Destruction of Munitions at Khamisiyah ASP

The XVIII Corps (ABN) had the mission to conduct movement to contact operations, including attacking and securing Objective GOLD (later identified as Khamisiyah). On 26 February 1991, the first US troops to reach Khamisiyah were from the 24th ID(MECH).

On the northern end of BP 102, LTC John Craddock maneuvered his 4-
64th Armor Battalion toward a canal north of Highway 8....Continuing
north, the battalion overran a huge, untouched ammunition storage area
and pushed the beaten Iraqis protecting the facility into the weeds near the
canal [14].

On 26 February 1991, the 24th ID(MECH) received information from the XVIII Corps (ABN) that there were "possible chemicals on Objective GOLD [15]." On 27 February 1991, the 24th ID(MECH) secured Objective GOLD [16] and continued eastward beyond Khamisiyah to cut-off retreating Republican Guard divisions near Basrah. On 28 February 1991, the 82nd Div (ABN) was located west of the 24th ID (MECH) with the "3rd Brigade conduct[ing] movement to Objective GOLD [17];" the Objective was secured on 1 March 1991 [18]. Although there is no evidence to date that the 82nd Div (ABN) received the warning from the XVIII Corps (ABN) of possible chemicals on Objective GOLD, in reporting activities that occurred in securing Khamisiyah, the 82nd Div (ABN) Chemical Officer noted that standard procedures were followed:

When the 82nd Div (ABN) initially occupied the sector, FOX vehicles and
unit reconnaissance teams checked for evidence of contamination or
chemical weapons. No contamination was found. Riot control agent CS
was found in the Tall al Lahm ASP.....White phosphorus [artillery] rounds
were also found. Artillery rounds with fill plugs and central bursters were
found. They were marked with a yellow band. They were empty. Other
rounds in the area were marked similarly. FOX reconnaissance determined
they [the rounds] contained TNT [19].

On 1 March 1991, the 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 307th Engineer Battalion, in direct support of TF 2-505, part of the 82nd Div (ABN), reconnoitered Khamisiyah ASP and concluded that demolition operations would require additional engineer support. Subsequently, the 37th Engineer Battalion was told to destroy the approximately 100 bunkers at Khamisiyah ASP [20].

On 2 March 1991, the XVIII Corps (ABN) noted:

XVIII ABN Corps continues defensive/ security operations in zone with
emphasis on force protection, clearing of residual enemy personnel in
sector and destruction/evacuation of captured enemy equipment. Now that
the tempo has dropped, units are able to begin clearing bunker complexes
that were initially bypassed to maintain momentum. Divisions are
discovering large numbers of bunkers/underground complexes containing
weapons, ammunition and other materials. Destruction of these bunkers
has already begun; however, the enormity ofthe task before us and amount
of resources required is still unknown.

Commander's evaluation... Our emphasis is on protection of the force and
operations [21].

Early on 2 March 1991, a platoon from Charlie Company, 37th Engineer Battalion arrived at the Khamisiyah ASP as an advance party for the battalion [22]. Upon its arrival, the unit found a large number of the local civilians and many animals inside the ASP; many were inside the bunkers as well [23].

On 3 March 1991, the remainder of the 37th Engineer Battalion (-) [24] and two teams (three soldiers each) from the 60th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment (EOD) arrived at Khamisiyah [25]. The battalion had M8A1 chemical alarms mounted on various unit vehicles, and these were reported to be operational [26]. The battalion's chemical noncommissioned officer (NCO) stated he was in "MOPP 4" [27] and checked [28] some of the bunkers for chemical agents. The results of these checks were reported to be negative. As part of the operation, the U.S. troops searched the site for any "special" weapons, that is chemical weapons and laser- or optically-guided munitions. They found one rocket with possible intelligence value; all remaining were deemed conventional [29]. Two bunkers (98 and 99) were exploded to test demolition techniques [30].

On 4 March 1991, the three line companies of the 37th Engineer Battalion, assisted by the two teams of the 60th EOD, were each assigned 12 to 14 bunkers to inventory and demolish [31]. According to the Charlie Company Commander, "the explosive ordnance guys came through and said, here's what you're looking at. These are safe to destroy." [32] Therefore, the engineers planned to use the explosives necessary to destroy conventional munitions. A total of 38 [33] bunkers were rigged with explosives, including the bunker subsequently reported by the Iraqis as containing chemical munitions (Bunker 73). Reports and interviews [34] indicate that approximately 300 engineer and EOD personnel participated in the demolition at the ASP, and about 770 additional personnel from the 505th Infantry secured the area.

At approximately 1400 hours on 4 March 1991, 37 of the 38 bunkers exploded (explosives in Bunker 92 failed to go off due to a bad time fuse) [35]. The weather was clear, with winds coming from the SW [36]. The engineer battalion set up an observation point approximately 3 to 4 kilometers northwest, and crosswind of the Khamisiyah ASP (see unit location on Figure 2).

At approximately 1445 hours on 4 March 1991, an M8A1 chemical alarm in Bravo Company, 37th Engineer Battalion sounded at the observation point. Since troops were at MOPP 0 [37], upon hearing the alarm, some went to MOPP 4 status, and others only donned their masks [38]. Each company and EOD team [39] performed several M256 kit tests [40]. Two NBC NCOs interviewed say they got "weak" or "slightly" positive results on M256 tests, although the test kit is designed to show either positive or negative results. The Bravo Company Commander observed the test performed by his NBC NCO and states he saw a negative result, not a "weak positive." The second NBC NCO states he did a second test that was negative [41] [42]. An "all clear" was then signaled. Interviews of medical personnel at battalion/brigade/division/corps-level did not reveal any evidence of symptoms or health problems related to chemical warfare agent exposure during the entire period in question [43]. Debris from the exploding bunkers (described as fragments, and in some instances intact weapons) landed in or near the observation point, so troops were moved further away from Khamisiyah [44].

On 5 March 1991, there were heavy rains in the morning, and many vehicles became stuck. The 60th EOD teams examined the bunkers from the previous day's demolition and determined one bunker (92) did not explode. The explosives were re-fused and set off without incident [45]. EOD reviewed the results of the previous day's demolitions and decided to use a different technique to destroy the remaining bunkers [46]. Alpha Company of the 307th Engineer Battalion [47] was given the mission to destroy warehouses in the NW portion of Khamisiyah ASP. The XVIII Corps (ABN) SITREP for this day also noted that the 82nd Div (ABN) destroyed ASPs at Jalibah and Tallil. There is no mention of Khamisiyah or Objective GOLD [48].

On 6 March 1991, each engineer company of the 37th Engineer Battalion and Alpha Company from the 307th Engineer Battalion exploded a bunker to test the latest techniques for demolition developed by the 60th EOD. The EOD experts attempted to implode the bunkers [49] in order to reduce the number of secondary explosions and to conserve the amount of explosives used. During 7-9 March 1991, no demolitions were performed because of poor weather. The time was used for demolition training, rehearsals, and inventorying [50] the remaining bunkers and warehouses.

On 9 March 1991, the Operations Officer of the 37th Engineer Battalion found crates of 122mm rockets outside the SE corner of Khamisiyah ASP [51]. A noncommissioned officer from the Headquarters & Headquarters Company (HHC) of the battalion was told to destroy these munitions in what is now called the "pit" area of Khamisiyah [52].

On 10 March 1991, at approximately 1540 hours, crates of rockets in the "pit" were detonated. At the same time, the 60 remaining bunkers were detonated by 37th Engineer Battalion, and the warehouses were blown up by Alpha Company of the 307th [53]. There is some confusion as to whether the HHC NCO with a two-man detail was the only group setting explosives in the "pit." Photo analysis of the "pit" reveals 13 separate stacks of material. The HHC NCO and one of his detail both state they rigged 3 stacks of rockets for demolition, no other stacks were observed, and no one else was working in the "pit." However, an EOD NCO says he led a 15 - 20 man engineer/soldier detail that destroyed approximately 850 rockets (6 to 8 stacks) in the "pit" on the same day as the "big explosion" on March 10 [54].

An accounting of demolition at the "pit" is also noted in the 60th EOD log [55] for 12 March 1991. It was recorded that 840 "5-inch" (this measure approximates 122mm) rockets were destroyed at coordinates for Khamisiyah ASP. This report, however, conflicts with information provided by an NCO from the 60th EOD [56] [57].

The 37th Engineer Battalion observation point for the demolition on 10 March 1991 was south of Khamisiyah on MSR 8, approximately 20-30 minutes travel time by vehicle away from the ASP. Once they heard explosions, the 37th continued south towards Saudi Arabia [58] for approximately four more hours. The weather was overcast skies with poor visibility; wind direction and speed on this date are the subject of ongoing investigation by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) and CIA.

On 12 March 1991, the 307th Engineer Battalion [59] identified additional ammunition stores southwest of Khamisiyah ASP, described as "another enemy bunker complex of more than 400 revetted bunkers with large caches inside." [60] During the period 15-19 March 1991, the 307th Engineer Battalion rigged explosives on the munitions found in the berm area southwest of Khamisiyah ASP. On March 20, the berm area was detonated at approximately 1530 hours [61].

On 23 March 1991, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, part of the U.S. VII Corps, assumed responsibility for the area of operations, which included Khamisiyah. The 84th Engineer Company and the 146th EOD were among their supporting units. On 24 March 1991, the 82nd Div (ABN) [62], the 307th Engineer Battalion, and the 60th EOD departed for Saudi Arabia and subsequent redeployment [63].

On 27 March 1991, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment was told to determine if Tall al Lahm Ammo Storage Depot South (100 revetments) and Tall al Lahm Ammo Storage Facility [Khamisiyah] contained possible chemical/biological munitions.[64] On 28 March 1991, the unit reported to VII Corps that chemical/biological reconnaissance of both Tall al Lahm sites yielded negative results. [65]

On 2 April 1991, the 82nd Engineer Battalion, located south of the area of operations, reported hearing a large explosion in the vicinity of Tallil, another site of demolition, approximately 40 km from Khamisiyah. [66]

On 6 April 1991, members of the 84th Engineer Company and 146th EOD re-examined bunkers at Khamisiyah ASP, and determined that six bunkers required additional detonations to destroy remaining munitions. [67]

The last American units departed Khamisiyah in late April 1991.

Further details on this chronology are being gathered in the continuing investigation by the Investigation and Analysis Directorate of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses.

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