Presentations from HAAC – The Silent Killers: A Quick Historical Review of Biological Threats

The seventh presentation of the second day was The Silent Killers: A Quick Historical Review of Biological Threats by Dr. Douglas A. Samuelson. It is here: HAAC Bio Threats 09282.

The first presentation of the day was my monstrosity, Iraq, Data, Hypotheses and Afghanistan (which I later turned into the book America’s Modern Wars): NIC Compilation 3.1

The second presentation of the day was Lessons Learned from Haiti 1915-1934 by Dr. Christopher Davis of UNCG: History as an Enemy and Instructor

The third presentation of the day was Estimating War Deaths (in Iraq) by Dr. Michael Spagat of Royal Holloway University of London: Iraq Deaths

We then had a group discussion on whether we could have won the war in Afghanistan. I opened the discussion with a brief 12-slide presentation, built from my original presentation that morning. It is here: Could We Have Won

This was followed by presentation by Joe Follansbee (Col. USA, ret) on a proposed Close Combat Overmatch Weapon.

The sixth presentation of the second day was Contentious Issues in Syria: the Alawi Religion, their Political Struggles, Chemical Warfare in Syria and a Hypothesized Religicide of the Alawis by Jennifer Schlacht: Temporarily deleted.

——

We had a total of 30 presentations given at the first Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC). We have the briefing slides from most of these presentations. Over the next few weeks, we are going to present the briefing slides on this blog, maybe twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursday). In all cases, this is done with the permission of the briefer. We may later also post the videos of the presentations, but these are clearly going to have to go to another medium (Youtube.com). We will announce when and if these are posted.

The briefings will be posted in the order given at the conference. The conference schedule is here: Schedule for the Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC), 27-29 September 2022 – update 16 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org).

The nine presentations given on the first day are all here: Presentations from HAAC – Air Combat Analysis on the Eastern Front in 1944-45 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org).

Does Russia have chemical warfare capability?

The short answer: Probably not.

The long answer: Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993. In 1997 the treaty came into force. Russia declared its chemical warfare stocks of 39,967 tons and then began destroying them. This destruction was partially funded and overwatched by Western nations. In late 2017, they destroyed the last of their weapons. At that point in time, they clearly effectively had no chemical warfare capability. This was done under an extensive inspection and overwatch regime that had access to Russian facilities and was assisted by intelligence assets, including multiple defectors. There is no question that as of the end of 2017, Russia did not have a chemical warfare capability, although one cannot rule out someone hid away a few Petri dishes (which does appear to be the case). 

But don’t take my word for it. To quote an expert (see: Ukraine war: What chemical and biological weapons could Russia have-and what has it used before?)

“But Dr Edwards says that Russia being a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) means it does not have the capacity to launch chemical attacks like the ones seen in Syria.

“The CWC is the most intrusive and successful disarmament convention we have,” he tells Sky News.

“Because of its collaboration with the CWC, Russia is subject to on-site inspections and investigations.

“So we know they don’t have major stocks, because they’ve either been destroyed or are in the process of being destroyed.”

Dr Edwards also claims there would be more widely-available intelligence if such weapons were being mobilised in Ukraine.

“We’d see it in the intelligence, it’s a whole infrastructure, so we’d see specialist units moving it all – which we haven’t.”

But he says Russia could be producing chemical weapons on a smaller scale.

“The smaller use of weapons – akin to terrorism – is more likely,” he explains.

“The CWC can’t capture smaller, clandestine production. And we have good reason to assume there is small-scale production of nerve agents in Russia – but that doesn’t have any relationship with the tonnes needed for chemical warfare.

“It’s nowhere near on the scale the West has been talking about.”

Anyhow, for Russia to have any significant chemical warfare capability, it would have to had to clandestinely rebuilt something in the last four years. This would require time, effort, money, and equipment. Certainly most of their gear is over two decades old and has not been maintained. Some of their conventional warfare gear they are deploying now in Ukraine has not been all that well maintained. Their ally, Syria, has maintained some chemical warfare capability, but it is very debatable that they have a whole lot to share with Russia. They could certainly borrow a couple of bombs, but this is hardly a chemical warfare capability. The negative impact of any such use would not justify their limited use.

This subject has been all over the news the last few days, with Russia making false allegations of Ukrainian bioweapon labs and then lots of chatter since then about what Russia might do. But, when it comes to chemical weapons, they do not really have anything. The fact that the locally manufactured nerve agent Novichok was used multiple times for assassination attempts has reinforced this assumption that Russia has a chemical warfare capability. These were scattered attempts over time using limited portions (Ivan Kivelidi (fatal) and Zara Ismailova (fatal) in 1995, Emilian Gebrev (fatal) in 2015, Sergie and Yulia Skripal in 2018 and Charlei Rowley and Dawn Sturgess (fatal) in 2018 from the same attempt, and Alexei Navalny in 2020). It is a case of adding 2 + 2 and getting to 100.

Iranian Civilian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (8)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]


Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing” Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War


The Iran-Iraq War produced remarkably few civilian casualties compared to World War I or World War II rates. UNICEF data suggests that prior to World War I, civilians accounted for only 5% of all deaths in a given war. This rose to 15% in World War I and an astounding 65% in World War II.[113] Iran claims 11,000 civilian deaths as a result of the war primarily through Iraqi air and missile strikes. The author‘s own study of Iranian civilian deaths places it at about 8,800 known deaths, indicating this number is probably very close to the true figure. If so, civilian deaths accounted for just 5% of total war dead, a turn-of-the-century standard. The number of wounded has not been released, but this author’s figures can account for over 34,000 civilian wounded by air and missile strikes. Further, Iran claims 45,000 civilian “chemical” casualties. If all claims are true then approximately 90,000 civilians became casualties of the war.

This yields a military to civilian casualty ratio of 11:1. This is far better than the ratio claimed in recent wars of 1:9. This suggests that despite the hysteria surrounding “War of the Cities,” the Iranian civilian population was not severely at risk during the war. Compare this to World War II England where the one-year German V-1/V-2 campaign killed 8,588 and wounded 46,838.[114] Then contrast it to total English civilian casualties during World War II at 60,000 dead and 86,800 wounded due to the blitz and buzz bombs. U.K. military killed, wounded and missing (excluding PoW) were 582,900 in World War II giving a military-to-civilian casualty ratio of 4:1.[115] Of course the World War II German bombing and missile campaigns against England were far more severe than that experienced by Iran at the hands of Iraq.

Civilian chemical casualties match military in magnitude. At first this might seem strange. I have found no World War I data on military-to-civilian casualty ratios as regards chemical agents, so there is no point of comparison or contrast here. The high number of civilian chemical casualties seems to be a function of several factors. First some 2,000 Iranian towns and villages lay in areas where Iraqi forces employed chemical weapons.[116] Secondly, Iraqi chemical strikes were often delivered deep into Iranian rear areas to attack reinforcements and support troops. Casualties were often high as the rear echelon troops were less well equipped and prepared to cope with chemical attacks.[117] In these rear area attacks the civilian population density must have been much higher than on the front line. Further, civilians probably had no means of chemical defense. Witness the chemical attack on Halabja in March 1988 with mustard, nerve and cyanogen chloride which killed some 4,000-5,000 civilians and maimed 7,000 others, This may explain the 1:1 relationship between overall Iranian military and civilian chemical casualties.

Mr. Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.

NOTES

[113] Abstracts Obtained from Iran on Medical Research Conducted After the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War,” www.chronicillnet.org/PGWS/tuite/IRMED/IRANTOC.html

[114] Charles E. Heller, Chemical Warfare in World War I: The American Experience 1917-1918, Leavenworth Papers No. 10, Ft. Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1984, p. 67; Denis Winter, Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War,New York, Penguin, Viking, 1978, p. 124.

[115] “Bis(2-chloroethyl)thioether, C4H8SCI2,” www.ch.ic.ac.uk/vchemlib/mol/horrible/War/mustard

[116] Anthony Coordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War, Boulder, CO; Westview Press, 1990, p. 525, n. 56.

[117] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 145-146.

Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (7)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]


Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing” Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War


Historical Chemical Casualties

The War of Sacred Defense was the only conflict of the 20th Century other than World War I fought under conditions of general chemical release. The Iranian ground forces were generally ill-prepared for chemical defense, during the course of the war much NBC defense gear was purchased from the U.K., Germany, and Czechoslovakia, but there was never enough and NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] defense training was insufficient. Many Iranian solders became gas casualties because they did not shave often enough to allow their protective masks to make a tight seal.[88]

Throughout the war Iraq employed chemical weapons against Iranian forces 195 times. After the chemical attack on Halabja in March 1988 killed some 4,000-5,000 civilians and maimed 7,000 others, the IRGC sent a video crew to document the atrocity. The video was used as a training film for Iranian recruits. Instead of instilling hatred for Saddam’s brutality, the film demoralized its viewers and exaggerated the power of Iraqi chemical weapons.[89] Iranian troops later panicked under gas attack conditions at Fao and Majnoon and abandoned their positions. However, this phenomenon was widespread in the First World War.[90] Further, chemical attacks were usually not significantly lethal. This is again in accord with World War I experience. Gas inflicted 70,552 casualties on the American Expeditionary Force in 1917-18. Of these only 1,221 died (2% lethality). The British Army suffered 185,706 gas casualties of which only 5,899 died (3% lethality), Total British battle casualties for World War I were 677,515 KIA and 1,837,613 WIA. Gas accounted for only 7% of all British casualties and only 1% of all KIA. The Russian Anny suffered an amazing 600,000 gas casualties with a lethality rate at times as much as 12%.[91]

The Use Of Gas In The Iran-Iraq War

Iraq may have first used gas in late 1980 near Salamcheh. Iran reported its first chemical casualty in fighting near Hoveyzeh in early 1981. These early attacks seem to have been limited to the riot control agent CS. On 27 October 1982, near Musain, four Iranian soldiers died from toxic chemical exposure, probably mustard gas. In mid-August 1983 Iran suffered 318 casualties from mustard and arsenic agents. On 7, 9, and 13 November 1983, Iraq used mustard in the Panjwin area. Four seriously wounded Iranian soldiers later died in European hospitals.[92] Between May 1981 and March 1984, Iran claimed Iraq had employed chemical weapons on forty-nine different occasions. This had resulted in 1,200 Iranian dead and 5,000 wounded.[93] Mycotoxins may also have been used.[94] On 17 March 1984 Iraqi forces employed gas which caused 400 Iranian casualties, 40 of which were from nerve agents.[95] In the Badr operation (1-18 March 1985) Iraq used chemical weapons five times, but inflicted only 200 Iranian casualties, none apparently fatal.[96] In one unnamed 1985 attack, Iran claimed 11,000 troops were exposed to Iraqi chemical agents.[97] In Wal Fajir-9 (15 February-11 March 1986) Iran claimed 1,800 chemical casualties from a total of about 30,000.[98] Up to 8,500 Iranian soldier were gas casualties by the end of Wal Fajir-8 and Wal Fajir-9 (15 February-19 May 1986) with about 700 killed or seriously wounded.[99] In attacks on 27 and 30 January, 9, 10, 12, and 13 February 1986, 8,500 Iranian gas casualties were reportedly suffered, of which 35 died and 2,500 had to be hospitalized.[100] In Karbala-4 (24-26 December 1986) only five Iranian troops died from toxic gas out of 10,000 battle casualties.[101] By early 1987, chemical weapons had inflicted at least 10,000 Iranian casualties.[102] In all Iran had suffered 25,600 gas casualties by April 1988, of which 260 (sic 2,600?) died. Iraq’s extensive use of chemical agents in the final months before the August 1988 cease-fire may have raised the casualty count to as much as 45,000.[103] In the Iraqi “In God We Trust” offensive of June 1988 against Majnoon, Iran claimed sixty soldiers killed and 4,000 wounded by Iraqi chemical weapons, which included nerve and blood agents.[104] A small U.K. article on mustard gas from the Internet cites 5,000 Iranian troops killed by gas and 40,000-50,000 injured during the war.[105] The overall cumulative wartime pattern of Iranian military chemical casualties is illustrated in the below figure.

The Lethality Of Gas

Speaking in 1996, Abdollah Mazandarani, Secretary General of the Iranian Foundation for Chemical Warfare Victims, claimed 25,000 Iranian soldiers were “martyred” (killed?) by Iraqi use of chemical weapons in operations Wal Fajir-8, Karbala-8, Badr, Fao, and Majnoon. 45,000 civilians were also affected by chemical weapons.[106] Iran claims at least 100,000 wounded by chemical weapons during the imposed war with Iraq. 1,500 of these casualties require constant medical attention to this day. Since 1991, 118 have died as a result of their toxic chemical exposure according to Hamid Sohralr-Pur, head of the Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled’s Center for Victims of Chemical Warfare.[107] One of these was Reza Alishahi, who died in September 1994 after suffering 70% disability when he was gassed during the Wal Fajir offensives of 1987.[108] Another pathetic story is that of Magid Azam, now a 27-year-old medical student, who was a 16-year-old Baseej fighter gassed with mustard in the Karbala-5 offensive of January 1987 with no apparent permanent effects. In 1995 his health suddenly began to deteriorate so rapidly he required intensive care. His lungs are now so damaged that only a transplant can save his life. He is one of 30,000 Iranian veterans who have received treatment for recurring or delayed reactions to chemical weapons. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Iranian soldiers were exposed to toxic agents during the war.[109]

In the First World War toxic chemical agents accounted for only 4-5% of total casualties. Of 1,296,853 known chemical casualties in that conflict, 90,080 died (7%), 143,613 were badly wounded (11%) and the remaining 1,053,160 (82%) not seriously affected.[110] 25,000 Iranian military dead out of 45,000 chemical casualties gives an incredible chemical lethality rate of 56%, higher than that for land mines. This claim of 25,000 Iranian troops “martyred” is not an exaggeration, but rather a probable misprint.[111] Elimination of an extraneous zero makes the number 2,500, in line with previously released figures. This would give a chemical lethality rate of 6% per chemical casualty, remarkably close to the World War I general rate, although somewhat higher than individual U.S. or British experience. Further, 45,000-55,000 military chemical casualties out of 1,133,000 total combat casualties yields a 4% casualty total for chemical weapons, again in line with overall World War I experience. 2,500 dead from chemical weapons is only 1% of total Iranian KIA. If 5,000 cited above is correct, about 3%. A representative sample of 400 chemical warfare casualties treated at the Labbati-Nejad Medical Center in Tehran in early 1986 yielded 11 deaths (3%) and 64 (16%) very seriously injured.[112]

Mr. Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.

NOTES

[88] Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1990, pp. 516.

[89] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 293-94.

[90] G. M. Hammerman et al., Impact of the Introduction of Lethal Gas on the Combat Performance of Defending Troops, Fairfax VA: Data Memory Systems Inc., 1985, Contract No. DNA 001-84-C-0241.

[91] Charles E. Heller, Chemical Warfare in World War I: The American Experience 1917-1918, Leavenworth Papers No. 10, Ft Leavenwoth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1984, pp. 33, 91-92. This represented some 32% of all hospitalized AEF casualties in World War I. Only about 200 were killed in action outright by gas. U.S. troops were ill prepared, poorly equipped and inadequately trained to fight on the European chemical battlefield. See Denis Winter, Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War, London: Penguin Books, 1978, p.125.

[92] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, pp. 188, n. 23, 513-518.

[93] Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War, London: Brassey’s, 1988, p. 149; Peter Dunn, “The Chemical War: Journey to Iran,” NBC Defense and Technology International, April 1986, pp. 28-37.

[94] U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare Related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and Their Possible Impact on Health Consequences of the Gulf War. (The “Riegle Report”) citing H Kadivar and S.C. Adams, “Treatment of Chemical and Biological Warfare Injuries: Insights Derived from the 1984 Attack on Majnoon Island,” Military Medicine, April 1991, pp. 171-177.

[95] Dunn, “The Chemical War: Journey to Iran,” pp. 28-37.

[96] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 164.

[97] “Iranians Still Suffering from Saddam‘s Use of Mustard Gas in War,” Buffalo News, 23 November 1997.

[98] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 179.

[99] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, pp. 224; Peter Dunn, “The Chemical War: Iran Revisited – 1986,” NBC Defense and Technology International, June 1986, pp. 32-37.

[100] “Iran Keeps Chemical ‘Options’ Open; Claims to Have Upper I-land,” NBC Defense and Technology International, April 1986, pp. 12-13.

[101] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 193.

[102] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, p. 264, n. 39.

[103] ibid, pp. 516-517.

[104] ibid, p. 389.

[105] “Bis(2-chloroethyl)thioether, C4H8SCI2,” www.ch.ic.ac.uk/vchemlib/mol/horrible/War/mustard

[106] “Official Says Germany, U.S. and Britain were Main Suppliers of Chemicals to Iraq,” IRNA, 1 December 1996.

[107] “I18 Iranian Chemically Wounded War Veterans Martyred Since 1991,” IRNA, 17 April 1997.

[108] “Latest Victim of Iraqi Chemical Warfare Against Iran Dies,” IRNA, 27 September 1994.

[109] “Iranians Still Suffering from Saddam’s Use of Mustard Gas in War,” Buffalo News, 23 November 1997.

[110] Ian V. Hogg, Gas, New York: Ballantine Books, 1975, p.136.

[111] This report was taken from the intemet where sometimes an extraneous number appears in figures. Such was the case when another report stated that 9974 Iraqi PoWs had been released in 1996, when the true figure was 974.

[112] Dunn, “The Chemical War: Iran Revisited – 1986,” pp. 32-39.

Novichok Dva

An article about Vil Mirzayanov: https://www.yahoo.com/news/scientist-leaked-russias-novichok-conspiracy-144025768.html

Highlights:

  1. He was the Soviet scientists who revealed Novichok.
  2. He is 83 and now lives in the United States.
  3. He has witnessed several scientists fail to regain their health after exposure:
    1. “The damage it inflicts is practically incurable.”
    2. “These people are gone — the man [Sergei Skripal] and his daughter. Even if they survive they will not recover.”
  4. He published his memoirs in 2002.
  5. Russia declared in 2017 that is had destroyed all of its chemical weapon stockpile.

 

P.S. This article came out later today: https://www.yahoo.com/news/russians-says-chemist-uncovered-existence-novichok-075342077.html

Summation: The Russians kept it and are still keeping it in secrecy.

Also: Half a gram is enough to kill a 110 pound person (1/2 gram = 0.018 ounces)

 

Novichok

Use of nerve agents gets my attention. The attack in Salisbury, England on 4 March not only put their targets in critical condition (Sergei Skripal and his daughter), but left one responding British police officer seriously ill, two others with minor injuries.

The nerve agent used is Novichok, which was invented in the Soviet Union, and as far as I know, is unique to Russia:

See: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/novichok-russian-nerve-agent-used-attack-ex-spy-sergei-skripal-great-britain/

And: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novichok_agent

 

P.S. I can see only three reasons to use this agent for an assassination:

  1. Because it is easy to smuggle in the agent or its component ingredients.
  2. To make sure everyone understands that it was done from Russia (although not necessarily by the Russian government).
  3. To terrorize defectors/opposition/business associates by using unusual and gruesome agents (i.e. like Polonium used on Litvinenko).

 

So Why Are Iraqi Records Important?

Last preachy post on this subject:

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents

So, why does it matter? Well, Iraq has been involved in three wars in recent time that are significant.

We engaged them in the 1991 Gulf War. Even though this was a truly lopsided result, we do not have good two-sided data available for this war (it may exist, but it is classified/closed). As this was our largest conventional operation since the Korean War (1950-1953), then having good two-sided data for this war would be useful. As it is, the last major conventional fight that the U.S. participated in where there is good two-sided data is in Italy through June 1944. After that, German records significantly degrade and we do not have a good collection of opposing force data for Korea, Vietnam or Iraq….although we do have it for Grenada ;).

Then we invaded and conquered Iraq in 2003. This was effectively a three-division operation that went extremely well also. As this was the last major conventional operation we conducted, it would be useful to have good data for the opposing side (hopefully we do, but again, it is classified/closed).

But, probably most significant is the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988. This was the largest conventional war since the early 1970s (India-Pakistan in 1971 and the Arab-Israeli War of 1973). This was also the first major war that used chemical weapons since World War I (1914-1918). Chemical weapons and nerve agents were used extensively by Iraq against the Iranians, and also brutally against Kurdish civilians. Iran did make limited used of chemical weapons in response. It is also the only extensive use of nerve agents in warfare. This is probably important to understand and analyze. We do not have records from the Iranian side, so it would be nice to have records from the Iraqi side. Hard to analyze their operations if we have records from neither side. We really have no actual operational data on the effects of chemical weapons in combat since 1918, and we have no operational data on the effects of nerve agents in combat. This could be a major shortfall.

Now, the documents destroyed, according to the article we originally cited, was only the material captured during the 1991 Gulf War, with records dating back to 1978.  Some of it (at least 60%) was preserved on digital tapes. And, perhaps we have preserved all the military records we captured in 2003. So, in fact there may be an extensive collection available (at least 725,000 pages), although it is classified or closed to researchers. Based upon our track record of record preservation from Vietnam and onward, I have reason to be concerned.

Anyhow, a related link on our chemical warfare studies (including links to articles on the Iran-Iraq War):

Survey of German WWI Records

 

P.S. There are over a dozen counties in the world that still have chemical warfare arsenals, including Syria, Iran and North Korea.

 

U.S. Records in the Gulf War (1991)

Of course, there were problems with the U.S. Army record keeping in the Gulf War (1991). There were serious problems with the U.S. Army record keeping in the Vietnam War (1965-1973), so not surprising, the problem had not been corrected, and the same problems existed 20 years later. In the Vietnam War, the 82nd Airborne Division pretty much threw away most of their records. According to Don Hakenson, Director, Center of Unit Records Research, Records Management and Declassification Agency; in the Gulf War, 86% or 87% of the battalion daily journals were not preserved (see War by Numbers, page 146).

This became a big issue when the “Gulf War Syndrome” became an issue. People became suspicious that U.S. soldiers had become exposed to hazardous materials or chemical weapons. Yet, when the Veterans Administration and others tried to figure out where the units were at the time, they found that the records no longer existed for many these units. In many cases, they could not determine where the unit or the people were during operations. Many of the records had simply been thrown out.

The Gulf War Syndrome was not a small issue. It has been estimated that 250,000 U.S. veterans were afflicted. It was a case where record keeping briefly became a major issue. Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War_syndrome

Since the 1960s, there has been serious gaps in U.S. record keeping. There still was in 1998 when we conducted a survey of the subject for the U.S. Army. We have conducted no other surveys since then, but gather that corrective action has been undertaken.

U.S. Army Record Keeping

Survey of German WWI Records

At one point, we did a survey of German records from World War I. This was for an exploratory effort to look at measuring the impact of chemical weapons in an urban environment. As World War I was one of the few wars with extensive use of chemical weapons, then it was natural to look there for operational use of chemical weapons. Specifically we were looking at the use of chemical weapons in villages and such, as there was little urban combat in World War I.

As discussed in my last post on this subject, there is a two-sided collection of records in the U.S. Archives for those German units that fought the Americans in 1918. As our customer was British, they wanted to work with British units. They conducted the British research, but, they needed records from the German side. Ironically, the German World War I records were destroyed by the British bombing of Potsdam in April 1945. So where to find good opposing force data for units facing the British during World War I?

Germany did not form into a nation until 1871. During World War I, there were still several independent states, and duchies inside of the Germany and some of these maintained their own armies. The kingdoms of Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Saxony, along with the Grand Duchy of Baden fielded their own armies. They raised their own units and maintained their own records. So, if they maintained their records from World War I then we could developed a two-sided database of combat between the British and Germans in those cases where the British units opposed German units from those states.

So….for practical purposes, we ended up making a “research trip” to Freiburg (German archives), Stuttgart (Wurttemberg) and then Munich (Bavaria). Sure enough, Wurttemberg had an nice collection of records for its units (a total of seven divisions during the war) and Bavaria still had a complete collection of records for its many divisions. The Bavarian Army fielded over a dozen divisions during the war.

So we ended up in Munich for several days going through their records. Their archives were located near Munich’s Olympic Park, the place of the tragic 1972 Olympics. It was in the old Bavarian Army headquarters that had been converted to an archives. After World War II, it was occupied by the Americans, and on the doors of many of the offices was still the name tags of the American NCOs and officers who last occupied those offices. The records were in great shape. The German Army just before WWII had done a complete inventory of the Bavarian records and made sure that there were complete. It was clear that when we looked into that, that many of these files had not been opened since then. Many of the files had sixty years of dust on them. The exception was the Sixth Bavarian Reserve Division, which clearly had been accessed several times recently. Adolf Hitler had served in that division in WWI.

The staff was extremely helpful. I did bring them gifts of candy for their efforts. They were  neatly wrapped in the box with plastic mice attached to the packaging. Later, they sent me this:

So we were able to establish that good German data could be assembled for those Wurttemberg and Bavarian units that the face the British. The British company that hired us determine that the British records were good for their research efforts. So the exploratory research effort was a success, but main effort was never funded because of changing priorities among their sponsors. This research was occurring while the Iraq War (2003-2011) was going on, so sometimes budget priorities would change rather suddenly.

The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) also made extensive used of chemical weapons. This is discussed in depth in our newsletters. See: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/tdipub4.htm  (issues Vol 2, No. 3; Vol 2, No. 4, Vol. 3, No 1, and Vol 3, No 2). Specifically see: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/pdf/Issue11.pdf, page 21. To date, I am not aware of any significant work done on chemical warfare based upon their records of the war.

This post is the follow-up to these two posts:

Captured Records: World War I

The Sad Story Of The Captured Iraqi DESERT STORM Documents

No Russian Chemical Weapons

Russia is claiming that it has destroyed all of its chemical weapons (I gather that there is no reason to doubt this, this has been going on for a while). The U.S has destroyed most its weapons, with complete elimination planned for 2023.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/27/world/europe/russia-putin-chemical-weapons.html