist, Max Green, wrote in a memo, "Paul Howard
and Ron Hall had their minds made up before they ever got there. . . .
(Howard) knew all the answers to everything. Had no respect for anyone,
was very rude."
===Another memo about that meeting by yet another Dugway official,
Dave Maxwell, complained the BLM officials "were blind to the obvious."
===He said when Dugway officials asked Howard why the BLM had put the
new trough over a hill from the original spring site, he said it "was
because the horses trailed through and over the hill. Sounds to me like
a CYA statement, because one doesn't have to be much smarter than one of
those horses to determine that the horses didn't and would not walk over
===Maxwell urged the Army to contact some higher-up BLM official for
support of the Army position but "only if he is capable of an unbiased
===The BLM officials were not the only ones to ever question the
Army's conclusion. Watchdog groups, such as Downwinders, and some horse
experts have, too, through the years — as have wild horse protection
===For example in 1988, Richard Sewing, director of the Cedar
City-based National Mustang Association, told the Deseret News that his
group had piped several springs, and "we've never had experience any
place where the horses backed away from the water, so I would tend to
think something else killed them."
===However, Sewing recently told the Morning News that has changed —
and an instance of wild horses being confused by water guzzlers occurred
on a military range in Nevada.
==="Yes, horses walked right by it (a guzzler) when it was full of
water. They were looking for natural springs and ponds. Yes, they did
have horses die of thirst when water was available. They didn't know
what it was," he said.
===He adds that wild horses "have a tendency to paw at things," and
it is a bit tough to get them to drink out of an open trough instead of
water in the ground. He also notes that horses are sometimes much slower
than other wildlife, such as elk, to find new water sources that his
===Baranowski himself has read the Army documents, seen the test
results and weighed the arguments. He still doesn't believe the Army.
==="I think I was poisoned by whatever killed those horses," he said.
===When asked if he believes thirst killed them, he laughs until he
coughs uncontrollably. "I saw those bodies. . . . They were sick, not
thirsty. How many times do 50 horses just keel over all at once for
===He says the government has been dishonest before about testing in
Utah, and he still believes that it has not told the full story about
the 1976 incident. His suspicion is deeper because the Army has told him
his old medical files do not exist. "It's like the X-files," he said
about the TV series where alien-related proof disappears.
===Also, he has a theory about why he seemed to be the only human who
became sick at the time — at least the only one he knows about.
==="I was the first person they sent out there. The way I see this
is, if there was anything I contracted from it, it was probably gone by
the time others arrived," he said. "I'm thinking that whatever killed
the horses just got loose and dissipated before it hurt others."
===Baranowski says he would like better proof, but he acknowledges
finding it appears unlikely. He lists his reasons, too, which are only
==="I don't want anything like this to happen to anyone else. The
government should not hide things from the public....And I would
like the Army to give me money for what will probably be the short rest
of my life," he said.
===He says he is in the process of filing a VA claim seeking total
disability. Currently, the VA has given him a 10 percent disability for
hearing problems likely resulting from explosives and other loud noises
when he served at Dugway.
==="My counselor at the VA has said the documents you obtained should
help," he said.