February 24, 1991
The first encounter with chemical mines came at 6:31 a.m. on February 24, 1991, during the initial mine field breaching operation by the 2nd Marine Division. According to the Chicago Tribune, which interviewed officers and enlisted marines involved in the operation, a FOX vehicle confirmed positive readings for a nerve agent and for mustard gas. A second detecting device gave the same positive reading. General Keys, the 2nd Division commander, and Col. Livingston, commander of the 6th Marine Regiment, told reporters that they believe it is possible that a chemical mine was blown up or hit.
On April 20, 1994, Committee staff received the Battle Assessment Documentation of the 6th Marine Regiment, Operations Desert Storm.
According to that report:
24 Feb 1991 G Day 0630 B Co., 1/6 [Regiment] blows line charge across first mine field in Lane Red 1. C Co., 1/6 engages possible BMPs with M60A1 main tank gun. Target missed due to poor visibility. 0631 B Co., 1/6 reports possible nerve agent in first minefield in Lane Red 1. 0635 B Co., 1/6 is at MOPP level 4. Fox vehicle confirms positive sarin nerve agent and lewisite mustard gas, vic Lane Red 1. 0650 1/6 reports possible nerve agent/mustard agent between obstacle belts. 0730 Rgmt S-2 reports to the 2nd Marine Division that Lane Red 1 is considered contaminated for the first 300m only. 1210 Rgmt S-2 reports TACC reported large number of dead sheep near King Khalid, possible anthrax. MAG-13 reports enemy forces moving rapidly south along highway from Kuwait City. Unknown number of tanks. 26 Feb 1991 G+ 2 1537 3/23rd under NBC attack, in MOPP 4; remainder 8th Marin MOPP 2. 1640 B Co., 1/6 clears Army stores camp, finds large number of weapons and ammo, to include 155 arty shells painted completely yellow. Fox vehicle reports negative findings.During the war, General Schwarzkopf told reporters he considered the reports of chemical agent detection on 24 February 1991 "bogus."
During the Ground War
British troops discovered Iraqi chemical mines on the gulf battlefield, according to Gannett News Service. An official said that the incident was reported to Prime Minister John Major's war cabinet; no details were given.
January 21, 1991 Taif, Saudi Arabia
Sergeant Thomas House served with the 2953rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron (CLSS), attached to the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing in Taif. Sergeant House's duties included the decontamination of U.S. Air Force F-111s that returned from bombing raids against Iraqi chemical and biological warfare facilities. According to the unit's records, the unit aircraft bombed 32 chemical targets, 113 bunkers, 11 Scud Missile sites, and 4 mine entrances.
Sergeant House and several others in his unit assigned to perform decontamination duties had worn only MOPP suits and had used water to decontaminate the aircraft. Sergeant House, whole primary duties are as an aircraft mechanic, later learned that chemical decontamination solutions were supposed to be used and that special suits were supposed to be worn.
On the evening of January 21, 1991, after decontaminating several aircraft that had returned from a bombing raid, Sergeant House's face began to burn and swell. He also noted a pungent odor. The following day, Sergeant House went to a U.S. Air Force medical facility. His U.S. Air Force medical records confirm this report. Shortly after the incident he began to experience headaches, coughing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Sergeant House is currently suffering from recurring headaches, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, memory loss, recurring rashes, lumps under the skin, depression, irritability, night sweats, insomnia, urinary urgency, diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems, dizziness, blurry vision, photosensitivity, shortness of breath, coughing, bleeding gums, swollen lymph nodes, seizures, shaking, vomiting, fevers, chest pains, sinus infections and sinus growths. He is 32 years old. His wife currently suffers from nearly all of the same symptoms.
Seven other members of this unit have reported to Committee staff that they experienced similar exposures. They also currently suffer from similar symptoms.