Gerald D. Klee, who was involved in Army LSD experiments, dies at 86

Gerald D. Klee, a retired psychiatrist who was an LSD expert and participated in experimentation on volunteer servicemen at several military installations in the 1950s, died March 3 at a medical center in Towson, Md. He was 86.

He had complications from surgery, said a son, Kenneth A. Klee.

  • ( Baltimore Sun / MCT ) -
  • ( Baltimore Sun / MCT ) -

( Baltimore Sun / MCT ) -

Dr. Klee made headlines in 1975 when he confirmed published reports that the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Psychiatric Institute had been involved in secret research between 1956 and 1959, when hundreds of Army soldiers were given lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.

He said that the Army also experimented with other hallucinogens as part of a wide-ranging chemical weapons research program.

Dr. Klee explained that the Army had negotiated a contract in 1956 with Jacob E. Finsinger, director of the U-Md. Psychiatric Institute, to conduct physiological and psychological tests on the soldiers.

“A large proportion of the people who have gotten involved in research in this area have been harebrained and irresponsible — Timothy Leary being the most notorious example,” Dr. Klee told the Baltimore Evening Sun in 1975.

“We didn’t have any axes to grind, and the university’s role was to conduct scientific experimentation,” he said. “The interests of the University of Maryland group were purely scientific, and the military was just there.”

Dr. Klee said that soldiers from military posts around the country were brought to Edgewood Arsenal and the adjoining Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County to participate in experiments involving various drugs and chemical warfare agents, of which the hallucinogens were a small part, the newspaper reported.

“They were mostly enlisted men — there were a few commissioned officers — but they were mostly unlettered and rather naive,” said Dr. Klee. “Now, the people knew they were volunteering, the bonus was leave time — seeing their girlfriends and mothers and that kind of thing. They had a lot of free time, and most of them enjoyed it.”

Before the experiments commenced, Dr. Klee experimented with LSD.

“I figured that if I was going to study this stuff, then I’ve got to experience it myself,” he told the Evening Sun. “I felt obliged to take it for experimental reasons and also because I didn’t think it would be fair to administer a drug to someone else that I hadn’t taken myself.”

The LSD was slipped into cocktails at a party in the soldiers’ honor. While this approach garnered criticism, Dr. Klee said the Army and civilian researchers acted responsibly.

“I was there and I didn’t like it, but thought I might be of help to the victims,” Dr. Klee told The Washington Post in 1975.

The civilian team quickly learned about those who had experienced “bad trips.” Dr. Klee said he did not know of any lasting ill effects on the soldiers, but he added that the university researchers followed them only during their monthlong stay at Edgewood.

“What the Army did after that, I don’t know,” Dr. Klee said. “I’ve given many hours’ thought to that. I wish I did know.”

In 1975, the Army admitted that it had administered LSD to nearly 1,500 people between 1956 and 1967, including 585 at Edgewood.

Gerald D’Arcy Klee was a native of Brooklyn and an Army veteran of World War II. He was a 1948 graduate of McGill University in Montreal and a 1952 graduate of Harvard Medical School.

He completed a residency in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and the veterans hospital at Perry Point, Md.

From 1959 to 1967, he was director of U-Md.’s division of adult outpatient psychiatry. He held a similar position at Temple University in Philadelphia from 1967 to 1970.

In addition to a teaching career at several universities, Dr. Klee maintained a private practice until retiring in 2000.

His four marriages ended in divorce. Survivors include five children, Kenneth A. Klee, of South Orange, N.J., Brian D. Klee of Waterford, Conn., Susan E. Klee of Chevy Chase, Louise E. Klee of Takoma Park and Sheila G. Klee of New York City; a brother; and 11 grandchildren.

— Baltimore Sun