Abstract Studies of commercial heats of AF1410 steel suggest that under appropriate conditions additions of rare-earth elements can significantly enhance fracture toughness. This improvement in toughness is not due to an extremely low inclusion volume fraction but is apparently due to the formation of larger and more widely spaced inclusions. The purpose of this work is to discuss our experience in using rare-earth additions to laboratory scale vacuum induction melted and subsequently vacuum arc remelted heats of ultra-high strength steels to achieve inclusion distributions similar to those observed in commercial heats modified with lanthanum additions. The results indicate that lanthanum additions of 0.015 wt.% to low sulfur steels which have been well deoxidized using carbon-vacuum deoxidation can result in lanthanum rich inclusions which are similar in size, volume fraction and spacing to those obtained in commercially produced heats of ultra-high strength steel to which lanthanum has been added. The heat of steel to which lanthanum additions of 0.015 wt.% were made had significantly higher toughness than did the heat of the same steel in which the sulfur had been gettered as small and closely spaced particles of MnS and which had an inclusion volume fraction similar to that of the heat modified by the addition of 0.015 wt.% lanthanum. This improvement in toughness was attributed to an increase in inclusion spacing. An addition of 0.06 wt.% lanthanum was excessive. Such an addition of lanthanum resulted in a huge volume fraction of large cuboidal inclusions which primarily contain lanthanum and oxygen and which are extremely detrimental to toughness.