Friday, August 22, 2008

Friendly Fire Deaths

It wasn't until my involvement in the Vietnam war that I realized that not all casualties were from enemy fire. Of course common sense will tell you that mistakes happen and in war things get out of hand in a hurry, but it seems that it was more prevalent in the Vietnam war.

The 1 percent rate is well below that of Operation Desert Storm when 17 percent of all service members who died were killed by friendly fire. Rates for World War II, Vietnam and the invasions of Grenada and Panama were also higher than the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.,13319,90677,00.html

Examples of the Vietnam war;

  • Vietnam War: 8,000 (14%)
    • USCGC Point Welcome was attacked by USAF aircraft, with two deaths resulting.
    • USS Boston, USS Edson, USCGC Point Dume, HMAS Hobart and two U.S. Swift Boats, PCF-12 and PCF-19 are attacked by US aircraft on June 17 1968.[13] Several sailors were killed and PCF-19 was sunk.[14]
    • On May 11, 1969, during the Battle of Hamburger Hill, Lt. Col. Weldon Honeycutt directed Cobra helicopter gunships, known as Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA), to support an infantry assault. In the heavy jungle, the Cobras mistook the command post of the 3/187th battalion for a Vietnamese unit and attacked, killing two and wounding thirty-five, including Honeycutt. This incident disrupted battalion command and control and forced 3/187th to withdraw into night defensive positions.
    • Sergeant Michael Eugene Mullen killed by American artillery on 18 February 1970.

It's a tragedy to for any war but then the Vietnam war had it's own unigue form of friendly fire deaths. There were some who were killed intentionally by those individuals who would take things into their own hands. A 2nd Lt. fresh out of OTS might find himself with an M16 round in his back should he be deemed hazardous to his platoon or worse on the receiving end of a frag grenade. There are no statistics to show how many were killed on purpose but it happened. I can imagine and only hope that the ones responsible are eventually held responsible if by no one then their own conscience.

The second classification is "murder" where friendly fire incidents are premeditated. During the Vietnam War, some officers who overtly risked the lives of their soldiers were murdered by those men in incidents known as “fragging.”[1]

Any casualty of war is a tragedy, whether by friendly fire or by the enemy. Sometimes when trying to understand a veteran, specially a Vietnam Veteran, it might be well to consider that the person having problems with the war may be related to them having caused or being personally responsible for the death of one of your fellow soldiers. That would, to me, be something I would have a hard time dealing with.

1 comment:

tiltied said...

In 1967 my uncle who was my moms youngest brother was killed in south Vietnam.
He was in the army, a foot soldier fighting in the jungle.
In 1967 I was a small child only 4 years old but I still remember the day that my family got word of my uncle being killed in action.
My Uncle name was Francis Duffy. At the time of his death he was only 20 years old. He was white, roman catholic and his home town was Montebello California.
He was killed by friendly fire/misadventure.
Recently I began researching the circumstances surrounding his death.
The statistics show that most of the deaths in Vietnam were white guys, who enlisted in the army, roman catholic and from California.
It seems that my uncle didn't stand a chance of ever returning home.
His death, even though was caused by small arm friendly fire, is listed under the category "hostile" and "killed in action".
I could find no statistics of exactly how many of those type death were caused by the enemy.
It seems that they dont break down the numbers to show how many were caused by our side as opposed to being caused by their side.
I've done my own research, and its not a complete tally by far,but so far it appears to me that the number of friendly fire incidents could be as many as 1/3 of the deaths considered as hostile. What I mean is that a third of all the guys killed in action may have been killed by friendly fire.
Those numbers are alarming.
I cant imagine the horror those young men felt. And I can only imagine that in the darkness of the Vietnam jungle it was pitch dark so chaos was abound.
But I really am finding it difficult to grasp how it could happen time and time again that so many of our army troops were killed outright by friendly fire. And small arm fire especially.
I cant help but ask. what was really going on??
My uncle was killed while alone guarding the perimeter at night. He was killed out right by a gun shot to his heart by friendly fire.
Not by a boobytrap, granade or bomb but by a gun shot.
In the letter sent this parents that notified them of his death its explained as he was mistaken for the enemy, killed out right by one bullet to his heart. By friendly fire.
How could this be?? Mistaken for the enemy? Why did this happen?
How could this have happened.
The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing and vise versa.
All of this happened many many years ago. But I for one need a better explanation.

I appreciate your insight. I respect your views and I appreciate the opportunity and the privilege of being allowed to write this reply.
Thank you.
Sincerely Eileen