Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced today that the Pentagon's review of OPERATION TAILWIND found no evidence to support CNN/Time allegations that the operation was mounted to hunt down American defectors or that U.S. special operations forces used Sarin nerve gas during the operation.
The allegations were made during the premiere of "Newstand," a joint CNN/Time news program that aired on June 7, 1998. The same allegations were later repeated in an article that appeared in the June 15 edition of Time magazine.
"We studied scores of documents about OPERATION TAILWIND, and conducted interviews with soldiers and officials at all levels of command. We found no evidence to support the CNN/Time assertions on defectors or the use of Sarin nerve gas. No document - military order, after-action report, briefing paper or official military history - mentions pursuit of U.S. defectors as Tailwind's mission. While Sarin was stored in Okinawa in 1970, we found no evidence that Sarin nerve gas was ever sent to or used in Vietnam or Laos," Cohen said.
All chemical agents stored on Okinawa during the Vietnam conflict were removed in 1971 prior to the reversion of the island to the government of Japan in 1972.
"Americans and foreign nations should understand that the United States has not and does not use lethal nerve gas. We are in the forefront of efforts to stop proliferation of deadly chemical and biological weapons. That is why we strongly support the efforts of the U.N. Security Council to force Iraq to destroy its stockpiles and end its chemical and biological weapons program," Cohen said.
Also, during the course of the investigation, as the distinctive achievements of the men who participated in OPERATION TAILWIND became increasingly apparent, Cohen ordered a review to ensure that they had received the recognition and benefits befitting their service during the Vietnam conflict.
"All Americans should know the 16 men who conducted this mission were heroes, but they have been hurt by this report," Cohen said, noting further that the successful mission was conducted with skill and valor.
The Service reviews are an extensive compilation of documents and personal recollections about the events comprising OPERATION TAILWIND. This record reveals no evidence that the operation was directed in any manner toward military defectors, nor was any evidence found that Sarin gas was used during the operation at any time.
From the extensive record gathered in these reviews, the Department of Defense concludes that OPERATION TAILWIND was: (1) conducted for the stated military purposes; (2) conducted in accordance with Law of War, Rules of Engagement, and United States policies in force at the time; (3) did not target American defectors; and, (4) did not employ Sarin gas.