D.  Demolition Operations: March - April 1991

This section describes the key events of US demolition operations at Khamisiyah occurring after the cease-fire on February 28, 1991. The events are divided into two time periods: from March 1 to March 23, 1991, and from March 24 to April 7, 1991 (Figure 15). These events cover demolition operations conducted after the cease-fire by US forces at Khamisiyah, planning and intelligence affecting the demolition operations, and the general activities of US forces after the cease-fire that affected demolition operations.

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Figure 15.  Demolition operations time periods

1.  From March 1 to March 23: XVIII Airborne Corps Operations

Overview of XVIII Airborne Corps Operations. After the cease-fire, XVIII Airborne Corps’ 82nd Airborne Division maintained occupation of Area of Operations Bragg. As a result of the cease-fire, Coalition forces established a military demarcation line to separate Coalition and Iraqi forces in southern Iraq. The primary mission of the 82nd Airborne Division was to enforce the terms of the cease-fire agreement. Each of the three infantry brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division was responsible for a specific sector along the military demarcation line. During this period, engineers from the 82nd Airborne Division and from XVIII Airborne Corps conducted demolition operations in and around Khamisiyah. Key units from the 82nd Airborne Division and other units most involved in operations in the Khamisiyah area (Figure 16) were:

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Figure 16.  82nd Airborne Division organization

None of the soldiers we interviewed from the 82nd Airborne Division or their attached units (including commanders and key staff members) knew that the Intelligence Community had previously identified Khamisiyah as a possible chemical weapons storage site. Nevertheless, units used higher mission oriented protective posture levels when they initially entered the bunkers to conduct their surveys,[61] and they used chemical warfare agent alarms (M8A1s) and chemical detection test kits (M256A1s) throughout the time they were at Khamisiyah. The soldiers working in and around Khamisiyah generally did not wear chemical protective clothing, but did carry their chemical protective masks.

XVIII Airborne Corps soldiers searched the bunkers and warehouses at Khamisiyah on several occasions during their occupation. They searched during the initial reconnaissance activities of the first few days, and later in preparation for demolitions. Engineers and EOD specialists searched the bunkers for chemical munitions, as well as to determine the type and amount of ammunition they were about to destroy.[62]

We found no detailed inventories of the contents of the bunkers or warehouses. However, the 307th Engineer Battalion compiled an aggregate inventory of the bunkers, and the 37th Engineer Battalion, which arrived later, made a videotape showing the interior of some of the bunkers (Figure 17).[63,64]

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Figure 17.  Inspection of Bunker; picture from 37th Engineer Battalion videotape

In a report written several weeks later (March 23, 1991), the 82nd Airborne Division chemical officer reported that the 82nd Airborne Division and associated engineer units took active measures to detect chemical warfare agents at Khamisiyah. He also affirmed that they detected no chemical warfare agent contamination and found no chemical munitions.[65]

March 1, 1991

The 82nd Airborne Division began post-cease-fire security operations near Khamisiyah. Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade conducted a security sweep of their entire sector, including the Khamisiyah ASP. During this sweep, the soldiers encountered some resistance from Iraqi soldiers and some local civilians who were looting the bunkers and warehouses inside the Khamisiyah ASP. Keeping Iraqi civilians out of the ASP was a recurring task for US forces throughout their occupation of Khamisiyah. Once the sweep was completed, 3rd Brigade soldiers maintained security checkpoints in their sector.

Engineers from the 307th Engineer Battalion surveyed Khamisiyah for demolition operations. When elements of the 307th Engineer Battalion surveyed the Khamisiyah ASP, they were already planning the demolition operations at An Nasiriyah ASP SW, Tallil airfield, and Jalibah airfield. Therefore, they requested additional engineer support to conduct the demolitions at Khamisiyah. Subsequently, XVIII Airborne Corps’ 20th Engineer Brigade tasked the 937th Engineer Group to provide a battalion in direct support.[66,67]  The 937th Engineer Group then tasked the 37th Engineer Battalion to support the 82nd Airborne Division.[68]

March 2, 1991

Lead element of 37th Engineer Battalion arrived at Khamisiyah to prepare for demolition operations. This element consisted of the battalion commander, the executive officer, two intelligence noncommissioned officers, and one platoon from Company C, 37th Engineer Battalion. Upon arrival, they conducted a reconnaissance of Khamisiyah, based on an ASP mock-up (Figure 18), to determine the number of bunkers and amount of munitions for demolition.[69]

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Figure 18.  Khamisiyah ASP mock-up; picture cortesy of 37th Engineer Battalion operations officer

XVIII Airborne Corps report documented wide-scale destruction of Iraqi equipment and supplies that had begun. Once combat operations ceased, XVIII Airborne Corps reported in a March 2, 1991, situation report[70] that its units discovered numerous large complexes containing weapons, ammunition, and other materiel. The 24th Infantry Division had bypassed these areas during the ground campaign to maintain momentum. However, XVIII Airborne Corps had now begun to clear these complexes, and the enormity of the task was only beginning to become apparent.

March 3, 1991

Report of the chemical contamination of a VII Corps soldier prompted XVIII Airborne Corps to reevaluate chemical protective precautions. USCENTCOM forwarded a report to XVIII Airborne Corps that a VII Corps soldier had been exposed to mustard agent while searching an Iraqi ammunition storage bunker near Kuwait.[71] Word of the exposure spread rapidly. The next day, XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters sent the following message to its subordinate units, warning of the potential danger and recommending protective precautions:

SUBJECT: Suspected Chemical Agent Contamination

  1. The purpose of this message is to remind XVIII Airborne Corps soldiers to take extra precautions when approaching or working around suspected chemical munitions.
  2. [A message to XVIII Airborne Corps] disclosed that a VII Corps soldier is suspected of having been exposed to chemical contamination ....
  3. In light of the suspected chemical agent contamination that occurred in the VII Corps sector, recommend units reevaluate their current chemical defense posture when clearing ammunition stockpiles and bunkers. Measures that should be considered include, though not limited to increased MOPP level and continuous chemical agent monitoring at the site. If a soldier is suspected of being contaminated by chemical agent, he must seek immediate medical attention.[72]

37th Engineer Battalion elements arrived at Khamisiyah. The 37th Engineer Battalion’s combat engineer elements and two teams (three soldiers each) from the 60th EOD Detachment arrived at Khamisiyah. With their arrival, the battalion was ready to begin demolition operations.[73] About half of the 37th Engineer Battalion soldiers remained in an assembly area south of Khamisiyah and were never part of the demolition operations at Khamisiyah.

The 37th Engineer Battalion had M8A1 chemical agent alarms mounted on various vehicles as they entered Khamisiyah ASP. Soldiers reported that these alarms were operational.[74] The battalion's chemical noncommissioned officer (NCO), wearing full mission oriented protective posture (MOPP-4)[75,76] clothing, checked some of the bunkers for chemical agents using M256 chemical detection kits. These checks proved negative.

The soldiers of the 37th Engineer Battalion examined the bunkers they were assigned to destroy the following day (Figure 19), noting the construction of the bunkers, and the type and amount of munitions they would destroy. At 3:40 PM, 37th engineers, under the supervision of EOD technicians, destroyed two bunkers, Bunker 98 and Bunker 99, (Figure 20) to test the demolition techniques they planned to use in the major demolition the following day.[77]

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Figure 19.  Khamisiyah ASP bunker entrance; picture from 37th Engineer Battalion videotape

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Figure 20.  Result of demolition test; picture from 37th Engineer Battalion videotape

March 4, 1991

The 37th Engineers conducted the first large-scale demolition at Khamisiyah. The 37th Engineer Battalion prepared 38 of the approximately 100 bunkers in the Khamisiyah ASP for demolition that day. The demolition destroyed 37 of these bunkers. One of these was Bunker 73, which Iraq indicated to UNSCOM later in October 1991 had contained 122mm rockets filled with the chemical warfare agents sarin and cyclosarin.[78]

7:00 AM - 2:00 PM: EOD specialists and engineers inventoried the bunkers at Khamisiyah and prepared them for demolition. The 37th Engineer Battalion operations officer assigned Companies A, B, and C to inventory 38 bunkers and to prepare them for demolition. [79,80]The EOD technicians assisted the engineers in both tasks.

Bunker Inventory. Engineers inventoried the bunkers to determine the type and amount of munitions that they were about to destroy and to search for chemical munitions. When the 37th Engineer Battalion soldiers compiled these inventories, they did not open every box and crate. Rather, they opened several boxes of ammunition, inspected their contents (Figure 21), and then extrapolated the type and quantity of ammunition in other boxes of identical shape and markings. The soldiers that inventoried the bunkers do not recall seeing any large 8-9 foot long crates in which the 122mm rockets would have been stored.[81]

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Figure 21.  Interior of bunker during inventory; picture from 37th Engineer Battalion videotape

The 60th EOD technicians had briefed the engineers about the special markings they expected to find on Iraq’s chemical weapons-they believed that Iraq’s chemical munitions would be distinctively marked as shown in EOD training manuals and pamphlets. Consequently, inspectors thought they could readily distinguish them from conventional munitions. According to the 60th EOD executive officer, these markings included various colored bands around the munitions and Cyrillic or Arabic writing indicating that they were chemical.[82,83]

The engineers used these identification criteria in the course of their inventory searching for chemical weapons. According to the Commander, Company C, 37th Engineer Battalion, "the explosive ordnance guys came through and said, here's what [kind of ammunition] you're looking at. These are safe to destroy."[84] Another soldier stated: "We were to look for yellow bands on the ammunition for chemical. I went in bunkers specifically looking for that and didn’t find any."[85]

Subsequent investigations by UNSCOM indicated that none of the chemical warfare agent-filled 122mm rockets they were shown at Khamisiyah had any distinctive markings that identified them as chemical.[86]

Preparations for demolition. After the engineers finished conducting the inventories, they prepared the bunkers for demolition. Again, EOD technicians provided technical assistance to the engineers who performed this task.

Once the engineers completed preparing the bunkers for demolition, all soldiers withdrew to an observation point approximately 3 - 4 kilometers northwest of the ASP in consideration of a crossing wind, assuming it to be a safe distance from which to observe the demolition (Figure 22).

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Figure 22.  Observation areas for March 4th demolition

Approximately 300 engineers and EOD technicians participated in the demolition at the ASP, while approximately 770 additional soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, secured the area. The 450th Civil Affairs Battalion (of the XVIII Airborne Corps) used loudspeakers to warn civilians to stay away.[87]

Company A, 307th Engineer Battalion arrived at Khamisiyah. As the 37th Engineer Battalion completed their preparatory work for the demolition, Company A of the 307th Engineer Battalion arrived at Khamisiyah. Company A had completed its mission at Jalibah and would work with the 37th Engineer battalion on its subsequent demolitions at Khamisiyah.

12:00 Noon: Deadline passed for ARCENT to complete surveys of the 17 suspected chemical sites (see the February 28 entry of this narrative). We have found no evidence of any XVIII Airborne Corps or ARCENT response to the February 28, 1991 USCENTCOM message by the noon deadline. In fact, USCENTCOM did not receive a response until April 1, from VII Corps.[88] We do not know a reason for this delay.

2:05 PM: Demolition in the Khamisiyah ASP. With the weather clear and the prevailing winds blowing from the southwest to the northeast,[89] units for miles around observed a rapid sequence of large explosions. Within minutes of the first detonation (Figure 23), debris and "flyouts" (munitions that were thrown out from the explosion without detonating) began to fall among the soldiers at the observation points and elsewhere, posing a significant hazard.[90] The explosions created huge columns of dust and smoke, which the prevailing winds carried away from the soldiers at the observation points (Figures 24 and 25). The debris were thrown several kilometers in all directions, causing the engineers to reposition as far away as 12 kilometers from the ASP. Munitions continued to explode throughout the evening.  The next day EOD discovered that the demolition destroyed 37 of the 38 bunkers; the explosives in Bunker 92 failed to detonate due to a bad timer.[91]

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Figure 23.  First bunker demolition on March 4th; picture from 37th Engineer Battalion videotape

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Figure 24.  Continuing demolition on March 4th at Khamisiyah
(from 307th Engineer Battalion observation point, looking southeast)

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Figure 25.  Fully developed March 4th demolition cloud; picture from 37th Engineer Battalion videotape

2:45 PM: Chemical alarm sounded. At 2:45 PM, an M8A1 chemical detection alarm sounded in Company B, 37th Engineer Battalion’s area of the observation point.[92] On hearing the alarm, the soldiers in Company B immediately put on their chemical protective clothing, as did some soldiers from other units around the observation point. Others only put on their masks.[93] The four engineer companies as well as the two EOD teams each performed tests with the M256 chemical agent detection kit. [94,95] Typically, an NCO who had additional specialized training in chemical warfare would perform these tests. All chemical detection tests yielded negative results for chemical warfare agents (i.e., no chemical warfare agents detected) except for the following two instances.   This information was obtained from personal interviews of participants.  We found no reports of this M8 alarm incident.

After performing these tests and conducting unmasking procedures, the soldiers removed their masks and chemical protective clothing. Medical personnel in XVIII Airborne Corps reported that during and after Desert Storm they did not observe any symptoms of chemical warfare agent exposure or any other health problems.[99] The Department of the Army Inspector General reported that "no soldiers, civilians, or animals anywhere in the KTO showed any suspicious symptoms that might be associated with a chemical warfare agent release at Khamisiyah."[100]

The intelligence staff NCO of the 37th Engineer Battalion and his assistant reported that shortly after the explosion they saw "a dog running across [an] open area [that started] circling and dropped dead." [101,102] In follow-on interviews, the two individuals said that the dog did not display any symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure.[103] The 37th Engineer Battalion videotape of the March 4, 1991, demolition shows several dogs running across the terrain without any obvious health effects from the ongoing explosions.

By this stage of the Gulf War, the soldiers experiences in the KTO taught them that many things common to their environment, such as blowing dust and vehicle exhaust, frequently caused the alarms to sound. Therefore, they generally did not regard the sounding of the chemical alarm as proof of the presence of chemical agents.

March 5, 1991

82nd Airborne Division commander delays further demolition operations at Khamisiyah. The extensive flyouts from the previous day’s demolition raised serious safety concerns and called into question the effectiveness of their demolition techniques. The 82nd Airborne Division commander postponed further operations to move nearby units further away and to re-evaluate the demolition techniques to minimize flyouts.[104] Heavy rains that morning caused many vehicles to become stuck, further delaying operations.

In the afternoon, the 60th EOD teams re-entered the ASP to examine the results of the previous day's demolition. They found that one of the 38 bunkers prepared for demolition (Bunker 92) did not explode. The engineers reset the explosives at Bunker 92 and destroyed it without incident.[105] After surveying the results of the previous day's demolition, engineer and EOD technicians decided to try a different technique to destroy the remaining bunkers. [106,107]

The 82nd Airborne Division engineer assigned Company A of the 307th Engineer Battalion the mission to destroy approximately 45 warehouses (not destroyed during the air campaign) in the northwest portion of the Khamisiyah ASP.[108]

The March 5 XVIII Airborne Corps situation report noted that the 82nd Airborne Division destroyed ammunition storage areas at Jalibah and Tallil airfields, but did not mention Khamisiyah.[109]

March 6, 1991: Soldiers conducted a limited test of revised demolition techniques. On the recommendation of EOD personnel, each of the A, B, and C Companies of the 37th Engineer Battalion and Company A of the 307th Engineer Battalion attempted to destroy a bunker by implosion. This involved placing demolitions on the columns of the bunkers, which would cave in the roof and crush the munitions under the rubble of the bunker. After the demolition, engineers inspected the bunkers and determined that this revised technique did not cause enough destruction to the munitions inside the bunkers. They decided to return to the original explosion technique but to increase the amount of explosives used.[110] They also connected the explosives on all the bunkers into a circuit that would create one large, simultaneous explosion instead of numerous individual ones. [111]

March 7 - 9, 1991

Weather delayed demolitions; operations officer found 122mm rockets in Pit. While poor weather delayed demolition operations, soldiers conducted demolition training and rehearsals, and inventoried the remaining bunkers and warehouses.

On March 9, 1991, the operations officer of the 37th Engineer Battalion found 122mm rockets in a large excavated area, later known as the Pit (Figure 26), located about 3 kilometers from the southeast corner of the ASP.[112,113] Iraq stored all the rockets at the Pit in wooden crates arranged in stacks approximately head height.[114]

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Figure 26.  Location of the Pit

Investigators’ analysis of the photos[115] of the Pit (Figure 27) determined that there were 13 separate stacks of crates which they later calculated to total approximately 1,250 rockets. The commander assigned the 60th EOD Detachment and the 37th Engineer Battalion intelligence staff to prepare these munitions for demolition.[116] (Note: Seven months later, Iraq showed UN inspectors the Pit containing 122mm chemical rockets, some of which were verified to be filled with nerve agents, that had been heaped into four piles.[117] )

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Figure 27.  Pre-demolition imagery of the 600m x 150m Pit, showing the 13 stacks of rockets

March 10, 1991

Engineers conducted second large-scale demolition at Khamisiyah.

7:00 AM - 4:00 PM: Engineers and EOD technicians prepared for demolition. Engineers and EOD technicians made extensive preparations to demolish approximately 40 bunkers and 45 warehouses in the Khamisiyah ASP, and the 122mm rockets found in the Pit.

Two of the soldiers who worked in the Pit recall they saw or placed explosive charges on all stacks of rockets.[122,123] Other soldiers working in the Pit recall they personally prepared only some of the 13 stacks for demolition.[124,125] The 60th EOD executive officer stated that the rockets in the stacks did not face the same direction. Therefore, when an explosive charge was placed on the warhead of one missile (the preferred mode of destruction), it could be only inches away from the motor (at the rear) of the missile beside it. This increased the chance of igniting the motor and launching the missile, increasing the risk of flyouts during the demolition.

4:00 PM: Engineers detonated bunkers, warehouses, and the rockets in the Pit.[126] A 60th EOD incident journal entry on March 12th indicated that the demolitions destroyed 840 5-inch (i.e., 122mm) rockets at geographic coordinates that correspond to the ASP, not the Pit.[127] Subsequent interviews have determined that the 60th EOD made this log entry from memory and was inaccurate, since the demolition actually occurred on March 10.[128]

At the time of the detonation, the visibility was hazy with the wind blowing from the north-northwest to the south-southeast.[129] None of the soldiers interviewed could recall, or had specifically noted, that weather conditions at this time were other than hazy with some wind.

The 37th Engineer Battalion departed Iraq for Saudi Arabia. The 37th Engineer Battalion observation point for the demolition on March 10, 1991, was south of Khamisiyah on Highway 8, approximately 20 - 30 minutes travel time by vehicle from the ASP. Once personnel from the 37th Engineer Battalion heard the explosions, they proceeded to their tactical assembly area in Saudi Arabia.[130]

March 11 - 12, 1991: Company C of the 307th Engineer Battalion had completed operations around Tallil Airfield and joined Company A near Khamisiyah. When Company C arrived near Khamisiyah, elements of two companies of the 307th Engineer Battalion observed the destruction in the Pit (Figure 28) and identified additional ammunition stores southwest of the Khamisiyah ASP (Figure 29), described as "another enemy bunker complex of more than 400 revetted bunkers [three-sided, earth-mounded berms] with large caches inside."[131] This large complex was the Tall al Lahm Ammunition Storage Depot South.

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Figure 28.  One stack of 122mm rockets in the Pit after demolition; picture courtesy of Commander, 307th Engineer Battalion

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Figure 29.  Tall al Lahm Ammunition Storage Depot South

March 15 - 20, 1991: The 307th Engineer Battalion conducted demolition operations at the Tall al Lahm Ammunition Storage Depot South. For several days, Companies A and C, 307th Engineer Battalion prepared munitions in the revetments for demolition (Figure 30). On March 20, 1991, at approximately 3:30 PM, engineers from 307th Engineer Battalion destroyed approximately 400 ammunition bunkers at the ammunition depot.[132]

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Figure 30.  Soldiers preparing munitions for demolition in a revetment; picture courtesy of Commander, 307th Engineer Battalion

March 21 - 23 1991

XVIII Airborne Corps and VII Corps conduct transition operations. From March 21 to 23, 1991, XVIII Airborne Corps units (82nd Airborne Division) in southern Iraq prepared to leave their positions and return to Saudi Arabia, while VII Corps units (2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment) prepared to replace the XVIII Airborne Corps. A transition period lasting several days preceded the replacement (called a "relief in place").[133] During this period, key staff members from the 2nd ACR met with their 82nd Airborne Division counterparts. The meetings between staff counterparts consisted of briefings, interviews, and terrain-walks of the 82nd Airborne Division sector. Of particular importance was the transition between the engineer staff officers and the chemical staff officers of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 2nd ACR.

Engineer Transition. By the time the 2nd ACR replaced the 82nd Airborne Division, they already knew that there were munitions remaining inside Khamisiyah that required demolition. 82nd Airborne Division engineers gave the 2nd ACR engineers a list of 64 targets for demolition, which included Iraqi military vehicles and munitions. The list provided the location (in military UTM coordinates) and a very short description of each of the targets. Engineers from the 2nd ACR destroyed these targets during subsequent demolition operations. Of the 64 targets on the list, 17 targets were in the Khamisiyah ASP, including five that were described as military vehicles and 12 that were described simply as ammunition. Of the 12 ammunition targets, nine corresponded to locations of ammunition storage warehouses and three were locations of ammunition storage bunkers.

NBC Transition. The 82nd Airborne Division chemical officer gave the 2nd ACR a written report of chemical reconnaissance activities. The report summarized the chemical reconnaissance activities of the 82nd Airborne Division in their assigned sector in Iraq between February 28 and March 23,  1991. It stated in part:

… No chemical weapons were found in the 82d Abn Div [Airborne Division] sector. Numerous reports have been received from Iraqi refugee/resistance personnel concerning chemical weapons use, but none have been confirmed.

… When the 82d Abn Div initially occupied the sector, Fox vehicles and unit reconnaissance teams checked for evidence of contamination or chemical weapons. No contamination was found...

… The following areas were surveyed by the 82d Abn Div:

Tallil Air Base [sic] (PV 0423)
Jalibah S.E. Air Base [sic] (PU 5480)
Tall al Lahm ASP [sic] (PV 3706)[134]

The 2nd ACR was confident that the 82nd Airborne Division had performed a thorough chemical reconnaissance of Khamisiyah and that they did not need to conduct further chemical reconnaissance operations.[135] Nevertheless, the 2nd ACR continued to employ chemical warfare agent detection measures.[136]

2. From March 24 to April 7: 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment Operations

March 24, 1991.

The 82nd Airborne Division returned to Saudi Arabia and the 2nd ACR assumed control of the 82nd Airborne Division sector. The 82nd Airborne Division, the 307th Engineer Battalion, and the 60th EOD Detachment departed for Saudi Arabia and subsequent redeployment.[137]

2nd ACR operations overview. As with the 82nd Airborne Division, the primary mission of the 2nd ACR was to enforce the terms of the cease-fire agreement. With the war over, all US commanders had the overriding concern for soldier safety. In order to reduce the loss of life from traffic accidents, demolition operations, and other causes, the 2nd ACR commander placed all ammunition storage areas in the 2nd ACR sector off-limits to all but EOD personnel or those accompanied by EOD personnel. In other words, soldiers—including engineers—were not allowed inside Khamisiyah or other ammunition storage areas in the 2nd ACR sector, unless accompanied by EOD personnel. Therefore, virtually no US soldiers were inside the Khamisiyah ASP from March 24 until April 5, 1991, when EOD personnel and engineers began final demolition operations. The key units serving with the 2nd ACR that were most involved in operations in the Khamisiyah area are (Figure 31):

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Figure 31.  2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment organization

March 27, 1991: VII Corps directed the 2nd ACR to conduct a chemical reconnaissance of Khamisiyah. VII Corps issued Fragmentary Order 189-91 to its subordinate units, including the 2nd ACR. In Fragmentary Order 189-91, VII Corps directed the 2nd ACR to conduct a reconnaissance of three suspected chemical weapons storage sites:

Fragmentary Order 189-91 also directed the 1st Armored Division to conduct a reconnaissance of one other suspected chemical weapons storage site and the 3rd Armored Division to conduct a reconnaissance of three such sites. The seven suspected chemical weapon storage sites listed in Fragmentary Order 189-91 were on the list of 17 sites that USCENTCOM had sent to ARCENT on February 28,  1991.[138]

March 28, 1991

The 2nd ACR replied to VII Corps Fragmentary Order 189-91. The 2nd ACR staff re-examined the report they received four days earlier from the chemical officer of the 82nd Airborne Division. Upon reviewing it, they determined that the report already met the requirements of the VII Corps fragmentary order and that no additional reconnaissance was necessary or justified.[139] The 2nd ACR was reluctant to put soldiers at risk by requiring them to conduct reconnaissance of any of the three sites. Earlier extensive demolition operations at each of these sites had made maneuvering within the sites difficult and dangerous.[140]

The 2nd ACR contacted VII Corps and told them of the 82nd Airborne Division chemical officer’s report. The 2nd ACR told VII Corps that they intended to answer the requirement of FRAGO 189-91 by sending VII Corps the chemical officer’s report rather than conducting an additional reconnaissance of these sites. VII Corps concurred with the 2nd ACR’s decision.[141,142]

April 1, 1991: VII Corps replied to the USCENTCOM directive to survey 17 suspected chemical weapons storage sites. VII Corps responded to USCENTCOM’s February 28, 1991, directive by stating that the assigned sites did not contain chemical/biological weapons.[143] The deadline to complete the survey was noon, March 4, 1991.[144] We have found no evidence ARCENT responded to the February 28, 1991, USCENTCOM message by the noon deadline. USCENTCOM finally received a response on April 1st, direct from VII Corps, long after the original response deadline had passed.

April 2, 1991: The 2nd ACR destroyed bunkers in An Nasiriyah ASP SW. At 7:20 PM, the 84th Engineer Company destroyed bunkers in the An Nasiriyah ASP SW weapons storage site in a huge explosion (Figure 32). The explosion created a mushroom fireball so large that soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division, 50 miles south, thought it might have been a nuclear explosion and reported it so to VII Corps.[145] Some Gulf War veterans incorrectly believed this explosion was the "Khamisiyah incident."

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Figure 32.  April 2nd detonation at An Nasiriyah ASP SW; picture courtesy 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment operations officer

April 3, 1991: Iraq reported US forces conducted demolition operations at "Khamisiyah." The day after the huge explosion at An Nasiriyah ASP SW, Iraq reported, "US forces blew up the Khamisiyah depot on April 1 and 2, 1991."[146] Since demolitions did not occur at Khamisiyah on either April 1 or 2, we believe Iraq’s report referred to the previous day’s demolition operations at An Nasiriyah ASP SW.

April 5 - 7, 1991: Coalition Forces conducted final ground operations in Khamisiyah area. To prepare for the demolition operations planned for the following day, soldiers from the 84th Engineer Company, accompanied by soldiers from the 146th EOD Detachment, conducted a reconnaissance inside the Khamisiyah ASP, found no chemical munitions, and prepared 6-10 bunkers for demolition. On April 6, 1991, they initiated the demolitions destroying these bunkers.[147] The next day, the 2nd ACR departed Iraq for Saudi Arabia and later returned to Europe.

Summary of bunker destructions. Table 5 summarizes the destruction of bunkers in the Khamisiyah ASP.

Table 5. Bunker destructions at Khamisiyah

Date Destroyed



# of Bunkers Destroyed (Bunkers Remaining)

January 19, 1991 January 27, 1991 February 25, 1991 February 27, 1991

Coalition aircraft

Bombing attacks


March 3, 1991

37th Engineer Battalion,
60th EOD Detachment

Test demolition


March 4, 1991

37th Engineer Battalion,
60th EOD Detachment

1st large-scale demolition (includes Bunker 73)


March 5, 1991

37th Engineer Battalion,
60th EOD Detachment

Demolition of bunker that didn’t detonate previous day


March 6, 1991

37th Engineer Battalion,
60th EOD Detachment

Test demolition


March 10, 1991

37th Engineer Battalion,
60th EOD Detachment

2nd large-scale demolition


April 6, 1991

84th Engineer Company,
146th EOD Detachment

Final demolition


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