1/5 Marines Actions

The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines took control of the ASP without resistance during the night of the third or fourth day of the ground war. By the time of the cease-fire on February 28th, they had established a defensive position at the ASP. The Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer of the 1/5 do not recall hearing of chemical alerts or the possible presence of chemical weapons in the ASP.[40] The 1/5 NBC Officer recalls the presence of the Fox vehicle, but is not sure what day it was there. He remembers the vehicle alarming for a chemical, but does not recollect the specific agent. The 1/5 NBC Officer recalls that, after alarming, the Fox drove around the area attempting to recreate the alarm, but was unsuccessful. The NBC Officer also reports that at some point while the 1/5 was encamped nearby, he led a team through the ASP with Chemical Agent Monitors (CAMs) and determined the ASP was only stocked with conventional munitions. There are conflicting memories as to whether the NBC Officer led his team through the ASP while the Fox crew was there or at some other time. The 1/5 NBC Officer reported the Fox alarm up his chain of command to the 1/5 Assistant Operations Officer.[41] The Assistant Operations Officer recalls being told a Fox vehicle drove through the ASP and detected Mustard but then lost its detection[42] —and so was unable to confirm the alarm. As the Fox was unable to recreate its initial alert and the CAM tests proved negative, the 1/5 NBC Officer and the Assistant Operations Officer decided there was no need to move their unit to a new location.[43] The ASP was not cordoned off or declared off limits.[44]

Task Force Ripper Actions

After stopping at the 1/5 Headquarters area, the Fox crew returned to Task Force Ripper’s Headquarters area. Upon arriving, GySgt Grass recalls going to the command post tent to report the agents his vehicle had alarmed for in the ASP. GySgt Grass passed the MM-1 tapes printed in the ASP to the Task Force Ripper NBC Officer and explained what he thought he’d found there to members of the Task Force Ripper command staff.[45] At this meeting, it was decided that the 1st MarDiv headquarters, code-named PRIDE[46] , should be notified.[47] At 1531 hours on February 28th, the following message was passed from Task Force Ripper to PRIDE:

1. Have detected S mustard, HT mustard and Benzine [sic] Bromide at grid QT75393910.
2. Means of detection: Fox vehicle.
3. Hazard seems to be very localized vapor from bunker complex.[48]

At 1720 hours the same day, the 1st MarDiv radioed Direct Support Command (DSC) requesting Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) support for the next day, March 1st.

Req EOD support at QT 75393910 suspected chemical mustard agent munitions in Ammo bunker agent detected by Fox vehicle.
POC TF [Task Force] RIPPER NBCO at grid QT 805350.[49]

GySgt Grass was told to escort the EOD team back to the ASP the next day.

Units and Logs Recording Alerts

During the evening of February 28th, the Task Force Ripper Fox alerts were recorded in several unit logs throughout the 1st MarDiv, including the 5th Battalion of the 11th Marines (5/11):

Fm Div
To All units
Possible Mustard Hazard
QT 7539/3910
Vapor Hazard local to area.
Hazard appears to be from bunker in that area
Method of detection left by Fox veh[icle][50]

The 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st MarDiv also logged the alerts:

1620 281620C Feb 1991 Possible mustard agent QT 75393910 localized to area appears to be from bunkers. Fox vehicle detected.[51]

The 1st Battalion of the 12th Marines (1/12), which was assigned to 11th Marines, also reported "Mustard agent hazard in bunker" on the 28th.[52]

Central Command (CENTCOM) received a SPOT Report (SPOTREP) from the 1st MarDiv at 2150 local time on the 28th:

1st MarDiv rpts.
Probable ammo bunker w/ chemical munitions, vic[inity] of 2914N/4750E, 5 miles west of Ku[wait] City airport.
Area has been cordoned off.
EOD personnel will enter bunker tomorrow morning.[53]

The CENTCOM logs then recorded the following:

281930 [1st MEF NBC Watch Officer] called. 1st MarDiv has come across an ammo bunker complex (QT75393910) with suspected chemical munitions. The Fox (GCMS) [sic] has come up with indications of small conc [sic] of sulfur mustard after numerous tests. All possible interferences with petroleum products ruled out. They are outside the bunker now, no one has gone in. They’ve moved their EOD people up, but won’t do anything until the morning. Area is cordoned off, all their people in the area have been warned.[54]

EOD Team Inspection on March 1, 1991

The next day, March 1st, GySgt Grass and his Fox crew escorted a five member EOD team to the ASP. This team was part of the 1st Force Service Support Group (FSSG) EOD Platoon, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, which was working at Al Jaber Airfield. We have interviewed the four members of this team who entered the ASP, as well as the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the 1st FSSG EOD Platoon during the Gulf War, to whom the EOD team reported their findings. We are in the process of contacting the fifth member of the EOD team, a communications specialist who did not enter the ASP.

When they arrived at the ASP, the EOD team established a command post in their vehicle (a HMMWV or "Humvee") and donned their protective gear—a standard precaution for any suspected contaminated area.[55] The team then conducted a thorough inspection of the ASP—visually inspecting for suspicious munitions and using M8 chemical detector paper and M18A2 chemical detector kits to check for chemical contamination. Visual recognition involves far more than simply looking at munitions. Depending on the country of origin, color codes often indicate the type of munition. In the Gulf War, however, using color codes to determine munition type was not reliable because the Iraqis frequently painted munitions with whatever color was readily available. The physical configuration of a weapon is often a better indication of its use. Chemical munitions must, by their very nature, be built to hold liquids—so their assembly points have filler plugs. [56] It was these cues the EOD team members were looking for during their inspection of the ASP.

Recollections of the EOD team’s inspection differ considerably. GySgt Grass remembers it this way:

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.[57]

In contrast, every member of the EOD team categorically denies finding chemical weapons or any evidence of chemical agents in the ASP. The team leader stated: "[t]he only munitions in the ASP were conventional."[58] Every member of the team also denies telling GySgt Grass or any member of his crew otherwise.[59] "No, that would never have been said."[60]

Members of the team recall only one suspicious incident while they were in the ASP. The team was inspecting a stack of artillery munitions that were painted gray, the base color used by many countries to mark some chemical weapons. The munitions were in a puddle of liquid. As a member of the team picked up one of the artillery rounds, the liquid ran down his arm, which was covered by his protective gear. Following standard procedures, the team swiped the liquid with M8 paper and tested with their M18A2 chemical detector kits. Neither of these tests showed positive for the presence of chemical agent. In addition, the EOD team took the ordnance

to the Fox vehicle so they could ‘sniff’ them....The Fox vehicle ‘smelled’ nothing and the color of the projectile, though similar to U.S. chemical ordnance, was indicative of a Warsaw Pact high-explosive, fragmentation round, so it was ruled condensation from being enclosed in a plastic container and the wide variation in temperatures that we had been experiencing.[61]

According to one EOD team member,

...[t]he Iraqi’s did not have the ASP sealed to protect the ammunition from the elements and several stacks of munitions were...sitting in dark puddles of rainwater…[T]o the untrained eye…these stacks could appear to be leaking munitions.

After completing their inspections, the EOD team followed GySgt Grass back to the Task Force Ripper headquarters area. The EOD team leader passed the negative results of their inspection to the Task Force Ripper NBC Officer.[62] The EOD team then returned to its unit; there they told the Officer In Charge (OIC) they had not found chemical weapons in the ASP. The team leader filed a Call Sheet to record the inspection.[63] In an effort to find this Call Sheet, we have contacted the 1st EOD Platoon Headquarters in Camp Pendleton, CA. After searching their files, the 1st EOD Platoon could not find the Call Sheet. Typically, the 1st EOD Platoon retains its records for only two years. It is most likely, therefore, that the Call Sheet was destroyed sometime in 1993.[64]

Reports Up the Chain of Command

Task Force Ripper next passed the EOD team’s negative results up the chain of command and around the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations (KTO). The 1st MarDiv NBC Officer recalls being told by the Task Force Ripper NBC Officer that the EOD team did not discover any chemical weapons in the ASP. The same day, the 1st MarDiv NBC Officer received the MM-1 tapes printed in the ASP by the Fox MM-1 operator. Thinking the matter closed, he saw no need to keep the tapes. Although we have tried to find these tapes, their location, and even existence, is unknown. The 1st MarDiv NBC Officer believes he either destroyed them or placed them in files that were routinely destroyed after the Gulf War.[65]

At 1920 hours local time on March 1st, CENTCOM received the following SPOTREP:

Suspect chem[ical] munitions bunker in 1st MarDiv sector (2914N04515E) checked by EOD - No chem[ical] munitions present.[66]

The CENTCOM logs then recorded those results:

011930 [1st MEF NBC Watch Officer] called back. The suspect bunker was checked out thoroughly - no chemical munitions found.[67]

The NBC Operations Summary in the After Action Report of the Army Central Command (ARCENT) VII Corps records the following:

ARCENT reported IMARDIV 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.[68]

Additional 1/5 Information

The 1/5 Commander and the NBC Officer do not recall hearing of the EOD team visit to the ASP. The 1/5 remained encamped around the ASP through at least March 2nd. According to the Commanding Officer, the Executive Officer and the Assistant Operations Officer, the ASP was never declared off limits or physically cordoned off, but people were warned to stay away from the area. This was, however, due to the significant amount of ammunition in the area, rather than a perceived or suspected chemical threat.[69] Several Marines from the 1/5 did enter the ASP at various times while they were encamped nearby—including the Commander, the NBC Officer, the Assistant Operations Officer and "approximately 25 - 30"[70] others. None of those who entered was higher than Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) level 2—that is, carrying, but not wearing their protective gloves and mask—while in the ASP. None of the 1/5 personnel interviewed had any physical symptoms consistent with chemical agent exposure after going through the ASP. Additionally, no one, including the Commander (to whom such a thing should have been reported) recalls hearing reports throughout the 1/5 of any symptoms or injuries consistent with exposure to chemical agents.[71]

Cleanup of the ASP

This Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) was dismantled in late fall 1992 or early spring 1993 during cleanup operations in Kuwait.[72] According to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), "during the three-year, post Persian Gulf War ordnance clearance operations in Kuwait, chemical warfare agents were never detected."[73] Following the war, the Kuwaiti government contracted ordnance-clearing services to rid the country of munitions left by the occupying Iraqi army. Sources involved in the clean-up report that clearance operations, which ran from 1992 to 1994, were methodical and thorough. Seven countries participated in the clean-up: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The designated U.S. sector, which included the ASP/Orchard area, ran 3,000 square kilometers across the country from Kuwait Bay to the southwestern border. It was the largest and most difficult to clear. All of the nearly 150 U.S. personnel involved in the disposal of unexploded ordnance were U.S. military-trained EOD personnel. EOD field experience for the technicians ranged from eight to 20-plus years.

After careful study, it was determined that special chemical agent detection equipment was not necessary during clean-up operations. Prior to bidding, the U.S. contracting company conducted an extensive survey of the U.S. sector. The survey team,

was on the alert for anything that would complicate clearance operations - in particular, agent-filled munitions requiring special disposal procedures....Because the survey team found no evidence of CW agent presence, the company made the business decision to bid, and then to operate, without special equipment.[74]

Once begun, clean-up operations were divided into two distinct stages: reconnaissance and clearance.[75]

During the nine month reconnaissance phase, all discovered ordnance was visually inspected and cataloged. To ease the cataloging effort and ensure complete coverage, the U.S. sector was divided into 36 subsectors, each approximately 80 square kilometers. The unexploded ordnance (UXO) teams used "portable GPS [Global Positioning Satellite] kits and laptop computers to mark, piece-by-piece, subsector-by-subsector, the exact location and type of all ordnance."[76] No chemical weapons were discovered in this phase of clean-up operations.

Following the reconnaissance phase, operations moved on to ordnance clearance. Using the database developed during the reconnaissance phase, teams moved through each subsector and divided all the ordnance. Serviceable ordnance was turned over to the Kuwaiti government. Ordnance selected for destruction was collected at a central location and placed into large berm-enclosed pits. Alertness for "special munitions," including chemical weapons, remained high throughout this phase. It was standard procedure to suspend operations whenever previously un-encountered types of munitions were discovered. Operations were only resumed when teams positively identified and classified each new munition.[77] No chemical weapons were discovered during this phase.

Ordnance selected for destruction was destroyed on a daily basis. No chemical detectors were set up around the demolition area. A "safe area" was set up at a certain distance around the pits during actual demolition—not to protect against possible chemical exposure, but rather to protect against fragments from the exploded munitions. The demolition areas were used six nights a week. The same pits were used over and over again—day after day, night after night. UXO personnel entered the area daily to stack ammunition slated for destruction and to set charges. UXO personnel did not wear chemical protective gear during these operations.[78] No chemical injuries were reported by personnel involved in demolition operations.

During the entire course of clearance operations in Kuwait after the war, there were never any reports of chemical weapons being found in the U.S. sector, or indeed anywhere in Kuwait. Additionally, in the three years since the clearance operations were completed, no contractor personnel who worked in the U.S. sector have reported any medical problems related to chemical agents exposure.[79]

The leader of the EOD Team that inspected the ASP/Orchard on March 1, 1991 returned to Kuwait as a civilian and was involved in all phases of the clean-up operations. He returned to the ASP in fall 1992 or early spring 1993 and was involved in its dismantling. During cleanup operations in this ASP, all the bunkers were cleared and the ordnance was divided into serviceable and unserviceable items. UXO personnel did not wear protective gear while working in the ASP, and there were no indications of chemical weapons, agents, or injuries while UXO personnel dismantled the ASP.[80]


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