USIS Washington 

21 July 1998


(Cohen: U.S. has not used and does not use lethal nerve gas) (620)

By Susan Ellis

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Defense Secretary Cohen presented the results on July 21
of a month-long Pentagon investigation which he says proves
unequivocally that the United States never used Sarin nerve gas in
Southeast Asia and the chemical agent was never taken from its storage
area in Okinawa during the Vietnam War.

The Defense Department investigation was launched last month following
allegations made June 7 by the Cable News Network (CNN) and Time
Magazine that U.S. military forces used Sarin as part of "Operation
Tailwind" to hunt down American defectors in Laos."

The Pentagon refuted the news media account -- which both CNN and Time
have since disavowed -- with a 16-page bound report which also
includes numerous supporting documents that highlight in great detail
the lack of evidence for every major allegation broadcast by CNN and
published in Time Magazine.

Cohen expressed particular concern that in light of the United States'
prominence in efforts to stop the proliferation of deadly chemical and
biological weapons and its strong support for "the efforts of the U.N.
Security Council to force Iraq to destroy its stockpiles and end its
chemical and biological weapons programs (that) Americans and foreign
nations should understand that the United States has not (used) and
does not use lethal nerve gas.

"All Americans should know the 16 men who conducted this mission were
heroes, but they have been hurt by this report," he said, noting
further that the successful mission was conducted with skill and

Several of the men who took part in Operation Tailwind flanked Cohen,
sitting beside the rostrum in the briefing room. They attested to the
truth of the Defense Department report, which reflects five separate
investigations completed by the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The report concludes that "Operation Tailwind" was:

-- conducted for the stated military purposes;

-- carried out in accordance with Law of War, Rules of Engagement and
U.S. policies in force at the time;
-- not used to target American defectors; and

-- accomplished without the use of Sarin gas.

The original commander of Tailwind, then a Captain, now Lieutenant
Colonel Eugene McCarley, went to the microphone and attested: "I'm by
far not an expert on chemical operations but from what I've read and
what I've studied and what I've heard from so-called chemical experts,
the very fact that these two (rows of) seats right here are filled
today should be all the evidence anyone should ever need that Sarin
gas was not used."

Military experts on chemical agents present at the briefing explained
that American Air Force pilots dropped non-lethal tear gas on the day
in question in Laos, not deadly Sarin, and that U.S. military
personnel loading the tear gas onto the aircraft were not wearing the
protective gear such as masks, rubber aprons and other equipment that
would have been essential if they had handled Sarin. The speakers also
noted that all 16 Special Operations Forces soldiers who participated
in Tailwind survived, which would not have been the case had Sarin
been involved.

A Defense Department news release issued in conjunction with the new
report also notes that all chemical agents which were stored in
Okinawa during Vietnam "were removed in 1971 prior to the reversion of
the island to the government of Japan in 1972."

A full transcript of the briefing is available on the Internet at: