Three decades after the first Gulf War, thousands of veterans are still suffering from a series of maladies whose cause has yet to be determined.

In the summer of 1990, Saddam Hussein, having received mixed signals from American diplomats over his issues with Kuwait, invaded the country.

After his capture many years later, Hussein said in interviews that had he known that the U.S. was so vehemently opposed to his invasion he would have never entertained the thought. But invade he did and his forces quickly overran Kuwait.

Soon after, the U.S. began building up a coalition of troops from 35 nations. Desert Shield gave way to Desert Storm. Beginning on January 17, 1991, the U.S.-led coalition commenced a six-week bombing campaign unleashing its tremendous airpower and technological advantage over Iraq. The coalition smashed the Iraqi forces, swept the air force from the skies, pummeled and rendered ineffective Iraq’s air defense artillery, considered by Iraq’s Russian allies as nearly impregnable, and destroyed its command and control facilities.

On February 24, the coalition began a ground campaign that lasted 100 hours. The coalition pushed the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and into Iraq at which point President George H. W. Bush halted the troops after they had smashed their enemy. 

Iraq had instituted a scorched earth policy setting over 700 of Kuwait’s oil fields on fire and placing landmines around them to slow the quenching of the flames. It was reported that six million barrels of oil were burning daily; the last fire wasn’t put out until November. 

This was considered one of the probable causes of what became known as “Gulf War Syndrome” (GWS) exhibited among troops returning from the Gulf. The common issues found among returning troops have been:

  • Fatigue
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Cognitive problems
  • Skin rashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches 
  • Indigestion 
  • Insomnia 
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Birth defects in children born to returning veterans

Of the over 700,000 troops that served in the Gulf, nearly one-third may have suffered or still be suffering from the maladies listed above.