navigation...see below for text links
Join the Discussion


I served on the frontlines as a cavalry scout during the Gulf War and you could say I experienced some stress! I found your report to be very well put together and fairly unbiased. I have experienced some of the "symptoms" that were reported. I also believe I suffered a mild case of PTSD after leaving the Gulf. I do not think people really understand the physiological changes caused by stress. Many vets think stress means that they are suffering some kind of mental illness and just couldn't "hack it". That is not the case. Stress causes many of your bodily functions to change. Your body and senses are alert and ready to go at a moments notice. This is not without some cost to us my comrades in arms. I truly believe stress/PTSD to be the MAJOR problem we are facing. I also am not so naive as to believe there were not other health risks. I remember receiving a daily intel brief that some of our engineers had been exposed to a chemical agent (possibly mustard gas) while examining ammunition bunkers and prepping them for demolitions. They blew it up as far as I know but why hasn't anyone heard of this? I was briefed on the incident and precautions to take and I was only a PFC in a cavalry squadron! No one asked me and I wasn't keeping it secret. What IS going on? I hope we find where the problem lies and fix it.

Dan Ebker
Bloomington, IL


We have just seen "Last Battle of the Gulf War" on tape and judge it to be among the finest documentary efforts of recent decades. Today, when newspapers and television stations are financially rewarded for sensationalism, it is rare to see a piece that truly informs and educates. PBS escapes the bondage of circulation figures and Nielsen ratings, but seldom escapes the desire to look as "courageous" as its commercial cousins. This time you did. You informed and educated. You are to be congratulated.


Your program was interesting but, to us, lacking in a couple of important areas. Firstly, while the U.S. may have been the biggest 'person power' contributor there were many other nationals of other countries present and probably civilian contractors and observers as well. Is the incidence of GWS the same for these people and how do their troubles relate to their war time location in the Gulf?

Secondly, which makes the first question somewhat rhetorical, what happened to information on this subject that has been developed by the British? Within the last two years PBS aired a program, wholly or partly produced in Britain on this very subject. The gist of it as I remember was that they named some chemical compounds that they believed might be at fault. Also they said that British GWS researchers were receiving scant cooperation from the U.S. government and technical people. One might say that in addition to the U.S. government P.B.S. also has an Anglo blind eye.

David Banks
Hayes. Va


It should not matter at this point what the cause of Gulf War Syndrome, just take care of them!

It was frustrating to see these great panels, in the exquisite certainty of their technical expertise, override this simple fact: these soldier are sick, need medical help, and should have it without question or delay--as should any citizen in this Country.

That "universal health coverage" is so easily dismissed in our Country as if it does not even truly embarrassing and morally damning. As has always been the case, once again you have shown courage to cover controversy in your depiction of Gulf War Syndrome. With the conservative congress and lobbyists for corporations threatening your very existence, I must commend you for your attempt to yet educate the American public on issues they otherwise will not even really hear about. You were conscientiously careful to show "both sides" and it is clear that there are two sides in this issue. Clearly the soldiers are sick, sick for whatever reason--and as you revealed this has been the case in all previous wars as well. It is my belief that the panels (for better, for worse) really did try to find a single cause or symptom, and to the degree this represents a legitimate "other side," you were fair to give coverage to their conclusion: that their is no single cause but that these soldiers are mostly suffering from illnesses due to severe stress.

And this is my point. When all is said and done, and no single cause can be pin-pointed, the fact remains that these men and women are truly sick and need care--as do all Americans when they are clearly sick--and without question!

Curtis P. Fallgren


As someone who studies the social impact of war upon veterans, I was unsurprised by your conclusions regarding Gulf War Syndrome. Like other American conflicts, the eventual costs of war -- whether medical or political -- are being paid by who bore the burden of service.

What surprised me is that there was never any systematic economic analysis of those that claim disability due to GWS. America has always taken better care of our wounded veterans than our other disabled populations. Might not Gulf War Syndrome have an economic cause, rather than a medical one?

Timothy Haggerty, Ph.D.
Murfreesboro, TN


Bravissimo! Finally, a voice in the wilderness of popular media cries out for reason! You deflated the myth of GWS in part by letting the so-called "victims" tell their own story, to telling effect. Frontline pulled a few punches (for instance, you sidestepped the mass hysteria factor) but any intelligent viewer must agree that the "syndrome" is in fact a popular media invention, and that the real tragedy lies in the anguish and false hope needlessly stirred up amongst those brave soldiers and their families by self-serving journalists, politicians, and medical charlatans.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Brian Adams
Reno, NV


Is it really surprising that medical science funded by Washington is just as corrupt as everything else funded by Washington? The hubris demonstrated by your Government "experts" is simply amazing. The total lack of humanity comes across on the TV screen and feeds what has become the oxymoron of "medical ethics," with which anyone acquainted with the Government's role in chronic fatigue syndrome is already only too familiar.

Jerry S. McKee
Sulphur Springs, TX


Congratulations, you've done it again. With your program on Gulf Syndrome, you have convincingly shown how media and congressional hype irresponsibly tried to overwhelm careful and extensive scientific inquiry. It is clear to anyone who understands the scientific process that there is no evidence that there was a "Gulf Syndrome" that caused damage to U.S. troops in the Gulf War.

Albert B. Reynolds
Charlottesville, Virginia


I am a Gulf War Veteran.. I have had health problems since returning from Saudi Arabia. I am concerned that, if I don't take time everytime I get sick to go to a doctor and have it documented, I will have problems in the future trying to get help from the VA. I do not think that the powers that be can blame stress for the afflictions that are plaguing veterans from Desert Shield and Storm. I was lucky to have a relatively easy assignment in Saudi Arabia and felt that there is more stress in my life now than there ever was then.

I started feeling sick before I left the service in 1992 and haven't felt fully healthy since. My shot records were removed from my medical file after I returned from Saudi and before I ETS. I was also told that the problems I checked off on my ETS medical form(headaches, dizziness, fatigue, etc.) were all in my head. I want some answers from an impartial review. Why not get the Iraqi soldiers and other people who are suffering the same problems as the rest of us involved in this so we can get more facts and figure this dilemma out. They are suffering just as much as we are and, should have an explanation. Thank you for this opportunity to express my views.

W. Cramer
19K (Tank Driver)
Tupper Lake, New York


Frontline: It is quite refreshing to see such a non-emotional approach taken on such an emotional issue. I am a veterans service officer for a state veterans agency and am office in a VA Regional Office. I see may veterans first hand who are attempting to have their disabilities recognized as service connected by the VA. I have felt for a long time that these Gulf War maladies were in some way stress related. It is important to remember that the vast majority of those personnel deployed to the Gulf region never even conceived of the possibility that they would be called upon to actually fight a war during their military service. It is readily understandable how reservists were even more greatly affected, after being uprooted from friends and family, and then having to cope with such hostile living conditions so far from home, friends, and family.

I also have had the misfortune to speak personally with Dr. Nicolson (the wife). Until recently we lived in the same community. She sent me volumes of their research and expounded endlessly on their theories. The less said about their "pseudo-science"..... the better.

Being a Vietnam veteran myself, I fully understand and appreciate the frustration these veterans feel. However I sincerely urge them to take to heart the evidence presented by your program.

Dennis A. Lawrence


Excellent and well balanced reporting! As a Viet Nam veteran I know the feelings these heroes are experiencing and there was a time that I would have whole-heartedly supported their assertions. But time is the test of truth. We age, we decline, we disease and we look for reasons other than the nature of human frailty. It is so much easier to lay blame with a government or a perceived cover-up of negligence than to recognize that we have fallen into a range of statistical probability. Sometimes accepting the fact that there is no one to blame can be the the most effective therapy.


"Dear" Frontline: As a person with CFIDS, I am terribly upset by your distorted report. Many of us CFIDS sufferers, as well as the GW vets, have had to put up with this "it's all in your head" attitude for much too long. You have obviously, not investigated all the facts thoroughly. I feel a new investigation is in order, with an apology to our brave soldiers! Shame on you for your shabby reporting! The cover-up continues...........

MA FMS/CFS Support Group Co-Leader


Frontline has proven itself to be the best investigative journalism to be found in any medium, from your excellent coverage of breast implants, to now this, the controversy surrounding Gulf War Syndrome.

If there was any deficiency in your presentation--and this is nit-picky because I realize you have time and production constraints--is that you did not mention Mr. Michael Fumento, who has been one of the only print journalists I am aware of that has questioned the validity of Gulf War Syndrome (March 1997, Reason magazine)as reported in other media.

That the New York Times, self-righteously adhering to disclosure of public and private information only when it suits their own interests, would refuse an interview is not very surprising. I think it is important to draw up a short but health list of journalists who really blew this story, starting with none other than Ed Bradley. People may have forgotten about Alar, but let's not forget what Bradley has done here.

In sum, you have done a great service not only to objective science-policy reporting, but a service to our veterans who deserve to know the truth.

Eric "Ace" Croddy
San Francisco, CA


The story unfolds before me on the TV screen. I am appalled upon the manipulation of ideas and truth that has been seen by my eyes for 8 years now. There are specific things that have been left out. For example the notion of the use of bug juice as being a probable item in the problem. However there was no mention of the bugs that were constantly at our sites of operation. The flies and sand fleas. The other indigenous life there also had effects on us that can not be denied. With the massive amounts of information that was brought back from there, where could all the information be? There have been too many friends that have ended up in the hospital that served with me in the gulf to say that it is coincidence. New Salisbury, IN


Your show on the Gulf War syndrome was very enlightening and well done. I thought it was interesting Captain Hyams had been able to find similar "syndromes" dating back to the Civil War. It appeared to me from the information presented Gulf War syndrome, Da Costa syndrome, Effort syndrome etc. were all by products of the various wars. When you consider war overrides the basic instinct of self preservation is it any wonder there is lasting damage? I found it sad and ironic that the wife of the gentleman with Lou Gehrig's disease attributed her symptoms to "stress" even though she'd been "diagnosed" with Gulf War syndrome!

It was refreshing to here about the facts without the media hype. I learned from your report 1. There is little difference between the National Enquirer and the New York Times and 2. Politicians are and always will be "politicians".

Muldrow, OK


I was appalled at the comment from Dr. Josephs stab at those who offered theories (no matter how unfounded they were) stating that they were pseudo-scientists. What were many of the great men/women of science before his or her break through. That is what science is about, trying something different and testing it, not discrediting it because you were PAID OFF. I am not a vet, nor do I consider myself patriotic, I just hate wrong-doing.

Mitch Brown
Atlanta, GA


As an ailing Gulf War veteran, I thank you sincerely for your presentation tonight. I thought it was researched very well and presented in a well balanced manner.

Two points I would like to touch on in regard to your show:

1. Dr. Joyce Lashoff (Chairperson of the President's Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness) stated that her observations of the oil-well fires left her believing that the flumes blew upward and away from the troops on the ground. She is absolutely wrong in her conclusions. There were no less than three days when the smoke flumes "hugged" the ground and turned the sunlit, bright day into a dark of night. Myself and others traveled the "coastal highway" from Kuwait City down to Saudi Arabia on April 1st, 1991, and the petroleum-thickened air was so impregnated that we choked on oil while breathing through our doubled-up scarves and we were forced to stop and clear the raw petroleum off vehicle windshields and our goggles constantly. At some points on the highway the oil-thickened air was so thick our vehicle headlights could not penetrate the air further than 10-15 feet, and Marine escorts were needed to walk on foot ahead of the vehicles to keep us on the highway. I was there, and I saw this. Dr. Lashoff hung her hat on erroneous information, as so many others in government have done.

2. Secondly, Dr. Stephen Joseph made the amusing remark on camera that we sick veterans "...wanted a label..." for our illnesses. The sad truth is that we didn't, and don't want for a label for our illness - the Veteran's Administration DOES. Veterans can not be treated, nor compensated for any illness that does not fall under a "labeled" category of disability or illness. We're just trying to satisfy the bureaucratic "wickets" established and enforced by Dr. Joseph and the others in Congress and the DoD.

David Fournier (Mustang)
Captain, US Marine Corps (retired)
Vietnam and Gulf War veteran


I think the program was right on target. It's time to move on and accept that there is no Gulf War Syndrome. Almost every pro Syndrome letter speaks about cover ups, etc. Get a grip. This is the same government that couldn't even end the war! 7 years later Saddam is still winning. How in heavens name would this same government conduct a cover up that would have to include other soldiers, media, doctors, nurses, medical journals and thousands of minor bureaucrats? The same science you want to cure you is the same science that you say is covering it up. Which way do you want it? I wish someone else would pay my medical bills and provide me with a pension too but I didn't do anything to deserve it. And yes, I am a veteran.

Ft Myers, FL


I found your program on the Gulf War Syndrome to be very informative. I also appreciated the clarity of Dr. Lashof's and Dr. Joseph's answers and statements. When people get sick, they want to know the name of their illness, the expected length, severity, and cause. The unknown can be very scary. However, when stress is named as the cause, many people take offense. Somehow, we wish to see ourselves as capable of dealing with all of life's stresses. After all, it appears as though everyone else does. Denial is a useful tool when reality is overwhelming, but sadly, it can also prevent people from receiving valuable help. Our health care system also reflects this lack of trust by contributing minimal funds towards mental health. Are there qualified psychologists available for those Veterans who are willing to try therapy?


home . join the discussion . analyzing the major theories . five interviews . the veterans . a closer look . examining the media's role . a guide to the site . comparing gulf veterans' health with other veterans . tapes & transcripts . press reaction

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

PBS Online