The Gulf War

Frequently Asked Questions

FRONTLINE's viewers asked Dr. Bob Roswell some riveting questions. Read what he had to say.
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Dear Dr. Roswell,
I have several questions dealing with the problems that many of the Gulf War soldiers are going through.

  1. Are there any correlations between symptoms and the regions that the soldiers were stationed in?
  2. Is it possible that chemical residue could have been in the sand from past releases and was stirred up by all the activity.
  3. Has there been any statement released as to why many infantry troops were given Anthrax shots? Could these shots be a cause of any of the problems that are surfacing today?

Smithfield R.I.

1. Although conclusive information is not yet available, it appears that veterans present at the Kamisiyah site where captured Iraqi chemical weapons were destroyed have reported muscle aches and joint pains more frequently than soldier stationed further away from the site. Hopefully, this type of analysis will offer additional clues to the cause or causes of illnesses reported by Persian Gulf veterans in the months ahead. 2. Although it is possible that toxic chemicals or other substances were released by military operations in the desert, it is unlikely that chemical warfare agents could have been released in this manner. Both nerve agents and blister agents are rapidly rendered inert in the arid desert environment present in Saudi Arabia, and thus it seems unlikely that residues from the prior release of such agents could have affected US. troops in the area. 3. Approximately 150,000 of the 697,000 US. troops deployed for Operation Desert Shield/Storm were given anthrax vaccinations with a vaccine fully licensed by the US. Food and Drug Administration. This vaccine has been used in this country since 1972 without reported long term side effects. The vaccine was given to US. troops to protect them against possible Iraqi use of anthrax as a biological warfare agent. Although there is no evidence the Iraqis actually used anthrax in this manner, it was learned after the war that the Iraqis were indeed experimenting with anthrax as a possible biological warfare agent.

I was assigned to 501st mi bn in Ansbach Germany when we were sent to Saudi Arabia in Dec 91. we traveled from Saudi to Kuwait, Iran and Iraq, and when I left Germany I was a healthy 24 yr. old woman who had no prior female problems. no one in my family has ever had hormonal/infertility problems. When I got back from Saudi in May 91 and returned to the United States in Oct 92 I started experiencing problems w/my hormones and was diagnosed with being peri-menopausal. My own mother who was close to 50 at the time hadn't even experienced this life change yet. My chances for ever conceiving a child went from very very good down to 3%. I went and had my Persian Gulf exam done and do receive 30% disability for my illness, although it should be more than that because it has changed my life drastically. What have you heard about other cases of infertility stemming from females serving in the war? Thanks for your time.


Although I am not aware that infertility has frequently been identified as a problem following service in the Persian Gulf War, a number gynecological and reproductive problems have been reported by women who served in the Gulf War as well as by spouses of men who served in the war. These reports have resulted in an expanded research program dealing with reproductive health concerns, and the creation of a national center to evaluate reproductive and developmental problems following environmental exposures. This new center is located at the Louisville, Kentucky VA Medical Center.

Last December I revisited Prague (where I lived for over a year and a half). While there in the news were reports about the Czech soldiers that had fought in the Gulf War. According to these reports, not only are the veterans experiencing illness themselves, but their young children born since the war are experiencing extremely high rates of birth-defects. Have any American journalists followed-up these reports? If so, what are there conclusions?

Jamie Orchard-Hays
Cambridge, MA

Several reports have suggested that there might be a higher rate of birth defects in children born to parents who served in the Persian Gulf war. However, carefully conducted studies have failed to confirm these reports, and preliminary data from a review of hospital records of over one million service members conducted by the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego found no increase in the rate of birth defects in children born to Gulf War veterans. I am unaware of similar studies involving Czech veterans of the Gulf War.

With much concern for the soldiers that served in the Persian Gulf War, are the people that live in the Persian Gulf region experiencing any of the same symptoms as our soldiers? Are soldiers from other countries experiencing any of the same symptoms? If soldiers from other countries are having health problems, are their governments offering any assistance for their symptoms? What, if any, treatment is being administered to help these men and women to be cured?

Initial reports failed to indicate similar health problems in veterans from other coalition force countries. However, Gulf War veterans from Canada, Great Britain, and several other countries have now reported a variety of health problems that appear to be similar to the unexplained illnesses reported by American veterans of the Gulf War. Both Canada and Great Britain have implemented programs to examine and evaluate veterans with these illnesses.

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