5. Possible Sources of a Chemical Warfare Agent in Breaching Lane Red 1
a. Chemical Mines
The 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment logs attributed the Fox MM-1 alert in lane Red 1 to a chemical mine. Unit chronologies from the 1/6 note, "During the breach of the first minefield B Company encountered a chemical mine and went to MOPP IV." In a February 1997 interview with investigators, the 1/6 Fox commander stated that because there were both nerve and blister chemical warfare agent alerts (and no in-coming artillery fire or aerial bombardment), he deduced that the agents were released by two land mines detonated by the line charges, and he reported it that way in his NBC-4 report. He repeated that belief in his testimony to the Presidential Advisory Committee, in May 1997.
At the time, I was confident that there was at least two chemical mines in the minefield. Logically speaking, you would not mix all three of those chemicals [lewisite, mustard, and sarin] into one mine. I was confident and I still am confident that there was at least two chemical mines that were out there.
The 1/6 operations officer, who was observing vehicle movement through the breach from a position between lanes Red 1 and 2, recalled that at the time, he believed the source of any possible contamination was from chemical mines. The 1/6 command chronology reflected that belief:
We never received the "promised" chemical attack. B Co[mpany], however, did hit a chemical mine while breaching the first minefield in Red 1, requiring adoption of MOPP level IV.
Additionally, intelligence information indicated that Iraq possibly had chemical mines in their chemical weapons inventory.
The Fox commander said that his vehicle itself did not hit a mine; he believed that the line charges set off the chemical mines. According to him, there were no explosions or artillery attack, except for the line charge explosions set off by the combat engineers at the start of the breaching operations.
Another report of a possible chemical mine came from the 2d Assault Amphibian Battalion command chronology that stated one of its units vehicles hit two anti-tank mines and a chemical mine. The unit's Company B commander confirmed that he lost an assault amphibian vehicle (AAV) when it ran over a land mine, but did not believe it was a chemical mine and does not remember how or why the entry was made in the command chronology. This incident occurred in lane Red 1, in the second Iraqi minefield, four to five kilometers from the incident in the first minefield. The disabled AAV temporarily blocked the breaching lane. The commander and personnel in his vehicle dismounted and walked out of the minefield in MOPP-2, with no effects that would indicate exposure to chemical warfare agents.
Operational reports and interviews with explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts disclosed that they found no chemical mines in Kuwait. In fact, no chemical mines have been recovered from this or any other minefield of the war. One EOD expert, who cleared minefields in Kuwait both during the war and after the war as a contractor for the Kuwaiti government reported that he never encountered a chemical mine and knew of no chemical mines being found in this area of operations. The I MEF engineer officer stated that Marine engineers never found chemical mines or munitions in the breaching lanes or anywhere else in Kuwaiteven though they were specifically looking for these types of munitions. Tab F lists the types of mines the Marines found. One of the companies that cleared munitions and unexploded ordnance from the US sector of the Kuwait Theater of operations was CMS, Inc. The president of the CMS division responsible for these efforts stated that in the three years that they cleared munitions, they never found any chemical mines in Kuwait. They also met regularly with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense and contractors clearing other areas of the Kuwait Theatre of operations. No one in any of those meetings reported discovering a chemical mine in Kuwait .
US Army and US intelligence community experts on foreign mines spent considerable time after the war cataloging Iraqs mine capabilities. In total, post-war mine-clearing operations cleared over 3.5 million mines, and no chemical mines were ever encountered. Iraq has neither turned over any chemical mines for destruction nor declared having any chemical mines in its inventory to the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq. In addition, UNSCOM officials have stated that they found no chemical mines in the Iraqi inventory. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, although there have been allegations that Coalition troops were exposed to chemical warfare agents from land mines filled with chemical warfare agents, it is very unlikely these were in Iraqs chemical weapons inventory.
The 1/6 Fox commander thought his alerts were triggered by chemical land mines. Explaining why he filed an NBC-4 report instead of an NBC-1 report, he told us, "if we found something in the minefield, wed deliver an NBC-4 report. If we found something coming from an artillery or a mortar type attack, wed just immediately go with an NBC-1 report like is standard." In testimony before the Presidential Advisory Committee, he hypothesized,
[I]f there were no chemical mines in the mine field, the only other source that I could think of would be artillery or mortars that came in on the breach, which I did not personally witness, but I could hear over the radio that we were taking artillery and mortars during the first breach. And if that wasnt the caseand this is all speculation nowif that was not the case, then obviously we just happened to roll over the top of chemical [warfare] agents that had been spilled and had been sitting out there for six months. But I would discount that highly due to the fact that we spiked across the spectrum, and even a persistent agent sitting out there in those conditions for six months would dissipate greatly.
A 6th Marine Regiment document shows the chronology of events as they unfolded on the morning of February 24, 1991. At 6:07 AM, the 1/6 fired line charges across the first minefield in lanes Red 1 and Red 2. At 6:15 AM, the document reflects that the 1/6 received incoming fire from 82mm mortars and artillery. The log entry does not mention the caliber of artillery or specify where the incoming enemy fire landed, i.e., whether Company B, 1/6 (breaching lane Red 1) or Company C, 1/6 (breaching lane Red 2), received it.
The time of this log entry (6:15 AM) is significant, since it occurred approximately seven minutes before the first Fox alert (6:22 AM). The location of the impact of the incoming fire is also important. If the incoming artillery rounds contained chemical warfare agents and landed in the immediate vicinity of the breaching lane, Marines in the area would have been affected.
According to several witnesses, there was no incoming artillery in the immediate vicinity of lane Red 1 or near the Fox. The infantry company commander and the AAV 1st platoon commander were both in the command and control AAV, which passed through lane Red 1 approximately 20 meters ahead of the Fox. Both stated that there was no incoming enemy artillery fire at the time of the first breach. In addition, all three AAV section leaders, among the first to pass through the breaching lane, noted the lack of Iraqi artillery fire in the first minefield. The 1/6 operations officer recalled that there was no incoming artillery fire at the time of the first breach. He was quite emphatic in his belief that any suspected chemical warfare agent contamination in lane Red 1 came from chemical mines. He suggested that the log entry at 6:15 AM was incorrectly logged and the artillery attack occurred later, between the first and second minefields.
However, two Marines recalled incoming artillery fire before breaching the first minefield. The platoon sergeant of the assault battalions first platoon manned the machine gun position in his platoons last vehicle. He recalled that while waiting for the engineers to breach the minefield, he observed mortar fire and artillery rounds. He distinctly remembered two artillery rounds (there may have been as many as five) that landed 200 to 300 meters behind and to the right of his position. He described the rounds as other than high explosive, noting that they created white smoke. On the other hand, the driver of his vehicle did not recall any incoming artillery or mortar fire at the first minefield but noted that his unit was under significant artillery and mortar fire at the second minefield.
The NBC decontamination and chemical casualty team for the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment was positioned approximately 100 meters behind the leading edge of the minefield, and in between lanes Red 1 and 2. The staff non-commissioned officer in charge recalled that after they completed setting up, he witnessed two rounds of incoming artillery fire, which appeared to be high explosive. The rounds impacted approximately 100 to 200 meters behind his furthest vehicle, far enough away that his team did not receive any fragmentation or casualties from the rounds. He recalled that approximately 10 to 15 minutes later, the Fox sounded the gas alert over the radio network. Members of his team conducted M256 chemical warfare agent detection kit tests to determine if there was any chemical warfare agent contamination in the immediate area; the test results were negative.
Figure 14 attempts to visually represent specific information obtained through interviews with Marines who participated in breaching operations in lane Red 1. In particular, it shows the approximate locations of the two witnesses who remembered incoming artillery fire, and the approximate location of the artillery impact area, based on those witnesses estimates of direction and distance from their positions. The positions and spacing between the vehicles, wind direction, and breach depth also are based on estimates derived from several witnesses interview data. Figures 15 and 16, which follow, are based on similar interview data.
Figure 14. Approximate location of incoming artillery's impact area and the two witnesses.
6. Possible Chemical Warfare Agent Injuries
The 2d Marine Division Monograph states that the chemical warfare agent in lane Red 1 was "sufficiently strong to cause blistering on the exposed arms of two AAV crewmen." This has been a point of particular interest and investigation. We pursued multiple leads in an effort to identify any additional Marines, particularly any with blistered arms, who might have been injured as a result of chemical warfare agent exposure. We are aware of only one Marine who claims to have been injured by chemical warfare agents during breaching operations. However, the names of two other Marines surfaced during interviews of 2d MARDIV personnel. A fourth possible chemical warfare agent-related injury, possibly related to the breaching operations, surfaced in another investigation. What we learned follows.
a. Possible Chemical Warfare Agent Injury to an AAV Crewman
After the Gulf War cease-fire, an assault amphibian vehicle platoon commander recommended a Purple Heart for one of his Marines. This Marine sergeant was a section leader in the first platoon, Company B, 1st Armored Assault Battalion, and rode in the machine gunner's position in his vehicle. In his written statement, the sergeant reported that immediately after the breaching line-charges were fired, he heard "gas" reported over the tactical radio network. He donned his mask but did not put on his gloves until he closed the vehicle hatches, and in doing so, exposed his ungloved hands to the outside air. He reported that he immediately felt a strong burning sensation and blisters began forming. His vehicle had not yet entered the minefield breaching lane when he heard the Fox report gas. The sergeant recalled that the Fox was at least 50 meters ahead and to his right when the warning was sounded (Figure 15). He indicated that his vehicle was about tenth in line to pass through the breach, with 50 meters separation between vehicles; the Fox was fifth. The 1/6 company commander stated that the cleared path through the first minefield was only about 70 meters long.
Figure 15. Compiled from Marine witnesses' recollections, this graphic depicts the approximate location of the sergeant's AAV at the time of the Fox vehicle alert in Lane Red 1.
When the sergeant felt the burning sensation on the back of his right hand, he removed the glove, decontaminated the back of his hand with materials from his M258 decontamination kit, and put the glove back on. Within approximately 30 minutes, just before his unit arrived at the second minefield, they were informed that they could return to MOPP-2, at which time he noticed small pencil eraser-sized blisters on both hands. Again, he decontaminated. The sergeant stated that the Fox crew checked his hand later that day, confirmed it was a blister agent, and noted had the agent been lewisite, "it would have been a lot worse" for him. The Fox commander remembers looking at the mans hands, seeing that they were red (but without blisters), and commenting that if it were a chemical warfare agent reaction, it must have been from a minute quantity. He did not interpret the condition as a chemical warfare agent injury, based on his quick viewing. He said, "I wouldnt even really call it an injury as much as the fact that it was still red, irritated, and he had been scratching it."
Other Marines observations differed. His platoon sergeant saw his hands a day or so after the event and remembers only rednessno blisters. The company commander remembers meeting the sergeant several days after the event and seeing only one hand, the back of which was reddish with three pea-sized blisters. Another witness, present at the battalion aid station about 12 hours after the event, stated that he saw what might have been something like a burn on the back of the sergeant's right hand. There were no blistersjust reddening, complicated by black charcoal powder residue from the lining of the MOPP suit. The red area was about the size of a silver dollar and it appeared to have been scratched. However, the sergeant's platoon commander stated that at the end of the first day (February 24, 1991) he saw blisters on the sergeant's left hand. A corpsman assigned to the sergeant's unit saw him the next morning. He stated that the sergeant's hands were bandaged, but a week later he saw what might have been signs of blisters. Although the observations differ, they seem to agree that the possible injured area was limited to small areas on the back of one or both hands. The sergeant wore no gloves at the time of the possible exposure, but apparently no blisters were on the palms of his hands, fingers, or between the fingers.
The sergeant visited the battalion aid station the evening of the breaching operations. One witness remembers the corpsmen and doctors discussing the possibility that a chemical warfare agent caused the injury. A corpsman who examined the sergeant's hand stated that he saw what might have been a blister the size of a quarter, but looked more like a burn. The medical officer, one of two doctors assigned to the battalion aid station, who examined the sergeant remembers him well as the only Marine who complained to him of any kind of chemical warfare agent injury, but he doubted chemical warfare agents injured the hand. His official evaluation was more explicit: "I found no blistering. I returned the [sergeant] to full duty without any treatment necessary ."
Approximately four days later, a Marine approached the 1/6 NBC officer and claimed to have been injured by chemical warfare agents. The NBC officer asked a battalion medical officer to accompany him to see this Marine, and after examining the Marine's hand, the NBC officer assessed that whatever the cause, the injury was not the result of a chemical warfare agent. He stated,
With the symptoms that blister agents present themselves, especially after four days of exposure, I determined myself that it was not a blister agent. Whether or not something dripped on his hand, it was apparent that something might have dripped on his hand, because he had some kind of a rash There were no blisters apparent or deadening of the skin. The M.O. [medical officer] had also concurred with that fact that he believed himself that it was not any type of a chemical reaction to the skin as far as a blister agent was concerned; that it could have been some kind of a petrochemical, diesel, or something like that might have came through and dripped on his hand and caused a reaction of some sort I don't think myself that it was a chemical [warfare] agent reaction. It could have been a petrochemical reaction of some sort; but a chemical [warfare] agent reaction, I personally don't think that that's the case.
We have been unable to identify the medical officer to whom the 1/6 NBC officer referred. In an interview, the 1/6 Fox commander suggested that this medical officer might have been the 2d MARDIV surgeon. Neither battalion aid station doctor recalled examining the sergeant at that time, and the 2d MARDIV surgeon knew of no chemical warfare agent casualties during the war.
Two weeks after the cease fire, an NBC officer with the I MEF battle assessment team interviewed the sergeant and observed two blisters on the injured hand, which the officer described as "classic mustard/lewisite blister agent wound photos sergeant [redacted] was clearly not severely wounded and was fully capable of performing assigned missions ." However, there is some confusion as to whether the blisters were present when the I MEF officer interviewed the sergeant. The sergeant stated in an interview that by the time he saw the 1/6 battalion aid station doctor the evening of the breaching operations (February 24, 1991), the blisters were gone; they were black scabs. When asked about the presence of blisters when he saw the I MEF battle assessment team NBC officer, the sergeant could not recall if the blisters were healed. The sergeants platoon commander stated that the blisters were healed by day three (February 26th). The commanding officer of the assault amphibian battalion, who convened a preliminary Purple Heart investigation, concluded that a medical officer did not consider the sergeant injured and in need of treatment by a medical doctor. The sergeants injuries, therefore, were not appropriate for a Purple Heart award.
Analysis of the sergeant's injury must focus on examining the symptoms that should have been caused by the three chemical warfare agents (lewisite, HQ mustard, and sarin) to which the MM-1 alerted. We consulted a medical expert (a physician) in chemical warfare agent injuries. The physician examined the available evidence from a medical perspective to assess if the sergeant was exposed to chemical warfare agents.
Although all Marines in the sergeants vehicle were in MOPP-2 before the warning, no one else reported any symptoms. Immediate pain is consistent with exposure to the blister agent lewisite, but not with the blister agent HQ mustard. According to the physician's report, a mild dose exposure to lewisite or mustard results in eye and airway irritation, a burning sensation in exposed skin, followed by erythema (redness of the skin), tissue necrosis (death), and blisters. While the immediate pain experienced by this Marine is consistent with exposure to lewisite, neither lewisite nor HQ mustard produces immediate blisters. The report stated,
Even Lewisite does not cause blisters within minutes. It takes hours for the blisters to occur and even longer for mustard blisters to appear. The burning of the exposed skin occurs almost immediately with Lewisite. The lack of any of these symptoms to the exposed eyes, airways, and skin or to the other Marines makes the potential of exposure unlikely.
Lewisite exposure is more unlikely because UNSCOM did not list lewisite as part of Iraqs inventory, and no other available evidence suggests that Iraq had lewisite in its arsenal.
G-series nerve agents, (e.g., sarin) work by inhibiting the proper functioning of enzymes needed to transmit nerve impulses throughout the body. These agents affect the functions of all bodily systems, including the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and muscles. People exposed to nerve agents may display the following symptoms: difficulty in breathing, drooling and excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, cramps, loss of bladder/bowel control, twitching, jerking, staggering, headache, confusion, drowsiness, coma, convulsion, and ultimately death. In addition to the irritation to his hands, the sergeant testified that he also experienced nausea and a severe headache. After examining the relevant testimony, the physician made this assessment about the possibility of the sergeants exposure to sarin (GB).
Of all the potential agents, if GB [sarin] had been in a detonated mine, the GB would have been partially volatilized. This agent would have caused symptoms in at least some of the unprotected Marines driving through the breach in MOPP 2, before the alert was given. There would have been noticeable GB symptoms, at least pinpoint pupils, in some of the unprotected Marines. The pinpoint pupils and other noticeable GB symptoms would have lasted long enough for the exposed Marines to have complained and had the symptoms documented by others, including medical personnel . I doubt there was GB exposure, due to the fact that there were no symptoms of exposure such as pinpoint pupils, excessive tearing, rhinorrhea, and excessive bronchosecretions, with difficulty breathing . None of these symptoms were present in [the sergeant] or any other personnel. Marines in front of [the sergeants] vehicle would have suffered greater exposure since they were at MOPP-2 and not wearing their masks before the "gas" alert was given. They were all unaffected.
The physician stated that something caused a reaction on the sergeant's hands, but it "was more than likely caused by other irritant substances." One possible cause is the M258A1 decontamination kit, which the sergeant used immediately after he thought that he had been exposed to chemical warfare agents. The M258A1 kit contains chemicals to neutralize chemical warfare agents and cleanse affected skin. According to the Department of Defense material safety data sheet for this kit, the use of packet number one (used first after suspected exposure) may cause these following effects:
Irritating to eyes, mucous membranes, respiratory tract and/or skin. May cause central nervous system effects. May cause digestive disturbances, nervous disorders, skin eruptions [blisters or rash]. Corrosive to body tissues.
A US Army NBC decontamination field manual states that packet number one can "burn" skin.
The physician concluded that it is extremely unlikely that the injury to the sergeant's hands was due to chemical warfare agent exposure. He based his opinion on his medical experience with chemical warfare agent exposures, the sergeants accounts of his symptoms, and the findings of the 1/6 battalion aid station doctor, corpsmen, and other witnesses. Summing up, the physician stated, "Classic symptoms [of chemical warfare agent exposure] were not noted in [the sergeant] or other Marines in the potentially hazardous area."
b. Possible Chemical Warfare Agent Injury to a Rifleman (lance corporal)
While investigating the injury to the assault amphibian vehicle sergeant, we learned of a possible chemical warfare agent injury to a 1/6 rifleman during the alert in lane Red 1. This lance corporal was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. The AAV in which he rode passed through the possibly contaminated breaching lane at least two vehicles ahead of the Fox (Figure 16). By the time the alert for "gas" was sounded, his vehicle had exited the lane, while the vehicle that carried the AAV sergeant had not yet entered the lane. When the call for "gas" came over the radio, personnel in the lance corporals vehicle were in MOPP-2, and he was seated inside the vehicle. According to the vehicles corpsman, no one in this vehicle exhibited any symptoms consistent with exposure to chemical warfare agents. It was too crowded to get up and move around, but once masked (MOPP-4), everyone gave him the thumbs-up, indicating that all was well.
Figure 16. Compiled from Marine witnesses' recollections, this graphic depicts the approximate location of the lance corporal's AAV at the time of the Fox vehicle alert in lane Red 1.
A squad leader from another platoon recalled that some time towards the end of the first day of combat, the lance corporal had acquired what the squad leader first described as a dime-sized blister. However, this squad leader clarified that he never saw a blister on his cheek; he described what he saw as a cherry-colored mark on the lance corporals cheek.
The lance corporal approached his platoon corpsman some time in the late morning or mid-afternoon, after the battalion had completed breaching the second minefield, and asked the corpsman to examine his chin. The corpsman described the affected area as a little rash with pustules, which looked as if it had been dry-shaven. The lance corporal thought that chemical warfare agents were the cause, but the corpsman did not think so. Nonetheless, the corpsman instructed the corporal to decontaminate the area with his M258A1 decontamination kit. The lance corporal did not want to go to the battalion aid station at that time. A day or two later, the corpsman saw the corporal again; the corporal said he was fine.
Other Marines who saw the lance corporal's chin had similar observations. A corporal in the same vehicle saw the lance corporal roughly six hours after the lane Red 1 incident. He stated that the lance corporals face was not actually blistered, but reddish and irritated. He wondered whether the heat and humidity inside the vehicle caused the condition. The Fox commander recalled that the lance corporal approached him, scratching the affected area, concerned that something had dripped on his cheek. In the Fox commander's opinion,
It looked like maybe it had some acne starting to build up, but that was, in my opinion, basically due to, you know, just the oil and dirt that was out in the area. So there may have been some acne up there, but I didn't see any of the reddening or blisters forming, and this was after the 24-hour mark. So I discounted, you know, an actual blister agent that he would have been exposed to.
The platoon sergeant described the affected area as a combined blister and rash. He recalled that the platoon corpsman took the lance corporal to the Fox commander, but the sergeant did not think the lance corporal went to the battalion aid station.
The same experienced physician who assessed the condition of the AAV sergeant also commented on the lance corporal's condition:
There were many other potential irritants in the environment that could have caused the irritation. This Marine would have sought care quickly if the pain had been from mustard or Lewisite. In addition, his lack of symptoms elsewhere, especially his eyes and airways, would lead one to believe that none of the suspected agents, GB [sarin]; mustard; or Lewisite; were involved.
We attempted to contact the lance corporal on numerous occasions to discuss his possible injury. Despite telephone messages and a letter requesting that he contact us, the lance corporal did not reply.
c. Possible Chemical Warfare Agent Injury to a Rifleman (sergeant)
During this investigation, we uncovered a third possible chemical warfare agent injury to a Marine with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, which may have occurred during breaching operations. A non-commissioned officer (NCO) from the 2d platoon, Company B, 1/6, identified a Marine sergeant in his platoon who he thought had a blister on his face, which was noticed immediately after breaching operations. The NCO did not think it was a chemical warfare agent exposure injury, and stated that a corpsman looked at it and treated it as a burn or abrasion, not a chemical warfare agent injury. The NCO concluded that the sergeant had an irritation, possibly caused by his protective (gas) mask.
When interviewed, the sergeant did not recall this incident, but did recall a small wound, which had nothing to do with chemical warfare agents, on the small finger of his right hand. It is possible that the NCO who reported the sergeants possible injury misidentified the sergeant, confusing him with the lance corporal who experienced the irritation on his chin.
d. Possible Chemical Warfare Agent Injury to a Combat Engineer
During a related inquiry, we discovered a fourth possible chemical warfare agent injury in the 2d MARDIV, though not in the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. A doctor from the 2d Medical Battalion stated that he had seen, but not treated, what was thought to be a chemical warfare agent casualty during the ground war. As the doctor recalled, a Marine staff sergeant developed redness on his hands and around the edges of his face as he cleared the minefield with a bulldozer. The doctor observed the staff sergeant approximately 24 hours after the initial incident; there were no noticeable blisters or other symptoms of chemical warfare agent exposure. When interviewed, this doctor believed that the Marine was a member of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion (8th ESB) or possibly the 2d Combat Engineer Battalion (2d CEB). The 2d Medical Battalion, the 8th ESB, and the 2d CEB command chronologies do not mention any chemical warfare agent casualties. Both of these engineer units supported the breaching and main supply route operations within the 2d MARDIV's operations area. Interviews with the I MEF chief engineer, the 2d CEB executive officer, and the 8th ESB commanding officer established that these units suffered very few casualties (fewer than 10) during the war, and none could be ascribed to chemical warfare agent exposures.
According to the I MEF engineer, only one bulldozer hit a mine, which was clearly a high-explosive mine (not a chemical mine). He stated that the driver was hospitalized for resulting symptoms, such as ringing in his ears and being shaken up. Attempts to identify the combat engineer and the doctor who treated him have been unsuccessful.
e. Possible Chemical Warfare Agent InjuriesAdditional Information
The 2d MARDIV NBC officer should have been one of the first people to become aware of any NBC injuries. In his capacity as NBC officer, he had no first-hand knowledge of any injuries. In an interview he stated that he was unaware of any injuries, medical reports, or official statements regarding any 2d MARDIV chemical warfare incidents, and no injuries were reported up to the division level. He did have second-hand knowledge of a possible injury, unrelated to breaching operations, involving another Marine. We have identified that Marine and are investigating this possible injury separately. Furthermore, the 2d MARDIV NBC officer stated that every servicemember was aware that Iraq might use chemical weapons and, therefore, was trained how to respond, continue fighting, and report. Any suspected chemical warfare agent injuries therefore should have surfaced.
Personnel records of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, which include attached units, show only two Marines wounded in action from noon on February 24th to noon on February 25th, 1991both gunshot wounds. There were no chemical injuries or deaths in the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Shield or Desert Storm. The 6th Marine Regiment casualty records show that of ten injuries noted on February 24, 1991, chemical warfare agents caused none.
Interviews of 2d MARDIV medical personnel yielded similar results. The division surgeon, the senior medical officer for the division, would have been notified had there been any suspected chemical warfare agent casualties, yet he does not remember any reports of chemical warfare agent casualties. The 6th Marine regimental surgeon told us that he heard rumors that the 1/6 had chemical warfare agent-like casualties, but he never saw any agent-related injuries, nor was he informed of any by either of the two 1/6 battalion aid station doctors. Both of the battalion aid station doctors should have been aware of any chemical warfare agent casualties, but neither knew of any. One of the doctors recalled that the aid station treated only three casualties during the wartwo Marines with gunshot wounds and an enemy prisoner of war. He noted that the other doctor who examined the injured AAV sergeant did not inform him of any chemical warfare agent-related casualties.
Regarding any chemical warfare agent casualties, the 1/6 commanding officer stated
There were no indications from Marines that the [lane Red 1] alert was in fact positive. I aggressively pursued any potential medical problem associated with the attack and saw absolutely no evidence of any. I feel confident that any chemical [warfare agent] attack in our sector would have surfaced. I can categorically state that no one came forward and stated/claimed any evidence of medical problems resulting from chemical and/or biological weapons.
7. Assessment of the Presence of Chemical Warfare Agents in Breaching Lane Red 1
Pre-war briefings to 2d Marine Division personnel warned them to expect an Iraqi chemical attack and chemical mines. Their expectations appeared to be realized when the Fox crew assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment alerted the Marines in breaching lane Red 1 to the possible presence of three chemical warfare agents. Personnel donned full chemical protection equipment in response. These alerts were well documented and reported throughout the theater, and certainly suggest the presence of these suspected chemical warfare agents. Contemporaneous logs noted the reports of chemical warfare agent presence; 6th Marine logs identified the suspected agents by name, and also contained an entry that an assault amphibian vehicle (AAV) hit a chemical mine in lane Red 1. The 2d Marine Division Monograph noted that a blister agent injured two AAV crewmen in lane Red 1. One AAV crewman claimed that he was exposed to and injured by chemical warfare agents while waiting to enter lane Red 1. Additional evidence indicating the possible presence of chemical warfare agents in lane Red 1 includes a report of M9 tape changing color, and a low-level chemical agent monitor alert for possible nerve agent vapor. As a result, many Marines who breached the minefields through lane Red 1 were convinced of the presence of chemical warfare agents in the breaching lane.
A review of individual reports raises doubts concerning the presence of chemical warfare agents. The MM-1 alerts for the possible presence of sarin, mustard, and lewisite were interspersed with alerts for "Fat, Oil, Wax," which, according to MM-1 experts, indicates the presence of hydrocarbon interferents. MM-1 experts stated that the procedures used by the crew were insufficient to confirm the presence of chemical warfare agents, and they noted that in the mode in which the MM-1 was operating, chemical warfare agent injuries to unprotected personnel would have occurred before the MM-1 would have alerted to chemical warfare agent vapor. However, with the exception of the reports about the AAV crewman, we found no evidence of any exposure injuries.
Expert analyses of the MM-1 tape by three agencies do not completely rule out the possibility of chemical warfare agent presence. However, these MM-1 experts stated that the alerts shown on the MM-1 tape were most likely false alarms. They suggested that battlefield interferents caused these false positives. Since the Marines were moving fast, the Fox could not stop to search for the source of the alerts, to perform a proper spectrum analysis, or to take a sample of the suspected contamination. Therefore, no conclusive physical evidence of the suspected chemical warfare agents exists. The only evidence available regarding the alerts is the MM-1 tape, which had no listing of ions detected in the spectrum, and the analyses of these tapes by the MM-1 mass spectrometry experts.
As for the three suspected chemical warfare agents, the MM-1 alert for lewisite is highly questionable because intelligence and UNSCOM information indicates that Iraq did not have lewisite in its chemical warfare agent inventory. MM-1 experts stated that it was highly unlikely that the MM-1 detected HQ mustard in the absence of an alert to HD (distilled mustard), and intelligence information indicates that Iraq did not produce HQ mustard. Finally, although the MM-1 alert for sarin was possible because Iraq had sarin, there were no other indications that sarin was present (e.g., no delivery means122mm rockets or Scud missiles, etc.)
A number of witnesses made statements that corroborate what the log entries reflectchemical mines as the probable source of agent presence. However, we have ruled out chemical mines as a source, based on testimony from explosive ordnance disposal and mine experts who testified that during post-war clean-up efforts, no chemical mines were uncovered among the 3.5 million mines found in Kuwait. UNSCOM found no evidence that Iraq possessed chemical mines. The Central Intelligence Agency came to the same conclusion.
We ruled out artillery and rocket fire as probable sources of agent presence in breaching lane Red 1 based on testimony from multiple witnesses. Although two Marines recalled incoming Iraqi artillery and mortar before the Marines breached the first minefield, many others stated that Marines breaching lane Red 1 were not under artillery or mortar attack at the time of the MM-1 alert. The artillery described by the two witnesses impacted far from and downwind of the Fox and the Marines breaching lane Red 1, and there is no evidence to indicate that these artillery rounds contained chemical warfare agents.
Although it is possible that the low-level CAM reading for possible nerve agent vapor and the instance of M9 detection tape changing colors indicate the possible presence of chemical warfare agents, it is not likely. Experts stated that if M9 tape contacted a liquid chemical warfare agent, like mustard, which is a persistent agent, the CAM should have detected it on the Fox and other vehicles that were checked. However, the CAM detected nothing. Both M9 tape and the CAM are subject to interferents that can cause false positives, and these reports remain uncorroborated by other evidence. Therefore, when making an assessment we consider other evidence, such as the Fox tape analyses and information of Iraqs chemical warfare arsenal more compelling than uncorroborated indications of agent presence.
We also consider evidence of chemical warfare agent injuries to be strong evidence in assessing the presence of chemical warfare agents. In this case, only one Marine claimed to have been injured by chemical warfare agents. Descriptions of his possible injury are contradictory, and therefore, we consulted a physician with expertise in chemical warfare agent injuries. According to this medical expert, the crewmans self-reported symptoms and the onset of those symptoms are inconsistent with those expected of chemical warfare agent exposure. The expert stated that it is extremely unlikely that chemical warfare agent exposure was the cause of the crewmans symptoms. This expert and MM-1 experts stated that, in the presence of the suspected chemical warfare agents, many more unprotected, exposed personnel would have exhibited exposure symptoms and become casualties or fatalities. In the course of this investigation, we learned of three additional possible chemical warfare agent injuries, but none proved to be caused by chemical warfare agent exposure. Other than the possible injuries examined in this narrative, we are unaware of any chemical warfare agent exposure injuries to Marines who breached the minefields through lane Red 1.
Although some evidence is contradictory, which precludes a definite assessment, much of the evidence is consistent and corroborative. There is an absence of reported symptoms or injuries consistent with exposure to the suspected chemical warfare agents, according to medical opinions. We cannot identify a chemical warfare agent source (i.e., a delivery mechanismno mines, no incoming artillery). Two agents reported (HQ and lewisite) were not in Iraqs inventory. An unlikely combination of agents, known interferents to the chemical warfare agent detectors in the area of the MM-1 alerts, and expert analysis of the MM-1 tapes and MM-1 detection capabilities also deny a chemical warfare agent presence. All of this evidence is mutually supportive and indicates the absence of chemical warfare agents. Therefore, we assess the presence of chemical warfare agents in breaching lane Red 1 as unlikely.
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