TAB E - Other Chemical Warfare Issues

A.  Did Another Fox Confirm the Lane Red 1 Alert?

The 2d Marine Division Monograph states that "a second Fox vehicle was dispatched to the area and confirmed the presence of an agent which had probably been there a long time."[269] Although this document is a widely referenced text, the author begins with a warning:

This history is intended to be a first effort ... and [researchers will need] to balance what is written here against those more complete records which will be available to them, and they will be able to correct any errors of fact which may have been made.[270]

More to the point is whether a second Fox went to the site of the chemical warfare agent alert and confirmed the presence of a chemical warfare agent. The author credits this account of the second Fox to the 2d MARDIV NBC officer. The 2d MARDIV NBC officer was an experienced NBC specialist and was situated in the command post as the commanding general’s staff officer for NBC operations. Considered knowledgeable about chemical attack defenses, as well as detection and reporting procedures, he would have been aware of the employment of the Fox vehicles in his division. This NBC officer disagrees with the account that appeared in the monograph.[271] He remembered that the Fox vehicles were dispersed throughout the I MEF, with a Fox assigned to each division. Each Fox assigned to the 2d MARDIV was further assigned to support a maneuver unit passing through the minefield breaches. Each Fox passed through its pre-assigned lane within its maneuver unit and pressed on with the attack through the minefields.[272] According to the 2d MARDIV NBC officer, another Fox in another breaching lane picked up trace amounts of a chemical warfare agent. However, according to this NBC officer and the 1/6 NBC officer, no other Fox was dispatched to lane Red 1 to confirm the alert.[273]

In addition, if there had been a confirmation by a second Fox in lane Red 1, there should have been another NBC report. In this case, however, no record exists of a second report of the presence or absence of any chemical warfare agents in lane Red 1. The I MEF NBC officer, who was in the best position to know of all NBC events in the 1st and 2d MARDIVs stated, "During my whole time over there I never knew of any confirmed NBC-1 report."[274] The 2d MARDIV NBC platoon commander (who worked for the division NBC officer) stated that as far as he knew, a second Fox was not dispatched to confirm the 1/6 Fox readings in lane Red 1. He added that it was possible that the author of the 2d Marine Division monograph may have confused the breaching incident with March 12, 1991, Fox operations at the cement factory.[275] In that case, a second Fox went to the area to perform additional tests.

B.  Other 2d Marine Division Fox Operations

In a March 1991 interview, the 2d MARDIV NBC platoon commander noted that the 2d MARDIV's Headquarters Battalion Fox and the 8th Marine Regiment Fox picked up readings of nerve agents when they passed through the breach lanes on the second and third days of the ground war.[276] We contacted personnel from the 2d MARDIV Fox crews to inquire about any possible Fox detections during minefield breaching operations.

Three of the four Foxes assigned to the 2d MARDIV were assigned to maneuver units, such as the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. The Fox assigned to 2d MARDIV headquarters was assigned general support,[277] and passed through the minefield breaches with the Division command post on day three (February 26, 1991) of the ground war. The Fox commander recalled that his Fox detected what he described as light readings while breaching, but at levels insufficient to cause the MM-1 to alarm for agent presence.[278] The MM-1 operator believed that the Fox alarmed for minute quantities of nerve agent at the second minefield, not the first minefield where the 1/6 Fox alert occurred two days earlier. He added that his unit went to MOPP-3 or MOPP-4 for a short time.[279] The division NBC platoon commander, on the other hand, stated that the division headquarters unit did not increase MOPP level while passing through the minefields.[280] The 2d MARDIV command chronology does not mention any chemical warfare agent detection in the breach lanes on those days.[281]

The 8th Marine Regiment command chronology notes that at 2:00 PM on February 26, 1991, the Fox "picked up traces of chemical agents."[282] Despite this log entry and the NBC platoon commander's recollection that the 8th Marine Regiment Fox detected nerve agents when it passed through the minefields in either breaching lanes Green 5 or 6[283] (farthest away from lane Red 1), the 8th Marine Regiment Fox commander stated that his Fox did not detect chemical warfare agents during breaching operations.[284] The MM-1 operator, however, recalled that his MM-1 might have detected phosgene (see the glossary) during breaching operations.[285]

The Fox assigned to support the Army's Tiger Brigade traveled with the tactical operations center and breached via lane Green 5 on February 24th. According to the commander and MM-1 operator, this Fox did not detect any chemical warfare agents in that breaching lane.[286] The brigade's chemical officer confirmed that he did not recall anyone advising him of any Fox detections.[287] However, the 1/6 Fox commander told us that according to the Tiger Brigade Fox driver, this Fox traveled through all of the breaching lanes.[288] The Tiger Brigade Fox driver told us his Fox alerted to a chemical warfare agent during breaching operations, but could provide no additional details.[289] His statement contradicts those of the Tiger Brigade Fox commander and MM-1 operator.[290]

Therefore, despite the 2d MARDIV NBC platoon commander’s recollection that other 2d MARDIV Foxes detected the possible presence of chemical warfare agents, we found no corroborating evidence. No other Fox produced MM-1 tapes, and we are unaware of reports of any other chemical warfare agent injuries.

C.   Report of Decontamination Operations in the 2d Marine Division

During the course of this investigation, a veteran reported that chemical warfare agent decontamination was performed on vehicles and personnel of the 8th Tank Battalion. This veteran served as an M60A1 main gun loader with Company C, 8th Tank Battalion. He stated that after going through the breach, and spending upwards of eight hours in MOPP-4, a US Army unit decontaminated his unit.[291]

During the breaching operations, elements of the 8th Tank Battalion supported Marine infantry formations in the 2d MARDIV. Company C of the 8th Tank Battalion supported the 1/6. A platoon consisting of approximately four M60A1 main battle tanks supported each of the three rifle companies from the 1/6.[292]

Decontamination is a time-consuming, resource-intensive process, requiring spraying large amounts of water on vehicles with a high-pressure delivery system known as the M-17 lightweight decontamination system,[293] commonly known as a Sanator™ (Figure 19). Personnel would also be expected to perform personal decontamination and MOPP gear exchange (exchanging contaminated or decontaminated protective garments for non-contaminated protective clothing). No one else interviewed, other than the main gun loader, recalls this incident. Two of the three platoon leaders from Company C, the company commander, and the 8th Tank Battalion commanding officer do not recall any decontamination of vehicles or personnel from his unit.[294] A Marine staff non-commissioned officer with Company C, who would have been called upon to support any decontamination mission said his unit did not decontaminate.[295] After hostilities ceased, however, some Marines used Sanators™ for personal hygiene (as showers).[296] In addition, Army units used Sanators™ to clean vehicles of the residue deposited on them by the oil well fires.[297] However, we could find no evidence that Marines used Sanators™ for chemical warfare agent decontamination in the 2d MARDIV area of responsibility during the war.

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Figure 19.  Soldiers in training use a SanatorTM to decontaminate a vehicle

D.   Report of Chemical Warfare Agent Contamination on 2d Marine Division Vehicles

During the breaching operations in lanes Red 1 and 2, the 2d Battalion of the 12th Marine Regiment (2/12) served as the 6th Marines direct support artillery battalion. At 3:30 PM on the first day of the ground war (February 24, 1991), the 2d Battalion of the 10th Marine Regiment (2/10) took over the direct support artillery mission of the 6th Marines. The 2/12 passed through the minefields using both lanes Red 1 and 2. This took approximately an hour and was done in MOPP-2.[298]

After passing through both minefields, the NBC NCO reported to the 2/12 leadership that he had found a small quantity of chemical warfare agent on one or several of the vehicles. The commanding officer and the operations officer of the 2/12 recalled this contamination report.[299] However, it is unknown what type of detector the NBC NCO used and what actions were taken in response. It does not appear that the 2/12 performed any decontamination; the Marine in charge of the 1/6 decontamination team stated that, to his knowledge, no vehicles required decontamination.[300] Attempts to locate the 2/12 NBC NCO have so far been unsuccessful.

E.  Report of a Possible Chemical Attack

A draft study done at the request of the assistant to the secretary of defense for intelligence oversight contained a chapter that discussed reports of Iraq’s chemical weapons use. The declassified version of the chapter discussed aspects of classified messages (dated February 24, 1991) available to US forces on the first day of the ground war. The report noted one particular message, portions of which have since been declassified, suggesting that the message might be a report of Iraq’s chemical warfare agent use:

… on 24 February an unidentified, non-Iraqi unit reported the end of a chemical attack. There is no further evidence to suggest that a chemical attack actually occurred prior to this time. The identity and nationality of the unit which issued the report cannot be determined.[301]

In their report, "Gulf War Illnesses; Procedural and Reporting Improvements Are Needed in DOD’s Investigative Processes," the General Accounting Office (GAO) stated that a classified document (referring to the message) in the Office of the Special Assistant's files "could support the possibility of an Iraqi chemical attack." The GAO also suggested that the document, "when combined with the other information we have cited … provides additional cause for further investigation by [the Office of the Special Assistant], regardless of its potential for association with this [the Marine breaching] case."[302]

We sought additional information regarding the document referred to by the GAO from the appropriate intelligence agency. The response, however, provided no additional information that might further clarify the contents of this document.[303] There is little in the document that links it to breaching operations, except that it was received on the same day. The document, originated hours after the reported lane Red 1 minefield breaching incident, contains no location, mentions no units, and implicates no Iraq’s forces in this attack. The document states that there is "no further evidence to suggest that a chemical attack actually occurred…."[304] We, therefore, do not believe that the document is related to the minefield breaching incident in lane Red 1.

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