E. EOD Team Inspection (March 1, 1991)
The next day (March 1) GySgt Grass and his crew escorted to the ASP a five-member EOD team. This team belonged to the EOD platoon, 1st Force Service Support Group (FSSG), 7th Engineer Support Battalion, working at Al Jaber Airfield. We interviewed four team members who entered the ASP, as well as the officer in charge of the platoon during the Gulf War, to whom the EOD team reported its findings.
When they arrived at the ASP, the EOD team established a command post in their vehicle, donned their protective gear, and then inspected the ASP. According to the team leader, his team searched bunker-by-bunker for chemical munitions. In addition to a thorough visual inspection, they used M8 chemical detector paper and M18A2 chemical detector kits to check for chemical contamination on any suspicious-looking munitions.
Another team member explained the thoroughness and importance of the team's visual inspection. He explained that depending on a munition's country of origin, color codes often indicated the munition type. In the Gulf War, however, this criterion was unreliable because Iraq frequently painted munitions with whatever color was readily available, so a weapon's physical configuration often was a better indicator. Because chemical munitions by their very nature must be built to hold liquids, their assembly points have filler plugs. The team members, therefore, relied on these visual clues rather than munition color to identify possible chemical weapons in the ASP.
During the inspection, only one particular incident stood out in this team member's mind as unusual, but it turned out to be a false alarm. A specific stack of artillery rounds, in a puddle of liquid, aroused the team's suspicion because the rounds were painted grey-the same base color the US used to mark chemical weapons. When he picked up a round, liquid ran down his arm. The team tested the liquid with M8 paper and M18A2 chemical detector kits. Neither test indicated the presence of chemical warfare agents. The team member further explained that the ASP was not sealed to protect the ammunition from the elements. Several stacks of munitions were sitting in dark puddles of rainwater and, to the untrained eye, these munitions could have appeared to be leaking.
The EOD team leader concluded that the area was not arranged in a manner indicative of chemical weapons storage. He remembered the open 55-gallon drums were full of water, standard practice for fire-fighting purposes in an ASP. He also recalled fire extinguishers, also standard equipment in an ASP, and did not consider them evidence of a chemical weapons storage area. An entry in GySgt Grass's journal, "What do blue, red & green fire exting[uishers] mean," suggests he was unsure of the configuration's meaning. The team leader explained that after the war, local merchants told stories that Iraq's soldiers took what they needed, in this case fire extinguishers (regardless of color), at gunpoint.
During the inspection lasting several hours, the team found no evidence of chemical weapons or chemical warfare agents in the ASP; they found only conventional munitions (e.g., small arms, grenades, and artillery and mortar rounds), primarily manufactured in the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. Writing on the sides of the ammunition boxes indicated some of these munitions might have entered Iraq through Jordan. The team leader recalled that while at the ASP, he told GySgt Grass he found no chemical munitions.
Afterwards, the team followed GySgt Grass back to Ripper's headquarters at Kuwait International Airport, where the team leader informed Ripper's NBC officer that they had found no chemical weapons at the ASP. The team returned to its unit, where the team leader filed a report to record the inspection and subsequently informed the platoon's officer in charge that they had found no chemical weapons in the ASP.
In contrast to the team member's recollections of the ASP inspection, GySgt Grass recalled the results quite differently. He testified:
I watched everything that they did. They went in there and got in their chemical protective equipment.... They had a little monitor, a little hand-held kind of machine. I am not sure what that was ... and they walked around the area that we showed them and they were writing things down. When they got done, they decontaminated themselves and there was nothing destroyed while I was standing there . They said, yes, you are right. There are chemical weapons stored out there [but] they were not sent up there to verify that. They were up there to check the lot numbers on the ammunition that was stored up there to ... see if those rounds were coming after sanctions were imposed on Iraq.
The team leader, however, stated that his team was dispatched to the ASP to investigate a bunker complex in which a chemical warfare agent had been detected. Each team member categorically denied finding chemical weapons or any evidence of chemical warfare agents in the ASP, and all recalled informing the Fox crew that they did not find chemical munitions in the ASP.
Task Force Ripper spread the word that no chemical weapons were stored at the ASP. Ripper's NBC officer reported to his supervisor, the 1st MARDIV NBC officer, that the EOD team did not discover any chemical weapons in the ASP and also gave him the MM-1 tapes from GySgt Grass's Fox. Thinking the matter closed, the 1st MARDIV NBC officer saw no need to keep the tapes. He believes he destroyed them or put them in files routinely destroyed after the Gulf War.
The US Central Command (USCENTCOM) received a report at 7:20 PM on March 1:
Suspect chem[ical] munitions bunker in 1st MARDIV sector (2914N04515E) checked by EOD - No chem[ical] munitions present.
Similar information appeared in the USCENTCOM NBC logs:
011930 [redacted (I MEF NBC watch officer)] called back. The suspect bunker was checked out thoroughly - no chemical munitions found.
According to the NBC operations summary (Army Central Command (ARCENT) VII Corps After Action Report):
ARCENT reported 1st MARDIV sent individuals to check suspected chemical munitions storage site (no grid available) on 28 Feb. Initial results of testing indicated mustard agent. An NBC/EOD team re-evaluated the site with more sensitive equipment. They determined that no chemical agent was present. Initial readings were result of petrochemical burning.
F. Post-War Cleanup in Kuwait
After the war, Kuwait's government contracted ordnance-clearing services to rid the country of munitions left by Iraq's occupying army. Kuwait's government divided the ordnance clearing operation, which ran from 1992 to 1994, among seven countries: the United States; the United Kingdom; France; Turkey; Egypt; Pakistan; and Bangladesh.
The designated US sector, the largest and most difficult to clear, stretched 3,000 square kilometers across the country from Kuwait Bay to the southwestern border, including the ASP/Orchard area. Nearly all the 150 US personnel involved in the disposal of unexploded ordnance were US military-trained EOD personnel; the technicians' field experience ranged from 8 to more than 20 years.
CMS, Inc., a US contracting company, extensively surveyed the US sector before bidding on the cleanup contract. The CMS survey team was on the alert for anything that would complicate clearance operations-in particular, chemical warfare agent-filled munitions requiring special disposal procedures. The survey team found only identifiable conventional munitions-no evidence of chemical warfare agents, no decontamination gear, and no Iraqi chemical-warfare-related documentation. CMS bid on the contract and decided to operate without special equipment, e.g., protective clothing.
US sector cleanup operations took place in two distinct stages: reconnaissance and clearance. During the nine-month reconnaissance phase, unexploded ordnance teams visually inspected and cataloged all ordnance they discovered. To ease the cataloging effort and ensure complete coverage, they divided the US sector into 36 subsectors, each approximately 80 square kilometers. They created a database by using portable global positioning system kits and laptop computers to mark the exact location and type of all ordnance-during the clearance phase unexploded ordnance teams used the database and moved methodically through each subsector.
The teams were particularly alert for chemical-warfare-agent-filled munitions and new or different munitions. Standard procedure called for suspending operations whenever the teams discovered previously unencountered munition types. The teams resumed operations only when they had positively identified and classified each new munition.
The EOD team leader, whose team inspected the ASP on March 1, 1991, returned to Kuwait as a civilian, and was involved in all phases of US sector cleanup operations. He participated when unexploded ordnance teams dismantled the ASP in late fall 1992 or early spring 1993. During ASP cleanup operations, teams cleared all bunkers, sorted all ordnance into serviceable and unserviceable items, and transported serviceable ordnance to designated areas and ordnance selected for destruction to demolition areas. Unexploded ordnance teams used the same demolition pits in the same demolition areas six nights a week, entering the areas daily to stack ammunition and set charges. As a safety precaution they established safe areas a certain distance around the pits to protect against exploding munitions' fragments-not against possible chemical exposure. They neither wore chemical protective gear nor used chemical warfare agent detectors during these operations. Nonetheless, there were no indications of chemical weapons, agents, or injuries.
The CMS division president (who oversaw the US sector cleanup) confirmed that his team found nothing to indicate that chemical weapons or chemical warfare agents had been in the US sector.
According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, during the three-year, post-Gulf War ordnance clearance operation, chemical warfare agents were never detected and there were no reports of chemical weapons in Kuwait's designated US sector or indeed in any other. Furthermore, in a three-year period after clearance operations in Kuwait, no contractor personnel who worked in the US sector reported any medical problems related to chemical warfare agent exposure.
These facts are consistent with testimony before the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses by United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) representatives, who stated that there was no evidence Iraq moved chemical weapons into Kuwait.
| First Page | Prev Page | Next Page |