Peter George Olenchuk, 78, an Army major general who oversaw a controversial program in the late 1960s involving the dumping of outmoded nerve gas rockets hundreds of miles off the Florida coast, died Oct. 6 at his home in Ogunquit, Maine. He also had a residence in McLean.
Gen. Olenchuk, who spent most of his career in the Chemical Warfare Service, worked on the now-defunct Operation CHASE, which stood for Cut Holes and Sink 'Em. The program involved shipping materiel such as the old nerve gas rockets to the coastline, loading them on boats and scuttling the contaminated ships.
Gen. Olenchuk was promoted to brigadier general in 1970 and appointed commanding general of the Army Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency in Illinois.
After his promotion to major general in 1973, he became the Army's director of materiel acquisition. He retired in 1975 as assistant deputy chief of staff for research, development and acquisition.
Through the early 1990s, he did consulting work in management and national security affairs for the Army and private firms. He was board chairman of Timex Defense Products Corp. from 1977 until 1981. He was a member of the Army science and technology board of the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council, a scientific advisory panel to Congress.
Gen. Olenchuk was a native of Bayonne, N.J., and a graduate of Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. He received a master's degree in bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin and a master's degree in business administration from George Washington University.
He enlisted in the Army Corps of Engineers in 1943 and served in North Africa and the Far East during World War II. He became a commissioned officer in 1945, and his assignments in the 1960s included two tours of duty in the Vietnam War and the command of Fort Detrick near Frederick, Md.
His decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, four awards of the Legion of Merit, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and two awards of the Air Medal.
His wife of 52 years, the former Ruth A. Clement, died in 1998. In 1970, his then-13-year-old daughter, Mary Catherine, was kidnapped and killed. The case, which occurred in Ogunquit, is still unsolved.
Survivors include two daughters, Nancy Shaw of South Hadley, Mass., and Jane Olenchuk of Cos Cob, Conn.; a sister; a brother; and four grandchildren.