Wild Bill Donovan’s Truth Drug: THC Acetate

By Fred Gardner   In a biography of Wild Bill Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, Douglas Waller writes:

“Smoke swirled around Little Augie’s head as he took another long drag on the cigarette. His real name was August Del Gaizo, a middle-aged New York gangster who had been in and out of prison for assorted assaults and murder charges and who now ran the mob on New York’s Lower East Side. Little Augie lounged on a couch in the apartment of George White, a roly-poly former New York cop who had busted him several times but kept in friendly contact of the years… The more he sucked on the cigarette, the chatter he became. He bragged about the bribes he had given to cops over the years,. He offered details about his loansharking operating that was raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. He shared gossip about Lucky Luciano’s battles with other underworld bosses like Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello. “Whatever you do, don’t ever use any of the stuff I’m telling you,” Little Augie said with a silly grin on his face.

White smiled and just listened. The ex-cop now worked for Donovan. Little Augie didn’t know that the cigarette White had offered him was laced with tetrahydrocannabinol acetate. The highly secret truth drug experiment seemed to White to have worked.

Donovan, who had collected research papers on truth drugs and kept close track of the Little Augie test, had ordered Lovell [the OSS head of Scientific Research and Development, who Donovan called ‘My Professor Moriarity’] in September 1942 to find a potion that could be used on high-value war prisoners, enemy agents, or even American officials suspected of betraying state secrets. It had to get them to talk —without the person knowing he been slipped it. The Army also was eager to have a reliable drug for its interrogations. Lovell had tried scores of concoctions on unwitting soldiers, who were told they were part of a research project to find a treatment for shell shock: mescaline, various barbiturates, scopalomine, Benzedrine and marijuana. None produced the desired results with the subject unaware that he was being doped. But the drug that showed promise when injected into food or cigarettes was tetrahydrocnniabinol acetate, an extract of Indian hemp.

White had Little Augie back several more times for smokes and chats…. But the drug’s effect was uneven and Augie sometimes complained of being woozy, which meant an agent might be tipped off if he was slipped it. Tetrayhdrocannabinol acetate, Lovell’s scientists wrote Donovan, “is not a perfect ‘truth drug,’ and ‘is probably not adaptable for mass interrogation.’  But Donovan persevered, secretly enlisting the Surgeon General’s Office and Cornell University’s Medical College to continue the experiments.

Here is Wikipedea on THC Acetate.

O’Shaughnessy’s has previously reported on the US Army’s study of a cannabinoid-based incapacitating agent at Edgewood Arsenal in the 1960s. I wonder if James Ketchum, MD, who ran the program at Edgewood and once described it in detail at an SCC meeting, knew about Wild Bill Donovan’s predecessor study… Maybe he will read this and advise.  —FG