J. Demolition Activities
The combat engineers who assisted the 60th EOD Detachment in destroying facilities and munitions were primarily from C Company, 307th Engineer Battalion, assisted by B Company. We have interviewed more than 30 engineers from this unit, including platoon leaders, the 307th Engineer Battalion commander, the executive officer, and the intelligence officer. Destroying captured munitions is not normally part of their combat duties, but because of the large quantities at this ASP, explosive ordnance disposal personnel gave the engineers on-the-job training and put them to work rigging explosives. During interviews with C Company engineers, they consistently reported they did not knowingly rig chemical weapon munitions for demolition and had no first-hand knowledge of chemical warfare agent being discovered.
From approximately March 3 to March 10, 1991, the commander of the 307th Engineer Battalion was present at Tallil and the adjacent ASP. Due to the cease-fire, the presence of two Fox vehicles conducting reconnaissance operations in the ASP vicinity, and the absence of a specifically identified chemical weapons threat, the engineers and EOD technicians conducting demolition operations used a limited number of M8 chemical alarms and M256 kits. The day before his arrival, the 307th Engineer Battalion commander remembers receiving a division intelligence report of a probable chemical facility at Tallil. He remembers receiving no other specific chemical weapons warnings for either the air base or ASP. Since the 82nd Airborne Division chemical corps technicians already had cleared the area, his subordinates did not wear chemical warfare agent protective gear while at the ASP. The engineer and EOD teams destroyed army munitions, including small arms ammunition, mortar rounds, anti-tank rockets, artillery rockets, artillery rounds, anti-aircraft artillery rounds, tank ammunition, and explosives. They also destroyed aircraft munitions (Figure 9), including general purpose bombs, cluster munitions, incendiary bombs, unguided rockets, and air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. A 307th Engineer Battalion operations summary reported they also destroyed 18 aircraft (Figure 10). No engineer or EOD teams reported destroying any chemical weapons.
Figure 9. Aerial munitions awaiting demolition
Figure 10. Destroyed fighter near the ASP
While C Company and B Company, 307th Engineers, and the 60th EOD Detachment soldiers destroyed most of the bunkers at Tallil and the ASP, several other units also were involved. US Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from the 1703rd EOD Detachment destroyed unexploded ordnance and identified specific air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance for shipment to rear areas. We interviewed several of these individuals, none of whom saw any chemical weapons. 82nd Airborne Division units organized demolitions at Tallil Air Base and the An Nasiriyah ASP between March 2 and approximately March 23, 1991.
On approximately March 24, 1991, the 82nd Airborne Division units (including C Company and B Company, 307th Engineer Battalion and the 60th EOD Detachment) rotated out of the area; the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and its supporting units, including the 82nd Engineer Battalion and 146th EOD Detachment, replaced the 82nd Airborne Division The 146th EOD Detachment logs indicate the new units continued to destroy substantial quantities of munitions and demolition operations at Tallil and the An Nasiriyah SW ASP continued into April 1991. In interviews, the commander of the 146th EOD Detachment stated he supervised the destruction of large quantities of army and air force ordnance, bunkers, aircraft, and facilities but did not see any evidence of chemical warfare agent presence.
The largest, most controversial demolition at An Nasiriyah SW ASP (Figure 11) occurred on April 2, 1991, at approximately 7:30 PM. The former commander of the 84th Engineer Company described the situation:
On the 2nd of April ... [a]bout 7:30, 1930 in the evening, it was dark by then. On that particular day it was fairly cold and so I think all the atmospheric conditions contributed to people hearing it and seeing it for a long, long way.... It [demolition debris] was pretty much confined to the area, but some of the stuff that we rigged were [sic] in open air pits, to use this word. [The munitions] were not stored in bunkers, [they] were just racks of bombs that the EOD guys said were aviation bombs had been moved out of Tallil just to get them out of like the ready racks into some real quick kind of hasty [revetments,] scrape up some dirt and lay them out in the open. These had fuel air mixtures and kind of things, incendiaries, so when this went off ... These incendiaries looked like nuclear explosions, they had fireballs at the base, big column going up of fire, and another mushroom type top at the top.
Figure 11. Ammunition Storage Point demolition on April 2, 1991
(photo reprinted with permission of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment deputy commander)
A 146th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment Journal entry lists the types of munitions destroyed and indicates the destruction occurred at March 30 at 6:00 AM local. However, because this entry date appears out of chronological sequence in the journal, and veterans accounts and other operational logs support the April 2 date, we are confident this March 30 date and time are incorrect and the demolition actually occurred on April 2. The types and quantities of munitions listed correspond to the event the 84th Engineer Company commander described. The first 15 entries are for several thousand aircraft-delivered munitions, including Soviet FAB-250s (500-pound general purpose bombs), FAB-500s (1,000-pound general purpose bombs), US Mk83s (1,000-pound general purpose bombs), French Belugas (cluster bombs), and several types of Spanish incendiary munitions. Another account of this demolition, by a 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment unit, confirms the correct date for this eventApril 2, 1991, at approximately 7:30 PMand gives additional details:
02 Apr 91: At approximately 1945 hours [7:45 PM], the Dynamite Base Camp [call sign of the 82nd Engineer Battalion] is alerted by the sound of a tremendous explosion originating from somewhere north. The Battalion and Regimental [2nd ACR] FM [radio] nets begin sounding like a late night radio talk show with everyone sending spot reports and everyone requesting updated information. Within a short period of time, a new series of explosions lit up the sky with a fireball that is easily 800 feet high After the third set of explosions, information begins coming over the Regimental command net that the explosions are originating from the Tallil Airfield and are a result of an EOD team destroying ammunition and ordnance at the airfield.
K. UNSCOM Inspection Findings
A May 1996 United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) inspection of the An Nasiriyah SW ASP produced valuable insights into the activities at this facility during January and February of 1991. Due to the importance of these events, we quote several paragraphs of the intelligence message detailing this inspection report:
An Nasiriyah Storage Depot. The purpose of the inspection of An Nasiriyah was to document events surrounding the receipt, storage, and removal of approximately 6,000 155mm Iraqi HD [mustard] munitions [Figure 12] moved to An Nasiriyah in the mid 910100 [January 1991] time-frame.
Figure 12. Iraqi 155mm mustard shells near the Khamisiyah Ammunition Supply Point
The inspection team observed 12 to 14 bunkers were in use at this site, Coalition bombing had destroyed 22, and occupation forces had destroyed more than 20.
The inspection teams discussion with the Iraqi representatives centered around the delivery, storage, and movement of HD [mustard] munitions from Al Muthanna to this site in 910100 [January 1991], specifically the following:
- Approximately 6,000 munitions were moved from Al Muthanna to An Nasiriyah between 910110 [January 10, 1991] and 910115 [January 15, 1991]. The munitions were placed in Iraqi bunker number eight [Bunker 8] //geocoord: 305815.9N0461015.3E//.
- Also in bunker eight [Bunker 8] there were a relatively small number of 120mm HE [High Explosive] mortar rounds and 7.9mm ball small arms ammunition.
- The munitions were removed from bunker eight and An Nasiriyah over a one-week period around 910215 [February 15, 1991] and placed in the open area near Khamisiyah (Tall Al Lahm)//geocoord: 304605.3N 0462276.1E//. The inspection team examined this site and discovered no evidence of remaining munitions of any type [ near Khamisiyah]. There is, however, a recently constructed canal adjacent to the dump site.
In addition to Bunker 8, the UNSCOM inspection team investigated other bunkers at An Nasiriyah SW ASP, including the remains of the S-shaped bunker and the four 12-frame bunkers. The inspectors found no evidence of chemical or biological warfare agent storage in any of these bunkers. UNSCOM also determined that Iraq built the 12-frame bunkers to store sensitive explosives, e.g., detonation charges, detonators, TNT, etc. At the end of the inspection, and after comparing Iraqs declarations in their chemical weapon Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure with the on-site evidence, the inspectors concluded:
In summary, there was no indication that there are currently CW [chemical warfare] munitions stored at this site. Furthermore, there is no evidence, either physical or as a result of discussions with Iraqi representatives, that there were CW munitions stored here in addition to those 6,000 HD [mustard 155mm artillery] munitions indicated above.
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