A F T E R N O O N S E S S I O N
CHAIR LASHOF: We are ready to resume the session. The first part of the afternoon session prior to the
break will be a discussion of the detection of chemical biological warfare agents during the Gulf War. The
first presenter will be Gunnery Sergeant George J. Grass, U.S. Marine Corps. Gunnery Sergeant Grass,
please come forward.
GUNNERY SGT. GRASS: I would like to thank you for inviting me to come up here and give my
statement. I am going to read my statement that I think everybody has. I am going to begin as follows:
I, Gunnery Sergeant George J. Grass, United States Marine Corps, do make the following statement:
Upon my arrival in Southwest Asia, I was assigned as NBC Fox Recon Vehicle Commander, Serial No.
5604, for 1st Marine Division, Task Force Ripper. Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell was the NBC officer for
Task Force Ripper, but due to the mission and other circumstances, I was attached to 3rd Tank
Battalion, which was the lead element of Ripper.
The NBC officer at 3rd Tank Battalion was Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender. My overall mission was
to provide the task force with a recon and survey of the battlefield in case of any NBC attack and report
that information through my chain-of-command, which began with either Chief Warrant Officer
Biedenbender or Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell.
Approximately 24 to 48 hours prior to the breaching operations, all of the Fox vehicles were sent to the
Northern Division Support Center for a final operations and functions test. These tests included checking
and verifying the Mobile Mask Spectrometer for accuracy, among other tests. The civilian technicians
from General Dynamics performed these checks and determined that all of the Fox vehicles assigned to
1st Marine Division were fully functional and accurate.
During operations at both minefield breaches, I was tasked with checking all eight lanes for any possible
chemical contamination that may be present. At the morning meeting at 3rd Tanks Command
Operations Center on 22 February 1991, the intelligence brief was, "Recon reports back that from grid
coordinates QS 756771 to QS 754773 there have been observed to be numerous Viscella 69 mines
with a high probability of chemicals."
As my Fox vehicle drove through each lane, we monitored for both liquid and vapor contamination. The
probe used to sniff for any contamination detected small traces of nerve agent in the air. The computer
system notified us that the amount of chemical agent vapor in the air was not significant enough to
produce any casualties. As a result, it was impossible for the Mass Spectrometer to run a complete check
on the agent except by visually observing the agent and spectrum on the computer screen. These
minute readings continued on the screen for the duration of each lane surveyed.
Once my Fox vehicle departed the first minefield breach, those readings went away. I do not remember
the type of nerve agent that we detected.I told Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender and Chief Warrant
Officer Cottrell face-to-face what had been detected, and they both agreed that, since we had no solid
proof, there was nothing we could do about it. Several Marines worked to complete the lanes while
wearing only MOPP Level 2 and no gas masks while we detected these readings. No further chemical
agents were detected as we checked the lanes for the second minefield breach.
After the task force had arrived and taken Al- Jaber airfield, I was positioned somewhere on the Northern
side with elements of 3rd Tank Battalion monitoring for any chemical agent vapor contamination in the
air.The following day the smoke from the oil fires made daylight hours look completely black. The Mass
Spectrometer was programmed with a sample of the oil fire vapors and labeled as Unknown No. 1. When
the thick smoke was present, there was always a slight reading on the screen. These slight readings
were the same regardless of the concentration or the location of the vehicle. Because these readings
became commonplace whenever the thick smoke rolled in, it was easily recognizable when compared to
an actual chemical agent appearing on the monitor.
As the Mass Spectrometer was monitoring for chemical agent contamination with the usual readings from
the oil fires, the alarm went off and the monitor showed a lethal vapor concentration of the chemical
agent S-MUSTARD. The vapor was in the air for several minutes, which is more than enough time for
the Mass Spectrometer to analyze the vapor. A complete chemical spectrum was run and printed out as
evidence of the contamination.
Upon hearing the alarm and observing a lethal vapor concentration of S-MUSTARD in the air, I called,
"Gas" over the battalion net. After the proper chain-of-command was notified of the positive chemical
agent, my Fox vehicle conducted an area of recon and survey to determine the limits of contamination.
While performing the survey, the S-MUSTARD readings went away and the only readings appearing on
our monitor were typical readings from the oil fire vapors that we always had on there.
As we paused above Al-Jaber airfield, the winds were blowing approximately 10 to 15 miles an hour. The
detection of positive S-MUSTARD reading was reported through 3rd Tanks Net Commanding Operations
Center by Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender and myself to the 1st Marine Division NBC Officer, Chief
Warrant Officer Bauer. The Division stated that our readings were false and that the readings were
produced by the burning oil fire vapors. We explained to him that we already knew what the oil fire
vapors looked like on the monitor and the S-MUSTARD was clearly different and the distinct words
S-MUSTARD was printed across our screen.
The Division then said it had been false readings from the fuel from the M60 tanks, the Amtracs, et
cetera, that were around the Fox vehicle. Again, I explained to him that the Mass Spectrometer already
had programmed into its data base that any fuel vapor comes up with its name and the words "FAT, OIL,
The Division still insisted that we had false readings and abruptly signed off the net.
Chief Warrant Officer Biedenbender instructed me to keep a printed copy as proof of our detection in
case we needed it later.
After Task Force Ripper left Al-Jaber airfield heading toward Kuwait City, several chemical attacks were
reported to the task force from positive readings from personnel using chemical agent monitors.
My Fox vehicle was called to survey the area and verify and check for any possible vapor or ground
contamination present. All surveys performed by my Fox vehicle were negative when called for these
attacks, although the CAMs-Chemical Agent Monitors--had two three- bar positive readings.
The next time my Fox vehicle had positive readings was from an ammunition storage area located just
outside of Kuwait City. On 28 February 1991, I was now part of Task Force Ripper's main element,
reporting to Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell. During the intelligence brief that morning, they stated that the
Iraqis had established a 3rd Armored Corps Ammunition Supply Point or AFP just outside of Kuwait City
and that sources, EPWs or enemy prisoners of war, have stated that there were chemical weapons
stored there somewhere. I was informed that my task was to survey the entire ammunition supply point
and locate any chemical weapons that may be stored there.
Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell directed me and called back nonchalantly as finding some "HONEY." My
Fox vehicle set out and began conducting a survey of the area. While monitoring for chemical agent
vapors and an ammunition storage area next to the 1st Battalion 5th Marines pause or location, the
alarm on the computer was set off with a full distinct spectrum across the monitor and a lethal vapor
concentration of S-MUSTARD. We drove the Fox vehicle closer to the dug-in bunkers and fully visible
were the skull and cross bones either on yellow tape with red lettering or stenciled to the boxes or some
had a small sign with the skull and crossbones painted on it. On top of the boxes were artillery shells.
A full and complete spectrum was taken and printed. I notified Chief Warrant Officer Cottrell of the
"HONEY", and he instructed me to return to Rippers Main but to be aware that some VIPs and the media
were there. As we continued driving to the ammo storage area, the alarm sounded again. The chemical
agent HT-MUSTARD with a lethal dose came up across the monitor. A full spectrum was completed and a
copy printed as proof of detection. Before driving out of that area, the alarm sounded once more
a positive reading of BENZENE BROMIDE. Again, a full spectrum was completed and printed as evidence
of vapor contamination. Positive readings of S-MUSTARD, HT-MUSTARD, and BENZENE BROMIDE were
all within a hundred yards of each other near grid coordinates QT 766395. All ammunition was either
from Holland, Jordan or the United States. Completing the technical escort course several months prior
to deployment to Southwest Asia and being a former ammunition technician for six years, and I was the
NCOIC of an offensive chemical unit at Marine Wing Weapon Unit Atlantic at Cherry Point, I observed
several signs of possible chemical weapons storage. They were blue, red, and green-colored fire
extinguishers with each group in its own specific area. Also, this particular storage area had bung and
open top 55-gallon drums that were painted all blue, red and blue, green or white and green. Each set
of drums were grouped according to its color and whether the color of the drums were solid or striped.
No other area of the entire 3rd Armored Corps Ammunition Supply Area that my Fox vehicle checked
was designed or set up like that area.
Our regimental S-2 was notified. Upon arrival at Rippers Command Operation Center, myself, Chief
Warrant Officer Cottrell and other officers were taken into a Command Post tent. I explained to them all
about the S-MUSTARD detection at Jaber airfield, and of the S-MUSTARD, HTMUSTARD, and BENZENE
BROMIDE detected at the ammunition supply point. I showed them the comparison between both
S-MUSTARD detection tickets, and they all agreed that Division must be notified. As I was standing
there, one of the officers contacted Division. When he hung up the radio, it was determined that I would
meet an explosives ordnance team at 0700 at Division headquarters located at Kuwait International
Airport and escort them to the ammo storage area the next morning.
I gave my superior officers all of the printed out Mass Spectrometer spectrum tickets taken from the
positive readings at Jaber Airfield and ASP. I never saw those tickets again after I had given them.
My Fox vehicle arrived a little late due to the directions and destruction blocking some of the roads at the
International Airport. At approximately 0800 I spoke to Chief Warrant Officer Bauer at Division, and he
informed me that the team had been held back at Jaber Airfield and would arrive around 1400 or 2 p.m.
Two other Fox vehicles were kept at Division. Since I still had thousands of ammo bunkers to survey and
the area was about 45 minutes away, I asked Chief Warrant Officer Bauer if I could have the two Fox
vehicles assist me on my survey, since both crews, obviously, had no mission.
Chief Warrant Officer Bauer emphatically told me that those two Fox vehicles were not moving and
refused to listen to reason. When the explosive ordnance team finally arrived, I escorted them to where
the chemical weapons were detected. Upon arrival, the EOD team donned full protective equipment and
entered the area. They worked in the area for approximately one hour. Upon completion of their mission,
they deconned themselves and verbally acknowledged the presence of chemical weapons in the
storage area, but stated their main concern was to catalogue lot numbers to see if those lot numbers
had come into the country after sanctions were imposed on Iraq.
We escorted the EOD team back to Division and never heard from them again. Task Force Ripper and
my Fox vehicle departed Kuwait the next day. Since returning from the Persian Gulf, I have spoken to
almost every Fox vehicle commander from both 1st and 2nd Marine Division, and every one of them has
verbally acknowledged the positive identification of chemical agents in their area of operations.
That is the end of my statement, ma'am.
Questions and Answers