WASHINGTON — A U.S. soldier suffered burns and blisters in 1991 after searching an abandoned Iraqi bunker, injuries that probably were caused by exposure to a "mustard agent," the Pentagon said Thursday.
The incident involving Pfc. David A. Fisher was detailed in a report released in a continuing Pentagon effort to clarify events around the time of the Persian Gulf War in which Americans were reported exposed to chemical agents. A goal is to better explain ailments afflicting many veterans of that conflict.
Known for some time, the explanation of Fisher's injuries was the first included in the Pentagon's series of narratives that dealt with injuries to a specific individual. Fisher, who has left the military, was awarded a Purple Heart.
He reported the burns to his medical officers a day after he explored numerous bunkers in southeastern Iraq near the Kuwait border. One of the bunkers contained wooden crates inscribed with skull-and-crossbones poison warnings. Upon leaving that bunker, the soldier brushed against a wall and the doorway.
"Medical evaluation and treatment diagnosed the exposure as liquid mustard chemical warfare agent," the report said. Later inspection by chemical detectors of his clothing and of areas near the bunker indicated the agent as well.
"Although later analysis of physical evidence did not confirm the exposure, experts concluded that Pfc. Fisher's skin injuries were most likely caused by exposure to mustard agent," the report stated.