2.   Ground War Alerts

Several days before the ground war started, units subordinate to the main maneuver brigades of the 24th ID replaced the 2/4 Cavalry Regiment as the screening force. This particular Fox was reassigned to the Scout Platoon, 3/7 Infantry of the 24th ID, which probably deployed over the Iraq-Saudi border shortly before the start of the ground war.[80]

At the start of the ground war (February 24, 1991), the 24th ID, shown in Figure 9, was located on the left flank of the Coalition forces, with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to the right and the 101st Airborne to the left. The 24th ID attacked into Iraq three brigades abreast with the division cavalry squadron conducting reconnaissance and protection operations to the front. The division rapidly advanced to their objectives, maintaining speeds of 25 to 30 miles an hour.[81] The main objective of the 24th ID was to cross the Iraqi border, link up with the 101st Airborne, cut Highway 8 by blocking it with armor, and then turn east where they were supposed to destroy Iraqi forces trapped in Kuwait or eastern Iraq.[82] During these operations, the 24th ID came within sight of the Khamisiyah ammunition supply point, which according to post-war UNSCOM investigations contained chemical warfare munitions. However, the 24th ID did not enter the Khamisiyah ammunition supply point.[83]

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Figure 9.  Approximate locations of ground war Fox alerts

Although the 24th ID covered much ground during the ground war, fighting was sporadic. The 52 men of the Scout Platoon, 3/7 Infantry did not suffer any casualties during the conflict and the commander specifically remembers no chemical incidents.[84] The entire 1st Brigade to which the 3/7 Infantry Battalion was attached suffered one conventional battle casualty and one reported toothache.[85] The platoon leader and the battalion operations officer were never informed of a Fox vehicle alert and at no time did the Scout Platoon, 3/7 Infantry go to the maximum mission oriented protective posture.[86] During the ground war, the Scout Platoon, 3/7 Infantry, Fox was used as an on-the-move vapor detector.[87]

Sections from both the Edgewood and PAC tapes have been used to provide a more complete picture of the four ground war alerts. To view all segments of both copies please refer to the side-by-side comparison of the Edgewood tapes and the PAC tapes in Tab E. The timeline of ground war alerts (Figure 10) provides an overview of the dates and times of the Fox alerts discussed in sub-sections a through d that follow.

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Figure 10.  Timeline of ground war alerts (February 24 - March 1, 1991)

a.  Alert 5: February 24, 1991, 2:34 AM

At 2:34 AM, on February 24, 1991, the MM-1 alerted for HT mustard at 1.9 ion intensity. After this alert, the MM-1 operator switched the sampling method several times between Air/Hi and Surface/Lo and no subsequent alerts occurred (Figure 11).

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Figure 11.  Fox tape, February 24, 1991

Analysis of Alert 5

Although this incident occurred about 90 minutes before the ground war officially began at 4:00 AM,[88] investigators consider this a ground war alert because the Scout Platoon, 3/7 Infantry had officially begun its ground war mission.[89]

The recommended speed of the Fox while using the wheels to sample is 8 to 12 miles per hour. Use of the wheels in sampling is noted on the MM-1 tape by the use of a "C." There are times when the MM-1 will improperly indicate that the wheels are being used.[90] Although some of the Fox tapes from the ground war, including this incident, indicate the sampling wheels were in use at the time of the alerts, according to an interview with the MM-1 operator, all the readings during the ground war were taken using the Air/Hi method. He stated that the task force to which the Fox was assigned was often moving too fast for the sampling wheels to be used.[91] As discussed in the analysis of Alert 3, Air/Hi alerts are suspect because the MM-1 in the Fox vehicle is not well suited to act as a vapor detector.[92]

As with Alert 3, UNSCOM inspectors did not find HT mustard in the Iraqi inventory, although the unpure HD mustard found contained trace amounts of HT as a byproduct. The only likely means of delivery for any type of mustard would have been 155mm artillery, and the Scout Platoon, 3/7 Infantry, was not fired on by the Iraqis at this time.[93],[94]  Given the low volatility of HT mustard, an obvious liquid source for the alert would be expected and the Fox commander recalls no attack that would have provided such a chemical warfare agent source.[95],[96]  There is also an absence of HD mustard, which is the more volatile component of HT and would be expected to be identified in the same sample. Finally, as in the previous alerts, there is the low ion intensity level of this alert, casting additional doubt on its validity. For these reasons, this alert of HT mustard was not valid.

b.  Alert 6: February 26, 1991, 8:47 PM

Two days later at 10:58 AM on February 26, the MM-1 operator took the first of three full spectra even though the MM-1 did not register an alarm (Figure 12). Two of the three spectra produced "unknown" readings. A print-out of all the spectra (not replicated in Figure 12 but shown in Tab E) indicated that the unknown compounds were actually air with some residual calibration gas (FC 77) mixed in. These spectra were taken in the surface monitor mode. Several hours later at 8:47 PM (20:47) the MM-1 alerted for the nerve agent VX, registering 1.8 ion intensity level. From the tapes it appears that the MM-1 operator did not perform a spectrum at this time and the MM-1 did not register any subsequent alerts. The next action recorded on the tape is more than three hours later (12:07 AM, 00:07) and many kilometers away when the MM-1 operator performed a spectrum that showed an unknown substance.

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Figure 12.  Fox tape, February 26, 1991

Analysis of Alert 6

From the time that the MM-1 operator performed the first spectrum at 11:29 AM to the time that the VX alert occurred at 8:47 PM (about 9 hours and 30 minutes), the MM-1 probe was never cleaned by running a temperature program, which means that the probe was probably contaminated and thus prone to a false alert or alarm.[97] Additionally, four hours before the VX alert, the Fox was engaged with Iraqi troops (note the operator’s personal commentary: "CONTACT…CONTACT…IRAQIS EVERYWHERE…"). There are no reports of chemical warfare agents being used during this encounter, and no reported casualties.[98] Fumes from conventional explosives (non-nuclear, chemical or biological) that may have been used in this encounter are a common interferent that could cause the Fox to issue a false alert or alarm.[99] Like all the Fox crews in the Gulf, this crew had not been trained to operate the vehicle in the surface monitor detection mode.[100]

UNSCOM was unable to fully account for Iraqi VX production. Although UNSCOM found no VX-filled munitions or agents during the first four years of inspections, Iraq admitted in 1995 that it produced 1.8 tons of VX before abandoning this production program in 1990 in favor of sarin and cyclosarin.[101] According to the CIA expert on Iraq’s chemical warfare program, Iraq admitted to filling three aerial bombs with VX to test storage life. Additionally, UNSCOM detected VX on three warheads for the Iraqi Scud variant.[102]  Since Iraqi aircraft did not fly ground attack sorties after January 25, 1991, and they had no deployed VX-filled weapons, it was not possible for VX to be delivered by aircraft against Coalition forces at this date.[103]  Similarly, the last Scud launch of any kind during the war occurred 18 hours before the VX alert. Furthermore, this Scud landed near Doha, Qatar, far from the location of this alert.[104]  Similar to HT mustard, VX is a liquid that does not easily vaporize. For this reason, the Fox vehicle has almost no capability to detect VX as a vapor.[105]

c.  Alert 7: February 27, 1991, 12:08 AM

At 12:07 AM (00:07) the next day, February 27, the Fox operator performed a spectrum. The only alert we have a record of before this spectrum was from more than three hours earlier as discussed in alert 6. It is not known why this spectrum was performed. One minute later, the MM-1 alerted for precursor GA (tabun) at a low ion intensity level (Figure 13). Precursors chemicals are mixed with other precursor chemicals to make chemical warfare agents. One minute immediately after the alert, the MM-1 operator performed spectra which produced "unknown" readings. These spectra ruled out the presence of precursor GA.

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Figure 13.  Fox tape, February 27, 1991

Approximately 30 minutes later, at 12:32 AM, the MM-1 alerted again for precursor GA. The operator immediately performed another spectrum, which again produced another "unknown" reading ruling out the presence of precursor GA.

Minutes later, at 12:37 and 12:38 AM, the MM-1 alerted for lewisite and precursor GA at low intensities. The alerts for lewisite and precursor GA did not repeat, but the MM-1 alerted for HT mustard at 12:38 AM.

Analysis of Alert 7

These alerts occurred four hours after Alert 6. The complete tapes in Tab E show that between Alert 6 and 7 the sampling probe was not cleaned and was therefore susceptible to false alerts or alarms. The two spectra (12:07 and 12:08 AM) ruled out the presence of precursor GA. Precursor GA is not a chemical warfare agent; it is a chemical building block used to create tabun.[106]  As described in the analysis section of Alert 1, UNSCOM and CIA assess that there were no deployed tabun weapons.[107]   At the time of the tabun alerts, the Fox vehicle was not under attack. Since Iraqi aircraft did not fly ground attack sorties after January 25, 1991,[108] the Fox vehicle did not detect tabun or precursor GA.

During their inspections, UNSCOM did not find any lewisite in the Iraqi inventory. Lewisite was researched but not produced or weaponized by Iraq,[109] thus it was not present on the battlefield .

The "D" next to the HT mustard on the tape indicates that the MM-1 operator was running the temperature program to clean the MM-1 probe at the time of the HT mustard alerts. While the probe is being cleaned, significant ion activity is occurring, allowing interferents to cause false alarms. Even if the MM-1 was not being cleaned at the time of the alarm, it would be very difficult for the MM-1 to detect HT mustard due to the low amount of vapor it emits. After the temperature program completed, the MM-1 recorded no alerts for over three hours.[110]

There was also no alert for HD mustard, the more volatile component of HT—indicating a false alert. (See Alerts 3 and 5 above.) As noted in other alerts, Iraqi ground-attack aircraft did not fly after January 25, 1991, therefore aerial bombs did not deliver the agents the Fox alerted for. The only means of ground system delivery for mustard agent was 155mm artillery, but during this alert, the Fox was not receiving any artillery fire. Finally, the ion intensity levels of all these alerts for precursor tabun, lewisite, and HT mustard were very low, making it even more unlikely that the alerts were true.[111]   Based on the operational insights that state the unit was not under attack, the absence of these agents in the Iraqi inventory, as well as the two spectra that show the absence of chemical warfare agents this Fox vehicle did not detect any chemical warfare agents in this incident.

d.  Alert 8: February 27, 1991, 3:57 AM

About three-and-a-half hours later, at 3:57 and 3:58 AM, the MM-1 alerted for dimethylphthalate and diethyphthalate, both confidence check simulants, while operating in the Test/Lo method (Figure 14). Approximately five hours later, at 9:33 and 9:34 AM, the MM-1 alerted for HT mustard. Between the alerts for the simulants and the alerts for HT, the MM-1 operator switched from the Test/Lo method to the Air/Hi method. The MM-1 operator performed a full spectrum a minute after the HT alert. The spectrum indicated the presence of FC 77, the calibration gas.

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Figure 14.  Fox tape, February 27, 1991

Analysis of Alert 8

Like Alert 4, the MM-1 alerted here for confidence check simulants while in the Test/Lo method. The MM-1 only monitors for confidence check simulants in the Test/Lo method. When the method was changed to Air/Hi, a temperature program was not run after the confidence checks to clear the simulants. The confidence check simulants were therefore never cleaned from the probe, making it prone to false alerts or alarms.[112]

Once again, the ion intensity levels of these HT mustard alerts were very low, making it doubtful that the alerts were true based on this fact alone. Moreover, once again, there was no alert for HD mustard, the more volatile component of HT, indicating a false alert.[113] (See Alerts 3, 5, and 7 above.) It is now known that Iraq weaponized HD, not HT, though a trace amount of HT was contained in HD as a production byproduct.[114] The absence of an Iraqi attack, HT not being in the Iraqi inventory combined with the spectrum indicating FC 77 rules out the presence of HT mustard and confirms simulants were still present in the probe.[115]

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