War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts
Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, Harvard Medical School, joined the newly formed Rockefeller Anemia Commission to set up a research laboratory in San Juan Presbyterian Hospital. Shortly after his arrival in San Juan, on the night of November 10, 1931, Rhoads got drunk at a party. He emerged to find his car stripped and the tires flat. When he returned to his lab that night, in a foul mood and still drunk, he scrawled a note to a friend named Fred Stewart, who was a medical researcher in Boston:
I can get a damn fine job here and I am tempted to take it. It would be ideal except for the Puerto Ricans – they are beyond a doubt the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men to inhabit this sphere. It makes you sick to inhabit the same island with them. They are even lower than the Italians. What the island needs is not public health work, but a tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the entire population. It might not be livable. I have done my best to further the process of their extermination by killing off eight and transplanting cancer into several more… All physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.
The letter was discovered and created an uproar. La Democracia and El Mundo published a photograph of Rhoads’s letter. Copies were sent to the governor of Puerto Rico, the League of Nations, the Pan-American Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, newspapers, foreign embassies, and the Vatican. They were offered as evidence of systemic and lethal US racism toward Puerto Ricans.
Rhoads was never indicted and suffered no professional consequences for his actions. During WWII, he was commissioned as a colonel and assigned as chief of medicine in the Chemical Weapons Division of the US Army. It positioned him as a talented biological warrior and created a niche for him in US medical and military circles. In 1949, Rhoads was featured on the cover of the June 27 issue of Time magazine. Puerto Ricans, to their astonishment, realized that exterminating eight Puerto Ricans and transplanting cancer into several more had been an excellent career mover for Rhoads.