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napalm
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US Military: Napalm

 
  

Project: US Military

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1942

       The US Army Chemical Warfare Service, working with a Harvard University team of researchers led by Dr. Louis Fieser, develop napalm (naphthenic palmitic acids), a flammable, gasoline-based incendiary weapon. Early napalm is made by mixing the aluminum soap powder of naphthene and palmitate (naphthenic and palmitic acids) with gasoline. [Remers, 2000 cited in Adams, n.d.; Russel, 1967] A later formula, referred to as “Napalm-B,” uses 46 percent polystyrene, 33 percent gasoline and 21 percent benzene. The US uses the weapon in all of its major conflicts. The incendiary weapon produces a fiery explosion that sometimes hits temperatures of more than 5,000 degrees. It sucks oxygen out of the air and can kill people who are not burned to death by asphyxiation. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/2001; Sydney Morning Herald, 8/8/2003]
People and organizations involved: Paul Harkins
          

1963-1973

       During the Vietnam war, the US uses a total of 373,000 tons of napalm. [Boston Globe,; St. Petersburg Times, 12/3/2000] One ton of napalm alone is enough to burn a football field in seconds. [BBC, 4/24/2001] The use of napalm in Vietnam is widespread and is a favorite weapon of the US military command. General Paul Harkins says it “really puts the fear of God into the Vietcong—and that is what counts.” [Hilsman, 1967] Pilots are given authority to use the weapon without prior authorization if the original target is inaccessible. [Herring, 1986] Entire villages are destroyed by napalm bombs. [Sources: Colonel Recalls Being Ordered to Napalm Entire Village in Vietnam]
          

1965-1969

       Dow Chemical, and other companies like United Aircraft Corp. (which produced it for a shorter period of time), produce napalm for the US Army. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/2001; Business Week, 2/10/1969]
People and organizations involved: United Aircraft Corp, Dow Chemical
          

October 10, 1980-December 2, 1983

       In Geneva, Protocol III (Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons) of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is adopted on October 10, 1980, making it illegal to use incendiary weapons on civilian populations and restricting the use of these weapons against military targets that are located within a concentration of civilians. Such weapons are considered “to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.” 51 countries initially sign the document and on December 2, 1983, its provisions are entered into force. By the end of 2004, 104 countries sign and 97 ratify the protocol. [UN, 11/19/2004 Sources: Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol III] The US is not a party to this protocol and continues to use incendiary weapons in all its major conflicts. It is the only country to do so. [Independent, 8/10/2003]
          

(2002 and after)

       Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois produces 500 Mark-77 firebombs for the US Marines. [Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9/2003] Mark-77 firebombs are a more advanced and perfected design (see 1963-1973) of the napalm bombs that were used during Vietnam (see August 2003).
People and organizations involved: Rock Island Arsenal
          

March 21, 2003 and after

       The United States uses Mark 77 firebombs, an incendiary weapon that has virtually the same effect as napalm (see 1942), in Iraq. The weapon is so similar in fact that troops commonly refer to it as napalm. [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/22/2003; CNN, 3/21/2003] According to US Marine Col. Randolph Alles, “The generals love napalm—it has a big psychological effect.” [San Diego Tribune, 8/5/2003] The use of incendiary weapons on civilian populations is banned by Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (see October 10, 1980-December 2, 1983), which also restricts the use of these weapons against military targets that are located within a concentration of civilians.
          

March 22, 2003

       CNN and the Sydney Morning Herald report that the US used napalm to destroy an Iraqi intelligence gathering operation on top of Safwan Hill in southern Iraq. A source tells reporter Lindsay Murdoch that US Navy aircraft dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives and napalm (see 1942). However, a US Navy spokesman in Washington, Lieutenant Commander Danny Hernandez, denies that napalm was used in the attack. Hernandez claims that it isn't even in the military's arsenal. [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/22/2003; CNN, 3/21/2003] It is later learned (see August 2003) that the actual weapons were Mark 77 Firebombs, an incendiary weapon that has virtually the same effect as napalm.
People and organizations involved: Danny Hernandez
          

March 22, 2003

       The US Air Force website emphatically denies the use of napalm in Iraq (see March 22, 2003), posting a “disinformation alert” on its website. “The claims that we are using napalm in Iraq are patently false,” the alert claims. It also says that the United States' stock of napalm bombs was destroyed in 2001 and that the Sydney Morning Herald has said it will be pulling its story (see March 22, 2003), which it never does. [Department of Defense, 3/22/2003]
          

August 2003

       The US says it is using Mark-77 firebombs in Iraq. Mark-77s are incendiary weapons that have a “remarkably similar” effect to that of napalm. The main difference between the two weapons is that Mark-77 firebombs use kerosene-based jet fuel whereas napalm used gasoline. The newer firebombs are also said to be more difficult to extinguish but to have less of an impact on the environment. [San Diego Tribune, 8/5/2003; Agence France Presse, 8/8/2003] But critics say the difference is minute. Technically, the name, “napalm,” refers to the combination of naphthalene and palmitate which was used only in the very earliest versions of such bombs (see 1942). Later firebombs, such as the napalm used in Vietnam, was made from polystyrene instead. Yet these bombs continued to be referred to as napalm, or “Napalm-B.” Therefore critics say that by substituting jet fuel for gasoline, the military had just developed a more advanced napalm bomb. John Pike, director of the military studies group GlobalSecurity.Org, explains: “You can call it something other than napalm but it is still napalm. It has been reformulated in the sense that they now use a different petroleum distillate, but that is it.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 8/8/2003; Independent, 8/10/2003; Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9/2003]
People and organizations involved: John Pike
          

November 2004

       After the US siege of Fallujah, Iraq, residents of the city tell reporters that US troops used gas and describe another weapon whose effects are identical to that of napalm bombs. “Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah,” 35-year-old trader from Fallujah Abu Hammad tells reporter Dahl Jamail. “They used everything—tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.” Another resident, Abu Sabah, from the Julan area, explains: “They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.” He says the pieces then explode into large fires that burn the skin even when water is applied. “People suffered so much from these,” he adds. [Inter Press News Service, 11/26/2003] The San Francisco Chronicle reports that some “artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.” Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, tells the newspaper, “The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004]
          


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