Twenty-two years ago tonight

| February 17, 2013

This is republished from two years ago;

Twenty years ago, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry attached to the Third Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division (from the Third Brigade of the 2d Armored Division (Forward)), was the only US unit in Iraq. We were fifteen clicks from the Saudi border, screening for the sweep east of Schwartzkopf’s “Hail Mary” strategy. For two days we had been watched by Iraqis and had a little contact. with some reconnaissance elements. However on February 17th, my gunner spotted 5 T-55s about 1500 meters in front of our defilade position and I called for indirect fire. The first response came from an Apache unit. The pilot ignored his instruments and fired the wrong grid coordinate, directly to my west, striking two vehicles in our own Scout platoon anchoring our far west flank.

COB6 was the platoon leader of the platoon between my platoon and the Scout elements. Despite the orders of our company commander (a phrase that I use in several other stories involving COB6 and our commander), COB6 pulled his vehicle off the line and rushed to the burning vehicles (An M3 and and an M113 from the GSR unit). COB6 and his crew pulled the broken bodies from the vehicles with burning ammunition exploding around him and shielded the injured Scouts with his own body. Two of those scouts were dead, but three others owe their lives to COB6 and his crew.

Needless to say we stopped calling for Apaches and after slamming two TOWs into a berm about a hundred meters in front of us, we used artillery fire. My first ever call for indirect fire in total darkness. The following morning, M1s found the T-55s 5000 meters north of the spot my gunner had spotted them.

These are the names of the members of 1/41 we lost throughout the war;

Tony R. Applegate
David R. Crumby
Manuel M. Davila
Anthony W. Kidd
David W. Kramer
Jeffery T. Middleton
James C. Murray, Jr.
Robert D. Talley

Talley and Middleton were killed that night.

We had the highest casualty rate of any other infantry unit in the war, I say it’s because both sides were shooting at us.

And, oh, yeah, my granddaughter celebrates her 22d birthday today, too.

Category: Historical

Comments (23)

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  1. Bam Bam says:

    As an aviator I can say that situation is still talked about and used as a “great” example for what not to do in a lot of ways. Sorry for the loss of your friends, its a shit situation and makes Air Ground Integration a pivotal skill set for leaders in the air and on the ground.

    Happy Bday to your granddaughter too!

  2. Dave Thul says:

    If the best outcome from a mistake is to learn from what happened, then the Army at least made the best of that mistake and learned real and hard lessons.

  3. B Woodman says:

    I’d forgotten the date, but I remember. . . . . ..

  4. MAJMike says:


    The pain will never go away.

    Such a waste.

  5. Hondo says:

    Losing friendly troops to “friendly fire” happens in every war. The confused nature of warfare all but guarantees it. Perfect situation awareness is an unrealizable dream.

    But losing brothers-in-arms to friendly actions is never acceptable. And it hurts. Condolences on the loss of those comrades, Jonn.

    For what it’s worth: the GAO ROI for the incident may be fond here:

    Seems fairly matter-of-fact, and purportedly includes a transcript of the gun tapes audio recorded during the incident.

  6. A Proud Infidel says:

    I knew Jeff, he was the kind of guy who could get along with anyone. He was “Hell bent for leather” about enlisting and serving. I just wish that idiot excuse of a CO was Court Martialed and sent to Leavenworth over that, he put his ego at the top of his priority list, and it cost good men their lives!

  7. PFDRbrendan says:

    The loss of such brave men in any of our deployments is tough. Remembering them is the best way to honor their sacrifice. My condolences for the loss of your battle buddies.

  8. I think about this often through the year, Jonn. Extra prayers for all of the families and friends of the fallen and extra hugs to you today.

    Thank you for reminding us to remember this day and these American Heroes.

  9. A Proud Infidel says:

    #7, Thanks, we went to school together before he enlisted, I enlisted later on.

  10. MCPO NYC USN (Ret.) says:

    God Bless all involved!

  11. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    “I hope it’s enemy.”

    Later: “I was afraid of that.”

    Makes me want to puke.

  12. Joe Williams says:

    I well know the the know never being able to forget or rationale the feelings.I lost my gunner to a friendly accident. January is a rough month for me. Never forgotten always remembered.

  13. ohio says:

    Remember seeing the CO’s interview. He was told not to fly, but he did. In the interview it seemed the only thing he was pissed about was that his name had been released as the pilot who fired the missles.

  14. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    @12. What was his name, Joe, if you care to say. If not, that’s okay too.

  15. Fen says:

    Similar incident with Task Force Ripper involving LAVs out of 3rd LAI BN.

  16. Joe Williams says:

    Jan 67, Mekong Delta 1345Appox. Cpl John Mooney,HMM-362. A fiance clerk flying for his Air Medal and Combat Air Wings. John had just replaced my regular gunner. His first flight with me and his to my unending grief. The report can be read at the USMC Combat Helio Pilots and Crew (Popasmoke) KIAS section. Slow Hand Salute Big John

  17. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Thank you, Joe. I visited the Virtual Wall and the Popasmoke site and read the account. I saw that Jack’s son joined the Corps in 1983 and that his daughter–Jack’s grandaughter–joined just last year. Jack’s legacy is his loving family and the sense of duty he passed onto them. We should all be so blessed. He’s fine. I will say a prayer for you.

  18. Joe Williams says:

    A sma,correction, the LPH was the Iwo Jima . Yhe crash alert was mainly because of the many fuel leaks from the grenade going off.

  19. DougA says:

    I was the Battalion Maintenance Technician for 3rd BN 66 AR, 2AD FWD during the 1st Gulf War and happened to be in the Forward Support BN G4 office when the XO from 1/41 INF came in that morning looking haggard. He sat down and related to all in that trailer what had happened. I remember thinking how could anyone have survived. Now I know the rest of the story. God Bless the heroes of that night.

  20. 11BScottie says:

    Were they awarded PH’s? They should have been. Any fratricide in heat of battle meets criteria per regulation.

    • Hondo says:

      Sadly, I don’t believe they were at the time. I’m not sure if they were ever awarded same retroactively or not.

      Federal law wasn’t changed until Nov 1993 to mandate award of the PH for friendly fire casualties (10 USC 1129) with Public Law 103-160. Prior to that time, as I recall friendly fire casualties generally weren’t eligible for the PH.

      I believe this and a couple of other Gulf War friendly fire incidents were the reason the law was changed.

  21. D.S. says:

    Remember the radio announcement early in the a.m. (a cease fire)after engaging the enemy all night (3rd night)..Murray’s wife giving birth during that night.I was so Happy! Apart of the Search and then personally recovering his body that afternoon has never left me…felt a hand,then his leg,..popped the drivers hatch and saw his face, pulled him out, we bodybagged him and you know what.. I’m Still pissed off and screwed up over that 24yrs.later!…said too much already!