Although Iraq flew chemical warfare missions from Tallil Air Base during the Iran-Iraq War and may have stored chemical weapons for these missions in the base’s S-shaped bunker, Coalition forces found no chemical warfare weapons or chemical warfare agent contamination there. NBC specialists used M-8’s, chemical agent monitors, and Fox reconnaissance vehicles at Tallil Air Base and found nothing.[58] Though several persons interviewed reported that they encountered possible chemical warfare munitions based on marking schemes,[59, 60] EOD technicians, NBC personnel and commanders having direct knowledge of chemical warfare munitions characteristics determined that nothing they saw indicated that chemical weapons were present. No one reported experiencing any chemical warfare agent symptoms after being near or in contact with munitions so marked. Demolition crews that destroyed munitions, equipment, and structures at the base also discovered no chemical warfare munitions. Although their extensive searches did uncover significant quantities of defensive equipment associated with chemical warfare, such as masks, suits, antidotes, and decontaminants; this was to be expected based on Tallil’s history during the Iran-Iraq war. Additionally, post-war assessments of Iraq’s chemical warfare program confirmed that identification through color markings was totally unreliable. Instead, interviews with EOD personnel show that they relied on specific munitions design characteristics to identify munitions capable of chemical warfare.[61, 62]

The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment soldier’s nausea resulted from a white powder in a can. The inhaled substance caused him to vomit immediately, but the nausea lasted only one to three hours and was not severe. He did not report this incident or seek medical attention when it occurred and he did not report any lasting effects from this incident.[63] The unidentified powder could have been a number of different compounds, including a riot control agent, but the specific circumstances related in the interview make a follow-up determination impossible. These symptoms do not indicate exposure to any of the chemical warfare agents assessed as being in Iraq’s inventory.

The UNSCOM team that inspected Tallil and its S-shaped bunker in December 1992 did not find evidence of chemical weapons or bulk storage of chemical warfare agents.[64] However, it is important to note that neither the US occupation forces nor the UNSCOM team were able to inspect the bunker area where the ceiling had collapsed. Nor could they examine any materials buried under the remaining debris. After the war, Iraq cleared the rubble from the bunker’s intact area and used it to store conventional munitions.[65] If Iraq had stored chemical weapons or agents in this facility when it was struck during the war, the resulting contamination almost certainly would have forced Iraq to remove all bunker debris completely, decontaminate the area extensively, and then rebuild before using the bunker for conventional storage. Iraq did not list Tallil as a chemical weapons storage site in the "Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure" given UNSCOM in 1996.


Because EOD specialists and other experts knowledgeable about chemical warfare munitions attributes determined that they saw nothing to indicate the presence of chemical warfare munitions or agents were present; because the UNSCOM team that inspected Tallil and its S-shaped bunker in December 1992 did not find evidence of chemical weapons or bulk storage of chemical warfare agent; because Iraq did not list Tallil as a chemical warfare munitions storage site in the "Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure;" and because no one we interviewed in this investigation reported experiencing medical symptoms associated with nerve or blister agent exposure, our assessment is that it is unlikely chemical warfare weapons or agents were present at Tallil Air Base during the US occupation in 1991.


Chemical Warfare Agent Detection

During the Gulf War, two primary methods existed for detecting chemical weapons and chemical warfare agents. One was visual: markings on munitions (e.g., painted bands or symbols) or physical characteristics (thin, double-walled casings; burster tubes; welded construction; fill plugs; etc.) However, these visual characteristics are not always reliable. The use of chemical detectors was the second available method. Unfortunately, properly designed, manufactured, and filled chemical munitions often do not emit enough chemical warfare agent vapor for current M256 kits or chemical agent monitors (CAMs) to reliably detect. This presented explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the very impractical and dangerous task of having to disassemble an unknown munition to determine whether it contained a hazardous agent. As soon as possible, US forces should employ current technology that can reliably detect munitions contents by external sensors.

This is a final report. However, if you believe you have information that may change this case narrative, please contact my office by calling 1-800-497-6261.

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