Desert Storm—the Air War

The destruction of chemical weapon production and storage areas was a high priority during the Desert Storm air campaign from January 17 to February 28, 1991.[10] In early February, the S-shaped bunker at Tallil suffered moderate damage in an air strike which partially collapsed the roof.[11]

A February 7, 1991, Defense Intelligence Agency message sums up the intelligence community’s assessment of where Iraq had dispersed and stored their CW stockpile after several weeks of coalition airstrikes:

We do not know with any degree of confidence where the Iraqis are storing their chemical weapons in the KTO (Kuwait Theater of Operations). Traditionally, Iraq has not deployed its chemical weapons to forward based units until their use was imminent. Since the coalition’s bombing campaign against Iraqi chemical production, storage, and filling facilities began on January 17, 1991, it is believed that they have probably dispersed their sensitive chemical weapons stocks to improve survivability. The current whereabouts of their chemical inventory is unknown.[12]

Desert Storm—the Ground War

At the start of the ground war, a message from the XVIII Airborne Corps warned subordinate units of their responsibility concerning suspected chemical and biological weapons:

Units who capture or find suspected chemical and/or biological munitions or material will not handle, move, or destroy them. Units will mark the location and, if possible, secure the area and identify the location to XVIII Corps G3 operations and supporting EOD teams. Iraqi chemical munitions may be difficult to identify. Some are possibly marked with gold, yellow, green, or blue bands. Other marking schemes and/or patterns may exist. CW/BW munitions may be stored with conventional munitions....Units are currently not authorized to destroy chemical/biological munitions. EOD will have technical responsibility for control and disposition of chemical/biological munitions. Under no circumstances will chemical/biological weapons be retrograded out of Kuwait or Iraq into Saudi Arabia without COMARCENT approval.[13]

On February 27, 1991, at 1330 hours local time, the 2-69th Armor Battalion, 197th Infantry Brigade, 24th Mechanized Infantry Division conducted a raid on Tallil Air Base. This was the first time in the Gulf War that US ground forces had entered this facility.[14] This action was a tactical feint designed to convince Iraq’s senior leadership that the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division intended to continue its drive north and cross the Euphrates river—when in fact, the 24th would proceed to the south and take the regional city of Basra. This raiding force did not occupy or clear Tallil. According to the Commander of the 2-69th, his tanks only penetrated 600-700 yards into the base and stayed about 45-60 minutes. The 2-69th did not search or clear any bunkers during this action.[15] The raid was short, but intense, destroying 6 fighter-attack aircraft, 3 helicopters, 4 self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery pieces, and 2 tanks.[16] While the 2-69th suffered no casualties, it did leave behind four vehicles immobilized by mechanical and terrain difficulties. The 2-69th then refueled south of Tallil at 1730 hours in order to rejoin the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division’s drive toward Basra.[17]

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