Other witnesses stated that anywhere from one to four airbursts occurred, at an approximate altitude of 400 meters.[94] The commanding officer of the 5/11 recalled four artillery rounds exploding at a significant altitude that he remembered as 400 meters. The rounds were not white phosphorous (WP) or high explosive (HE).[95] He recalled thinking that they could be chemical, but were simply too high up to cause concern. In addition, the winds were in his favor, blowing towards the enemy.[96] For the afternoon of February 24th, 1991, an Air Force weather summary indicates that the winds for the general area were southwesterly to westerly (out of the southwest/west).[97] Among the witnesses interviewed, there was a consensus that the resultant smoke, or "cloud," was unlike anything they had seen before. The odd characteristics of the smoke concerned them. The 5/11 operations officer recalled that he saw "an ugly looking cloud that didn’t look right." He recalled that the visibility at the time of this incident was good. (He compared it to times when he could literally not see his hand in front of his face due to oil well smoke.) At this time, the prevailing winds were beneficial, and there was no oil smoke blowing into their faces.[98] The 1/11 NBC NCO described a low-lying cloud that was "hovering," rather than dissipating.[99] On the other hand, the 1st Marine Division NBC officer remembered seeing the white smoke, but described three small puffs that dissipated quickly and were small, more the size of a signal flare. They were not what he, as an NBC officer, would expect of a chemical munition.[100]

Another witness distinctly remembered the airbursts. A corporal assigned to Task Force Ripper, also traveling in the convoy, recalled being outside his vehicle when a "popping" sound overhead caught his attention. He looked up to see a whitish cloud, followed by two more airbursts. He remembered that the wind picked up the smoke and moved it over his head, in a southerly direction. To his surprise, commanders called no increase in MOPP Level, so he proceeded to direct Enemy Prisoners of War (EPWs) to the rear. Shortly thereafter, he turned and saw other troops donning their gas masks. His gas mask was back in his vehicle, so with eyes shut, he ran back to his vehicle and donned his mask. In his interview, he stated that he experienced no physical symptoms from this incident. When asked if any of the unprotected EPWs were affected, he replied that, to the best of his knowledge, no EPW showed any symptoms. He also recalled checking the chemical detection tape (M9 tape) attached to his vehicle. It showed no signs of having come into contact with chemical warfare agent.[101]

In the follow-on interview of the witness who originally reported the incident via the hot line, he suggested that a Fox vehicle, operated by the Task Force Ripper NBC officer, detected Sarin.[102] The Ripper NBC officer could not recall specifically sending his Fox vehicle back through the minefield, against the flow of advancing Marines, to check out the 5/11’s position. (At the time of this RSCAAL detection, Task Force Ripper had already passed through the second minefield.) Although he could not remember sending his Fox vehicle, the Ripper NBC officer was nevertheless of the opinion that another Fox vehicle attached to the 1st Marine Division would likely have been used to check out this incident.[103]

In fact, the 1st Marine Division Fox vehicle did respond to this incident. With a 1st Marine Division NBC officer on board, the Fox drove around the general area sampling the air in the "air-hi" mode, and got no positive detections from the MM1 mass spectrometer. According to this NBC officer, there were no NBC-1 reports, CWA effects, or casualties from this incident.[104]

After the war, the 11th Marines NBC officer learned from the S Battery 1st Sergeant that several Marines looking up at the unusual cloud had experienced burning faces and watering eyes. According to this second-hand information, the Marines immediately masked and then reached under the mask to wipe their faces with the agent neutralizing wipes carried by each Marine. Following this episode, they were immediately returned to duty. The regiment’s NBC officer assumed the burning substance was not blister agent because he received no reports of anyone being medically evacuated or treated for chemical exposure at battalion aid stations. According to this NBC officer, a blister agent would have caused much longer-lasting and severe symptoms, even if immediately treated. In his opinion, these Marines may have been exposed to something like rocket propellant. He does not believe any chemical warfare agent was involved.[105] Investigators could not identify or interview any of the Marines that reportedly experienced burning faces and watering eyes.

Investigators have identified the S Battery 1st Sergeant, but have been unsuccessful in contacting him. Both the commanding officer and executive officer of the S Battery, 5/11, were re-contacted in an effort to learn more concerning this second-hand report of burning faces and watering eyes. The unit CO stated that he was not informed that anyone had performed decontamination procedures as a result of this incident. He added that had this occurred, the XO (who acted as logistics officer) would have known about it because those Marines would have had to replace their decontaminating wipes. He concurred with other witnesses’ comments that the cloud was odd in appearance, but noted that certain Marines conducted M256 tests, got no positive results, and the unit unmasked without incident.[106] The XO stated that he was not aware of any injuries as a result of the incident. Because the battery corpsmen were located near the XO, he remembers no one called for a corpsman. He added that he felt skeptical about any injuries from this incident; it was over within a few minutes and the unit moved on.[107]

A memorandum dated March 11, 1991, from the 11th Marines regimental surgeon to the regimental commanding officer, summarized the organization and implementation of medical treatment for the command. Included was the statement, "No serious injuries or mortalities were received and no medical evacuations called" (during Operation Desert Storm).[108] Investigators contacted the former 11th Marines regimental surgeon who indicated he was unaware of any chemical casualties in the Regiment from this or any other incident. The leading chief petty officer of the Regimental Medical Team, a US Navy Hospital Corpsman, stated that to his knowledge, no personnel assigned to the 11th Marines were treated for chemical warfare agent exposure.[109] Figure 23 summarizes the timing of this incident.

Figure 23. Timeline for XM21 Incident


Chemical warfare agent presence during this event is assessed as "Unlikely." There is some agreement among the witnesses that the airburst(s) and resultant "cloud" had an odd appearance--unlike anything any of them had seen before--and that the source and type of rounds involved was suspicious. However, no witness to the airburst(s) was able to definitively identify the source and type of rounds involved. Numerous M256 tests were conducted. None showed signs of chemical warfare agent. A Fox NBC Reconnaissance vehicle tested the general area and detected no traces of CWA. There is no evidence of casualties from this incident--even among the unmasked EPWs moving south through the area. Two witnesses recall seeing birds flying around during the incident. This fact could be significant, since birds are very sensitive to the effects of toxic airborne chemicals.[110]

The XM21 was designed to detect chemical agent clouds at a distance of up to five kilometers, and in this instance, the XM21 reportedly alerted for nerve agent. Although no positive M256 tests resulted, it is possible that the M256 tests were performed too far from the airburst(s).

If, as one witness stated, the wind carried the suspect cloud in a southerly direction, and that "cloud" contained chemical warfare agent, it is possible that some of that agent may have dropped on Marine columns and yet been undetected by the M256 tests. If, as two witnesses stated (the Air Force Weather database concurs), the wind carried the suspect cloud in a northerly or northeasterly direction, back towards the Iraqi lines, it is also possible that chemical warfare agent may have dropped on Marines forward of the position of the XM21 detection. Both possibilities are unlikely since medical personnel and other witnesses were unaware of any associated casualties. In addition, chemical munitions are seldom designed for airburst because of reduced effectiveness.

Although the XM21 reportedly alerted for nerve agent, it must be noted that the detector was a prototype (hence the designation "X"M21--for experimental), and not in the regular inventory. Witnesses have stated that the XM21 typically alarmed erroneously, and at one point, the battalion leadership ordered the detector stored because they lost faith in its capabilities. Investigators have been unable to identify the individual who actually operated the XM21 for this incident, so the specifics of the XM21 detection are unknown. Nevertheless, it remains "Unlikely" that Marines were exposed to chemical warfare agent during this incident.

h. Incident H (# 8A)

Initial Reports

A log from the 5/11 forward Command Post includes the following outgoing message entry at 6:18 PM on February 24th:


Additional Evidence

At about this time, the NBC officer of Task Force Ripper recalls receiving an NBC-1 report. When he received no confirmation from 11th Marines or 1st Marine Division, he discarded the report and did not retransmit or take action on the alert. No one interviewed from the 5/11 recalled the log entry, why it was initiated, or why it was declared a false alarm. The NBC officer of the 11th Marines believed that if there had been an NBC incident associated with this log entry, word of it would have gotten out via the artillery nets (and presumably be recorded elsewhere) even if the 5/11 had canceled the NBC-1 report before transmission.[112] No other documentation related to this incident could be located. Figure 24 shows the unit’s location at the time of the incident.

Figure 24. Location of Incident H


Chemical warfare agent presence is assessed as "Unlikely." Whoever made the original entry considered the incident a false alarm. No other documentary evidence or testimony supports a real NBC incident (no test results, no casualties, no witness recollection of the event). If something had happened in the 5/11 location, it would have been reported by other channels, even if the 5/11 decided not to forward the NBC-1 report.

i. Incident I (# 8B)

Initial Reports

In an interview, the operations officer of the 11th Marines recalled that an incident occurred on the evening of February 25. The H Battery, 3/14 (a reserve unit attached to the 1/11), fired its cannons directly at a multiple rocket launcher vehicle as it was raising its missiles into firing position and destroyed the enemy vehicle. According to the operations officer, someone from the unit reportedly went back to the site and determined that two or three "gas rounds" were among the conventional rounds in the launcher.[113] A review of the 1st Marine Division monograph confirmed that the H Battery destroyed the launcher.[114] Relevant locations are shown in Figure 25.

Figure 25. Location of Incident I

Additional Evidence

The CO of the H Battery did not recall being told that there were chemical rounds in the destroyed multiple rocket launcher vehicle. He did report hearing that the 1st Marine Division Commanding General visited the site. After the war, the Assistant Division Commander presented the battery CO with a souvenir from the launcher. No available logs or chronologies noted chemical rocket rounds in connection with this engagement or any subsequent visit to the site.[115]

According to intelligence reporting, Iraqi 122mm rockets with CW warheads had no identifying markings to distinguish them from conventional high explosive warheads.[116]

The rocket launcher in question is shown in Figure 26. It was a Soviet manufactured BM-21 122 mm launcher. This caliber of rocket launcher has been identified in UN investigations as an Iraqi ground system capable of firing nerve agent rounds.[117]

Figure 26. Iraqi Rocket Launcher Put Out of Action[118]

The 11th Marines NBC officer did not recall hearing about chemical rounds in the launchers, although he remembered the incident. He did a quick reconnoiter of the scene, within less than half an hour of the engagement, taking along a couple of Marines. They were in a hurry to return to their unit so they would not be left behind or mistaken for the enemy. He paid particular attention to the rocket launchers, which were deployed with tanks. He used his CAM and got no positive CWA indications. The Marines with him performed an M256 test and got a positive result, but the NBC officer determined they had taken shortcuts in the test. When they repeated the test properly, they got negative results. The NBC officer noted that there was no special chemical protective equipment at the site—as one would expect if the enemy unit possessed an offensive chemical capability. He took a few samples, which he turned over to the regimental S-2 (intelligence officer). The NBC officer did not believe there was chemical agent present at this site.

Determined efforts to find and interview those who reportedly identified chemical rounds on the destroyed launcher have so far been unsuccessful. The samples also have not been found.


The possibility that the multiple rocket launcher contained chemical rounds is considered "Unlikely." If chemical rockets had no special markings, how could someone casually determine their nature? None of those who inspected the vehicle up close reported chemical agent symptoms. Inspection and tests at the site by the 11th Marines NBC officer did not indicate chemical agent presence or Iraqi offensive chemical capability. If, indeed, some of the rockets were chemical munitions, it is possible there were no leakers (although this is difficult to imagine since the vehicle was hit by Marine fire). The report of finding chemical rockets was second hand. Investigators could not identify the individual who allegedly noted chemical rockets at the site. [119]

j. Incident J (# 9)

Initial Reports

On the second day of the ground war, shortly after 5:30 PM, several units reported incoming artillery fire assumed to be chemical weapons. These units included:

Based on these reports, the 11th Marines and other 1st Marine Division units went to MOPP Level 4. According to the sources cited above, most of the units unmasked within half an hour after negative detector tests. See Figure 27 for locations.

Figure 27. Location of Incident J


Additional Evidence

The operations officer of the 11th Marines recalled listening to the events unfold over the radio. He remembered hearing that incoming fire hit between the locations of the 3/11 and the 5/11 and that canisters (sub-munitions) were dispensed by the incoming rounds.[125]

The CO of the 3/12, the unit that got the positive CAM reading for G (nerve) agent, recalled that he sent his NBC officer to check. The tests (of unknown type) were negative. The CO unmasked himself rather than find someone else to perform selective unmasking procedures. From then on, the NBC officer advised the CO of any positive CAM readings, but the CO delayed masking the unit pending confirming tests, which never came.[126]

After the 11th Marines operations officer (S-3) reported in a recent interview that he heard about canisters over the radio, investigators asked a variety of witnesses if they knew first hand or indirectly about canisters or sub-munitions from incoming artillery fire. The 11th Marines NBC officer recalled that there were several instances of airbursts and low order detonations. He said he discounted the possibility they were chemical rounds because no one reported any casualties. He recalled intelligence that the Iraqis had canister CW dispensing rounds and claimed he knew which Iraqi units had them. He said that Coalition air forces struck one such unit near Al Jaber Airfield before the ground campaign began, and that the enemy unit was subsequently observed from the air performing what he described as decontamination operations.[127]


The presence of chemical warfare agent in this cluster of activity is assessed as "Unlikely." Some of the logs and chronologies clearly indicate that commanders "assumed" a chemical attack (presumably as a precaution) with no repeatable CWA detections in addition to incoming artillery fire. Logs did not record any unusual characteristics for the incoming fire, and there were no first hand reports of canisters or submunitions associated with this flurry of activity. After a single positive CAM test in the 3/12, tests for chemical agents in that and other units were negative, resulting in expeditious unmasking. No one reported any casualties.

On the other hand, the recollections of the Regiment’s S-3 and NBC officer about "canister" or cluster munitions and the initial positive CAM test suggest the possibility of CWA presence. Most G agents are non-persistent, which could explain early positive detections and negative or weak detections thereafter. However, the weight of the evidence favors the "Unlikely" assessment.

k. Incident K (# 10)

Initial Reports

Less than half an hour after the previous incident (shortly after 6:00 PM on the 25th), the A Battery, 1/12, reported they were "under gas attack" about 6 miles southeast of Al Jaber Airfield.[128] At the same time, the 3rd Tank Battalion log train also reported that they were gassed (location not identified).[129]Various elements of the 1st Marine Division, including Task Force Ripper, went to MOPP Level 4. No one recorded the results of the subsequent M256 tests, but the "all clear" was sounded beginning at 6:30 PM.[130] The A Battery, 1/12, stood down from MOPP Level 4 at 6:48 PM.[131] Figure 28 shows the location of the A Battery, 1/12 at the time.

Figure 28. Location of Incident K

Additional Evidence

Interviews conducted with 13 witnesses from the 1/12 revealed no further information on this incident. Others who could recall nothing about this incident when specifically asked included the commanding officers of the 11th Marines and the 1/12, as well as the NBC officer of Task Force Ripper.[132] The commanding officer of the F Battery, 2/12, (attached to the 1/12) indicated that "we never could pick up anything on a detector. Though we had detectors go off, none of our kits [M256] ever indicated anything. We had done them quite frequently."[133] The commanding officer of the A Battery, 1/12, did not remember ever identifying a chemical attack.[134]


Chemical warfare agent presence for this incidentwhich occurred during the 1st Marine Division’s most intense combat of the war--is assessed as "Unlikely." It also happened during a flurry of NBC reporting. Consequently, witnesses had difficulty recalling individual alerts. Available evidence suggests that incoming fire probably triggered the alerts, which in turn initiated NBC alert calls and precautionary masking. No reports of positive detections by any means have been located in connection with this incident.

l. Incident L (# 11)

Initial Reports

The Al Jaber Air Base Case Narrative reveals that the Fox NBC reconnaissance vehicle assigned to Task Force Ripper had a preliminary mustard detection at 7:08 PM on February 25. The Fox vehicle passed this detection by radio to the Task Force Ripper NBC officer, who relayed it to 11th Marines units and possibly others (apparently misquoted as a lewisite detection). The 3/11, which provided direct support to Task Force Ripper, echoed this report. During confirmation attempts, Task Force Ripper went to MOPP Level 4.

Contemporaneous logs suggest multiple detections and confirmation by a Fox reconnaissance vehicle. In the separate Al Jaber investigation conducted by the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses /aljaber/, investigators determined that the only detection was made by a Fox reconnaissance vehicle in the "air-hi" mode. After subsequent battery-level tests using M256 kits failed to produce any confirmation of chemical warfare agent presence, the units selectively unmasked and returned to MOPP Level 2.[135] See Figure 29 for unit locations.

Figure 29. Location of Incident L

Additional Evidence

Both the CO and the NBC officer of Task Force Ripper believe that this was the only incident where chemical warfare agent was actually present in Ripper’s area of operations.[136]


Despite the convictions of Task Force Ripper’s CO and NBC officer, the separate Al Jaber Airbase case assessment determined that the presence of chemical warfare agent in the area of the affected units was "Unlikely." Readers are invited to consult that report regarding this incident and the detailed rationale for the assessment.


m. Incidents M,N,O (#12, 13, 14)

Initial Reports

NOTE: This section covers three sequential alert incidents over a few hours. Since most research material addressed them together, so will this narrative.

The incidents, reported together, include:[137]

Incident M: At 2:13 AM on February 26th, the third day of the ground campaign, the A Battery, 1/11, received a chemical warning message (possibly from the 3/11). The A Battery ran tests with two M256 kits, which registered positive indications for blister agent. The unit reported the detections, and went to MOPP Level 4. An "all clear" was sounded at 2:45 AM.

Incident N: Again at 3:27 AM, the A Battery reported a positive reading for blister agent. A chemical warning was passed to 11th Marines and Task Force Papa Bear.

Incident O: Subsequent tests by the A Battery at 4:10 AM were also positive.

Figure 30 plots relevant locations.

Figure 30. Location of Incidents M, N, O

The 1/11 requested a Fox NBC reconnaissance vehicle from Task Force Papa Bear at 3:33 AM and again at 4:10 AM; six minutes later, Papa Bear reported that the Fox was en route. Operational logs indicated that when the Fox vehicle arrived some time after 4:18 AM, it recorded positive readings for blister agent in what was described as the "passive mode," but the mass spectrometer registered negative when "programmed to look specifically for lewisite" (a blister agent). Investigators interpret this description to mean that the mass spectrometer in the general sampling ("air-hi") mode alerted for blister agent, but follow-up tests involving a full spectrum analysis did not confirm this alert. (See the Fox Vehicle Information Paper for operational details.) One report also noted that CAM tests by the Fox crew gave a four-bar (substantial concentration) reading for blister agent, but M256 tests (reported at 4:21) were negative. The unit did not begin selective unmasking, however, until 6:34 AM. Action summaries attributed the positive readings to oil in the air.[138]

Additional Evidence

The S-3 (operations officer) of the 11th Marines recalled that he directed the Regiment’s NBC officer to send a Fox vehicle to survey the location of the A Battery, 1/11.[139] The Regiment’s NBC officer recalls that the NBC officer of Task Force Papa Bear accompanied the Fox when it was finally dispatched and that he reported by radio that the Fox had gotten no positive readings.[140]

The Task Force Papa Bear NBC officer believed that the 3/11 originated the first alert and, because of a potential downwind hazard that might carry chemical agent toward Coalition units, higher headquarters passed it to the A Battery, 1/11, and the 3/9. Consequently, the 1/11 and the 3/9 went to MOPP Level 4. The Task Force Papa Bear NBC officer further recalled that the 3/9 had a CAM available, allowing that unit to test and quickly unmask. However, the 1/11 did not have a CAM and required a Fox vehicle to check. The Papa Bear NBC officer could not get permission to go forward with the Fox vehicle until after 4:00 AM. In the meantime, A Battery’s M256 kits kept testing positive for blister agent. The Task Force Papa Bear NBC officer suspected that burning oil well smoke caused the positives; false positives from burning petroleum products were not uncommon. (The M256 kit, including the M256A1 kits used during the Gulf War, could present false readings in the presence of some smokes and petroleum products, according to an authoritative equipment description[141] and the NBC officer of the 11th Marines. [142] The CO of Task Force Papa Bear echoed this belief.)[143] The Papa Bear NBC officer suggested that the battery perform selective unmasking, but the continued M256 positives kept the battery in MOPP Level 4. When he finally got to the A Battery, his Fox tested in the "air-hi" mode. The crew then stepped out of the vehicle and unmasked to convince the unit that it was safe.[144, 145] The operations officer for the 3/11 did not recall his battalion initiating this alert.[146]

The CO of the A Battery, 1/11, recalled the multiple positives from the M256 kits. He noted that Marines in the battery were testing on their own volition, and testing substances on the outside of their vehicles. When they got a positive, they called it in to the 1/11. At the time, the battery was about half a mile from an oil well head that was spewing raw petroleum.[147] The CO of the 1/11 also noted that the battery’s NBC team was "were out aggressively checking."[148] The CO of the A Battery’s guns platoon remembered that the section chief for Gun 2 ran two positive M256 tests while in a fighting hole between Guns 1 and 2. (Investigators have identified this individual, now separated from the Marine Corps. Attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.) The Fox crew gave the "all clear" and told battery personnel that oil smoke caused the positives.[149]

A Battery’s executive officer remembered that the battery’s M9 detection paper produced positives and that their M8 alarm sounded. He did not know about the M256 tests. He stated that the battery had three NBC monitor/survey teams with three or four Marines on each team. One was upwind of the battery, one was with the battery, and the third was downwind. He believed that all three teams kept registering positive readings.[150] Calculating time and distance, the NBC officer of the 11th Marines figured that the command post he was with was about 20 minutes downwind of the the A Battery. This individual also recalled that the wind at the time as out of the northeast. Responding to each of the three positive detections, he dispatched Marines to run M256 tests every 15 minutes around the command post. They never got positive readings.[151]

The 1/11 operations officer said he called for selective unmasking across the battalion. Battery leaders selected two individuals from each of three batteries (including the A Battery, 1/11) to perform the procedure—which resulted in an "all clear."[152] The 11th Marines NBC officer noted that the A Battery, 1/11, was downwind from the lead division echelons at the time of the alerts. Artillery had engaged and destroyed an Iraqi multiple rocket launcher (see Incident I above which occurred over 14 hours earlier and for which the assessment of agent presence was "Unlikely"). Since the location of the rocket launcher was about a mile from the A Battery’s location at the time of the alerts, [153] he suggested that this might have been the cause of the positive detections.[154]According to an Air Force summary, the reported winds in the general area of Kuwait at the time of the alerts were blowing from the northwest at 6-17 miles per hour.[155] If local winds in the A Battery’s area were similar, the battery was not downwind from the destroyed rocket launcher. But if local winds were from the northeast—as the 11th Marines NBC officer recalls--it is possible that the unit might have been downwind of the rocket launcher. Figure 31 summarizes the chronology of events.

Figure 31. Timeline for Incidents M, N, and O


Considering the following evidence, blister agent presence during this series of incidents is assessed as "Unlikely." The evidence suggests that the A Battery, 1/11, began testing in response to an alert that they were in a downwind hazard area. If winds were from the northwest, they were, in fact, downwind of the 3/11, which may have initiated the alert. Two witnesses implied that the A Battery, 1/11, had very diligent monitor/survey personnel who tested often. If the testers used the kits by making direct contact with vehicle surfaces (as suggested by the CO of the A Battery), they used an inappropriate procedure. The kits were designed to test for airborne agents only. One witness recalled that M9 detection tape and M8 alarms also gave positive readings[156] (M8 alarms do not test for blister agent, and both test devices can give false readings in the presence of petroleum products—see M8 and M9 entries in Glossary, Tab A.) The battery was positioned on the right flank of the battalion (immediately adjacent to the Al Burqan oil field) and close to a well head spraying raw petroleum. This could explain the persistent positives. The Fox reconnaissance vehicle got negative results. The Task Force Papa Bear NBC officer, who traveled with their Fox reconnaissance vehicle, indicated that his system never had a positive detection during the Gulf War. There were no reports of incoming fire or other potential agent delivery means around the time of the alerts. If, as one source claimed, a nearby destroyed multiple rocket launcher contained some chemical rounds—and if the A Battery was indeed downwind from that launcher—one can not entirely rule out a leaking rocket from this launcher as a non-persistent agent source. (See Incident I where we assessed CWA presence as "Unlikely.") Air Force weather data suggests, however, that the A Battery was not downwind of the multiple rocket launcher—despite a witness on the scene who thought the battery was downwind. More than half a day (but only about a mile) separated the incidents. Once deposited on surfaces, persistent CWA, like mustard, would not be a serious downwind hazard. Post-war UN inspection data indicated that Iraqi Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL) ammunition with chemical warheads could carry nerve agent but not blister agent.[157] Despite the presence of other units nearby that were not in MOPP Level 4 (masked), no one reported chemical casualties in connection with this incident. Rigorous testing at the 11th Marines command post, computed by NBC personnel to be downwind of the alerting battery, failed to detect agent. Investigators have therefore concluded that it is much more likely that oil well contamination—rather than blister agent—caused the multiple positive detections by the A Battery early on the morning of February 26th.

n. Incident P (# 15)

Initial Reports

The 1/11 reported "gas" at about 11:30 AM on February 26. Brief entries in two logs indicate Task Force Ripper and Task Force Papa Bear went to MOPP Level 4. The written evidence does not indicate whether the 1/11 initiated or only passed the alert which prompted the MOPP Level 4 posture, or if other units also masked. Commanders called an "all clear" beginning at 12:34 PM.[158] See unit locations in Figure 32.

Figure 32. Location of Incident P

Additional Evidence

The CO of the 1/11 recalled the alert, agreed that the 1/11 was in MOPP Level 4 for about 40 minutes, but could not remember further details.[159] Most of the interviewed witnesses could not recall this incident.


The likelihood of chemical warfare agent presence is "Unlikely." The 11th Marines made no positive detections, no one reported casualties or remembered details, and the originating unit and location are unclear.

o. Incident Q (# 17)

Initial Reports

On February 26, at 3:00 PM, the 1/11 initiated a chemical alert after sighting yellow smoke thought to be from incoming rounds or signaling Iraqi use of CWA. At least Task Force Ripper and Task Force Papa Bear went to MOPP Level 4. The Task Force Papa Bear Fox vehicle checked the alert using the MM1 mass spectrometer, and initiated an "all clear" 10 minutes later. Numerous Marine Corps chronologies and logs recorded this event.[160] The following entry comes from a Marine Corps Summary of Action Report:

At approximately 1500 [3:00 PM], the 1/11 reported taking incoming chemical rounds. Apparently, someone observed yellow smoke and mistook it for chemical agents. The Task Force was place[d] in MOPP 4 until the CAMS and Fox vehicle could verify the absence of chemicals. No chemical agents were detected and the "all clear" was given approximately 10 minutes later.[161]

See Figure 33 for relevant locations.

Figure 33. Location of Incident Q

Additional Evidence

The Task Force Papa Bear NBC officer was a particularly useful witness for this incident. A Marine collecting after-action reports on NBC incidents interviewed him on March 7, 1991, shortly after the cessation of the ground offensive.[162] In an October 1997 interview, the Papa Bear NBC officer explained that he and other Marines were gathered on the 26th preparing for a Commander’s briefing. The gathering included the CO of the 1/11, the CO of the 1st Tanks, the CO of the 3/8, and the CO of the 1/1. Someone from the 1/11, presumably a radio operator, sounded the alert over the regimental tactical radio network.[163] In his 1991 interview, the Papa Bear NBC officer stated:

On the afternoon of G-plus-2 [February 26th], somebody observed a yellow pop-up, and that pop-up caused a lot of alarm. Based on intelligence units,[164] Iraqi tank units would use yellow markers if they expected a chemical attack or if they had been involved in a chemical attack. And somebody from the 11th Marines saw a yellow pop-up that was being used by friendly forces to indicate the completion of a specific task, and he started sending this alert that he’d seen the yellow pop-up and suspected a chemical attack.[165]

The 1/11 operations officer initiated the first chemical attack report. Task Force Papa Bear was moving towards Kuwait International Airport. He heard a popping sound, looked to his left, and observed three to five yellow smoke streamers heading towards the ground, approximately 800 meters to the left of the 1/11 Command Post. He took them to be the streamers from grenades (smoke grenades), although he did not see the grenades. The streamers resembled 155mm white phosphorous rounds, only much smaller. He had no prior intelligence indicating yellow smoke as a sign of Iraqi chemical attack. He thought, however, that this was an unusual event; so, to be on the safe side, he ordered that it be reported as a gas attack.[166]

Other witnesses provided descriptions of the yellow smoke. One described it, "like when you toss a canister out and the wind picks it [the smoke] up."[167] Another had the impression that the smoke was to the unit’s flank rather than ahead or behind it. He said that it looked like a smoke grenade that started very dense at the ground and dispersed as the smoke column rose.[168] Another witness recalled that a forward observer may have noted that it was a smoke grenade.[169]

Units immediately responded to the alert. Those gathered for the commanders briefing went to MOPP Level 4 and returned to their units. The Papa Bear NBC officer immediately returned to his Fox vehicle. His job was to gather information about the alert—who sounded it, what was the unit’s location, was there a means of delivery for the alleged chemical agent, etc.? He stated that he and the Task Force operations officer were manning the radios, attempting to gather that data. He soon discovered that the yellow marker was a signal used by the combat engineers to warn others that they were about to blow up some enemy ammunition that had been discovered in a trench or storage bunker in the vicinity of Task Force Papa Bear. He noted that there were many trenches just beyond the second breach, and that enemy ammunition had been left behind. He reiterated that someone informed him over the radio that friendly forces fired the yellow smoke.[170]

A Papa Bear operations officer conducted his investigation from the Command vehicle. He recalled a "frantic" radio operator yelling "Gas, Gas, Gas" over the radio net. He questioned the radio operator in an attempt to ascertain a means of delivery for the suspected chemical agent. He asked if any incoming artillery, aircraft, or helicopters were over the operator’s position at the time? The radio operator said he saw nothing that could deliver a chemical agent.[171]

While the NBC officer and the operations officer were conducting their inquiries into the source of the alert, the Papa Bear Fox crew performed their tests, but detected nothing:

We had the FOX vehicle operating, and the MM-1 [mass spectrometer] was operating, so we immediately got in and just started doing a survey and were able to, probably within ten or fifteen minutes, get the task force back out of MOP[P]-4, and at the same time the FOX vehicle was running. Three-nine [3/9], 1st Tanks, and 1-1 [1/1] were already running their CAMS and proving that we weren’t under any type of chemical attack.[172]

A personal journal provided by one of the 1/11 operations officers contains a passage that describes going to MOPP Level 4, and then going to MOPP 4 again. It also notes that they conducted chemical tests with negative results:

Went to MOPP 4 for gas from 3/11. 5/11 used 2 yellow smokes for gas signal that we thought was a gas round. Then went again [to MOPP-4] because of P[apa] Bear. W[arrant] O[fficer] [redacted] went out and got negative results from monitor survey [chemical monitor/survey team conducted tests]. All clear, then moved up 5 km.[173]

Once the Fox crew had determined that no chemical agent was present, they passed the word to the other units over the radio. They also notified the Papa Bear executive officer, who was standing outside in full MOPP gear (MOPP Level 4).[174] Just as the commanding officers were being assured that no chemical attack had occurred, the Task Force received incoming artillery. According to the NBC officer’s March 1991 testimony, he and another operations officer:

...were on two different radio nets trying to assure people that this was a friendly pop-up...where right on cue we got hit with enemy artillery, which immediately sent everybody into Mop[P]-4 again...1-11, their poor radio operator was in a big-time panic. We could not, for the life of us, get him to quit screaming on the radio. We couldn’t get any information on a means of delivery, a point of attack. We just knew it was artillery, and we knew it was close.[175]

The Papa Bear NBC officer witnessed the explosions caused by the incoming fire. He recalled that the unit took three to six rounds, which landed in the middle of the Task Force. Everyone was still in MOPP 4 when the artillery hit and, to his knowledge, no one was hurt. He stated that the entire incident probably lasted no more than 10-15 minutes. They gathered commanders, initiated selective unmasking, and he, the battalion CO, and the executive officer (XO) were the first to unmask. He believed that someone misinterpreted the friendly yellow marker (smoke).[176] According to a Papa Bear operations officer, the incoming was high explosive (HE), and was uneventful.[177] The Papa Bear XO recalled that, after the event, someone briefed him on, or there was a discussion of, a "yellow round" being fired that was mistaken for the start of a chemical attack. He was certain that this was not a chemical attack since he recalls no enemy artillery attacks before or after the incident. The Iraqis were on the run and putting up no organized resistance.[178] The 1/11 NBC NCO stated that nothing came of it, and that he believes that the source of the smoke was friendly. He seemed to recall getting confirmation that it was indeed friendly.[179]

It appears that for many Marines, prior intelligence reports contributed to a heightened awareness of potential Iraqi CW attacks and likely played a role in this incident. According to a Task Force Papa Bear operations officer, US forces had intelligence that the Iraqis would use yellow smoke to alert their own troops of an impending chemical attack against the enemy.[180] Another intelligence report stated that Iraqi artillery units would warn their own troops of impending CW fire by firing two or three red star cluster rounds.[181] Investigators were subsequently unable to locate any intelligence about the use of yellow smoke by Iraq to warn their own troops of a chemical attack. However, a declassified intelligence information report did state:

The Iraqi army uses a red and green (combined) star cluster flare as a signal that chemical weapons are in use and that protective masks should be worn [emphasis in original]. A red flare fired vertically indicates an Iraqi unit is under attack or needs help. A red flare fired obliquely indicates the direction of enemy movement or advance.[182]

The Task Force Ripper NBC officer indicated that he never saw such cluster rounds during the ground campaign.[183]

No witness was able to identify authoritatively the source or purpose of the yellow smoke. The 1/11 NBC NCO stated that he did not recall anyone blowing up any ammunition.[184] Others thought that the yellow smoke was actually a signal fired by explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialists working in this area.[185] To date, investigators have been unable to tie this alert to an EOD event or signal.[186] At least one witness thought an armored vehicle had fired smoke grenades, but these vehicles carry only white smoke grenades.[187]Another witness believed that the 5/11 was the source of the yellow smoke. In retrospect, none of the Marines interviewed believed that this incident was an actual chemical attack.


Based on the following considerations, chemical warfare agent presence during this event is "Unlikely." The 1/11 operations officer saw yellow smoke, thought it unusual, and initiated a gas attack alert to be on the safe side. Incoming artillery did not precipitate this alert. When the Task Force Papa Bear Fox vehicle conducted tests, it found no sign of chemical warfare agents. Additionally, other units used CAMs to test the area, and got negative results. The 1/11 NBC NCO did not recall conducting M256 tests, but monitor/survey teams got negative tests of some kind. Both the Papa Bear operations officer and NBC officer investigated the cause of the alert, and both believe that a chemical attack did not take place. Many witnesses to the event believe that the yellow smoke was mistaken for an Iraqi chemical attack warning. Contemporaneous Marine Corps logs also documented that, at that time, the yellow smoke was mistaken for chemical agents. Lastly, this incident caused no known injuries.

p. Incident R (# 18)

Initial Reports

Shortly after midnight on January 27th, the 11th Marines and Task Force Papa Bear sent positive CW reports to the 1/11. The 1/11 log did not indicate any change in protective posture.[188] Figure 34 shows unit locations at the time.

Figure 34. Location of Incident R

Additional Evidence

Investigators found no witnesses or other journal/log entries addressing this incident.


A chemical warfare agent presence in this instance is "Unlikely." Investigators could not find any cause for this alert. No one reported any casualties or changes in MOPP status.

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