Tank attacks Mt. Carmel

II.
The Fire Gallery

Introduction
and
Directory of Exhibits


Catalog of Evidence
Library
Search Museum Text
Print this page

Military tank bashes down the front door of Mt. Carmel.  This frame, enhanced for color and contrast only, was captured from a 48 Hours interview with Clive Doyle, published Dec. 29, 2017.  The video includes a short sequence of a military tank bashing the communal residence of the Branch Davidians with no care or regard for any people who might be inside.

Introduction

On April 19, 1993, early in the morning, tanks cleared a firebreak all around the buildings, removing all remaining cars, brush, and other flamables.  (Source: Linda Thompson, Waco: The Big Lie Continues at 53:49, cached).

About 6am: Three specially outfitted military tanks ("Combat Engineering Vehicles," or CEVs) began the attack on the Mt. Carmel Center. 

While the tanks bashed the outside of the dwelling, knocked down walls, crushed parts of the structure, and squirted "tear gas" into the building, an agent spoke through a loudspeaker:

We are in the process of placing tear gas into the building.  This is not an assault.  We are not entering the building.  This is not an assault.  Do not fire your weapons.  If you fire, fire will be returned.  Do not shoot.  This is not an assault.  The gas you smell is a non-lethal tear gas.  This gas will temporarily render the building uninhabitable. Exit the compound now and follow instructions.  (FBI Report, pg. 286)

The FBI Report said the tanks "punched holes in the building:"

... under the approved operation plan, the FBI was justified in its decision to begin punching holes in the building and increasing the scope of gas delivery.  (FBI Report, pg. 280)

But more truthfully, the tanks began aggressively demolishing the dwelling.  The Waco Tribune-Herald reported:

About 6:04 a.m., an armored vehicle smashes through a front wall of the compound just left of the front door, leaving a hole about 8 feet high and 10 feet wide.  (Waco Tribune-Herald, dated Apr 20, 1993, "The Branch Davidian Story: Timeline: How the siege unfolded."  Cached.)

A hole "8 feet high and 10 feet wide" is the full profile of the tank itself.  Linda Thompson's Waco: The Big Lie shows a tank punching through the outside wall and disappearing into the building.  That violent assault would have presented a signficant risk to anyone inside the structure, if anyone had been alive.

And what of the "non-lethal tear gas" the FBI used?  CS is a riot control agent with similar effects to more conventional tear gas; in this case, it was dissolved in methylene chloride (according to a report by Dr. Jerry Havens, prepared for the Danforth Investigation).  Methylene chloride is a volatile solvent that can cause coma and death.  When methylene chloride vapor is mixed with air and heated above 100°C, it is flammable.  According to The Washington Post July 20, 1995 (cached), CS was banned in warfare under the January 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, to which the U.S. was signatory.  The Los Angeles Times reported that high doses of CS can be lethal.

The widespread use of CS by South Korea on hundreds of thousands of civilians in 1987 was researched by the Physicians for Human Rights group.  After discovering that civilians suffered serious acute illnesses, sometimes with permanent injury, the group called for banning the use of CS on humans.

"Exposure to high concentrations of tear gas in small, enclosed spaces for 10 minutes is potentially lethal, particularly to infants and children ...," the organization concluded.

High levels of CS exposure have led to heart failure and death in adults, according to a 1989 report in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.  The principal author of the study, Dr. Howard Hu of Harvard University Medical School, said he would have strongly recommended against firing CS into the Branch Davidian compound if there was any chance the occupants would remain inside.  (Los Angeles Times, May 29, 1995, "Use of Tear Gas in Waco Raid Under Scrutiny: Siege: Experts raise safety questions.  Reno says she was assured substance would not harm children,"  Cached)

At 9:00 am: President William Clinton "says he has been briefed on the assault."  (Waco Tribune-Herald, dated Apr 20, 1993, "The Branch Davidian Story: Timeline: How the siege unfolded."  Cached.)

11:40 am: Linda Thompson's Waco: The Big Lie Continues (57:47 through 1:07:00) shows several tanks fitted with flamethrowers spouting flames from the muzzles, as they advance into and exit from the building.  (cached)

Between 12:05 and 12:10 pm: three fires appeared in the Mt. Carmel Center.  The first fire appeared at the southwest corner; the second near the front door; and the third around the chapel/gymnasium.  The fires quickly grew, and gigantic fireball erupted more than a hundred feet in the air over the chapel/gymasium area.  Then the entire Center burned to a fine ash and rubble in about 40 minutes.

When the firetrucks arrived to fight the fire and rescue the residents, the FBI stopped them at the perimeter until little was left of the ruin.  The Waco Tribune-Herald reported:

Waco fire Engine 1 and Engine 3 reached a checkpoint attended by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers.  The crew was told the scene was not safe and they had to wait while those who escaped the fire were being held at gunpoint in front of the firefighters.

"When we pulled into Double EE Ranch Road, about halfway down between there and the compound, there were about six to eight people laying there, face down, in handcuffs with people pointing rifles at them," Davis said.

After getting the all clear about 15 minutes later, most of the compound was reduced to ash and crumbled remains.  As they started their work, they could see the full magnitude of the incident.

"You go to a fire to put it out and save lives, but you wind up dodging shell casings and everything else," Germany said.  "Everyone was running around you with guns. It was not a comfortable situation.  You never think you're going to be in that situation." (Waco Tribune-Herald, Apr 18, 2018, "Waco firefighters recall scene at Mount Carmel 25 years after fire.")

Yup, you read that right.  The firemen were not permitted to perform any rescues until all rescue effort became irrelevant.  No one was treated for smoke inhalation, no children were saved, and the "cultists" (whom the firemen mistook for people) were held on the ground at gunpoint.

In reality, no one knows the identity of those people on the ground.  They could have been the "Trojan Horses" — people who were pretending to be followers of David Koresh, but were actually government agents.

And curiously, despite the fireman's recall, no contemporaneous photos show firetrucks near the Mt. Carmel Center.


Directory of Exhibits

The Fire Gallery is organized into exhibits, each dealing with a definable topic, designed for a sequential tour.  To make a sequential tour as simple as possible, each page includes a link to the next.

  • Catalogue of Evidence

  • Next Gallery: III. The Death Gallery
    Previous Gallery: I. The War Gallery

    Home: Museum Entrance
    Search: Museum Text