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Wallace L. Pannier, U.S. germ warfare scientist, dies at 81; Jivan Tabibian, former Armenian ambassador to Austria, dies at 71

August 11, 2009|From Times Wire Reports

Wallace L. Pannier, 81, a germ warfare scientist whose top-secret projects included a mock attack on the New York subway with powdered bacteria in 1966, died Thursday in Frederick, Md., of respiratory failure.

Pannier worked at Ft. Detrick, an Army installation in Frederick that tested biological weapons during the Cold War and is now a biodefense research center.

He worked in the Special Operations Division, a secretive unit operating there from 1949 to 1969, according to family members and published reports.

Pannier told the Baltimore Sun in 2004 that team members staged their mock attack on the subway by shattering lightbulbs packed with powdered bacteria on the tracks. They tracked the germs with air samplers disguised as suitcases.

The bacteria used as mock weapons -- Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcescens -- were thought to be harmless but have since been classified as human pathogens.

The unit's existence wasn't publicly divulged until 1975. Pannier's wife of 61 years, the former Betty Lanahan, said she and their two children knew nothing about the nature of his work until then.

Pannier was born in Salt Lake City on Aug. 22, 1927, and received a degree in microbiology at the University of Utah. He served in the Navy during World War II.

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news.obits@latimes.com

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