On September 18, 1995, a small metal sample was submitted for analysis to the Presidential Advisory Committee to determine if it contained chemical warfare agents. The sample was reported to be a piece of a SCUD missile hit by a PATRIOT missile near King Fahd Military Airport on or about January 19, 1991. Analysis of the sample by the US Army Edgewood Research and Development Center revealed no evidence of chemical warfare agents. The assessment for this case is "Unlikely" that chemical warfare agents were present.



On September 18, 1995, a small piece of metal was provided to the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses during a meeting in Charlotte, NC.[1] The person who provided this sample reported that he had been told that it was a portion of a piece from a SCUD missile hit by a PATRIOT missile near King Fahd Military Airport on January 19, 1991. He further reported the following chain of custody: the metal piece had been picked up as a souvenir by a soldier stationed there. The soldier stored the fragment in a plastic bag, forgot about it, and then rediscovered it in August 1994 in Charlotte, NC. Upon rediscovery, this soldier gave the piece to the person who provided a portion of it to the PAC.

The original piece of metal was described as being about six inches long, five inches wide, about 3/8 inches thick, and burnt on both sides. The person who provided the sample told an investigator from the Army’s Foreign Materiel Program (Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff Intelligence) that:

The unprotected sample, when examined in an enclosed room with no ventilation, will cause a person’s eyes to water after about 10 minutes and sometimes will cause a tingly sensation. Additionally, touching the sample will cause a burning sensation within about 10 minutes on the contacted skin. Within 20 minutes, the area is red; within 30 minutes there is a slight ring around the red part; within an hour, there is a watery blister, and within three to four hours there is a large blister. The blister will rupture on its own in six to seven hours.[2]

No attempt has been made to determine whether these symptoms could be duplicated, but tests were conducted to determine if chemical warfare agents were present. The Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigation Team (PGIIT)[3] and the Investigation and Analysis Directorate (IAD) have investigated reports of SCUD missile attacks in the vicinity of King Fahd Military Airport during the period of January 12-26, 1991. According to an Air Force Message, several missiles were launched during this period at Dhahran, which is near King Fahd Military Airport.[4] On January 19, 1991, however, the only recorded SCUD activity was the firing of three missiles from Iraq at Tel Aviv, Israel.[5] Veterans who called the Veterans Reporting Hotline reported SCUD alerts in the vicinity of King Fahd Military Airport in that general period of time .[6]

The Presidential Advisory Committee gave the sample to the Department of Defense Foreign Materiel Program, which in turn arranged for the US Army Edgewood Research and Development Engineering Center (ERDEC) to test for chemical warfare agent.[7] ERDEC did a thorough analysis of the metal piece--using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance techniques, high performance liquid chromatography/ion chromatography, and chemical ionization. "No compounds were found in either of the leachates of the piece of metal submitted for analysis." To further test its findings, ERDEC also analyzed the spectra taken from the fragment and spectra taken from a test sample spiked with mustard agent. "All NMR and GC Mass Spec tests [were] negative."[8] Note that the scientists who analyzed the sample wore protective gloves and worked in a ventilated laboratory as is routine in conducting these analyses; because the scientists were not exposed to the "unprotected sample," the scientists were unable to verify the symptoms reported by person who provided the sample.

The PGIIT then arranged for the Missile and Space Intelligence Center to perform a metallurgical analysis of the sample to determine its source; the piece was found to be consistent with the metallurgical properties of SCUD missiles.[9] The person who provided the sample reported that he also independently submitted two other portions of the metal fragment to two commercial laboratories, but these were returned because the laboratories refused to handle the material.[10] The person who provided the sample was informed of all test results.[11]



The case assessment is "Unlikely" for the presence of chemical warfare agents based on the following:

  • Based on the metallurgical analysis, the sample was probably from a SCUD.
  • No evidence of chemical warfare agent contamination was found by the chemical analysis of the sample performed by ERDEC.
  • However, neither the chain of custody prior to the sample's submission nor confirmation of the reported symptoms due to exposure to the sample has been established. (Because these have not been established, the case assessment is "Unlikely" rather than "Definitely Not.")


    This case is still being investigated. As additional information becomes available, it will be incorporated. If you have records, photographs, recollections, or find errors in the details reported, please contact the DOD Persian Gulf Task Force Hot Line at 1-800-472-6719.


    | First Page | Prev Page | Next Page |