portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

imperialism & war


"I used it [NAPALM] routinely in Vietnam," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, now a prominent defense analyst. "I have no moral compunction against using it. It's just another weapon." And, the distinctive fireball and smell have a psychological impact on troops, experts said. "The generals love napalm," said Alles, who has transferred to Washington. "It has a big psychological effect."
Published on Tuesday, August 5, 2003 by the San Diego Union-Tribune
Officials Confirm Dropping Firebombs on Iraqi Troops
Results are 'remarkably similar' to using napalm

by James W. Crawley

American jets killed Iraqi troops with firebombs - similar to the controversial napalm used in the Vietnam War - in March and April as Marines battled toward Baghdad.

Marine Corps fighter pilots and commanders who have returned from the war zone have confirmed dropping dozens of incendiary bombs near bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris River. The explosions created massive fireballs.

"We napalmed both those (bridge) approaches," said Col. James Alles in a recent interview. He commanded Marine Air Group 11, based at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, during the war. "Unfortunately, there were people there because you could see them in the (cockpit) video.

"They were Iraqi soldiers there. It's no great way to die," he added. How many Iraqis died, the military couldn't say. No accurate count has been made of Iraqi war casualties.

The bombing campaign helped clear the path for the Marines' race to Baghdad.

During the war, Pentagon spokesmen disputed reports that napalm was being used, saying the Pentagon's stockpile had been destroyed two years ago.

Apparently the spokesmen were drawing a distinction between the terms "firebomb" and "napalm." If reporters had asked about firebombs, officials said yesterday they would have confirmed their use.

What the Marines dropped, the spokesmen said yesterday, were "Mark 77 firebombs." They acknowledged those are incendiary devices with a function "remarkably similar" to napalm weapons.

Rather than using gasoline and benzene as the fuel, the firebombs use kerosene-based jet fuel, which has a smaller concentration of benzene.

Hundreds of partially loaded Mark 77 firebombs were stored on pre-positioned ammunition ships overseas, Marine Corps officials said. Those ships were unloaded in Kuwait during the weeks preceding the war.

"You can call it something other than napalm, but it's napalm," said John Pike, defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.com, a nonpartisan research group in Alexandria, Va.

Although many human rights groups consider incendiary bombs to be inhumane, international law does not prohibit their use against military forces. The United States has not agreed to a ban against possible civilian targets.

"Incendiaries create burns that are difficult to treat," said Robert Musil, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a Washington group that opposes the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Musil described the Pentagon's distinction between napalm and Mark 77 firebombs as "pretty outrageous."

"That's clearly Orwellian," he added.

Developed during World War II and dropped on troops and Japanese cities, incendiary bombs have been used by American forces in nearly every conflict since. Their use became controversial during the Vietnam War when U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft dropped millions of pounds of napalm. Its effects were shown in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Vietnamese children running from their burned village.

Before March, the last time U.S. forces had used napalm in combat was the Persian Gulf War, again by Marines.

During a recent interview about the bombing campaign in Iraq, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Jim Amos confirmed aircraft dropped what he and other Marines continue to call napalm on Iraqi troops on several occasions. He commanded Marine jet and helicopter units involved in the Iraq war and leads the Miramar-based 3rd Marine Air Wing.

Miramar pilots familiar with the bombing missions pointed to at least two locations where firebombs were dropped.

Before the Marines crossed the Saddam Canal in central Iraq, jets dropped several firebombs on enemy positions near a bridge that would become the Marines' main crossing point on the road toward Numaniyah, a key town 40 miles from Baghdad.

Next, the bombs were used against Iraqis near a key Tigris River bridge, north of Numaniyah, in early April.

There were reports of another attack on the first day of the war.

Two embedded journalists reported what they described as napalm being dropped on an Iraqi observation post at Safwan Hill overlooking the Kuwait border.

Reporters for CNN and the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald were told by unnamed Marine officers that aircraft dropped napalm on the Iraqi position, which was adjacent to one of the Marines' main invasion routes.

Their reports were disputed by several Pentagon spokesmen who said no such bombs were used nor did the United States have any napalm weapons.

The Pentagon destroyed its stockpile of napalm canisters, which had been stored near Camp Pendleton at the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station, in April 2001.

Yesterday military spokesmen described what they see as the distinction between the two types of incendiary bombs. They said mixture used in modern firebombs is a less harmful mixture than Vietnam War-era napalm.

"This additive has significantly less of an impact on the environment," wrote Marine spokesman Col. Michael Daily, in an e-mailed information sheet provided by the Pentagon.

He added, "many folks (out of habit) refer to the Mark 77 as 'napalm' because its effect upon the target is remarkably similar."

In the e-mail, Daily also acknowledged that firebombs were dropped near Safwan Hill.

Alles, who oversaw the Safwan bombing raid, said 18 one-ton satellite-guided bombs, but no incendiary bombs, were dropped on the site.

Military experts say incendiary bombs can be an effective weapon in certain situations.

Firebombs are useful against dug-in troops and light vehicles, said GlobalSecurity's Pike.

"I used it routinely in Vietnam," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, now a prominent defense analyst. "I have no moral compunction against using it. It's just another weapon."

And, the distinctive fireball and smell have a psychological impact on troops, experts said.

"The generals love napalm," said Alles, who has transferred to Washington. "It has a big psychological effect."

Copyright 2003 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

homepage: homepage: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0805-01.htm

Here's the story from 2 days after the war began 06.Aug.2003 11:34


'Dead bodies are everywhere'

March 22 2003

Herald Correspondent Lindsay Murdoch, travelling with a Marines artillery unit, reports on one of the war's first battles on the Iraq-Kuwait border.

There was little initial resistance as the United States Marines swept into southern Iraq early yesterday. One of the first encounters of the ground war was more like a massacre than a fight.

The Iraqi gunners fired first, soon after United States President George Bush announced the attack on Saddam Hussein was under way.

It was a fatal mistake.

The Iraqi artillery unit, preparing for the American invasion, had tested the range by firing registering shots at a likely spot where the American tanks would cross from Kuwait. US radar picked up the incoming shells and pinpointed their source.

Within hours, the Iraqi gunners and their Russian-made 122mm howitzers were destroyed as the Americans unleashed an artillery barrage that shook the ground and lit up the night sky.

"Dead bodies are everywhere," a US officer reported by radio.

Later in the day, the American firepower was turned on Safwan Hill, an Iraqi military observation post a couple of kilometres across the border. About six hours after US marines and their 155mm howitzer guns pulled up at the border, they opened up with a deafening barrage. Safwan Hill went up in a huge fireball and the Iraqi observation post was obliterated.

"I pity anybody who's in there," a marine sergeant said. "We told them to surrender."

The destruction of Safwan Hill was a priority because it had sophisticated surveillance equipment near the main highway that runs from Kuwait up to Basra and then Baghdad. The attacking forces could not attempt to cross the border unless it was destroyed.

Marine Cobra helicopter gunships firing Hellfire missiles swept in low from the south. Then the marine howitzers, with a range of 30 kilometres, opened a sustained barrage over the next eight hours. They were supported by US Navy aircraft which dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives and napalm, a US officer told the Herald. But a navy spokesman in Washington, Lieutenant Commander Danny Hernandez, denied that napalm - which was banned by a United Nations convention in 1980 - was used.

"We don't even have that in our arsenal," he said.

The navy admitted to using napalm as late as 1993 in training exercises on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, but the last cannister of a vast US naval stockpile was reportedly destroyed in a public ceremony in April 2001.

When dawn broke on Safwan Hill, all that could be seen on top of it was a single antenna amid the smoke. The marines then moved forward, their officers saying they were determined to push on as quickly as possible for Baghdad.

The first air strike on Baghdad, and Mr Bush's announcement that the war was under way, appeared to catch US officers in the Kuwait desert by surprise. The attack was originally planned for early today. But the US officers did not seem worried.

Within hours of Mr Bush's announcement, a vast army of tanks, trucks, bulldozers and heavy guns was surging to positions on Iraq's border.

Despite the early indications that Iraqi forces were showing little resistance, some US Marine units halted 200 metres inside Iraqi territory last night as they came under fire from anti-tank missiles and rifles. They called in artillery to deal with the threat.

The Pentagon subsequently issued a statement to the Herald:

Your story ('Dead bodies everywhere', by Lindsay Murdoch, March 22, 2003) claiming US forces are using napalm in Iraq, is patently false. The US took napalm out of service in the early 1970s. We completed destruction of our last batch of napalm on April 4, 2001, and no longer maintain any stocks of napalm. - Jeff A. Davis, Lieutenant Commander, US Navy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense.

So what? 06.Aug.2003 12:16


So we used napalm, or something like it? So what?

We were fighting a war and we used ... weapons!

It's just amazing what the "floating outrage" of Portland's left-wingers will choose to land on.

here's what 06.Aug.2003 14:03


Napalm and similar forms of weaponry are prohibited and restricted under the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons. But hey, when was the last time the US actually obeyed a treaty, national or international? When was the last time the US actually upheld international law, human rights, UN resolutions, or anything else except when it was politically expedient to do so? I'm not sure I can really understand a mind that would defend the use of napalm. I understand that the fumes make generals and soldiers high as a kite; but for the rest of us, how much of our humanity is sacrificed by defending the inhuman and inhumane...

More on the Napalm Story 07.Aug.2003 04:29

Agent Orange

Interesting little tidbit from Xymphora on the Napalm story which was strenuously denied by the American Militarily when the story originally broke in March:


Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A little more on the use of napalm from a U. S. air force web site, under the heading Disinformation Alert:
"Report: U.S. military used napalm in the bombing of Iraq (Sydney Morning Herald, March 22, 2003.
Ground Truth: The United States took napalm out of service in the early 1970s. We completed destruction of all 2.7 million gallons of napalm on April 4, 2001. The claims that we are using napalm in Iraq are patently false. We have contacted the Sydney Morning Herald and asked for a correction. They tell us they are pulling the story."

I guess by the term 'Disinformation Alert' they are alerting us that whatever follows will be disinformation.

posted 10:04 PM

NAPALM, 07.Aug.2003 20:18


Ah, the smell of napalm in the morning will get your day off to a great start.

A great start in.. 09.Aug.2003 07:43


.. in liberty!!