C. The Ammunition Supply Point

1. Description

The ammunition supply point was located in an orchard or tree farm outside one of several roads encircling Kuwait City. According to an entry in GySgt Grass's journal, the ASP was at map grid coordinates QT 766395,[20] roughly five miles west of Kuwait International Airport. Message traffic and unit log entries, however, indicated the ASP's location was QT 75393910[21]—approximately eight miles west of the airport (see Figure 5). The Fox driver believed inherent inaccuracies in the vehicle's navigation system caused the disparity—a difference of about three miles (see glossary, Vehicle Orientation System).[22]

Map of ASP position

Figure 5. The ASP position as reported by GySgt Grass and a 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment log

The ASP location, based on GySgt Grass's drawin

Figure 6. The ASP location, based on GySgt Grass's drawing

According to GySgt Grass, the ASP was divided into two sections—a large area with hundreds of bunkers and a small area across the road. GySgt Grass provided a drawing that depicts the ASP and the surrounding area. Figure 6 is based on that drawing. He provided another drawing depicting the small area. Figure 7 is based on that drawing. An earthen berm and a road surrounded the small area where, inside, roads ran between rows of bunkers. A line of trees outside the berm impeded the view of the main road outside the small area. At the entrance to the small area stood a small brick building, and close by, a dug-in vehicle.[23] A large industrial area was nearby,[24] as was the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which had established a position near the small area (see Figure 7).

A depiction of the small ASP area, based on GySgt Grass's drawing

Figure 7. A depiction of the small ASP area, based on GySgt Grass's drawing.

GySgt Grass believed several facts indicated that the ASP's small area possibly was a chemical weapons storage area. In testimony he stated he completed, "the technical escort course several months prior to deployment to Southwest Asia … [was] a former ammunition technician for six years, and … was the NCOIC of a … chemical unit … I observed several signs of possible chemical weapons storage. There were blue, red, and green-colored fire extinguishers with each group in its own specific area … this particular storage area had … open top 55-gallon drums that were painted all blue, red and blue, green, or white and green. Each set of drums … [was] grouped according to … color and whether the … drums were solid or striped. No other area of the entire 3rd Armored Corps Ammunition Supply Area that my Fox vehicle checked was designed or set up like that area."[25]

2. MM-1 Alerts (February 28, 1991)

GySgt Grass testified that "while monitoring for chemical [warfare] agent vapors … next to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines … location, the alarm on the [MM-1] computer was set off with a full distinct spectrum across the monitor and a lethal vapor concentration of S-Mustard [sulfur mustard]."[26]

In his testimony, the MM-1 operator stated the Fox crew was outside the vehicle trying to get a closer look at some bunkers when they heard the MM-1's alarm.[27] He did not mention what Mission Oriented Protective Posture[28] (MOPP) level the crew was in, but the driver and wheel operator recalled never being higher than MOPP-2 (wearing their protective overgarments and overboots but carrying, not wearing, their protective masks and gloves; see Figure 8) while outside the Fox in this ASP.[29]

The crew returned to the Fox and backed up to the nearest dug-in bunker. According to GySgt Grass, the MM-1 operator completed a spectrum and then printed the results onto a paper tape.[30] GySgt Grass identified 155mm rounds in this bunker as the source of the sulfur mustard alert.[31] He described the bunker in testimony, suggesting additional indications of chemical weapons in the ASP: "[F]ully visible were the skull and crossbones either on yellow tape with red lettering or stenciled to the boxes or some had a small sign with the skull and crossbones painted on it."[32] Artillery rounds (155mm) with colored bands around them were stacked on top of several boxes, which had labeling from the United States.[33]

Photo of soldier in MOPP-2 and MOPP-4

Figure 8. MOPP-2 and MOPP-4

After the MM-1 operator printed the tape, GySgt Grass notified the Task Force Ripper NBC officer they had found some "honey"-(Ripper's NBC officer had instructed the Fox crew to use that code word if they had any chemical warfare agent alerts while in the ASP to avoid alarming the entire task force). Ripper's NBC officer ordered the crew to return to the task force headquarters.[34]

GySgt Grass testified:

[A]s we continued driving through the ammo storage area the [MM-1] alarm sounded again. The chemical agent HT Mustard in a lethal dose came across the monitor. Again, the skull and crossbones were present, although the boxes were closed with markings from the United States and Holland. Again a full spectrum on the Mass Spectrometer was easily accomplished and printed out as proof of detection.[35]

GySgt Grass did not identify a specific ammunition type as the source for this alert. He testified the third, final MM-1 alert occurred as the Fox was leaving the ASP.

[T]he [MM-1] alarm sounded once more showing a positive reading of Benzene [Benzyl] bromide. This reading was taken next to a large metal container with no distinct markings. The vapor concentration was in the air and a full spectrum was ran [sic] on the Mass Spectrometer and printed out as proof of the detection.[36]

During our interview, GySgt Grass attributed the possible source of this alert to a large shipping container (a conex box) located in the southeast corner of the ASP.[37]

The Fox drove past several other bunkers in the area without incident as it exited the ASP. GySgt Grass and his crew headed to the nearby 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (the 1/5) headquarters to warn the 1/5 NBC officer that they had detected chemical warfare agents in the ASP.[38]

In contrast to GySgt Grass's recollections of events at the ASP, the MM-1 operator recalled the three MM-1 alerts occurred simultaneously. Before the Presidential Advisory Committee, he said:

After surveying a number of the bunker areas without any abnormal readings, the Fox was stopped and all four of us got out to take a break and look a little closer at some of the bunkers. The MM-1 was still in operation. While we were outside the vehicle, the MM-1's alarm went off. It scared all of us back into the vehicle. Once inside, there were a number of readings on the MM-1's computer screen. They were S mustard, HT mustard and a benzene [benzyl] bromide agent. Again, a couple of spectrums were run and the printouts were given to [GySgt] Grass.[39]

3. 1/5 Actions in the ASP (February 28, 1991)

When GySgt Grass's Fox arrived to survey the ASP, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment was there already, having taken control of the ASP without resistance during the night of February 27. By the February 28 cease-fire, the battalion had established a defensive position at the ASP.[40]

According to the 1/5 NBC officer, he and a team of Marines visually inspected bunkers in the area [41] using chemical agent monitors (CAMs) to search for chemical weapons and chemical warfare agents, but their search revealed conventional munitions only. He recalled that while his team was inspecting, GySgt Grass's MM-1 detected a chemical warfare agent-perhaps mustard. Everyone in the area went to MOPP-4-they put on their protective gloves and masks for full protection. The Fox then drove around the area and attempted to recreate the alarm but was unsuccessful. The NBC officer's team entered several bunkers in the vicinity of the MM-1 alert and found nothing, but nonetheless, the NBC officer reported the alert to the battalion assistant operations officer. No one present during the MM-1 alert reported any injuries.[42]

The battalion assistant operations officer recalled the NBC officer's report-a Fox drove through the ASP and its MM-1 detected mustard but then lost its detection, and so was unable to confirm the alarm. He and the NBC officer decided there was no need to move the unit to a new location-the MM-1 alert could not be recreated and the CAMs detected nothing. Personnel were warned to stay away from the area, due not to a perceived chemical threat, but rather to the large amount of ammunition at the ASP. He, the commanding officer, and the executive officer said the ASP was never declared off limits or physically cordoned off.[43]

The 1/5 remained camped around the ASP through at least March 2 and several Marines, including the commanding officer, the NBC officer, the assistant operations officer, and approximately 25 to 30 others entered the ASP at various times while they were in the area. The 1/5 Marines who entered did so at MOPP-2-carrying, but not wearing, protective gloves and mask. None of the 1/5 Marines we interviewed reported any physical symptoms consistent with chemical warfare agent exposure after going through the ASP. Additionally, no one, including the commanding officer, to whom such a thing should have been reported, recalled hearing reports throughout the 1/5 of any symptoms or injuries consistent with exposure to chemical warfare agents.[44] Furthermore, the commanding officer and his executive officer stated that the Fox crew did not tell them of any chemical warfare agent detections.[45]

4. Task Force Ripper Actions (February 28, 1991)

After stopping at the 1/5 headquarters area, the Fox crew returned to Task Force Ripper's headquarters. GySgt Grass recalled reporting to the combat operations center and then to the command post, where he reported on his mission. After some discussion about the MM-1 results, GySgt Grass gave the MM-1 tapes to the task force NBC officer.[46]

At 3:31 PM that afternoon, Task Force Ripper reported GySgt Grass's MM-1 alerts to the 1st MARDIV headquarters, known as PRIDE (Figure 9).

The Task Force Ripper message to the 1st MARDIV

Figure 9. The Task Force Ripper message to the 1st MARDIV

"Have detected S mustard, HT mustard, and Benzine [Benzyl] bromide at grid QT75393910. Means of detection: Fox vehicle. Hazard seems to be very localized vapor from bunker complex."[47]

Soon after (5:20 PM), the 1st MARDIV requested explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) support for the next day (March 1):

"Req[uest] EOD support at QT 75393910-Suspected chemical mustard agent munitions in ammo bunker-Agent detected by Fox vehicle-POC [point of contact] TF [Task Force] Ripper NBCO [NBC officer] at grid QT 805350."[48]

GySgt Grass and his Fox crew escorted the EOD team to the ASP the next day.[49]

D. The MM-1 Alerts in Unit Logs

Reports of the suspected presence of chemical weapons spread from the 1st MARDIV up the chain of command to the I Marine Expeditionary Force NBC watch officer:

1st MARDIV rpts [reports]
Probable ammo bunker w/chemical munitions, vic[inity] of 2914N/4750E, 5 miles west of Ku[wait] City airport.
Area has been cordoned off.
EOD personnel will enter bunker tomorrow morning.[50]

An entry (February 28, 7:30 PM) in the US Central Command NBC desk log stated:

1st MARDIV has come across an ammo bunker complex (QT75393910) with suspected chemical munitions. The Fox … has come up with indications of small conc[entrations] of sulfur mustard after numerous tests. All possible interferences with petroleum products ruled out. They are outside the bunker now; no one has gone in. They've moved their EOD people up, but won't do anything until the morning. Area is cordoned off, all their people in the area have been warned.[51]

Reports of the MM-1 alerts also appeared in several 1st MARDIV unit logs, including those of the 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment:

Fm Div
To All units
1) Possible Mustard Hazard
2) QT 7539/3910
3) Vapor Hazard local to area
4) Hazard appears to be from bunker in that area
5) Method of detection left by Fox veh[icle][52]

And the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion:

281620C Feb 1991 [February 28, 4:20 PM] Possible mustard agent QT 75393910 localized to area appears to be from bunker. Fox vehicle detected.[53]

The 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment journal recorded a message from the 1st MARDIV on February 28: "Mustard agent hazard in bunker."[54]

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