Dr. Gerald D. Klee, a retired psychiatrist who was an LSD expert and participated in its experimentation on volunteer servicemen at several military installations in the 1950s, died Sunday of complications after surgery at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.
The longtime Timonium resident was 86.
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 LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide.
He said that in addition to LSD, the Army was also experimenting with other hallucinogens as part of its chemical weapons research program.
Dr. Klee said the Army had negotiated a contract in 1956 with Dr. Jacob E. Finsinger, director of the University of Maryland's 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 — and a lot of the stuff that has been published reflects that," Dr. Klee told The Evening Sun in a 1975 interview.
"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 soldiers from military posts around the country were brought to Edgewood Arsenal and Aberdeen Proving Ground to participate in experiments involving various drugs and chemical warfare agents, of which the hallucinogens were a small part, reported the newspaper.
"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."
Dr. Klee said he and his colleagues from the University of Maryland tried to explain to the volunteers what to expect.
"They were told it was very important to national security," he said in The Evening Sun interview.
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 the 1975 interview.
The civilian team quickly learned about those who had experienced "bad trips." Dr. Klee also explained to them that they could control their behavior.
He said he did not know of any lasting ill effects on the soldiers but added that university researchers followed the cases only during their month stay at Edgewood.
"What the Army did after that, I don't know. I've given many hours thought to that. I wish I did know," he said in the interview.
"I think he felt unease about this," said a son, Kenneth A. Klee, an editor and writer who lives in South Orange, N.J.
In an email, Mr. Klee wrote that this father and his colleagues accepted the military money because they thought it was "important science." He added that because they were World War II veterans and the nation was mired in the Cold War, it "didn't seem unreasonable."