Chapter 2, Part 1.
Group I Exposures: Reported Direct Exposure Events A number of direct exposure events are described below as reported by members of the U.S. Armed Forces who served in the Gulf War. Not every detail can be verified by multiple sources to date, but additional data from unofficial and unrelated sources continue to bolster initial accounts of events best explained as missile and rocket attacks or aerial explosions. Units located in areas where these events occurred are reporting high rates of illnesses. The areas in which these events occurred were key logistic and staging areas, as well as those areas which were breached during the liberations of Kuwait. Many veterans of these units have reported seeing large numbers of dead or dying animals in the area after the attacks; one veteran noted that "all the insects were dead too."
Department of Defense conclusions that no chemical or biological attacks occurred seem to be based on the assumption that there was no significant evidence of immediate chemical and biological casualties. However, since one of the primary goals of a biological attack is to debilitate your adversary's forces, while retaining a high degree of deniability, and since many of those interviewed describe both immediate physical reactions and long term debilitating effect, the issue of what these individuals may have been exposed to becomes highly critical.
January 19, 1991, early morning hours. Camp 13, 6-7 miles west of Port of Jubayl, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Although some individuals reported this event as taking place on January 20, documentary evidence indicates that it took place on the 19th.)
Witness 01: Petty Officer Sterling Symms, then assigned to the Naval Reserve Construction Battalion 24, in an area south of the Kuwait border, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that between 2:00a.m. and 3:00a.m. on January 20, 1991, there was a "real bad explosion" overhead. The alarms went off and everybody started running towards their bunkers. Petty Officer Symms said there was a sharp odor of ammonia in the air. His eyes burned and his skin stung. HIs unit donned full chemical gear for nearly two hours until the "all clear" was given.
Later, according to Symms, members of the unit were advised that what they heard was a sonic boom. Petty Officer Symms said that he did not believe that it was a sonic boom because there was also a "fireball" associated with the explosion. Members of the unit were ordered not to discuss the incident. Petty Officer Symms says he has since experienced fatigue, sore joints, running nose, a chronic severe rash, and open sores which have been diagnosed as an "itching problem." He has also been treated for streptococcus infections. In his testimony, Symms stated that 4 or 5 other members of his unit and two of their wives have been treated for similar infections.
Witness 02: Mike Moore, assigned to the same unit as Symms, also reported that on January 20, 1991, at about 3a.m., he was awakened by a double explosion. As the sound of the explosion faded the alarms went off. The unit intercom announced "Go to MOPP level 4." Everyone in the tent put on their gas gear and went to the bunker. They stayed at MOPP level 4 until about 7a.m.. Later that day or the next, everyone's chemical suits and masks were collected and replaced. According to Mr. Moore, he was told the explosion was a sonic boom, to quit worrying about it, and to get back to work. Mr. Moore said that he later heard that what he heard was an incoming SCUD, but he also heard rumors that a Iraqi MIG was shot down in the area that night.
Mr. Moore said that he did not feel a spray or smell ammonia. He had no stinging or numb lips. Since returning home from the Gulf, he has suffered a severe thyroid problem, a heart attack, memory loss, tired and aching joints, rashes on his feet, nervousness, and muscle cramps, although he reported no bleeding. According to Mr. Moore, he has had about ten blood tests and two sets of x-rays performed at the Tuskeegee, Alabama, Veterans Affairs Medical Center. In past calls to the Tuskeegee, Alabama, VAMC, however, he had been told that there is no information in his record.
In February 1992, Mr. Moore's daughter began developing a thyroid problem and has been suffering from nervousness, headaches, and fatigue. Over the last year, his wife has begun to develop these symptoms as well. There is no history of thyroid problems in family.
Witness 03: Mr. William Larry Kay was an electrician assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24. He was also assigned to Camp 13. On January 20, 1991, Mr. Kay heard two "booms", shaking the whole building. Sirens began going off. The camp intercom announced "confirmed mustard gas -- go to MOPP level 4." Mr. Kay was at the Recreation Center when the blasts occurred. He had fallen asleep. He went outside and put his gas mask on. It immediately filled with fumes. He recalls that it smelled like ammonia. Mr. Kay has been a member of a Hazmat (Hazardous Materials) team of the fire department in Columbus, Georgia; he said the strong smell of ammonia is unusual in an open area. There was an ammonia plant nearby, but he had never smelled such a strong odor of ammonia in the area. He reported to his assigned bunker. Each member of the unit had a duty during these attacks -- Mr. Kay was assigned to a decontamination team. There were other people assigned to test for chemical contamination. A radio call came in for these people to check for gas. Then, almost immediately, the intercom announced "all clear."
Mr. Kay said that after the incident, in response to questions from the unit as to what had occurrred, the unit Commanding Officer said "Have you ever heard of a sonic boom?" When members of the unit continued to question the unit commanders about what had occurred, they were ordered not to discuss the incident.
Witness 04: Mr. Terry Avery of Salem, Alabama worked on utilities for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24, and was also assigned to Camp 13. During the night of January 20, 1991, Mr. Avery said that he heard a double explosion. The alert siren went off. He put on his gas mask and went to the bunker. While in the bunker, his unit received the command to go to MOPP level 4 over the camp loudspeaker. He put on his chemical suit. Mr. Avery said he was almost completely dressed when they announced "all clear." He left the bunker and returned to his tent.
Mr. Avery was later told by his Master Chief that the noise he heard was just a sonic boom. A veteran of Vietnam who had heard sonic booms before, Mr. Avery felt that it was not a sonic boom, but he never got a good answer about the explosion. He reported that the rumor going around the camp was that an enemy plane had been shot down over the desert.
Late in the summer of 1991, Mr. Avery began feeling tired and having headaches. He saw a private doctor, who said he was probably working too hard in the sun. He says he does not think he is as ill as the rest of the men in his unit (NMCB24). He feels that he has leveled out, but he still has good days and bad days. He currently suffers from fatigue, headaches, weight gain, itching, muscle and joint pains, and memory loss (inability to concentrate).
His wife is also ill. Mr. Avery feels that she is more ill than he is. She has an enlarged spleen, an enlarged liver and abnormal liver functions, joint pains, night sweats, fatigue, stomach problems, itching, and rashes, but has not complained of memory loss. Two of his children are also complaining of headaches, joint pain, and abdominal pains. His 13 year old daughter was diagnosed as having mononucleosis. She also has sinus infections, and throat pains from the sinus drainage. His 11 year old son has had rashes, headaches, joint pain, itching, sinus and throat infections, and fevers.
Witness 05: The following are excerpts from one of two letters written by a U.S. serviceman present at Camp 13 during the January 19, 1991 incident. This individual has been interviewed by U.S. Senate professional staff. These original letters confirm the actual events of that morning. This individual has requested confidentiality. The original letters have been retained as evidence.
19 Jan 91
I just talked to you on the phone. I really didn't want to call you and tell you about the SCUD missile/gas attack so you wouldn't worry, but I really needed to hear a familiar voice...I'm trying like hell to keep my mind off the fact that it's night time again, and we could get hit again.
Mom, I can deal with getting shot at, because I can fight back and even if I got hit, I can be put back together, a missile, on the other hand, doesn't work like that, but I can even accept that. But gas scares the hell out of me. I know how to put on the protective suits and gear, but it's the thought. Once the missile hit (without warning!) we were so busy getting dressed in our chemical suits we never had time for it to sink in and be scared. I was proud of all of us because no one froze up - we all responded like we'd been trained to, but after we got suited up, we had to sit there and force ourselves to breathe slow and try and cool down - the suits are very hot. It's hard to slow your breathing when your heart's beating a million times a minute...[a] fire team [went] out and...patrolled the camp and checked all of the towers. The rest of the camp were in their bunkers except security and the chemical detection teams. I know they detected a cloud of dusty mustard gas because I was there with them, but today everyone denies it. I was there when they radioed the other camps north of us and warned them of the cloud...I talked to the look-outs that saw the air burst and cloud and had to stay with them for a few minutes to try and calm them down even though I was just as scared (probably more!). Jubail is South East of us, and that's where the Scud hit that was confirmed, but the air burst my guys saw was only 200+ yards west of us. I don't know what that was, but that's where most of the gas came from I think. But the wind was almost blowing due North. I probably won't sleep much tonight, but at least I'll be able to respond faster..."
In the interview with Senate staff, the individual said that during patrols around Camp 13 in the days just after the incident he wrote about, he observed many animals that were either sick or dead. He also confirmed that after the attack, their chemical protective gear was replaced.
Witness 06: Mr. Mike Tidd was assigned to perform security duties with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24. He currently suffers from joint aches and pains, sinus infections, diarrhea, urinary urgency and frequency, rashes, small mosquito bite-like sores, heartburn, dizziness, occasional low temperatures, occasional night sweats, and chronic fatigue. Mr. Tidd kept a log while in Saudi Arabia.
According to his log, on January 19, a little past 0330hrs., Mr. Tidd was sitting on Tower 6 when all of a sudden, there was a double boom off to the northwest of the camp, accompanied by a bright flash of light. Within minutes, the general quarters alarm sounded. Mr. Tidd's unit first donned their gas masks and ponchos, and then minutes later, the call came to go to MOPP level 4. At about 0600hrs, the "all clear" was sounded.
While Mr. Tidd heard the bang and saw the flash, which he described as being fairly close, he does not recall seeing a cloud. He said that he did not experience any symptoms, but attributes that to having been in a covered guard tower about 20 feet off the ground with a 3' visibility area.
January 19, 1991, early morning hours (possibly January 20). King Abdul Aziz Naval Air Station (NMCB24-Air Det), 3 miles south of Port of Jubayl, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Witness 01: Mr. Larry Perry, of North Carolina, was a naval construction worker stationed near the port city of Al-Jubayl, at King Abdul Aziz Naval Air Station. He says the explosion on January 20, 1991 sent his entire unit running for the bomb shelter. When they emerged in their gas masks, they were enveloped by a mist.
Witness 02: Mr. Fred Willoughby of Columbus, Georgia was with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 - Air Det. He currently suffers from headaches, diarrhea, aching joints, blood shot eyes, bloat, intestional problems, and chronic fatigue. He has had a polyp removed from his colon, and suffered from rectal bleeding in 1992.
Mr. Willoughby has reported that on January 20, 1991, at about 3-4a.m., he was "hanging out" outside his tent when he heard a long, loud explosion. Shortly thereafter, a siren sounded and he went inside the tent to get his gas mask. By the time he came out, people were yelling 'MOPP 4, MOPP 4, not a drill'. Immediately, his mouth, lips, and face became numb all over, a sensation he likened to novocaine at the dentist's office. He was in the bunker for about an hour or an hour and a half. When he came out of the bunker, he and the others in the unit were told by the officers and chiefs that what they had heard was just a sonic boom. The next day, the unit was told not to talk about it. But the unit's MOPP gear was collected and replaced the next morning. Mr. Willoughby also heard that an enemy aircraft was shot down in the Gulf, not far from the base.
His wife has begun exhibiting similar symptoms, including fatigue, diarrhea, and aching joints.
Witness 03: Roy Morrow of Phenix City, Alabama was a builder with NMCB24 and was assigned to the Air Detachment at King Abdul Aziz Stadium. On January 20, 1991, he heard two explosions between 3:00-3:30a.m. He was awakened and went to the bunker. The unit went to MOPP level 2 for 25-30 minutes. The "all clear" was then given. When he exited the bunker, Mr. Morrow noticed the Marines running and screaming "MOPP level 4." The siren sounded again. He began to feel a burning sensation on his arms, legs, the back of his neck, and on his ears and face. His lips felt numb. His unit went to full MOPP level 4. Right before he went to the bunker the second time, Mr. Morrow saw a flash at the commercial port of Al-Jubayl. He had a radio in the bunker, and heard a call for the decontaminaton teams to respond.
BU2 Edwards was the head of the decontamination team in Mr. Morrow's unit. According to Mr. Morrow, BU2 Edwards said the next day that mustard gas and lewisite had been detected. When they began to discuss it, according to Mr. Morrow, the unit was told that the two explosions were a sonic boom, and they were ordered not to talk about it any more. The next day, all of their chemical gear was collected and replaced with new equipment.
The numbness experienced by Mr. Morrow remained for at least a week. Within two to three days after the incident, unit members began to suffer from rashes, diarrhea, and fatigue. The aching joints began a couple of weeks later. Mr. Morrow's symptoms have been getting progressively worse until the present time. He currently suffers from swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, diarrhea, night sweats, low grade temperature, weight loss, aching joints, muscle cramps, rashes (transient) blister, welts (2-3 times a month), a permanent hand rash, and short-term memory loss.
Witness 04: Mr. Harold Jerome Edwards, the chemical NCO in charge of the Nuclear/Biological/Chemical team for the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 Air Detachment at King Abdul Aziz Naval Air Station was interviewed by U.S. Senate staff on January 13, 1994. During that interview Mr. Edwards said that he conducted three M-256 tests for chemical agents on the evening of this event. According to Edwards, two of the three tests he conducted were positive for chemical blister agent. He said that the negative test was conducted in an area in between a number of rows of tents. He also said that he reported this information to his unit commander. In addition, Mr. Edwards said that a member of the unit, Tom Muse, blistered in the area under his watch during this event. The "all clear" was given from a higher command. Mr. Edwards was called out to serve on a chemical decontamination team that day. He said that the Mark 12 decontamination unit assigned to the team was inoperative and that he was assigned to take out a 500 gallon water truck and stand by to decontaminate incoming personnel. According to Mr. Edwards, no one was decontaminated by his team. He said that this was the only time he was called out on this type of mission throughout the entire war.
Ken Allison, then a Lance Corporal with the 174th Marine Wing Support Squadron, Group 37, was delivering supplies to Jubayl Airfield. During an interview with Senate staff, he reported that sometime during his deployment there, possibly in January 1991, he saw a sign posted on a guard shack at the airfield's southern gate. The sign warned: that the area had tested positive for chemicals; make sure your MOPP gear was ready; and that when the alarms go off it is for real. Although he did not recall the exact wording on the sign, he remembered the content clearly.
In addition, a number of British military personnel suffering from Gulf War Syndrome who were stationed near the Port of Jubayl have come forward and have described similar events.
Late February 1991 "Log Base Charlie", 7 miles from the Iraqi border near Rafha
Witness 01: Ms. Valerie Sweatman from Columbia, South Carolina, was serving as a telecommunications specialist with the U.S. Army, assigned to the 2nd MASH Hospital. Ms. Sweatman recalls that prior to moving to "Log Base Orange" in Iraq during the ground war, her unit packed up their equipment at "Log Base Charlie." "Log Base Charlie" was located about 7 miles from the Iraqi border, near Rafha. One night in late February 1991, she was awakened by a sergeant and was told there was a chemical alert and to go to MOPP level 4. She put on her MOPP suit and mask and began going outside while she was still putting on her gloves. Her unit stayed at MOPP level 4 for 1- 2 hours. That night, she heard that at least one soldier had come into the hospital showing symptoms of nerve agent exposure. She was told that there was a SCUD alert that night. She did not, however, hear any explosion. The morning after this incident, Ms. Sweatman's hands were itching from the wrists on down. She had developed little blisters which went away about a week later. She was treated with ointments and benadryl for a "skin condition."
Ms. Sweatman had heard the chemical alarms go off on other occasions prior to the incident reported above. She was the night telecommunications NCO for her unit, and heard alarms sounding during the first nights of the air war, when her unit was assigned to King Khalid Military City (KKMC). On one occasion during this period, she heard a blast and felt a mist in the same area. After this incident she experienced nausea, diarrhea, and bloody stools. Her unit began taking the nerve agent pre- treatment pills (NAPP), after these earlier alarms. Although the alarms sounded, the NBC NCO claimed that they were sounding because the alarm equipment had bad batteries and not because of chemicals.
Ms. Sweatman currently suffers from headaches, exhaustion, fatigue, memory loss, nausea, muscle and joint pains, rectal and vaginal bleeding, and rashes. She has been diagnosed as having arthritis, headaches, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).| First Page | Prev Page | Next Page | Back to Text |