October 20, 1996 in Nation/World

Czechs Warned U.S. Of Gas In Gulf War Czech Troops Put On Masks Several Times, Officer Says

Associated Press
 

Czech soldiers repeatedly warned U.S. officials in the Persian Gulf War that their troops were being exposed to chemical toxins, but the Americans ignored the warnings, a Czech soldier said Saturday.

While the Czech contingent put on gas masks and other protective gear several times, the Americans did not follow suit, said Vaclav Hlavac, a retired chief warrant officer in the Czech army who monitored chemical gas during the war.

“Maybe they had different standards than we had,” he told The Associated Press.

In an interview in Saturday’s edition of The New York Times, Hlavac was quoted as saying that nerve gas and blister agent was first detected on Jan. 19, 1991 - the second day of the war.

While Czech soldiers pulled on gas masks and chemical protection suits, the American troops did not because their commanders weren’t convinced that low levels of the chemicals could harm them, Hlavac told the Times.

The Pentagon released logs last month confirming that the Czechs made reports to the Americans of gas being released.

However, the Pentagon said then that the reported incidents were not considered a threat to U.S. forces. The Pentagon also denied that U.S. commanders were hiding in sealed shelters while telling soldiers in the field to disregard reports of gas releases.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon said more than 15,000 U.S. soldiers may have been exposed to nerve gas. But the Defense Department has said there is little scientific evidence suggesting that soldiers exposed to small amounts of chemical weapons would suffer long-term health problems.

An panel of private medical experts convened by the Institute of Medicine issued its final report on Gulf War syndrome last week.

The committee’s core finding - that there is no firm evidence of a link between possible chemical exposure in the Persian Gulf region and resulting illness to military personnel who served there - echoes the findings of other government studies.

But hundreds of U.S. soldiers are receiving compensation for unknown ailments they acquired during the war.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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