On March 12, 1991, 12 days after the Gulf War concluded, a team of specialists from the 2d Marine Division inspected an industrial area outside Kuwait City thought to be a possible Iraqi chemical weapon filling station. The Marines used two Fox Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance vehicles to survey the area that came to be known as the cement factory. These vehiclesdesignated Fox 1 and Fox 2 in this reportare sophisticated chemical warfare agent detection systems. At the cement factory, the team found some chemical defensive equipment such as protective masks. One of the explosive ordnance disposal specialists also pointed out land mines he believed could have been used for either chemical warfare agents or conventional munitions.
Within a half-mile of the cement factorys buildings, Fox 1 alerted for chemical warfare agents. The commander on the scenea chemical defense specialistordered the Fox 1 crew to take soil samples of the area for further analysis. He then ordered Fox 2 to survey the same area. Fox 2 alerted for chemical warfare agents and took soil samples in response. The Fox vehicle is capable of generating printed recordscalled tapesof its detections. These tapes are important for determining what the Fox vehicle has detected. Both Fox vehicle crews generated tapes of these alerts. However, only the tape from Fox 1 has since been found. Apart from the Fox vehicle alerts, there were no indications chemical warfare agents were present at the cement factory.
The Marine chemical defense specialists who took the samples established a chain of custody and relinquished the samples to the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Command, an organization responsible for evaluating captured enemy equipment. Soon afterwards, the Exploitation Command turned these samples over to a US Army Technical Escort Unit, which transported the samples back to the Army Chemical Research, Development Engineering Center in Edgewood, Maryland. The samples arrived at the Center on March 17, 1991six days after they were first taken.
The analysis of these samples indicated diesel engine exhaust probably caused the soil contamination. About two weeks after the 2d Marine Division took the samples, the laboratory reported the results of its analysis back to the Exploitation Command. However, the Command did not subsequently report these results to the 2d Marine Division. Furthermore, in repeated attempts, the 2d Marine Division was unable to obtain these test results from the Command. The persistence of the 2d Marine Division Marines to determine the results of the analysis eventually provided the basis for this investigation.
In the course of our investigation, we were able to obtain the results of the soil sample analysis and locate the Fox 1 tapes. In 1998, chemical engineers at two laboratories analyzed the Fox 1 tapes. Both analyses indicated that chemical warfare agent presence was unlikely at best.
Although some of the Marines involved thought chemical warfare agents might have been present, we found no evidence of chemical warfare agent presence at the cement factory. Except for the Fox alerts, no evidence was found to indicate chemical warfare agents were either present or had been stored there. No other chemical detectors indicated any presence of chemical warfare agents. Analyses of the samples and the Fox tapes did not identify chemical warfare agent presence. The post-war cleanup efforts have not found any chemical weapons anywhere in Kuwait. Additionally, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) found no evidence that Iraq transported chemical weapons into Kuwait or even possessed chemical warfare agent land mines. For these reasons, we assess the cement factory was definitely not a chemical mine-filling facility. However, improper packaging of the soil samples and our inability to locate and analyze the second Fox tape preclude a definitive assessment of chemical warfare agent presence. Nevertheless, the weight of evidence leads us to assess that the presence of chemical warfare agents or munitions at the cement factory is unlikely, and that any resultant exposure of US forces to chemical warfare agents at the cement factory is also unlikely.
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