The true history, and some wild theories
On 27 July 1976, as America celebrated the bicentenary of the Declaration of Independence, five military veterans died of apparent heart attacks.
All had attended the 58th annual convention of the Pennsylvania State American Legion in Philadelphia five days earlier. All had stayed at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. All had experienced tiredness, chest pains, lung congestion and fever.
Six more delegates died the next day. Within a week 221 of the legionnaires who had stayed at the hotel were hospitalised with the same symptoms and 34 had died. Most were men aged 39 to 82.
Information was scarce during the six-month investigation, so wild speculations began to spread about the cause of the deaths. At the height of the Cold War, some were convinced that enemy forces had attacked the legionnaires. Others believed it was a CIA experiment gone disastrously wrong, or a hoax tricking people into supporting mass vaccination against swine flu. Extra-terrestrials were also mentioned.
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