Twenty-seven years ago tonight

| February 17, 2018 | 25 Comments

This is republished from seven years ago;

February 17, 1991

Twenty years ago, Task Force 1-41 Infantry attached to the Third Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division (detached 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 west 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 east, striking two vehicles in our own Scout platoon anchoring our far eastern 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 27th birthday today, too.

Category: Historical

Comments (25)

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  1. AW1Ed says:

    In 1990 Saddam had the 4th largest army in the world. In 1991 he had the 4th largest army in Iraq.

    • Reddevil says:

      We were far outnumbered when the ground war kicked off. Most forget it or minimize it today because the outcome, but 2LT Reddevil remembers it well.

      I was an infantry battalion intel officer in the 101st, and as we planned our air assault one thing was clear: if we ceded the initiative to the Iraqis we would be well and truly F’d. My outfit was facing one of the worlds best integrated Air Defense systems, tons of mechanized and armored troops, more conventional Artillery than we had, and chemical weapons. The outcome was not assured by any means.

      I’ve heard anti war activists talk about how we unfairly went to war against a third world army. My reply is that we won because we trained our asses off for years- we had the better Soldiers, better NCOs, and better officers- we were simply far better than anyone in the world imagined. The amount of scunion we unleashed in 100 hours was only to be surpassed by the guys we trained that took Baghdad in 2003. I didn’t get back there until 2005 when it was already a CoIN fight.

      The key difference? It’s not equipment (although the M1 and its cousins are awesome); US Army NCOs are unparalleled. This gives our squads and platoons the ability to act independently based on mission orders, which results in a swiftness and violence of action that keeps the enemy on his heels constantly.

      But all of that comes with a price in blood and treasure. Some of it on the battlefield, and some of it in training. Weeks and months away from home, guys killed in live fires and vehicle rollovers, helicopter crashes, and parachute malfunctions paid off. We won a clear victory in a major war for the first time since WWII. What our civilian leaders did with it is another question.

      • Stacy0311 says:

        I remember the media talking about how Saddam had the world’s 4th largest army and how they were “battle hardened” after the war with Iran.

        AFTER we handed them their asses, they suddenly became an ill equipped conscript army with worn out equipment.

        And 27 years later, I’m back in this Third World $h!thole.

        You’d think with as much time as I’ve spent over here, I’d at least have a street named after me.

        • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

          I remember that as well as the media’s liberal lackeys screeching that they learned from fighting us during DS/DS and were going to shred us the second time around.

        • desert says:

          They Do! ‘DEAD END’ lol

        • USMC Steve says:

          The Iraqis also decided after the war with Iran that they went into specialization as a defensive army primarily. Had they been on their game, and everyone wanted to participate, we would have had a very hard time getting through the Berm. Casualties would also have been far greater. They had a metric buttload of heavy artillery.

      • Chip says:

        I would say command and control, fire power, and doctrine but that is just me.

        • Reddevil says:

          Command and control(we call it mission command these days).depends on subordinate units that can execute flawllessly. You tell 3rd Squad to seize objective Hammer, and SSG Smith makes it happen.

          Without a tactically and technically proficient NCO, you have 3rd Squad calling you back asking for detailed instructions and waiting for permission to take the next step. 73 Easting would have ended with McMaster parked on the ridge line watching the Iraqis and waiting for instructions on what to do nexr.

          Interrogations of Iraqis and even Germans in WWII have borne this true. Iraqi officers said they were amazed tha American units continued to fire and maneuver once they made contact.

          “American parachutists – – devils in baggy pants – – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line.
          I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere.”

  2. OWB says:

    Yep. A few very long days and nights, even for those of us well back from your position. Happy to have had a small part in supporting your efforts, Jonn.

  3. Chip says:

    Jonn sorry for the loss of your men. I do remember those fire missions all these years later. HBD to your granddaughter as well.

  4. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Jonn: Your annual reminder is always a tough read but a necessary one. I am sorry for the hurt, the losses, and the terrible frustration.

  5. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    Wow, Where did the time go. I had 21 years at the time under my belt when I was with Brink’s. Going out to Newark Airport, we saw moving flat bed trains with Tanks on them. Our facility was next to the Brooklyn (NY) Navy Yard and the Marine Detachment still stationed there at the time had the main gate under control with a sand bagged machine gun emplacement to one side of the gate. I was a young 46 at the time.

  6. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    I went to school with Jeff Middleton before he enlisted. IMHO that pilot got off easy, may what he did be forever on his mind and soul.

  7. mr. sharkman says:

    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

    Save us a place in the great hall, brothers.

    Tonight I toast them all and COB6 as well with the finest whiskey I can get my hands on. My wallet and my liver are in for a beating but it’s a worthy cause if there ever was one.

    Shielding guys from incoming Apache fire with your body…I have no words to do that justice.

    Until Valhall-

  8. Sparks says:

    God rest these Soldiers easy.

    Thank you COB6 for what you did and I hope you were recognized for it.

    You were sure in the hell of it Jonn.

    Happy Birthday to your Granddaughter Sir.

  9. Thunderstixx says:

    Sorry for the loss of your Brothers in Arms Jonn.
    It was your performance as a whole that made it easier for us Vietnam Era and more specifically Vietnam Combat Veterans the ability to be proud to have served America.
    Right or wrong, America is worth fighting for.
    Thank you to you and all of your Brothers.

  10. 2banana says:

    We studied that fractricide incident at SOTACC. So many errors and broken rules and SOPs not followed.

    All because a commander wanted to get his gun on.

  11. RGR 4-78 says:

    Rest in Peace.

  12. Sapper3307 says:

    Friendly fire sucked during the Storm, In the 54th Engrs we lost CPL Fielder at Umm Hajul when an O-5 in his Bradly opened fire on some Engineers after he got lost and crossed a Corp boundary line behind them. Their was an attempted cover up that included telling the parents he was killed by the Iraqis.

  13. Ex-PH2 says:

    The war was on C-SPAN 24-hours a day. Nothing was choreographed to please a viewing audience, the live stuff coming in and videos at other times.

    This is still disturbing, after all this time. Should not be forgotten. Ever.

  14. Mick says:

    Jonn,

    I’m sorry for the loss of your soldiers and that you had to suffer through a preventable Blue-on-Blue fratricidal engagement.

    Semper Fidelis.

  15. SFC Kiril G. Dimitrov says:

    To John and the rest of the crew at T.A.H.,As a 19D instructor, we use this clip quite a bit…for our fratrucide briefings, teaching our future scouts how quickly events can change,we will never forget, until fiddlers green.

  16. Steve says:

    Jonn,

    Every soldier that ever lives is doomed to only ever walk in the pale shadow of those blokes that went before.

    Thanks for what you (and all of you) did.

  17. E4 Mafia For Life. says:

    I was in OSUT and 1/41 INF 2 AD(FWD) 1987 – 1990 with SGT. Jeffrey Middleton. The gunner on one of the Bradleys that was hit by an Apache and the first death of an American soldier in the Gulf War.
    I was with 2/4 CAV, 24th ID in the Gulf War. I had PCS’d from 1-41. January 1990 so I wasn’t with them.
    The Bradley is very distinct. I don’t think there are any armored vehicles out there taller than a Bradley and certainly none of the Soviet vehicles were anywhere near the size of a Bradley. At least back in the 1980’s/1990’s. There was no excuse for that to happen.
    The lead pilot of the Apaches was trigger happy, ignored orders and failed to properly identify the target.
    Jeff was a very humble man and good soldier. I’ll never forget him.
    Here is a picture of Jeff after we graduated from the Basic Phase. He’s the one holding up our first pizza and a bottle of Coke.
    https://scontent-sjc3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/1919295_189207133601_3393552_n.jpg?oh=860add85891c80a63eb8a1c15d204ba5&oe=5B1011F6

    Here is a link to the Fratricide Report:
    https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GAOREPORTS-OSI-93-4/html/GAOREPORTS-OSI-93-4.htm

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