Local reservists did not fly into Khamisiyah, the site of an accidental release of chemical weapons at the end of the Persian Gulf War, a new Pentagon report states.
Instead, they flew a biological weapons testing team into a different ammunition depot about 15 miles away, where the team tested for anthrax but found no evidence of it, according to the report.
The report, one of three released Tuesday by the Pentagon office looking into Gulf War illnesses, said the crew flew into the An Nasiriyah ammunition storage point, another giant ammunition complex near the Tallil airfield.
"I'll have to look at it, but that could be right," said Gil Stone, who piloted the March 6, 1991, mission. "This Pentagon investigator, Mike Reiter, sent me a bunch of maps and things, trying to figure out where we went.
"He worked hard on it - I definitely didn't think he was shoving me off."
The An Nasiriyah report said that although Iraq stored chemical and possibly biological weapons at the depot at the beginning of the war, the weapons apparently were removed before American troops occupied the site on Feb. 28, 1991.
Stone and two crewmen, Jim Reichert and Ernie Rangle, were members of the former 7th Battalion 158th Aviation Regiment, an Army Reserve unit that was based at Scott Air Force Base until it was disbanded in 1995.
That year, Reichert told the Belleville News-Democrat the story of a strange mission in the gulf, including finding a leaking, fizzing artillery shell and hauling guys with unusual protective suits who burned their suits before getting back on the helicopter.
In 1996, the Pentagon admitted that Army engineers accidentally released chemical weapons when they blew up the massive Khamisiyah ammunition complex during the first 10 days of March 1991. The blasts exposed about 100,000 American troops to low levels of chemical agents.
When pictures of Khamisiyah were published, Reichert said he thought that was the same place as the mysterious mission. He helped track down Stone, who lives in Missouri, and Rangle, who lives in Florida. Both men supported his story and asked why the depot was blown up despite suspicions it housed chemical weapons. Rangle, who has a service-connected disability from his tour in the gulf, presented his photos and information to the presidential panel looking into Gulf War illnesses.
Stone worked with the Pentagon investigators.
According to the new report:
Originally Published, Aug. 5, 1998 , Belleville News Democrat, Belleville,
(c) 1998, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.
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