TAB H -- Friendly-fire Incidents
The "100 hour" Desert Storm ground campaign illustrated the ferocity and high tempo of modern warfare. For several days, almost one million Coalition combatants and over ten thousand armored vehicles engaged in intense and sustained combat operations around the clock, often in rainy weather. Unlike previous conflicts where the front lines remained relatively fixed, Operation Desert Storm was characterized by a dynamic, often confused battlefield where individual combat vehicle crews and units, caught up in the rapid advance punctuated by pitched skirmishes and battles, sometimes lost their "situational awareness" of where they were and where the enemy and friendly forces were.
Figure H-1. An M2 Bradley passes another Bradley destroyed by friendly fire
On the modern battlefield, success tends to favor the side that can see, engage, and neutralize the enemy first. US combat vehicles enjoyed important technological advantages over Iraq's older, mostly Russian-designed armored vehicles. Superior sighting and sensor equipment almost invariably allowed US crewmen to see and engage the Iraqi forces first, especially during night combat or in bad weather. US cannon systems were stabilized, so they could fire accurately while on the move. US forces could select, load, and fire munitions far more rapidly than their Iraqi counterparts. Finally, the use of depleted uranium rounds allowed US tanks to engage the enemy from extended ranges and with unprecedented lethal effect. While Iraqi Republican Guard T-72 tanks -- Saddam's most formidable armored threat -- boasted a 125mm cannon with a maximum effective range of 1,800 meters, US M1A1 tanks routinely scored kills at twice that distance. In addition, Iraqi tanks, anti-tank guided missiles, and infantry anti-tank weapons failed to penetrate the DU armor of any of the 594 Heavy Armor M1A1s that saw action in the Gulf War, even when firing from well within their supposed "lethal" range and even when scoring direct hits. The result was one of the most lopsided victories in modern military history -- Iraq lost in excess of 4,000 armored vehicles to US air and ground fire, while a vehicle by vehicle review of US battle damage reports indicates that fewer than ten combat vehicles were destroyed or disabled by hostile fire (a smaller number were damaged or destroyed by mines).
Tragically, "fog-of-war" situations caused by the rapid advance of American forces, coupled with the use of long-range, highly lethal weapons, led to a number of friendly-fire incidents in which US combat vehicles, usually M1A1 tanks, fired on fellow US combat vehicles or units. In addition to the friendly-fire incidents involving tank-fired DU munitions during the Gulf War, there were three incidents involving A-10 aircraft and one involving the Navy's Phalanx Close In Weapon System. These incidents resulted in the contamination of 6 M1A1 tanks, and 15 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. (A large shaped-charge round -- probably a Hellfire anti-armor missile fired from an Apache helicopter -- hit another M1A1 and ignited an on-board fire. Because this suspected friendly fire incident did not involve an impacting DU round, this incident is described separately in Tab J, "Tank Fires.")
A major contributing factor in each of these incidents was low visibility from heavy rains, darkness, sandstorms, etc. In most cases, owing to battlefield confusion, the soldiers manning the targeted vehicles initially believed that they had been struck by Iraqi rounds. A team of battle damage assessment experts later ascertained that these vehicles were shot by Abrams tanks, since the DU round leaves a distinctive radioactive trace on entrance and exit holes. In most cases, the veterans of these incidents learned from after-action investigations and word of mouth that they had been victims of friendly fire. Most of these soldiers, however, were unaware of the potential health effects from depleted uranium. Accordingly, a comprehensive effort to identify, locate, and contact all surviving soldiers who were in or on vehicles at the time they were penetrated by DU rounds paralleled the investigation of friendly-fire incidents.
A. The 4th Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment (Between 3:00 - 5:30 PM, February 26, 1991)
DU rounds fired from Abrams tanks hit three Bradleys between 3:00 and 5:30 PM on February 26th during a large-scale tank battle. Visibility was poor due to dusk, blowing sand and smoke. The vehicles were either mistaken for Iraqi vehicles or were caught in the crossfire of a shifting and confused battlefield.
At the time of the incident, the
3rd Armored Division was attacking to the east with the 1st Brigade
on the right, the 2nd Brigade on the left, and the 3rd Brigade
following. The 4-7th Cavalry was protecting the division's right flank.
Alpha Troop of the 4-7th Cavalry was screening on line with the lead elements
of the 1st Brigade. Alpha Troop was arrayed with the 3rd platoon on
line, followed by the 2nd platoon on line 500 meters behind. Upon contact with
six enemy tanks and 18 light armored vehicles (BMPs), the 2nd platoon split and
sent three of its Bradleys to the right and left flanks of the 3rd platoon. The
Alpha Troop Bradleys were exchanging direct fire with the enemy tanks and BMPs at ranges
from about 100 to 800 meters, using their 25mm HEI (High Explosive Incendiary) and
tungsten armor piercing (AP) munitions, as well as Tube-launched, Optically-tracked,
Wire-guided (TOW) antitank missiles. The following information is known about each Bradley
hit by DU rounds during the engagement.
A Troop, 4-7th Cavalry, Bradley (Bumper # A-24): A-24 was the first Bradley to be hit by a 120mm DU sabot round fired from an Abrams tank. At sundown, with wind-blown sand further reducing visibility, 2nd and 3rd Platoons came over a rise in the terrain and saw a "target rich environment" with enemy ground soldiers and BMP armored fighting vehicles. A-24 engaged the enemy with TOW missiles and fire from their 25mm turret gun. When the gun jammed, the vehicle commander attempted to pull the Bradley out of the fight to fix the gun and reload the top-mounted TOW missile launcher. As the loader was half-in, half-out of the vehicle attempting to reload the TOW, a single DU sabot round struck the vehicle. The Bradley was almost immediately engulfed in flames. The DU sabot round entered the left side of the turret section and exited the right side, mortally wounding the gunner. Despite having a serious leg wound, the vehicle commander exited the Bradley on his own and continued to give commands as a medic tended to his wounds. The driver and loader had minor injuries (flash burns). Two other Bradleys, A-25 and A-26, came to the aid of A-24, pulling in close to shield it from the ongoing battle. A-24's driver and a soldier from A-26 removed the injured gunner from A-24 and performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Several soldiers took a turn giving medical assistance to the gunner. Though medics were quickly on hand, the gunner revived only momentarily before succumbing to his wounds. Some of the crewmen from A-24, A-25, and A-26 returned a day or so later to remove equipment from A-24, a process that took a few hours. At least two crew members were detailed to accompany the damaged vehicle back to the supply point. They remained with the vehicle about ten days, sleeping on, and sometimes in, it.
A Troop, 4-7th Cavalry, Bradley (Bumper # A-31): This Bradley, one of four in the 3rd Platoon, was part of the lead element to go into battle. Another Bradley, A-36, was disabled when a heavy machine gun bullet struck its transmission. The vehicle commander ordered the crew to abandon A-36. As they exited through the hatches, a shell struck the vehicle. The crew believes a T-72 tank fired the shell. In the words of one crew member, the round "exploded" against the side of the Bradley, wounding several of the evacuating soldiers. Shortly afterwards, A-31 pulled alongside and picked up the crew of A-36. Minutes later, two 120mm DU sabots struck A-31 in the right hull under the turret, exited the left hull behind the driver's seat, and wounded all eight soldiers aboard -- some suffering severe burns and/or fragment wounds.[322,323] Nevertheless, the crew drove A-31 to the squadron aid station. During and after the battle, combat lifesavers were on the scene to extract the wounded from the damaged but still operable vehicle. Approximately 30 minutes after the battle ended, the platoon sergeant and his observer, who had earlier gone into A-36 and A-31 to help the wounded, retrieved A-31and drove it back to their base camp. They also entered the vehicle to remove equipment. According to the driver of A-31, as many as 200 soldiers from the unit climbed in or on the damaged Bradley.
A Troop, 4-7th Cavalry, Bradley (Bumper # A-22): This Bradley was the last vehicle hit by friendly fire in this battle. It was oriented east and the DU round entered the left rear turret section and exited the right front turret, killing the gunner and wounding three other soldiers, including a sergeant on top who was blown clear of the vehicle by the impact. Two other soldiers entered the vehicle after it was hit to rescue the surviving crewmen. The Bradley could still be driven, but was not combat-capable. Within hours of the incident, soldiers entered A-22 to salvage its radio, munitions, and other sensitive equipment for reuse within the battalion. A-22's driver drove A-22 for the next several days. The sergeant who was thrown from the top of the vehicle stated it was common knowledge within the unit that friendly fire had struck A-22, but he was unaware DU munitions were involved.
The 15 soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry, who survived this friendly-fire incident may have been exposed to depleted uranium dust since they were in the three Bradleys when DU rounds struck the vehicles. An ambulance evacuated the wounded soldiers to the squadron aid station, so it is possible that at least three medics could have been exposed to depleted uranium dust as well. Additionally, nine soldiers may have been exposed when they entered the Bradleys to assist in evacuating their comrades shortly after the DU rounds hit.
B. Task Force 1-37 Armor (Evening, February 26, 1991)
Around 8:00 PM on February 26th,
Task Force 1-37 Armor conducted a night attack on an Iraqi position defended by portions
of the Tawakalna Division, Republican Guard, equipped with T-72 tanks and BMP fighting
vehicles. The attack was part of a coordinated division attack, with 1-37 Armor being the
southernmost task force. 1-37 Armor was advancing in conjunction with the 3rd
Armored Division in VII Corps' attack in the south. A shaped-charge weapon (most
likely a Hellfire missile) hit one tank (Bumper #B-23), causing an on-board fire. This
incident is described in Tab J. At the time of the attack, low, heavy clouds and rain
We know the following information about the tank (Bumper # C-12) hit by a DU round.
C Company, Task Force 1-37 Armor, Abrams Tank (Bumper # C-12): While advancing on the objective, this tank destroyed five or six enemy tanks and BMP fighting vehicles. Realizing they had bypassed an enemy vehicle, C-12's crew backed up their tank to destroy a BMP, only to be struck from behind by a 120mm DU round, causing the tank to lose power and fill with smoke. Two of the crew members interviewed said that after the crew had evacuated, another round hit C-12. The troop commander, riding in C-66, came back to find out why C-12 had dropped off the communications network. Immediately after C-12's loader (a crew member) had finished informing the commander that C-12 had been hit, a shaped-charged (non-DU) round struck C-66. The four C-12 and four C-66 crew members climbed onto another tank, which carried them to safety. None of the four C-12 crew members interviewed indicated they were injured, and two of them said the DU round did not penetrate the crew compartment. A battle damage assessment confirmed that a second round (an antitank missile) struck the rear of the bustle rack, causing the rucksacks, duffel bags, and associated equipment fastened there to catch fire. There was no damage to the turret's interior, and no secondary explosions of stored ammunition or fuel. US forces recovered the tank on March 4, 1991.
C. Battle of Norfolk (Early Morning, February 27, 1991)
The largest friendly-fire incident of the war involved the soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Armored Division (Forward), during a February 27, 1991, night attack on the 37th Brigade of Iraq's 12th Armored Division. The 2nd Armored Division brigade deployed from Germany to form the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. The tank battle that ensued was a tumultuous, 360-degree action. Limited visibility compounded the confusion of the pre-dawn, swirling battlefield. The US combat vehicles used thermal sights, making identification of friend or foe difficult. The battle damaged or destroyed five Bradleys and five Abrams tanks, with nine of the ten US vehicles hit directly by 120mm DU sabots fired from M1 Abrams tanks. Enemy fire also struck several of these vehicles.
The action began after the Battle of 73 Easting, in which the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) located and destroyed elements of Iraq's 12th Armored Division and the Tawakalna Division. The 2nd ACR halted its advance and allowed the two brigades of the 1st Infantry Division to pass through its positions on the night of February 26th. Many units do not train in peacetime to do a night passage through lines, especially while firing live ammunition, because it is considered very difficult to accomplish safely. Despite the fact that many soldiers had had little or no sleep in the previous 36 hours, the 1st Infantry Division brigades passed through the lines flawlessly. After the passage, the two brigades attacked east as part of a division coordinated attack, with the 1st Brigade in the north and the 3rd Brigade in the south. Since there were no obvious terrain features to separate the forces, the dividing line between brigade sectors was the 92 east-west grid line.
The 3rd Brigade
attacked with three battalions on line to clear the zone of the enemy, but the battalions
were unable to maintain a line-abreast formation. To further complicate matters, pockets
of enemy infantry became interspersed with the attacking US combat vehicles. The shifting
battlefield contributed greatly to the ensuing confusion. Two Bradleys of Bravo Company,
Task Force 1-41 Infantry, were the first to be engaged. Equipment problems forced the
company commander to switch vehicles, and the company momentarily lost contact with the
rest of the battalion. While attempting to re-establish contact, Bravo Company entered an
Iraqi bunker complex and was engaged by rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) around 2:00 AM on
February 27th. After the initial RPG attacks, US Abrams tanks fired on Bravo
Company. We know this about the three Bradleys damaged in this action:
B Company, Task Force 1-41 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # B-21): Two 120mm DU rounds struck this Bradley, killing three soldiers and wounding at least three of the ten crewmen and infantry soldiers aboard (because the company commander's vehicle was inoperable, the 2nd platoon leader moved from his vehicle to B-21, which then had one more occupant than usual). Soon after he switched vehicles, the impact of two DU rounds knocked the 2nd platoon leader out of B-21 and medics evacuated him to the battalion aid station. The impacting DU rounds blew off B-21's rear door, causing several other soldiers to fall out of the vehicle as well. Nearby soldiers rescued some vehicle occupants from the burning Bradley. The fire quickly became so intense that further rescue attempts were impossible.
B Company, Task Force 1-41 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # B-26): The company commander commandeered this vehicle after his Bradley malfunctioned. A 120mm DU round struck the Bradley on the left side and exited the vehicle at the right rear, killing one of the nine soldiers aboard. The driver believes three DU rounds were fired at B-26. The vehicle commander was knocked out of the Bradley. The gunner escaped the vehicle within two minutes and with the help of the driver managed to open a rear door to allow other occupants to escape. The crew from another Bradley (B-32) pulled alongside B-26 and assisted its occupants in evacuating the vehicle. These same personnel also removed sensitive equipment from B-26. The gunner and one of the infantrymen spent about an hour in B-26 removing personal belongings and night-vision goggles.
B Company, Task Force 1-41 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # B-33): A 120mm DU round also struck this Bradley. The round entered the left front of the vehicle and exited the right side, injuring three of the nine soldiers aboard. The infantrymen in the back of the vehicle managed to get the ramp down. Since they believed they were under enemy fire, they lay on the ground near the vehicle and established a defensive perimeter. Some soldiers re-entered the Bradley to remove equipment, which they redistributed within the unit. They also stripped parts from the vehicle.
Later that morning, between 4:00
and 5:00 AM, two Bradleys from Delta Company, Task Force 1-41 Infantry, became separated
from the rest of the battalion, initially because one of the Bradleys was stuck in a
revetment (three-sided earthwork or berm built by the Iraqis to shelter their armor while
allowing them to engage hostile forces). Later, the two Bradleys halted when they
encountered surrendering enemy soldiers. The company commander ordered the two Bradley
crews to direct the Iraqi soldiers in the right direction and catch up with the rest of
the company. Some time later, Iraqi forces began firing rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs)
at the Delta Company Bradleys. The Bradley gunners returned fire, drawing the attention of
soldiers from the 1-34th Armor, who thought they were under fire. After
receiving authorization to fire, the tanks destroyed the two Bradleys. A subsequent
plotting of their location indicated that the Bradleys were about one kilometer into the 1st
Brigade's sector. US forces later discovered a bunker complex with unfired RPGs
approximately 300 meters in front of the two Bradleys. This is known about the two
Bradleys destroyed in this action:
D Company, Task Force 1-41 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # D-21): After driving all night until around 4:00 AM this Bradley Fighting Vehicle, with at least seven occupants, drove into a bomb crater. In the process of extricating itself, D-21 became separated from the rest of the company. Shortly afterward, D-21 moved into a bunker area where the infantrymen dismounted and rounded up about 20 enemy prisoners of war. At this point, M1A1 tanks from the 1st Brigade spotted D-21, mistook it for an enemy vehicle, and began firing at it. Three DU rounds struck D-21 in the side hull, killing the driver and wounding the three other soldiers still in the vehicle.[355,356] Two of the rounds passed through both sides of the vehicle and struck another Bradley (D-26) parked 20 feet away. D-26 caught fire and was totally destroyed. A 1st Infantry Division scout unit that also had fired on the two Bradleys, apparently without effect, realized its error and came to their aid, evacuating the wounded crew members to a nearby medical aid station. No one attempted to remove anything from either D-21 or D-26, since the two Bradleys were on fire when rescuers arrived and were too badly gutted to salvage. Several crew members and onboard infantry soldiers fled into the desert, fearing the vehicles would explode. Flying shrapnel hit one D-21 crew member, who was walking 20 feet in front of the Bradley when it was struck.
D Company, Task Force 1-41 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # D-26): As described above, two of the DU rounds that passed through D-21 hit this Bradley in the left side. The sole occupant of D-26, the driver, sustained severe leg wounds and other injuries from the DU rounds. Seven dismount infantrymen (soldiers who ride the Bradley into the battle area, then dismount from the vehicle to engage the enemy), earlier had left D-26 to secure enemy prisoners of war and to clear captured bunkers. The driver, though badly wounded, was able to leave the vehicle on his own and, once outside, was aided by fellow platoon members. After being struck, D-26 caught fire and, in the words of its driver, "melted to the ground," making it unlikely that any soldiers would have entered it.
DU also damaged or destroyed five
tanks in the Battle of Norfolk. These tanks, which were from 3-66 Armor, were attached to
Task Force 1-41 for this mission. The first tank destroyed (B-66) initially was struck by
a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). Shortly after the RPG hit B-66, one or more US tanks
fired on it. Four additional tanks rushing to B-66's aid subsequently were fired on
and struck too.
We know this about the five Abrams tanks damaged in this action:
B Company, 3-66 Armor, Abrams (Bumper # B-66): This was the Bravo Company commander's tank. Three 120mm DU rounds hit B-66 -- one striking just below the turret, killing the gunner. None of these rounds penetrated the DU armor panels. When B-66 was hit, it was moving in a different direction than the rest of the company, which may have contributed to its misidentification. The impact of the first round threw the commander from the vehicle, inflicting fragment wounds to his legs. The loader was attempting to remove the injured gunner from the vehicle when the second round hit, burning both the loader and the driver. The driver, covered with diesel fuel from the ruptured fuel tank, was still in the vehicle when the halon bottles (containing fire-extinguishing gas) discharged. Burned and partially blinded, he ran from the vehicle and was picked up by B-23. B-66 started burning and later exploded.
B Company, 3-66 Armor, Abrams (Bumper # B-22): This tank, reacting to the fire directed at B-66, turned in the direction of fire and was hit by a 120mm DU round. There was no internal damage to this tank. The tank was equipped with a mine plow; the DU round penetrated the plow, striking the front slope and causing flash burns on the driver's face. Although the round did not enter the crew compartment, the plow's power cable short-circuited, causing sparks in the crew compartment. Unable to contain the small electrical fire, the crew abandoned the tank about three minutes after it was struck. The mine plow was later repaired and the crew of three continued to operate the tank for the next seven days, with the loader replacing the injured driver. Personnel from VII Corps later checked the tank for radiation and pulled it out of service. The vehicle was then stripped for parts and returned to the Defense Consolidation Facility in Snelling, South Carolina, for decontamination or disposal.
A Company, 3-66 Armor, Abrams (Bumper # A-14): The impact of a DU round fired by another Abrams tank rendered A-14's driver temporarily unconscious and caused the vehicle halon fire extinguisher to discharge, resulting in skin burns on the back of the driver's neck. Other crew members pulled the driver from the vehicle, and then moved about 75 feet away. Reports vary as to the number of rounds that struck A-14, but the vehicle commander's report agreed with the Battle Damage Assessment team's: only one round hit. The loader received facial burns and eye injuries and the gunner received fragment injuries. Despite the halon gas, the vehicle eventually caught fire and burned.
A Company, 3-66 Armor, Abrams (Bumper # A-31): Pieces of a 120mm DU round struck this tank a glancing blow in the left rear, leaving a hole in the fuel cell. A piece also damaged the center road wheel on the left side. None of the pieces penetrated the crew compartment, so none of the crew was injured. Shortly after this hit on A-31, a non-DU round and two DU rounds struck an adjacent tank (A-33), setting it on fire. A-31's crew gave first aid to A-33's crew. A-31's crew turned their tank in for repair; it subsequently returned to service. According to a report prepared by the radiation control (RADCON) team from King Khalid Military City, undamaged, uncontaminated parts from 3-66 Armor's tank B-22 (called tank A1 in the report) replaced damaged or contaminated parts from A-31 (called tank A11 in the report). According to the gunner, repairs to A-31 took only about 16 hours. The crew rode around in this repaired vehicle for two and a half months before a radiological survey indicated portions of the tank exterior were still radioactive. After this survey the crew prepared the tank for shipment and it was hauled away. A-31 was shipped to Snelling on June 10, 1991.
A Company, 3-66 Armor, Abrams (Bumper # A-33): At approximately 4:30 AM on February 27th, an anti-tank guided missile (probably fired from a Bradley) struck A-33 in the engine compartment. The crew, uninjured, was evacuating the disabled tank when two DU rounds hit the tank in the left side and exited through the right side. The tank commander, driver, and gunner sustained injuries from fragments. The loader, who was already outside the tank, was uninjured. A-31 crew members assisted in rescuing A-33's crew.
Alpha Company commander informed the RADCON team that several soldiers were exposed to smoke from the fires in A-14 and A-33. One RADCON team member reportedly advised the company commander that all people involved in DU incidents should receive an appropriate medical exam. The commander later received a copy of a health hazard message about DU dated April 11, 1991, and a copy of Technical Bulletin 522. The company and battalion commanders have indicated they are unaware of any follow-up tests to measure DU intake.
In summary, the Battle of Norfolk exposed a total of 50 soldiers to DU fragment wounds and/or inhaled or ingested DU aerosols. An unknown number of soldiers could have been exposed to DU residue when they entered the vehicles shortly after the damage occurred.
D. Battle for Jalibah Southeast Airfield (Around 6:00 AM, February 27, 1991)
On February 27th, the 2nd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division was attacking the heavily defended Jalibah Airfield, the last major obstacle between the Division and the Euphrates River. Satellite imagery and reconnaissance aircraft indicated the presence of 20 enemy tanks and more than 1,000 dug-in Iraqi soldiers. The battle plan called for Task Forces 1-64 Armor and 3-69 Armor to provide covering fire from the southwest and southeast corners of the airfield, respectively. A north-south road was the boundary between the two forces. Meanwhile, Task Force 3-15 Infantry was to sweep the airfield from west to east.
As 1-64 Armor and 3-69 Armor
moved into position, a platoon from 3-69 Armor crossed to the west of the boundary road.
At this point, Company C of 3-69 Armor came under fire from Iraq's forces at the
airfield. As the C Company tanks moved in on what they thought was an enemy defensive
belt, Bradley vehicles from Task Force 3-15 Infantry appeared about 2,000 to 2,500 meters
in front of them. The C Company tanks mistook the Bradleys for Iraqi armored vehicles and
engaged them with 8 to 16 120mm DU rounds, striking Bradleys # C-11, C-23 and C-22 of C
Company, Task Force 3-15 Infantry. This is known about these Bradleys:
C Company, 3-15 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # C-11): In the early morning of February 27, Bradley C-11 was on the right flank of a four-company task force formation closing in on Jalibah Southeast Airfield in southern Iraq. After C-11 changed direction to evade incoming enemy artillery, a DU round fired from an Abrams hit the Bradley from behind. The round entered the Bradley through the ramp, passed through the troop compartment, and exited the left side of the vehicle. In addition to the wounds DU fragments caused, an antitank weapon (AT4) stowed inside the Bradley detonated, killing a private first class and wounding five of the remaining seven personnel, most seriously.[389,390] The two uninjured soldiers (both sergeants) provided emergency first aid, then drove the damaged Bradley, filled with wounded soldiers, about three miles to a medical aid station. They removed salvageable equipment from the damaged Bradley, then drove the still-serviceable vehicle back to their company's forward operating location, en route picking up two other soldiers from another disabled combat vehicle. The two sergeants continued to man C-11 for another three days before it was taken away from them and sent back to King Khalid Military City with other DU-contaminated vehicles.
C Company, 3-15 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # C-23): Within minutes after C-11 was struck, two DU rounds hit C-23, entering the vehicle on the right side, crossing through the engine compartment, and exiting on either side of the driver. At the time, C Company was still two kilometers from its objective at Jalibah Airfield. The first round hit the engine compartment, stopping the vehicle immediately. The driver suffered fragment wounds and third degree burns to his legs. The vehicle commander and the gunner were assisting the driver from the vehicle when the second round struck. The commander and driver were thrown to the ground and the gunner received severe facial burns when the second round caused 25mm ammunition to explode. While the commander and gunner were helping the driver, the five soldiers in the back dropped the ramp by hand to escape and moments later, the second round hit. The occupants of C-23 and C-22, struck soon after C-23, rallied behind some nearby dunes. An M113 armored personnel carrier configured as an ambulance arrived within three minutes and evacuated two or three wounded soldiers. After accounting for his people, C-23's commander, with assistance from others, spent two hours removing equipment, ammunition, and personal gear from the damaged vehicle before it was hauled to a collection point for battle damage assessment.
C Company, 3-15 Infantry, Bradley (Bumper # C-22): After DU rounds hit C-23, C-22's vehicle commander wanted to stop and render aid. Because the unit thought it was under enemy fire, his superior ordered him instead to continue the attack to suppress the fire. As C-22 veered around C-23, a DU round struck it on the right side, just below the turret. The round exited the vehicle on the front left side after passing through the driver's compartment, killing the driver. The gunner, who was looking through a sight when the round struck, lost his right eye. The halon fire suppression system activated, allowing occupants to escape before onboard munitions exploded. The soldiers in the rear of C-22 escaped though the troop door after about two to three minutes. These five uninjured soldiers rode in the battle-damaged C-11 for the next two days.
E. 4-66th Armor (Around 4:30 PM, February 27, 1991)
On February 27th, the
commander of the 4-66th Armor ordered its scout platoon to provide flank
security and maintain contact with elements of the 1-35th Armor on the
battalion's left flank while it attacked an enemy ammunition storage area. Light rain
and dense smoke from a nearby burning ammunition dump obscured the visibility. The
operation went smoothly until around 4:30 PM, when the advance elements of 1-35th
Armor stalled, leaving the flanks of 4-66th Armor exposed. Within minutes,
dug-in Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade teams began firing on the scout platoon Bradleys. During the ensuing
fight, DU rounds struck two of these Bradleys. We know this about these vehicles:
HQ Company, 4-66th Armor, Bradley (Bumper # HQ-55): The HQ-55 driver was driving with the hatch open until exploding artillery left a crater immediately in front of him. He buttoned up the hatch and continued the attack. A 120mm DU round hit HQ-55 on the lower right side, just above the road wheel, exiting the front of the vehicle. Although the round did not enter the crew compartment, the crew evacuated the vehicle. The only reported injury occurred when one of the occupants injured his shoulder while exiting. Soon after the crew had evacuated HQ-55, their wingman (an adjacent vehicle), HQ-54, pulled alongside and was likewise struck (described below). Most of HQ-55's crew returned to their Bradley two days later to retrieve personal items, spending 12 to 24 hours in or around the vehicle.
HQ Company, 4-66th Armor, Bradley (Bumper # HQ-54): This was the scout platoon sergeant's Bradley. To cover the evacuation of HQ-55, the platoon sergeant put his vehicle between the damaged Bradley and the enemy and left HQ-54 to assist with the evacuating HQ-55. He had just returned to his vehicle when two DU rounds struck it, killing his driver and wounding both the gunner and himself. The rounds entered the vehicle on the right side and exited the left. The loader was blown out of the vehicle. Despite very serious leg wounds, the platoon sergeant was able to crawl away from the vehicle before the onboard ammunition exploded. HQ-53 picked up two of the wounded and evacuated them to the rear. Another scout platoon Bradley (HQ-52) responded to the situation. HQ-52's soldiers assisted the wounded, while the gunner suppressed enemy fire.
F. 1-34th Armor (After Midnight, February 27, 1991)
Just after midnight on February 27, the 1-34 Armor Battalion of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, was passing through the lines of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), which had been fighting the Republican Guard Tawakalna Division. A 2nd ACR Abrams mistook a Bradley (HQ-232), which was stationary at the time, for an Iraqi combat vehicle and fired a single round from about 1,500 meters. The DU round went in the Bradley's left rear door and exited the right side of the vehicle, setting off missiles, 25mm rounds, and other munitions stored in HQ-232's interior. The blast ejected the driver and gunner through their respective hatches, which were open. They were fortunate, escaping with only minor flash burns. The commander also escaped without injury and helped the two observers in the rear escape the vehicle. One observer lost his heel and the other suffered a serious leg injury. The vehicle commander, driver and gunner re-entered HQ-232 to remove firearms. A 25mm (non-DU) round hit another Bradley (HQ-231) while it moved forward to assist HQ-232. Within 10 minutes, the medic's tracked vehicle arrived.
G. 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Late Afternoon, February 27, 1991)
Some time between 4:00 and 6:00 PM on the 27th, two high-explosive rounds (source unknown) struck Bradley G-16, one on the front of the turret and the other just below the Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) antitank launcher. Commanders of the Bradley vehicles to the immediate left and right of G-16 reported that the rounds came from the 10 o'clock direction. Since no friendly vehicles were between G-16 and the enemy, these commanders believed the rounds came from one or more of Iraq's vehicles. The round that struck below the TOW launcher killed the gunner. G-16's commander and driver tried in vain to get the ramp down to rescue the observer in the rear. Medics assisted the observer in escaping through the reloading hatch and later removed the gunner's body. Some time after 8:00 PM, an M1A1 tank, part of a US armor unit coming forward to relieve G Troop, was apparently startled by the sudden appearance of the abandoned G-16 Bradley and fired two 120mm DU rounds into the empty vehicle from an estimated range of 50 meters. The rounds set off an onboard fire that completely destroyed G-16. The Bradley melted, making it difficult to determine the number and type of shells that struck it.[410,411] Although personal recollections of this incident vary, those interviewed agreed enemy rounds killed the gunner and G-16 was not occupied when the (DU) rounds struck later.
H. Air-to-Ground Incidents
On January 22, 1991, a US Air Force A-10 mistakenly strafed the abandoned town of Hamel Pyat, just inside the Saudi border opposite southern Kuwait, while a patrol from the Marine 1st Force Reconnaissance Company was stopped at the location. The errant attack did not cause any casualties, since the Marines who witnessed the incident were on the opposite end of the empty town. The A-10 aircraft involved made a single short strafing run from a very high altitude. Because of the threat from Iraqi surface-to-air missiles, A-10 aircraft had been ordered to fly at least 8,000 feet above ground level. The A-10 is most effective at lower altitudes, and the great firing distance widely dispersed the 30mm rounds. Although the A-10's Gatling gun fires extremely fast (6,000 rounds per minute), A-10 pilots typically fire a 2- to 3-second burst, meaning 200 to 300 shells might have hit the target area. One shell in six is a non-DU tracer round. Fortunately, none of the Marines were close enough to the DU rounds to be wounded or exposed.
On January 23, 1991, an A-10 aircraft inadvertently strafed a Marine observation post, also staffed by the same Marine company, near the border town of Khafji, Saudi Arabia, abutting the eastern tip of southern Kuwait. No casualties resulted. The squad-sized team had set up a forward observation post, OP 8, to gather intelligence and targeting information on Iraqi forces across the border. A squad of Marines and a smaller number of Navy SEALs (Naval special operations personnel) manned OP 8, which consisted of a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV), configured as a reconnaissance vehicle dug into a sand dune. At dusk, the Marine forward air controller at OP 8 spotted an Iraqi artillery position two kilometers ahead and requested a circling A-10 on an armed reconnaissance mission to attack the enemy position. The A-10 pilot misidentified OP 8 as his target and fired a single burst of 30mm DU shells, which hit in and around the post. The DU rounds caused no casualties or destruction. The soft sandy surface, the shells' wide dispersion, and the distance from which they were fired would have reduced the likelihood that any DU aerosol formed on impact. The Marines remained at the site for another day or so, but did not disturb the buried or exposed DU projectiles.
A more serious incident, once again involving this company, occurred January 24, 1991. A pair of A-10 aircraft working a "kill box" (predetermined operating area where A-10s were cleared to fire on any appropriate targets) just over Kuwait's border, targeted a Marine platoon driving east along a road parallel to a man-made anti-smuggling sand berm, which ran the length of the southern Saudi-Kuwait border. At the time of the attack, the Marines were about 30 kilometers west of Khafji, Saudi Arabia, which had recently been the scene of the first large-scale ground clash between Coalition and Iraqi forces. The convoy, consisting of three five-ton trucks and two HMMWVs, was two kilometers inside the Saudi border, south of the Fire Support Coordination Line (FSCL) intended to protect forward US and Coalition forces from friendly air, ground, and naval firepower. Despite the fact the vehicles were south of the berm delineating the FSCL and the bright, clear noontime skies, the pair of A-10s made four strafing passes from an altitude of about 4,000 feet. While the first two passes missed by a wide margin, the third and fourth strafing runs knocked a wheel off a HMMWV, peppered other vehicles with fragments, and caused two relatively minor injuries.
A small shard of aluminum, apparently from a 30mm DU round's metal jacket, punctured a Marine corporal's forearm, and a very small metal fragment lodged in the wrist of a Navy chief serving as a corpsman. In both cases, medical personnel completely removed the fragments. When the Marine unit returned to the United States in May 1991, the medic who had treated both casualties referred the Navy chief for a special radiation physical to verify that he was not retaining any DU fragments. When we contacted the chief (now retired), he said he had not undergone a radiation physical but confirmed that medical personnel had removed the fragment from his body the day after the incident. A series of x-rays a year later (taken during an MRI examination) did not reveal any embedded fragments. We are still trying to identify the Marine corporal.
I. Ship-to-Ship Incident
A friendly-fire incident involving the USS Jarrett (FFG-33) and the USS Missouri (BB-63) took place February 25, 1991. Three US Navy warships and one UK Royal Navy warship (HMS Gloucester)(D-96) were shelling Iraqi-occupied Faylakah Island. A Seadart missile fired from the HMS Gloucester destroyed an incoming Silkworm anti-ship missile fired from one of Iraq's shore-based missile launchers. During the engagement, the USS Missouri fired off one or more chaff bundles (a standard countermeasure against radar-guided missiles). The USS Jarrett was two to three miles off the Missouri's port side. For some reason, the Jarrett's Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) operating in the automatic engagement mode, malfunctioned and fired a quick burst at the chaff. The USS Missouri's former executive officer estimated four of the 20mm rounds, which have not been confirmed as DU, struck the ship in the bulkhead above the famed "surrender deck" (where the Japanese formally surrendered in 1945). Because their energy was mostly spent, all but one of the rounds bounced off the bulkhead, leaving dents. One round penetrated the thin upper metal of the bulkhead and passed through a guest berth on the ship. No casualties resulted. The executive officer recalled that the Navy never recovered the round, which probably fell into the sea.[417,418]
In summary, the total number of friendly-fire exposures could involve many veterans, including those entering contaminated weapons systems soon after DU munitions struck the systems. Based on interviews with most of the friendly-fire victims, investigators believe that 104 soldiers aboard the 15 Bradleys and 6 Abrams when DU munitions struck them survived the engagements (see Table G-1).
All the DU friendly-fire incidents reported from the Gulf War involved US systems firing on other US systems. No DU rounds from US or UK weapons struck coalition soldiers or vehicles.
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