B. 11th Marines NBC Activity
This investigation identified 18 separate NBC incidents possibly involving the 11th Marines.
Figure 12 shows the distribution of the 11th Marines incidents over time, beginning shortly after the air campaign started, and continuing through the end of the 100-hour ground campaign.
Figure 12. Time Distribution of the 11th Marines NBC Incidents
Note that the first two lines represent, by day, January and February 1991. The remaining lines show an account of the four days of the ground campaign by hour. Each alarm bell icon represents one possible NBC incident. The incidents were clustered at the beginning of the Coalition air campaign in the second half of January 1991, and during the ground campaign in late February 1991.
2. Incident Evidence and Assessments
The amount and quality of available information about these incidents varies greatly. Some events are based on a single log entry. Witnesses often had difficulty recalling or discriminating among single incidents once the ground war began. For a few incidents, the data uncovered was not always consistent.
As the following graph shows (Figure 13), the battalions of the 11th Marines did not respond uniformly to the NBC events investigated. To illustrate this point, 13 alerts have been graphed. Some incidents did not result in alerts, while others put the whole regiment (and many other Marine units) into full chemical protective suits and masks. As the graph indicates, the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines (1/11) initiated the most alerts and responded to many alerts initiated by other units.
Figure 13. How NBC Alerts Were Distributed Among 11th Marines Battalions
a. Incident A (#1)
At 10:15 PM, on the day the Coalition began offensive air operations (January 17th), positions occupied by the 3rd Marines (the core of Task Force Taro) received incoming artillery rocket fire. At this time, the components of the 11th Marines were located generally back from the coast and between Al Mishab and Manifah. Commanders declared "Condition Red," and the 3rd Marines and at least the nearby 1/12 masked as a precaution. The 1st Marine Division, the 11th Marines, and probably the 3rd Marine Regiment's Headquarters sent out monitor/survey teams. These teams reported no indications of chemical warfare agent. One or more Marines performed selective unmasking at the battery level in the 1/12 and were observed for symptoms. For the 1/12, the "all clear" came from the 11th Marines level. All involved then unmasked (returned to "Condition Yellow"). Figure 14 shows the 1/12 location at the time.
Figure 14. Location of Incident A
One of the NBC non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the 1/12 recalled this as a SCUD missile attack, but the units CO, referring to personal notes from the time, recorded it as an artillery attack. The commanding officer recalled no positive CWA detections, unusual detonation characteristics, or peculiar smells.[22, 23]
Chemical warfare agent presence was "Unlikely." The masking was only done as a precaution at a time of heightened alert and Iraqi artillery attack. There were no SCUD attacks against Saudi Arabia until the next day. The incoming rounds were reportedly unremarkable. The monitor/survey teams recorded no positive reads. There were no casualties.
b. Incident B (#2)
The 11th Marines Command Chronology reported that, at 5:25 AM on the second day of the air campaign (January 18), two of their battalions (the 1/12 and the 3/11) noted incoming rounds. The 1/12 went to MOPP Level 4, but there was no indication that the 3/11 did so. At the same time, there were unconfirmed reports of a SCUD launch in the direction of Al Mishab. The operations officer, 3rd Marines, instructed the 1/3 and the 3/3 to send out monitor/survey teams in their areas. There are no available 1/12 logs for this period. The 3rd Marines log reflects negative survey results from the 1/3, the 1/12, and the "NBC Det" (Detachment). The Detachment is not identified further. Apparently, these teams had no positive detections because unidentified units then carried out selective unmasking. The logs report an "all clear" at 7:02 AM.[24, 25] Unit locations are shown in Figure 15.
Figure 15. Location of Incident B
In a recent interview, the commanding officer of the 1/12 recalled that the units NBC officer sent out survey teams. The CO did not believe that the incident resulted from a SCUD launch.
It is "Unlikely" that CWA was present in the vicinity of either 11th Marines battalion. From the limited information available, it has been concluded that incoming fire triggered the alert. No evidence indicates that this fire had unusual munition characteristics. Monitor/survey teams did not get positive detections. One of the two battalions apparently did not mask and reported no chemical casualties (note, however, on the map that they were a substantial distance apart). Other units performed selective unmasking without report of symptoms. An "all clear" followed the selective unmasking.
c. Incident C (#3)
At 9:10 PM on January 19, a 3rd Marines operations log entry notes that the 1/12 conducted a chemical monitor/survey and that COs subsequently called an "all clear." The 3rd Marines passed on these results, noting that the "all clear" was based on M256 kits. An almost unreadable hand entry prior to 7:09 PM suggests that they received an NBC-1 message (see Tab A) to initiate the alert, but they did not note the sender. No NBC-1 report was found in the Gulf War documentation. Investigators could not find this activity reported in any other contemporaneous documents. See Figure 16 for the 1/12 location.
Figure 16. Location of Incident C
None of the 11th Marines witnesses interviewed recalled the incident.
The presence of a chemical warfare agent is "Unlikely." There were no casualties, no reports of incoming artillery or other means of delivery, and no positive detections by M256 kits. No other evidence of an NBC-1 report could be located.
d. Incident D (#5A)
This incident occurred during an artillery raid� the first ground action of Operation Desert Storm on the night of January 20-21, 1991. A field radio operator on the artillery raid initiated the investigation of this incident with a call in 1995 to the DoD Persian Gulf illnesses1-800 hot line set up at that time. Investigators also conducted a follow-up interview with this individual. He reported that M8 alarms went off beginning at 2:00-3:00 AM. Troops went to MOPP Level 4. He stated that M256 tests were positive for nerve agent two or three times. The unit decided that the alarms and M256 kits must have been malfunctioning due to High-Mobility, Multi-purpose, Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) exhaust or something from the "chicken farm" (a nearby abandoned Bedouin camp). After performing selective unmasking procedures, the unit unmasked. Another source documentan attachment to the 1/12 Command Chronologyreported incoming artillery fire at 11:44 PM, "Gas attack, burning fuel fumes" at 1:33 AM, and "All clear; [M]256 [kit] negative" at 2:00 AM. A third source, the Command Chronology for the 11th Marines, briefly noted the raid, but said nothing about incoming artillery or a "gas" attack. It stated, "Battery F, 2/12, from 1/12, conducted an artillery raid at 0315C [3:15 AM local]. ... They fired 84 rounds ... on suspected targets. No battle damage assessment available " Because of the disparity in reporting, the investigation of this incident centered on clarifying the sequence, as well as the nature, of events. See Figure 17.
Figure 17. Location of Incident D
Various witnesses recalled the details of this incident differently. The raid involved the F Battery, 2/12, a 1/12 forward command post (CP), intelligence and security elements, and a mobile unmanned aerial vehicle downlink receiving station. The firing battery and some of the security elements were positioned well forward of the CP area. An Egyptian tank platoon and some Marine infantry provided security for the battery. An operations officer estimated the CP location at five miles south of the Kuwait border. The 1/12 CP was behind and to the side of the gun line, which he estimated was 500-800 meters (up to half a mile) away. Subsequently, he deferred to the F Battery, 2/12, CO on this distance (almost four miles).
Logs and personal journals agreed that incoming artillery fire struck the general area of the 1/12 elements at 11:44 PM,[35, 36] although a witness located near the CP recalled the time as 2:00-3:00 AM and estimated the impacts at 1,500 m to the front. One of the operations officers in the CP estimated the number of incoming rounds at six. He thought impacts were about 2,000 to 2,500 meters to the front. This range also appeared in an incoming fire report filed at 11:44 PM. A field radio operator was not sure the raid party was the target, a view shared by the CO of the 1/12, who commanded the raid. The CO referred to contemporaneous notes when interviewed. He said that the raid party did not operate a counter-battery ("fire finder") radar that could have tipped off the Iraqi forces. He recalled that the Saudi Arabian King Abdul Azziz Brigade maneuvered tanks, headlights on, to the left flank of the CP (he sent an officer to request they stop this during the raid). He thought the noise and lights of the Saudi unit might have drawn the Iraqi fire. The CO remembered that the sound of the incoming fire was like artillery shells, not artillery rockets. The raids intelligence officer was sitting in his vehicle near the CP and recalls the incoming fire as perhaps half a kilometer away. He saw the flash but could not remember how many rounds detonated. He recalled he could not open the vehicle door and jumped through the window to take cover.
Figure 18 diagrams the approximate positions of various raid elements based on testimony of the F Battery CO and a 1/12 operations officer in the forward CP.[42, 43] Both officers reviewed drafts of this diagram and concurred that it portrayed what they remember (except that the operations officer did not recall Egyptian tanks on the raid).
Figure 18. Positioning of the 1/12 for First Artillery Raid
The CO of the firing (F) battery recalled that when the incoming fire hit "around midnight," it impacted about 1,500 meters behind his rear security element and 3,000 meters behind the center of the gun line. He recalled four or fewer rounds (shells) of tube artillery fire, which were probably 122 mm rounds rather than 155 mm rounds. This identification was based on the distinctive sound when passing overhead. Artillerymen often serve as forward observers or spotters and have experience with this phenomenon.
According to intelligence and subsequent UN investigations after the war, there was no evidence that Iraqi 122 mm tube artillery had chemical rounds. Iraqi ground forces were only capable of delivering nerve and blister agents via 155 mm artillery and 122 mm rockets. Iraq could deliver CS riot control agent with 120 mm mortar rounds, but these would not sound like artillery or rockets. Both nerve and mustard agents could be delivered in aerial bombs, but close aerial surveillance and Coalition air supremacy prevented aerial delivery during the Gulf War.
Most witnesses recalled the wind during the raid as out of the north, from the direction of the border. One witness believed the winds were calm and mentioned dense fog, and another thought there may have been a "slight breeze." The Air Force weather database for the war indicates the winds in the general area at the time were from the northeast at 5-10 knots (6-12 miles per hour). Assuming a northerly wind of six miles per hour--and assuming the rounds landed about 2,500 meters northwest of the CP-- any smoke or chemical agent from the rounds would have passed abreast of the CP and to the west about nine minutes later.
A journal and a witness recorded a chemical alert by the CP at 1:33 AM, an hour and 49 minutes after the incoming fire. The 1/12 Command Chronology has an entry for 1:33 AM that reads, "Gas attack, burning fuel fumes." Another entry for 2:00 AM states, "All clear, [M]256 kit negative." However, the same source that recalled the detonations at 2:00-3:00 AM also believed the time separating the explosions and the alert was about 15-20 minutes.
An intelligence officer along on the raid said he initiated the alert after smelling what he described in an initial interview as "sulfur." In a follow-on interview, he recalled sensing CS, a riot control agent used in NBC training; he said it both smelled and felt (irritated) like CS. He recalled no incoming artillery fire near the time of the smell. A communications officer present with him smelled the strong odor of sulfur. They masked and passed the alarm in the area of the CP.
The senior operations officer recalls standing near the back of a HMMWV when all of the sudden he could not breathe. He recalled a choking sensation (a "bitter bite") that did not taste like CS or smell like rotten eggs. He called CS "kids play" compared to the sensation he experienced. He said he gagged and coughed, but the symptoms slowly subsided after he masked. He recalled that, "we could not get anything to pop positive on the M256 kits. The results were negative." When the unit unmasked, the irritant was gone. On return to base, a corpsman checked his pupils and throat and treated him for sore throat. His throat remained sore for up to a week.
The 1/12 CO, who also commanded the raid, emphatically stated that he smelled sulfur (rotten eggs) but definitely not CS, expressing confidence he could tell the difference. The operations officer manning the radios in the CP recalled that at the time he got the alert, the intelligence officer said he had smelled CS and experienced CS-like symptoms. The NBC officer of the 11th Marines, who did not accompany the raid, remembers that the incident definitely involved CS and was reported as such up the chain of command.
The communications officer directed a driver and a communications technician to conduct M256 tests. He remembered that the first test was positive for nerve agent. He was almost certain that a second test about 80 feet away was negative. He recalled they performed selective unmasking "by the book" and the "all clear" was sounded. The smell had disappeared by the time they unmasked. The operations officer who experienced a choking sensation also detected nothing after unmasking (although throat irritation from the exposure lasted several days).
Several witnesses believed no M8 Chemical Agent Alarms accompanied the raid forces. However, one Marine witness believed he recalled several instances when M8 chemical monitors alarmed during the raid. This same Marine was one of those who conducted M256 kit tests. He recalls two or three positive M256 tests during a time when M8 alarms were repeatedly going off and being reset. He noted that someone decided the positive was due to vehicle exhaust or something from the "chicken farm" (deserted Bedouin camp). Based on disparate recollections of outcomes and the opinion of the communications officer, it is possible that more than one survey team ran M256 tests in the vicinity of the CP
According to an authoritative source, the M256 detection kits would not produce a positive indication for chemical warfare agents in the presence of CS. The kits could, however, produce false positive readings for CWA in the presence of smoke, petroleum products, and other battlefield contaminants. (See the Glossary entry on M256).
The battery commander on the raid, located forward and west of the CP, recalled that the CP notified him by radio that somebody had smelled something back at the CP. He did not order the battery to mask, and he was not aware of anyone with symptoms. He did not find out that the CP had gone to MOPP Level 4 until after the raid the next day.
The CO of the 1/12 indicated that days after the raid, he recalled hearing that coalition aircraft had bombed an enemy site, and the sulfur smell resulted from this attack. A check of a classified database covering coalition air strikes placed the closest attack (time and distance) some tens of miles from the raid positions and more than six hours before the unusual smell incident. This air attack used large bombs against an area target. Considering the wind data cited above and the geometry of the locations, the center of any airborne residue from this attack would have passed more than 10 miles west of the CP position. This would have happened between about 10:00 PM and 1:00 AM. The later time (assuming six mile per hour winds) is half an hour before the smell was noted at 1:33 AM. The exact nature of the air targets in the target area is unknown, but raids against area targets do not focus on fixed facilities. (If hit, fixed facilities would be more likely to emit smells and gases than bombed areas.)
Finally, investigators found that the raid participants were given a target in Kuwait, fired 84 rounds at 3:15 AM, and rapidly departed the area.Figure 19 summarizes the timing of the incident.
Figure 19. Timeline for Incident D
The investigation could not definitively determine the cause of reported positive M256 detections, the nature of the substance(s) smelled, or the source. However, on balance, the likelihood that chemical warfare or riot control agent was present in the CP area is "Unlikely."
To come to this conclusion, two key questions had to be answered: a) did Iraqi troops fire any chemical warfare agent or riot control shells at the 1/12 elements on the raid; and b) if they did, what are the chances the 1/12 elements were in the contaminated area?
a) If the CO of the raid battery correctly estimated the caliber of the incoming rounds as 122 mm artillery, the rounds did not contain chemical agents because the only tube artillery Iraq used to deliver agent (blister) was 155 mm. Several witnesses recalled positive M256 readings for nerve agent. Available information indicates Iraq did not have nerve agent shells for tube artillery. The possibility that Iraqi troops fired CS rounds into the area of the raid party is also unlikely since Iraq used 120 mm mortar roundsnot artilleryto deliver CS. Finally, the time separation between the incoming artillery fire and the first notice of an unusual smell suggests that the two events were unrelated.
Several witnesses that were near the CP clearly experienced something strong. The lack of agreement on the nature of the smell prevents an unequivocal conclusion about what it was. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) smells like rotten eggsthe smell identified by the 1/12 CO who discounted the possibility of CS. No known lethal or riot control agent smells like rotten eggs. The intelligence officer believed strongly that he smelled and "felt" CS, which has a pungent, peppery smell. The communications officer in the same area at the time recalls smelling sulfur. The operations officer behind the HMMWV reported choking sensation that caused a sore throat, but he was sure the cause was not CS. Despite getting a "whiff" of something strong, none of the witnesses reported experiencing the enduring and serious symptoms one could expect from this kind of exposure to lethal chemical warfare agents.
The 11th Marines report indicated that CS was involved in the incident, but those on the scene thought vehicle exhaust or something from the abandoned camp was the cause. The commanding officer of the 1/12 "heard" the source of the smell was a Coalition air strike, but the nearest attack was over six hours earlier and a considerable distance away. This seems too long and too far to sustain the concentration that the "strong" smell suggests, even if the CP had been directly downwind.
Witnesses' recollections about M256 test results also varied, perhaps because more than one survey team conducted tests. One of the testers recalled multiple positive detections. The Marine who directed him to do the test remembered only one positive detection. Others recalled no positives at all. If the strong-smelling substance was CS, M256 kits would not have produced positive readings.
The majority of evidence from witnesses suggests the raid elements did not have M8 chemical agent alarms available, despite testimony from one Marine to the contrary.
The weather and the location of the raid forces make it unlikely that any agent Iraq might have fired in the 11:44 PM artillery salvo would have been detected by members of the raid. However, winds vary somewhat in speed and direction, and none of the witnesses claimed absolute certainty about speed and direction. Consequentlyalthough it is unlikelythe presence of some kind of agent at the CP could not be entirely ruled out.
In short, the assessment of "Unlikely" rests on there being no evidence of a delivery means, the absence of serious casualties from CWA, reports of key witnesses of an H2S smell that is not associated with any known CWA or riot control agent, and the belief of some present that the cause was an environmental contaminant.
e. Incident E (#11A)
An NBC NCO assigned to the 1/12 Jump Command Post (CP - mobile command post sent ahead of main CP to take control while the main CP moves forward) reported that on or about the night of February 25th, his unit was conducting an illumination mission (firing shells that release flares with parachutes to light the battlefield) towards an airfield. During the mission, the units XM21 Remote Sensing Chemical Agent Alarm (RSCAAL) alerted. (A description of the XM21 may be found in TAB A.) He tested with an M256 kit and a CAM after the first detection; both tests were negative. He reset the XM21, and a few minutes later it went off again. He conducted another M256 test; again, the results were negative. The XM21 continued to sound over the next hour, but he never produced a positive M256 or CAM test. He finally shut off the XM21, believing it was alerting to exhaust, dust, tanks, artillery smoke, etc. In his first interview for this investigation, he stated that the unit did not increase its protective posture in response to the XM21 detections. He said he alerted the chain of command about the situation, but nothing came of the detections. In a subsequent interview, he contradicted his initial interview by remembering that the unit did increase its protective posture. In retrospect, he thinks it was a false alarm. The CP stayed in that position for 6-7 hours, and then headed back to join the rest of the Battalion.
A 1/12 operations officer reviewed the information on this incident and indicated that he believed this illumination mission occurred in the vicinity of Kuwait International Airport. He recalled that the unit fired an illumination mission in support of forces at Kuwait International. In a follow-on interview, the 1/12 NBC NCO believed the location was near Al Jaber airfield. Records indicate that his unit was near that airfield at the approximate time he ascribed to the incident.
No logs or chronologies have been found reporting these RSCAAL detections or any change in the units protective posture during the reported timeframe of this incident.
In an interview, the 11th Marines NBC officer stated that his regiment had only one XM21 and that it was deployed with 5/11 throughout the ground campaign into Kuwait. Therefore, the 1/12 could not have had a RSCAAL detection during that period. However, he did recall that he sent his only RSCAAL with artillery raid forces twice after the reported detection of CS (riot control agent) during the artillery raid described in Incident D above. Eventually he decided that the set-up and teardown times for the RSCAAL kept participating artillery units exposed for too long and also exposed this unique piece of equipment to loss from counter-battery fire. Thereafter, he ceased sending the equipment on artillery raids. He did not recall hearing about any positive RSCAAL detections on either of these two raids.
After the first artillery raid (conducted by the 1/12), the 1/12 participated in one additional artillery raid on January 23-24, 1991, in the vicinity of Khafji (fire missions were executed shortly before midnight). Based on the testimony of the NBC officer of the 11th Marines, this would have been the first of the two raids on which a RSCAAL would have accompanied the raid party.
In an effort to clarify the timing and location of his reported RSCAAL detection, investigators again contacted the NBC NCO assigned to the 1/12. He was apprised of the additional information provided by the 11th Marines NBC officer and the record of 1/12 artillery raid involvement. The NBC NCO indicated he might have confused an incident on an artillery raid with activity during the ground campaign, although he had the "feeling" that his initial testimony about the timing was correct. He did recall participation in the January 23-24 artillery raid. He was sure the incident occurred at night and that it was too dark to determine what the XM21 might have been "looking" at. He could not recall what type of CWA the device detected. He initially attached the XM21 to an external alarm used with the M8 device. After this alarm went off, he disconnected it and used the device only with the built-in alarm, which continued to go off. He was unable to recall when, and from whom, he received the XM21 initially, or when, and to whom, he may subsequently have relinquished it.
The NBC officer of the 11th Marines noted that the XM21 had power supply problems. They were hooked up to vehicle power supplies. If the vehicle was not running, the detector would draw down the vehicle battery rapidly and then alarm for low power. In the incident described here, the NBC NCO remembered that the XM21 was hooked up to a vehicle (HMMWV) for power. Because it was a new piece of equipment, Marines may not have been trained on such problems.
Figure 20 shows the approximate location of this incident, assuming it occurred late on January 23, 1991, during an artillery raid launched near Khafji.
Figure 20. Location of Incident E
Investigators conclude that the incident, recalled in some detail by the 1/12 NBC NCO, occurred during an artillery raid near Khafji. On balance, it is believed that the presence of chemical warfare agent in the raid area was "Unlikely." Because the XM21 could detect agent at a distance of several kilometers, CAM and M256 tests would not necessarily sample the same air as the XM21. There were no reports of chemical casualties. The RSCAAL may have detected contaminants or generated false alarms because of power supply problems. A valid long-range detection, however, cannot be entirely ruled out.
f. Incident F (#5)
Intelligence reported Iraqi preparation for, and possible use of, chemical weapons on the evening of January 30th.
Shortly thereafter, NBC alert warnings were transmitted to maneuver units including the 11th Marines. The I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) initiated "Condition Yellow" (attack probable, do not don protective gear yet). At 8:35 PM, Task Forces Shepherd and Taro received orders to go to MOPP Level 2 (overgarments and overboots but no masks or gloves). Logs indicate that shortly after 9:00 PM, I MEF had gone to MOPP Level 3 (mask on but not gloves) for all forces north of 28 degrees, 5 minutes north. Location data from the time indicates that the only 11th Marines unit north of this line was the 5/11. See Figure 21.
Figure 21. Location of Incident F
During the previous day (January 29), Iraqi tanks had penetrated the border into Saudi Arabia not far from the 5/11 location, the 5/11 elements went to 100 percent alert. However, early on the morning of January 30th, the enemy tanks retreated back into Kuwait, and the 5/11 reduced alert to 25 percent. Neither during the incursion on January 29th, nor at the time of this incident on January 30th, did 5/11 report any incoming fire. None of the witnesses contacted shed further light on this alert. There were no associated reports or recollections of CWA tests being run.
The possibility that Iraq delivered chemical agents into 11th Marines locations in connection with this alert was "Unlikely." No reports indicated that any coalition unit in northeastern Saudi Arabia came under chemical weapons attack on this date.
g. Incident G (# 8)
By 3:00 PM on February 24, elements of the 11th Marines were positioned between the two obstacle belts, providing artillery support to Task Forces Ripper and Papa Bear. At 3:07 PM, an XM21 Remote Sensing Chemical Agent Alarm (RSCAAL) used within the 5/11 alerted for nerve agent. (A description of the XM21 may be found in Tab A.) The 3/11 sounded "GAS GAS GAS" over the radio network. The 11th Marines went to MOPP Level 4.
This incident was reported to the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses via the incident reporting hot line. The caller stated that within the first day or two of the ground war, (February 24th or 25th) "about 400 meters ahead of us two white smoke rounds detonated at about 400 meters altitude, bright white rather than grayish white of regular smoke rounds, did not dissipate like normal smoke rounds. Reported possible chemical attack, we went to MOPP-4, word passed, and all units went to MOPP-4 lasting several hours. Immediately after my verbal report, CWO [redacted] [the 5/11 NBC officer] at headquarters with high speed detection equipment, detected nerve agent. Higher authority ordered quit sounding alarm and stand down from chemical alert, and declared there was no NBC threat." Numerous Marine unit logs documented the incident. At the time, the 5/11 had the mission of general support (reinforcing) of the 3/11, which had the mission of direct support of Task Force Ripper (see Figure 22).
Figure 22. Location of Incident G
An entry in the 11th Marines Command Chronology for January 1st to February 28th, 1991 read:
1507: "Rascal [RSCAAL/ XM21] in 5/11 position detected nerve agent; 11th Marines went to MOPP Level 4. Further detection efforts were negative; all clear sounded at 1541."
Although the 1-800 caller stated initially that the 5/11 NBC officer detected the agent, that caller denied this in a subsequent interview. The 5/11 NBC officer suggested that the XM21 was fielded with the S Battery, 5/11. Although numerous personnel from that unit have been interviewed, attempts to identify and interview the Marine who actually operated the XM21 have proven unsuccessful.
The alert to go to MOPP Level 4 was passed over the battalion command net (radio network), and up to the 11th Marines Regiment Headquarters over the regimental radio net. According to the executive officer (XO) of the S Battery, there were two airbursts that he estimated were 150-200 meters high. The XM21 alerted for nerve, so everyone masked. A sergeant from the battery performed an M256 test and obtained a negative result. A Marine was chosen to perform selective unmasking procedures. This Marine showed no signs of chemical exposure, so the rest of the unit unmasked. He recalled that the unit was at MOPP Level 4 for a little over an hour. The Battery XO, as well as the CO, noted that birds were flying around during the incident. The XO decided that, although he did not know what kind of artillery rounds had been fired, they were not chemical, and that the XM21 had alerted falsely. He added that he eventually shut it down due to smoke and dust sensitivity, and at some point, probably on the third day of the ground campaign (February 26th), stored it for the remainder of the war.[88, 89]
While the S Battery was conducting M256 chemical agent tests, other personnel in the area were also performing chemical detection tests. The 5/11 NBC officer stated that his personnel conducted M256 tests by the book, and then proceeded with unmasking procedures. As he recalled, the M256 tests were negative for chemical warfare agents. He did not remember an XM21 alert that day, but he did vaguely remember that one individual said that the airbursts set off an M8 alarm. The 5/11 NBC NCO said that he conducted an M256 test following the incident and got negative results. At the time, he was positioned in a moving convoy to the flank of the S Battery position. The 5/11 operations officer, also in the convoy, could not recall if anyone ran M256 tests. Another 11th Marines unit, the T Battery, was positioned approximately one-half mile from the S Battery. The T Battery commanding officer believed that his unit conducted M256 tests, with negative results.
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