James Sanford Ketchum

James Sanford Ketchum (November 1, 1931 – May 27, 2019) was a psychiatrist and United States Army Medical Corps officer who worked for almost a decade (1960–1969) on the U.S. military’s top secret psychochemical warfare program at the Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, which pursued research on chemicals to be used to “incapacitate the minds” of adversaries.

The National Archives has provided to Medic Ketchum’s releasable military service information based on restrictions imposed by the military services consistent with the Department of Defense regulations and the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Since much of Ketchum’s military career involved the use of human guinea pigs is it surprising that most of his service records are hidden from public view?

Ketchum received his medical degree from Yale in 1956 and that same year joined the Army. He served his internship at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco (1956–57), and after a psychiatry residency at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. (1957–59), he was granted board certification in that specialty and joined researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

In 1960, Ketchum agreed to an unconventional assignment at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland and spent most of the next decade (1960–69) there testing over a dozen potential “incapacitating agents”, including LSD, BZ and marijuana derivatives. He played a critical role in psychoactive drug testing of hundreds of military volunteers — known deceptively as the “Medical Research Volunteer Program” — a story kept highly classified for almost fifty years until his memoir was published in 2006.

In 1964, Ketchum oversaw an important field test at the Dugway Proving Ground, in Utah. The test, code-named Project DORK, was intended to determine if an aerosol of the delirium-inducing nerve agent BZ could incapacitate soldiers at distances of 500–1000 yards. Ketchum directed an Army film documenting the effort called Cloud of Confusion.

Ketchum had additional psychiatric training during a fellowship at Stanford University in California (1966–68); during this period he worked at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics (he did not tell his hippie patients he was an army doctor). He then returned to Edgewood for a final year; this was followed by tours at Fort Sam Houston, Texas (1971–73) and Fort Benning, Georgia (1973–76).

After leaving military service as a colonel in 1976, Ketchum became an associate professor at the University of Texas Medical School and later an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. As a civilian, Ketchum acquired broad experience in the area of alcohol and drug abuse and published numerous scientific articles and book chapters. His activities at teaching hospitals included many invited lectures, seminars and the direct supervision of medical students. As a clinician he spent 30 years in hospital and outpatient settings, as well as a variety of community clinics and residential treatment centers.

Ketchum resided in Santa Rosa, California until moving to Peoria, Arizona after the Santa Rosa fire which came a few blocks from burning his home. He was a lifelong friend of Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, who is credited with introducing MDMA (Ecstasy) to psychologists in the late 1970s for psychopharmaceutical use and for the discovery, synthesis and personal observation of over 230 psychoactive compounds for their psychedelic and entactogenic potential. Ketchum died in Peoria, at 87 on May 27, 2019.




The Intercept: Inside the Archive of an LSD Researcher With Ties to the MKUltra Mind Control Project