Update on firebombs

  • RAI documentary: 'Fallujah. La Strage Nascosta' (08 Nov 2005)

    'Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre'. Documentary by Italian state broadcaster RAI detailing use of White Phosphorus in the 2004 assault on Fallujah. Uses video, photographs, and interviews with US soldiers.

    There was an English report in the The Independent.

    This appears to be a copy of the documentary, provided by Information Clearing House.

  • Statement by Physicians for Social Responsibility (23 June 2005)

    Comment by Dr Robert M. Gould, Chair of the Security Committee of Physicians for Social Responsibility:

    “While Defence Secretary Reid said on British TV that the United States has used MK77 firebombs in Iraq, but that these are not napalm bombs and that their contents do not stick to the skin like napalm, he is being disingenuous at best and misleading at worst.

    Napalm is a mixture of benzene (21%), gasoline (33%), and polystyrene (46%). A typical bomb will contain about 75 gallons of this combustible material in an aluminium shell. The MK47 bomb, now withdrawn from service, was a napalm bomb.

    While the US Department of Defense has denied using napalm claiming instead to be using ‘firebombs’ as Defence Secretary Reid stated, this denial by the US DOD was issued on the technical basis that the incendiaries used consisted primarily of kerosene-based jet fuel (which has a smaller concentration of benzene), rather than the traditional mixture of gasoline and benzene used for napalm, and that these therefore did not qualify as napalm.

    The material in the MK77 is not classic napalm, it is a modern version of the substance with an identical purpose. To claim that material from a bomb set to explode in a fireball containing a mix of fuel and polystyrene is not intended to stick to the skin defies all reason. Defence Secretary Reid is attempting to hide the awful reality of warfare in Iraq from the British public, something he cannot be allowed to succeed in.”

  • IAG press Release: US ARMY ORDERS NEW FIREBOMB STOCKS (20 June 2005)


    Iraq Analysis Group, 20/06/05, 16:00


    Challenged about the government’s false denial to Parliament about the US use of controversial napalm-type firebombs in Iraq, Defence Minister John Reid yesterday responded with further inaccurate statements about the weapons, contradicting a previous ministerial statement. Meanwhile new documents discovered by the Iraq Analysis Group show that the US army is producing new stocks of the controversial weapon.

    Ministers contradict each other

    Asked on ITV’s 'Jonathan Dimbleby programme' on Sunday about the US use of MK77 Mod 5 firebombs, Dr Reid replied:

    “they didn't use napalm. They used a firebomb. It doesn't stick to your skin like napalm, it doesn't have the horrible effects of that."[1]

    This appears to contradict Defence Minister Adam Ingram, who called Mark 77 firebombs “essentially napalm canisters” in a statement to Parliament earlier this year. [2] Napalm is itself a firebomb: although the last US stocks of MK77 Mod 4 napalm were decommissioned in 2001, the MK77 Mod 5 firebombs used in Iraq are simply an updated version using a slightly different fuel. US military spokespeople have also repeatedly stated that the MK77 has ‘remarkably similar’ effects to napalm.[3] US Army specifications for the MK77 firebomb confirm that the weapons are

    ‘designed for use against dug-in troops, supply installations, wooden structures, and land convoys...rupture upon impact and spread burning fuel gel on surrounding objects.’[4]

    Devasting weaponry

    Dr Douglas Holdstock of the UK medical charity Medact, said: “Dr Reid is hair-splitting. Both napalm and the MK77 are gel-based firebombs. They both seem likely to breach the basic principle of the international humanitarian law of war that weapons should not inflict “superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering”

    More firebombs in production

    Meanwhile, new documents discovered by the Iraq Analysis Group, an independent UK research group critical of UK humanitarian policy in Iraq, reveal that the US army has recently been stockpiling large quantities of new MK77 firebombs. Adam Ingram sought to reassure Labour MPs in a letter to Labour MP Harry Cohen last week that US forces had dropped MK77 firebombs only up to 21 April 2003. Nonetheless a Federal Procurement Solicitation issued on January 14 2004, and updated on June 7 2004, solicits manufacturers for a further 993 firebombs.[5]

    Mike Lewis, a spokesperson for the Iraq Analysis Group, said:

    “New US stockpiling of firebombs adds to the Government’s embarrassment that its Coalition ally is using these internationally reviled weapons in Iraq. If, as Dr Reid says, the UK is unwilling to use ‘anything that even approximates to what they were using’, then he should publicly restrain the US from using and stockpiling firebombs. Standing by while they are used in joint US/UK missions is simple hypocrisy.”


    [1] Quoted in Adam Sparrow, ‘Parliament Misled over Firebomb Use’, Daily Telegraph 20 June 2005

    [2] Commons Hansard, 11 January 2005: “Adam Ingram: The United States have confirmed to us that they have not used Mark 77 firebombs, which are essentially napalm canisters, in Iraq at any time”

    [3] ‘Officials confirm dropping firebombs on Iraqi troops’, San Diego Union Tribune, 5 August 2003. Compare also the statement by a Pentagon spokesperson in August 2003: ‘MK 77 is called Napalm due to the fact that their impact on targets resembles remarkably the use of Napalm’ [4]. Transcript from Monitor-TV, ARD, Germany, 7 August 2003. Original programme viewable at http://www.wdr.de/tv/monitor/real.phtml?bid=513&sid=100 ; partial translation at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4395.htm

    [4] Federal Procurement Solicitation for MK77 Mod 5 Firebomb No. W52P1J04-R-0077, 13 January 2004, http://www2.eps.gov/servlet/Documents/R/850735

    [5] Federal Procurement Solicitation for MK77 Mod 5 Firebomb No. W52P1J04-R-0077, 13 January 2004, http://www2.eps.gov/servlet/Documents/R/850735 ; update 5 June 2004 at http://osc1.ria.army.mil/padds_pdf/W52P1J04R0077/0005.pdf

  • Field Artillery magazine: White Phosphorus in Fallujah (March 2005)

    The March edition of Field Artillery magazine, a U.S. Army publication, reveals that the U.S. military did in fact use the incendiary weapon white phosphorous in Fallujah, and not just for 'lighting' purposes, as officially claimed.

    "WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired “shake and bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

    The rest of the article (The Fight for Fallujah) is also interesting, in a horrifying kind of way.

    White Phophorus was also used near Irbil, according to an article in Infantry Magazine (May/June 2004).

  • Freedom of Information Request (2005) (2005)
    • MoD Response (PDF File) (02 Aug 2005)
    • IAG Request for clarification (16 July 2005)
    • MoD Response (PDF File) (15 July 2005)
    • IAG Freedom of Information Request (24 Apr 2005)

      Following the UK government admission that US Forces in Iraq have been using the MK77 firebomb, Mike Lewis of the Iraq Analysis Group submitted the following Freedom of Information Request to the UK Ministry of Defence:

      "All factual information, comments and opinions requested and received by the Ministry of Defence from Departments of the United States Government or the United States military (including but not limited to the Department of State and the Department of Defense) regarding: (a) the use of MK-77 bombs by US armed forces in Iraq (b) the use of any other incendiary bombs or firebombs, including 'napalm', by Coalition forces in Iraq.

      The request is for information, comments and opinions requested and received between March 2003 and the present."

  • Parliamentary Questions about firebombs
  • US Army Firebomb Procurement