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.

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