U.S. used nerve gas during Vietnam War, CNN-Time report says

John Boyer (johnboy@CreativeSysInc.com)
Mon, 08 Jun 1998 12:51:35 -0500


I think this is a really big story, but it had a media hang time
of about 2 seconds.

If this is true, what does that say about the US condemnation of the Soviet
behavior in Afganistan and Sadam's treatment of the Kirds?

The most interesting aspect of this story is that the mission
was to kill off some "longshadows" (defectors) in Laos using Sarin.

BTW, Isn't it Sarin that smells like almonds. And how do they know that
-- johnboy

WASHINGTON, June 7 (June 7, 1998 11:03 p.m. EDT http://www.nando.net) - The
military used lethal nerve gas during the Vietnam War, targeting American
defectors in a village base camp in Laos, CNN and Time magazine said in a
report on Sunday.

Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed
sarin nerve gas was used in 1970 in a secret raid into Laos called Operation
Tailwind, according to the report aired on CNN on Sunday.

Capt. Eugene McCarley, commander of the mission, told the program
"Newsstand: CNN & Time" that "upwards of 100" people perished in the raid,
including women and children. Platoon leader Lt. Robert Van Buskirk
estimated up
to 20 American military defectors were killed.

The Pentagon said on Sunday its own research did not indicate that nerve gas
was used during the Vietnam War.

"We've haven't seen the piece yet, however we've researched this kind of thing
and there's nothing to lead us to believe that nerve gas was used in
Vietnam or
Laos," said Defence Department spokesman Jim Turner.

The report, which also appears in the issue of Time on sale on Monday, said
the United States has not before admitted to using sarin in combat. Sarin
is the
gas used in a 1995 Tokyo subway attack that killed 12 people and made
thousands ill.

Moorer told the program the White House national security team of President
Richard Nixon approved use of the nerve gas and the CIA had partial
for the operation. He said he was speaking out now because of his respect for

The report quoted military officials and soldiers who took part in the
raids as
saying that the sarin gas was dropped on more than 20 missions in Laos and
North Vietnam.

The year of the Tailwind mission, Nixon had pledged a no-first-use policy
on nerve
gas as part of his commitment to the Geneva Protocol limiting chemical weapons
use, but the Senate had not yet ratified the chemical weapons treaty.

Van Buskirk told CNN and Time he had orders to kill everyone, including U.S.

"It was pretty well understand that if you came across a defector, and
could prove
it to yourself beyond a reasonable doubt, do it. Under any circumstance,
kill them,"
he said. "It wasn't about bringing them back, it was to kill them."

Soldiers who took part in the secret September 1970 Tailwind mission --
about 60
miles deep into Laos -- were in the Studies and Observations Group, SOG, which
mounted operations against unusual targets, using unusual weapons.

Van Buskirk said an Air Force colonel warned him about the lethal gas
before the
mission and urged him to be sure that his soldiers took their M-17 gas masks,
designed to protect against nerve gas. The SOG commandos were also issued
atropine, a nerve gas antidote, CNN and Time reported.

One of the soldiers on the mission, Jim Cathey, said he spent five hours
observing the village base camp and saw 10 to 15 Caucasians.

"I believe that there were American defectors in that group of people in
that village,
because there was no ... sign of any kind of restraint," he said. "In
retrospect I
believe that mission was to wipe out those longshadows," as defectors were
known since they were taller than Laotians and Vietnamese.

In an off-camera interview Moorer acknowledged that Tailwind's target was the
defectors in the village, CNN & Time said. Although he would give no firm
estimate, Moorer indicated scores of U.S. military had defected during the

In the Tailwind raid, U.S. planes passed over the village base camp and
the deadly nerve gas. SOG commandos entered the camp the next morning, and
according to Mike Hagen, who was a platoon sergeant, "basically destroyed
everything there."