Units Involved

During ODS/DS, Al Jubayl was occupied primarily by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps units (see Tab C). The U.S. Marine Corps First Marine Expeditionary Force (IMEF) and 3rd Marine Air Wing were located in Al Jubayl during ODS/DS. Other units, such as the Army’s 702nd Transportation Battalion and a Patriot Missile Battery were also located in Al Jubayl. Units were located in the immediate harbor area, at local airfields, and in the industrial areas throughout the city (such as Camps 5, 13 and 15). Although many units were positioned in Al Jubayl before the ground war, most combat and combat support units deployed northward during the ground war. Two units, NMCB-24 and the Coast Guard’s Port Security Unit (PSU)-301, are the focus of this narrative because they are central to the major events that occurred at Al Jubayl.

Documentation from other units located in the Al Jubayl area was also reviewed. Interviews of personnel assigned to these units were conducted to develop additional information. A listing of units that passed through or remained in Al Jubayl is available for review. These lists are not complete and do not cover the entire Gulf War deployment period, but will be updated as information becomes available.


Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB)-24

NMCB-24, a reserve unit headquartered in Huntsville, AL, was activated in November 1990. NMCB-24 arrived in Saudi Arabia in December 1990 and reported to the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment. NMCB-24’s mission was to support IMEF and other coalition force engineering and construction requirements. NMCB-24 was stationed at Camp 13 with NMCB-40, an active duty Seabee unit that arrived at Camp 13 in September 1990. The Commanding Officer of NMCB-40 was also the Commandant of Camp 13. NMCB-24 was divided into five companies: Headquarters, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. The Headquarters, Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie Companies were stationed at Camp 13. Delta Company (referred to as the "Air Det") was located 20 kilometers away at KAANB. In addition to personnel normally assigned as reservists, NMCB-24 was augmented with approximately 100 personnel from other U.S.--based reserve Seabee units. NMCB-24’s assigned personnel strength totaled 724 enlisted personnel and 24 officers.

NMCB-24 conducted construction operations in and around Al Jubayl, and deployed forces to Al Khanjar (referred to as Camp Smith or Lonesome Dove) and Al Jabar airfield in Kuwait. NMCB-24 returned to the U.S. on April 26, 1991.


U.S. Coast Guard Port Security Unit (PSU) 301

PSU 301 was an activated U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Reserve unit and was manned by personnel coming from various USCG Reserve units throughout the U.S. PSU 301 was manned in two deployment phases, referred to as PSU 301-A and 301-B. PSU 301-A was relieved by 301-B in early March 1991. The PSU was attached to the Port Security and Harbor Defense (PSHD) Command, Group Two. Its primary mission was to conduct harbor patrol and surveillance. The PSU was responsible for interception, search, and apprehension of all suspicious or unidentified water craft in the areas of the port and harbor. PSU 301 was stationed at the port area of Al Jubayl and performed port security operations using "raider" gunboats.

A third unit that had an important role in Al Jubayl was the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Team Detachment 33. Members of Detachment 33 recovered components of a SCUD missile after it impacted into the waters of Al Jubayl harbor and sank.


Explanation Of The Events That Occurred At Al Jubayl

Members of NMCB-24 testified before the U.S. Senate’s Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee (known as the Riegle Committee). Their testimony underscored the need to fully explain the unexplained or under-explained events which did occur at Al Jubayl. Our investigation has identified three separate events that are discussed in the following section.


Loud Noise

Early reports tended to associate the "loud noise" event[4] with a second incident commonly referred to as the "purple T-shirt" event. But investigators have determined that these two events are unrelated and occurred approximately two months apart.[5] The "loud noise" event occurred during the period of January 19-21, 1991, and the "purple T-shirt" event occurred on March 19, 1991. Consequently, the "purple T-shirt" event is discussed separately in this report.

The investigation has also revealed that the events referred to as the "loud noise" of January 19-21, 1991, were actually two separate events -- the first, occurring in the early morning hours of January 19, 1991, and the second during the late evening-early morning of January 20-21, 1991. The events of January 19 and 20-21, 1991 involved air-raid sirens, loud noises, and unit alerts. The M-8 chemical detectors issued to NMCB-24 did not detect any chemical agents at Camp 13 during January 19-21, 1991, or at any time during ODS/DS.[6]

Sixty-seven NMCB-24 personnel were interviewed, including the command staff, NBC team members, medical personnel, and unit personnel. Seven of these individuals also testified before Congress. Their recollections differed. Some recalled a mist in the air, which would have indicated the presence of a significant concentration of an airborne substance,[7] while others recalled a wind blowing and no mist.[8] Some recalled immediate symptoms (burning eyes and skin) while others did not experience any symptoms. The symptoms that were described are not consistent with symptoms associated with exposure to chemical warfare agents.


January 19, 1991 Chronology

At approximately 0332 hours local time on January 19, 1991, a very loud noise was heard at Camp 13 and in the entire Al Jubayl area. General Quarters (GQ) was sounded.[9] At 0325 hours, Security Post 5 reported that two blasts had occurred west of Camp 13. A second security post reported that a white cloud was moving towards Camp 13 from the south.[10] At 0407 hours, the NMCB-24 NBC Warfare officer had an NBC team member check for the presence of chemical/biological agents at Camp 13 using a M-256A1 detection kit (see glossary). The results of these tests were negative.[11] A second check using the M256A1 kit was conducted at 0459 hours (local).[12] This test was also negative for chemical agents. At 0501 hours (local), a log entry notes that a test for chemical agents in the port area was conducted with negative results.[13] At 0541, Camp 13 returned to MOPP level 0+ and secured from General Quarters at 0545 hours.[14] The NMCB-24 "Air Det" log at KAANB contains entries denoting a sonic boom at 0330 hours, an air raid at 0400 hours, and at 0500 hours the detachment was secured from the air raid. There is no record of any chemical detection tests being run by NMCB-24 Air Detachment personnel.[15]

However, a member of NMCB-24’s Air Detachment reported during congressional testimony and in interviews conducted by investigators that he conducted several M256A1 tests which were positive for mustard/blister agent two out of three times. He also claimed that one individual, a member of the Air Detachment, developed a blister on his wrist under his wristwatch.[16] These detections were not recorded in either the NMCB-24 Command log or "Air Det" logs, nor are there any records of such an event being reported to higher headquarters. This individual testified that he informed the air detachment leaders of the positive results of his M256A1 tests. An officer who was the assistant Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Air Detachment stated he was in a position to receive such a report and was never informed of these positive tests.[17] In an interview with investigators, the NMCB-24 Air Detachment OIC stated that the person who reported the positive tests had been detailed by the Air Detachment to the Marine Chemical Biological Radiological (CBR) element at KAANB. The Air Det OIC stated that during attack alerts, this individual was under the control and direction of the Marine’s Defense Operations. The Air Det OIC emphasized that he and his personnel (the Air Detachment) were under the control of the KAANB Commander who was a Marine Colonel. Any CBR monitoring, surveying, reporting, or decontamination operations took place under the direction and control of the KAANB Commander. He further stated that the Marines (MAG-13) ran a "tight ship" and were very sensitive to the timely flow of information up and down the chain of command. The Air Det OIC does not remember anyone reporting to him that blister agent had been detected. He stated that he "would have remembered such a report. The talk about a chemical detection during the early morning hours was exactly that, talk." He stated that he and all the rest of the tenant unit commanders were "out and about" during the loud noise event and that there were no reports from any unit or the MAG-13 CBR team that any agent had been detected or that there were any injuries suffered or treated.[18] No one in the Air Det was a sick bay casualty during or after the 19th of January as a result of the attack alert. During an interview, a Hospital Corpsman Senior Chief (HMCS), who was the senior medical corpsman for NMCB-40 and Camp 13, stated that he does not remember the individual from the Air Detachment who developed a blister, but added that he treated a lot of similar cases at Camp 13. He said the blister was most likely caused by ringworm or other fungus that grew under a person’s wristwatch. He explained that if a watch was worn too tightly, heat and humidity built up under the watch, allowing the fungus to grow.[19]

During this time period, a Central Command (CENTCOM) NBC log entry at 0430 hours noted that there was an earlier report of a chemical attack at Al Jubayl. A British unit (not identified in the log) had a "slight" Chemical Agent Monitor (CAM) reading for mustard. British NBC control sent an NBC team to the site of the reading to conduct further tests. They did not receive a positive indication for a chemical agent and reported "All Clear" to CENTCOM NBC. At 0440 hours, the British reported that another one of their units was getting a positive reading for mustard using M9 detection paper (see glossary) and that a propeller driven aircraft was heard in the area. At 0510 hours, CENTCOM NBC contacted the British NBC team that was sent out to verify the earlier report and found they were at MOPP 0 and did not have any positive M9 paper readings. Because of the conflicting reports, CENTCOM NBC teams were dispatched at 0518 hours to the sites where the British detections occurred (near Camp 5 in the industrial zone) to recheck the area. At 0615 hours, a CENTCOM NBC team lead by a Chief Warrant Officer Three (CWO3) performed a reconnaissance of the area between the two British detections. At 0748 hours, log entries report that no positive readings were taken and that two separate sweeps found no chemicals or debris in the area. This entry does make note of a large diesel fuel spill in the middle of the suspect area.[20]

Eyewitnesses at Camp 13 describe a large fireball that illuminated the sky, a concussion wave, and a mist in the air.[21] Interview quotes include: "I remember getting woke up by this huge explosion -- it almost knocked us out of our bunks."[22] "I am a Viet Nam War Vet, and my thoughts were that it was a rocket."[23] "I initially thought it was incoming artillery rounds."[24] Several personnel experienced acute symptoms such as runny noses, numbness and burning sensations on their lips, eyes, and skin following this explosion. "Right after I got into the bunker, my lips started turning numb and the numbness lasted for several days." "Nobody believed it was a sonic boom -- nobody. I’ve been in the military most of my life and I know that a sonic boom doesn’t leave a flash of red light in the damn sky." "We washed down and that seemed to help, but people started coming up with blisters."[25] Eyewitnesses also stated that those experiencing symptoms reported for medical attention within the next few days. Investigators interviewed the NMCB-24 commander, medical personnel, and senior non-commissioned officers assigned to Camp 13 and reviewed the unit’s sick-call logs. Investigators found no record indicating that any individual sought medical attention on January 19th or the following few days for the types of symptoms that were reported.[26]

Several eyewitnesses, who were located at Camp 13, stated that they smelled an ammonia-like odor, while others do not recall any significant odor or smell. NMCB-24 (for Camp 13) logs do not mention the presence of any odor during the time of the loud noise. Some personnel have stated that they were unprotected during that time and exhibited no symptoms that would have indicated exposure to a chemical agent. A Builder 2nd Class assigned to NMCB-24 stated that during the alert he volunteered to leave the bunker, located at Camp 13, to conduct a M256A1 chemical test. Once outside, he became aware that he had forgotten his MOPP gloves in the bunker. He elected not to return to the bunker for his gloves and continued to test for the presence of chemical agents. He stated that he did not develop any symptom related to an exposure to a chemical agent.[27]

Records of other units stationed in Al Jubayl describe a series of loud explosions occurring on January 19, 1991. For example, the NMCB-24 Air Detachment Log contains an entry reporting the sonic boom at 0330 hours.[28] The command history of Critical Facility Force (CFF) describes the British positive blister agent reading.[29] The IMEF journals also contain entries that discuss the British detections.[30] The Logistics Operations Center’s daily update states that the reported mustard gas attack at Al Jubayl was actually an ammonia plant setting off alarms and that the booms were from aircraft.[31] The KAANB Commander (a Marine aviator) has also stated the loud noise was caused by two aircraft. He said it was the loudest sonic boom he had ever heard. He said that he immediately called the command center and was told by the duty watch that the Marine Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) had informed them that the source of the loud noise was two Tornadoes heading towards the north.[32] Finally, what is believed to be a radio station log from an unknown Marine unit gives some insight into the level of confusion that existed in Al Jubayl from the loud noise and initial reports of positive test results for chemical agents.[33]


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