Since publishing the original Al Jubayl case narrative on August 13, 1997, we have made a significant effort to ensure we accurately portrayed and accurately assessed the events at Al Jubayl. The alternative scenarios for the loud noise, presented by two individuals to us during the September 5, 1997, meeting, broadened the scope of the investigation and led us to study veterans theories about the loud noise. The British Ministry of Defence report also provided additional information about aspects of the events covered in the original narrative. The assessments in this narrative update build upon assessments in the original narrative.
A. Assessment of the Loud Noise Event of January 19, 1991
Although the purposes for conducting a military attack or a terrorist attack differ, the results have similaritiespeople get injured or killed, and damage occurs. It is understandable why some veterans believe that an attack occurred. Months of preparing for war coupled with repeated official and unofficial reports of Iraqs war fighting capability instilled serious concerns for servicemembers by the time the air war began on January 17, 1991. Actually going to war intensified everyones awareness of the danger. Therefore, when people in Al Jubayl heard the loud noise, the natural reaction was to assume an attack. However, of the many interviews of persons in Al Jubayl on January 19, 1991, no veteran reported firsthand knowledge of damage or injuries. During our investigation, we looked hard for any injury or damage, but found none. We identified the source of the loud noise as sonic booms and verified that no enemy aircraft flew in Coalition airspace. Due to the absence of information to prove otherwise, we have assessed that an Iraqi military attack or terrorist attack definitely was not the cause of the loud noise event of January 19, 1991. Although this may answer the loud noise question, it does not answer questions regarding the cause of the bright flash, white cloud, and burning skin. It is to these incidents that we now turn our attention.
There may be no such thing as a normal investigation, but a common approach is to collect physical or documentary evidence and look backwards for what may have caused a particular event or incident. In the case of the bright flash, white cloud, and burning skin there is no physical evidence to analyze and the scant amount of documentary evidence on any one of the incidents makes it impossible to pinpoint specific sources. Our approach was to view the incidents as if they actually happened, and then look for the results that should have occurred. For example, some veterans believe a Scud missile or the intercept of a Scud by a Patriot missile caused the bright flash. Because there is no record of damage or injures resulting from an attack on January 19, and no reported missile impact point, we had to look elsewhere for information to determine what may have caused the flash. Information of Scud launches compiled during the war shows with near certainty that Iraq launched no Scud missiles towards Saudi Arabia on January 19. We also know that it would have been highly unlikely for a Scud launch to go undetected. Next, we looked at the data compiled on the Patriot missile. We found that none of the Patriot missile batteries located in Saudi Arabia fired a missile on January 19; in fact, the battery located in Al Jubayl did not fire a single missile during the entire war. We also explored other possibilities for the bright flash such as a fiery aircraft crash or some type of industrial accident, but found no record of any such event. The only other explanations we have for the bright flash are the use of flares. The UK MODs report includes an explanation that one of their units had fired a maroon (a flare like signaling device) during the period of the loud noise. In addition to the MODs report, one US veteran reported seeing a flare fired from the USS Tarawa presumably at the time the loud noise event occurred. However, neither of these explanations is definitive. We do not believe the cause of the bright flash was malicious or was a threat to any personnel. Therefore, we list the cause for the bright flash as indeterminate.
The white cloud incident was more difficult to assess than the bright flash because of nearly a complete lack of evidence. Except for one entry in a Camp 13 security log and another entry in the RAOC log, there is no other record of the event in US documents. The UK MODs report also contains a discussion of a cloud sighting. However, because of the lack of information regarding the incident we can not determine if the UK sightings and US are of the same cloud. Although we believe weather related factors or industrial operations caused the cloud, we can not identify what actually caused the cloud to appear. Therefore, we list the cause for the white cloud as indeterminate.
The last issue in our investigation and analyses of incidents that
occurred on January 19, 1991 is reports that some NMCB-24 Seabees experienced a burning
sensation on their skin during the time of the loud noise. Some Seabees point to the
incidence of burning skin as further proof of an attack with chemical warfare agents.
However, reports of burning skin are small in number and the phenomenon appears only to
have affected a small number of NMCB-24 Seabees.
It appears that at the time of the incident, the Seabees who experienced the burning sensation felt that their condition was not serious enough to warrant medical attention because there is no record that any of the Seabees who experienced the burning skin reported to a medical facility for treatment. The only other evidence available to us is that several people reported smelling ammonia at the time of the loud noise. We have not found any record to indicate there was an ammonia release from a plant in Al Jubayl. Although ammonia can cause burns, its unique odor is not associated with any chemical warfare agent. Although the cause for the burning skin can not be identified, we believe that chemical warfare agents did not cause some of the NMCB-24 Seabees to experience a burning sensation on their skin. Therefore, we list the cause for the burning skin as indeterminate.
There are many facets to the loud noise event of January 19, 1991. Even though we have assessed that the loud noise event of January 19 event was not caused by Iraqi military or terrorist action, we can not definitively identify what caused the bright flash, white cloud and burning skin. Therefore, our assessment as to whether chemical warfare agents were present in Al Jubayl on January 19, 1991 continues to be unlikely.
B. Assessment of the Loud Noise Event of January 20-21, 1991
The loud noise event of January 20-21 appears mild when compared to the events of January 19. There are no reports of white clouds; there are no reports of burning skin; and there are nor reports of bright flashes. The only event recorded in logs was the sound of explosion-like noises. We have confirmed the launching of several Scud missiles at approximately the same time as the events recorded in unit logs. The Scuds could have created the explosion-like noises as they flew over Al Jubayl on their way to Dhahran. The CENTOCM NBC log noted that Patriot missiles destroyed the Scuds. We know however, that the Patriot battery in Al Jubayl never fired a missile during the war. This means that a Patriot battery located outside of Al Jubayl, most likely the battery in Dhahran, engaged and destroyed the Scud missiles. It is unlikely that people in Al Jubayl could hear or see a Patriot intercept of a Scud missile that took place outside of Dhahran. Based upon available information, we have assessed that the events of January 20-21, 1991 definitely did not involve an attack upon Al Jubayl and that chemical warfare agents were definitely not present.
C. Assessment of the Scud Impact Event of February 16, 1991
Initially, this event received a considerable amount of attention. However, the initial surge of interest diminished over time because no personnel injuries and no equipment damage occurred as a result of the missiles impact. Based on the information that is available to date, our assessment is that the Scud missile was definitely not armed with chemical warfare agents. We base our assessment upon the following information:
D. Assessment of the Purple T-shirt Event of March 19, 1991
Our assessment is that chemical warfare agents were definitely not present at Camp 13 or at the motor pool (alpha yard) during the purple T-shirt event and that chemical warfare agents definitely did not cause the Seabees T-shirts to change color. We base this assessment on the following:
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