The Department of Defense announced today that it has concluded its investigations into accounts of possible chemical warfare incidents involving the 11th Marines artillery regiment during the Gulf War. The final version of the "11th Marines" case narrative has been revised based on new information obtained by the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments. In 1998, the special assistant's office published a narrative addressing two questions: was chemical warfare agent present in the immediate vicinity of 11th Marines during possible chemical warfare agent incidents; and why did the 11th Marines record so many chemical events. Since 1998, investigators have obtained new information from interviews with Gulf War veterans and other sources, which provided a clearer picture of what occurred during the war.
Additionally, the former Presidential Special Oversight Board reviewed the 1998 narrative and recommended some changes and that special assistant's office republish the paper as a final report.
After reassessing all of the information, investigators cataloged 17 possible chemical warfare incidents associated with the 11th Marines. In most incidents, Marines donned additional chemical protective clothing. Since documentation and witnesses provided very little detail about two of the incidents, investigators have assessed the possibility of chemical warfare agent presence as "indeterminate." For 13 other incidents, there was substantial information that allowed investigators to determine the presence of chemical warfare agent as "unlikely" in each case. The remaining two incidents were assessed as "definitely not" involving the presence of chemical warfare agent. In none of the 17 was chemical warfare agent casualties reported.
Investigators believe that false positive chemical warfare agent tests triggered some incidents. All detection devices available to Marines in the Gulf War - the Fox Nuclear Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle, the M256 Chemical Agent Detection Kit, the Chemical Agent Monitor, the Remote Sensing Chemical Agent Alarm and the M8A1 Automatic Chemical Agent Alarm System - could produce a false positive indication in the presence of substances other than chemical warfare agents. Additionally, investigators believe that the heavy concentrations of smoke and raw petroleum sometimes affected the detection equipment, causing them to alarm and trigger chemical warfare agent reports.
During the course of the investigation, it was found that occasionally Marine units initiating alerts failed to identify themselves and their locations, and this may have caused more Marine units than necessary to don chemical protective gear. However, investigators concluded overall that 11th Marines used the chemical warfare agent indications and information they received to protect their forces from possible chemical warfare agent exposure while focusing on the mission of supporting infantry units.
Case narratives examine Gulf War incidents that might have involved chemical warfare agents. They are part of DoD's efforts to inform the public about its investigations into the nature and possible causes for the illnesses experienced by some Gulf War veterans.
This narrative, and all other Gulf War-related publications of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments, is posted on the GulfLINK web site at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/11marines_ii .