Iraq Operations

 

 

          GIs Killed As Chinook Attacked in Iraq

 

 

         
A map of Iraq indicating where the Chinook attack occurred.

 

 

         
U.S. Army troops search the site where a Chinook helicopter crashed into a field near the restive town of Falluja on Sunday, 2 November 2003. Guerrillas shot down the U.S. Chinook helicopter as it flew toward Baghdad airport, killing 15 soldiers in the bloodiest single attack on occupying troops since Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

 

             U.S. Army troops search the site where a Chinook helicopter crashed into a field near the restive town of Falluja on Sunday, 2 November 2003. Guerrillas shot down the U.S. Chinook helicopter as it flew toward Baghdad airport, killing 15 soldiers in the bloodiest single attack on occupying troops since Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

 

         
U.S. soldiers carry a stretcher to the scene after a U.S. Chinook helicopter, right, believed to be carrying dozens of soldiers to leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah on Sunday, 2 November 2003, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

 

             Above and below, U.S. soldiers carry a stretcher to the scene after a U.S. Chinook helicopter, right, believed to be carrying dozens of soldiers to leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah on Sunday, 2 November 2003, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

 

         
U.S. soldiers carry a stretcher to the scene after a U.S. Chinook helicopter, right, believed to be carrying dozens of soldiers to leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah on Sunday, 2 November 2003, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

 

 

             FALLUJAH, Iraq - A U.S. Chinook helicopter carrying troops en route home for leave was struck by a missile Sunday and crashed west of Baghdad, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

             It was the deadliest day for American troops in the six-month-old occupation of Iraq, and came amid threats attributed to Saddam Hussein's party of a wave of violence against the U.S. occupation.

             There was still no sign of the rumored "Day of Resistance" allegedly planned for Baghdad on Saturday. But at least one other American soldier was confirmed killed Sunday in ground attacks here and elsewhere in central Iraq.

             Witnesses said they saw two missiles fired at the heavy transport copter, the biggest U.S. target yet shot from the skies by Iraq's insurgents. It had been ferrying soldiers to Baghdad International Airport for flights out of the country for rest and relaxation, or R & R.

             The aircraft was hit at about 9 a.m. (06:00 GMT) and crashed amid corn fields near the village of Hasi, about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Baghdad and 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Fallujah, a center of Sunni Muslim resistance to the U.S. occupation.

         
File Photo: Image of Russian made SA-7 Strela anti-aircraft heat seeking missile. The SA-7a (9K32M Strela-2) went into service in 1968, but was soon replaced by the more advanced SA-7b (9K32M Strela-2M) which was to become the primary production model and was produced in the greatest numbers. The SA-7b, differed from the SA-7a by its more potent propellant charge which increase its range and its speed. The SA-7a had a slant range of 3.6 km and an its operational altitude went from a minimum of 20 meters to a maximum of 1500 meters altitude. Its speed was about Mach 1.4. The SA-7b increased the slant range to about 4.2 km and the ceiling to some 2300 meters. The speed of the SA-7b increased to Mach 1.75. Both the SA-7a and SA-7b were limited to a tail-chase and rely upon a fairly crude sensor to lock onto IR emissions from the target aircraft which can be jet or piston engined fixed wing or rotary and were never modified to rely upon other kinds of radiation to increase reliability
   Insurgents have fired on U.S. aircraft before, downing two helicopters, and American military officials have repeatedly warned that hundreds of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles remain unaccounted for in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam's regime in April.

              The missiles apparently flashed toward the helicopter from behind, as usual with heat-seeking missiles such as the Russian-made SA-7. The old Iraqi army had a large inventory of SA-7s, also known as the "Strela" shoulder fired missile. In Washington, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said such weapons "do have the ability to shoot down aircraft or helicopters, and from time to time it happens in various locations." Secretary Rumsfeld told NBC television that at least 10 of the dead were US soldiers. There is no confirmation on the type of weapon system that was fired at the helicopter. Only the completion of a thorough investigation will reveal this information.

             Secretary Rumsfeld went on to say, "It's clearly a tragic day for America ... In a long, hard war, we're going to have tragic days," Rumsfeld said. "But they're necessary. They're part of a war that's difficult and complicated."

             "The Chinook was shot down by an unknown weapon," a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity. U.S. command in Baghdad said there were 16 killed and 20 wounded, and that a search was under way for possible other survivors. A U.S. military spokesman, Colonel William Darley, confirmed the casualty count but said the cause of the crash was under investigation. He said witnesses reported seeing what they believed were missile trails. "As a result of the crash, 15 were killed in action and 26 wounded," said Darley, confirming the dead were soldiers from the US-led coalition but without specifying how many were Americans.

             The death toll surpasses the 23 March ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company, in which 11 soldiers were killed, nine were wounded and seven captured, including Private Jessica Lynch.

             The helicopter was part of a formation of two Chinooks carrying a total of more than 50 passengers to the U.S. base at the former Saddam International Airport, renamed Baghdad International Airport, which the military calls BIA.

             "Our initial report is that they were being transported to BIA for R and R flights," a U.S. command spokeswoman in Baghdad said. She said at least some were coming from Camp Ridgway, believed to be an 82nd Airborne Division base in western Iraq.

             Villagers said the copters took off from the air base at Habbaniyah, about 10 miles northwest of the crash site. At the scene, villager Thaer Ali, 21, said someone fired two missiles from the area of a date palm grove about 500 yards from where the stricken copter crashed.

             "I saw two helicopters coming from (the US military airport in) Habbaniyah. Two missiles were fired; one of them missed one of the helicopters and the other hit the tail of the other aircraft," said taxi-driver Rauf Suleiman Abed, 35.

             Farmer Mohamad al-Issawi told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that "a projectile struck the tail of the helicopter at around 9:00 am. I saw fire coming out of the front of the aircraft which then crashed." Issawi said the owner of the land where the helicopter crashed "fled the area with his family of some 15 people, immediately after the explosion." "Human remains were found 500 yards away," he said.

             Yassin Mohamed, another witness, said he ran out of his house, a half-mile away, when he heard an explosion. "I saw the Chinook burning. I ran toward it because I wanted to help put out the fire, but couldn't get near because of American soldiers."

             Shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday, Abdul Rahman Hatem stepped outside his home in a farming village just south of Fallujah to watch two twin-rotored U.S. Army Chinook helicopters lumber across the cloudless sky. Moments later, two orange flashes burst from a cluster of date palms a few hundred yards away.

             The lead Chinook, Hatem says, discharged flares to deflect the first incoming missile, but a second slammed into the underbelly of the other low-flying military helicopter, which exploded in a ball of fire. I watched two bodies fall out of the helicopter. They were in flames, said Hatem. The crippled chopper stayed aloft for another half-mile or so, then plummeted into a field after the pilots lost the desperate battle to control the stricken craft.

         
U.S. Army soldiers carry a body bag past the burnt-out wreckage of the downed Chinook helicopter.

             Witnesses said the second copter hovered over the downed craft for some minutes and then set down, apparently to try to help extinguish a fire. The downed copter was already destroyed.

             At least a half-dozen Black Hawk helicopters later hovered over the area, and dozens of soldiers swarmed over the site. Injured were still being evacuated at least two hours later. Villagers displayed blackened pieces of wreckage to arriving reporters.

         
File Photo: Image of an RAF HC-2, a British version of the MH-47 similar to the one shot down on 2 November 2003, deploying decoy flares. The decoy flares confuse the heat seeking capability of the SA-7 series of surface to air missiles. If fired at the right time during the attack, the flares allow the aircraft to escape the threat.
   The Army helicopter that was shot down was equipped with a standard package of defensive equipment including a missile alert system and flares designed to decoy a missile, a U.S. officer said Wednesday.

             An Illinois senator, whose state National Guard had provided the helicopter, had written to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asking whether the helicopter had been properly equipped.

             Democratic Senator Dick Durbin wrote of his concern that the CH-47D Chinook helicopter "may not have had necessary or fully complete aircraft survivability equipment," including seat armor to protect against shrapnel.

             Army Colonel William Darley, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said on Wednesday that the helicopter had an ALQ-156 defensive system, including a flare dispenser, that is standard equipment on all Chinooks, whether active duty or National Guard.

             Pentagon officials said that as far as could be determined, all transport helicopters in Iraq have the standard package of defensive systems. That equipment is not foolproof, however, especially in cases where the helicopter is flying at very low altitudes, allowing little reaction time.

             "This was a new lesson from the resistance, a lesson to the greedy aggressors," said one Iraqi in nearby Fallujah, who wouldn't give his name. "They'll never be safe until they get out of our country," he said of the Americans.

             Others were celebrating word of the helicopter downing and also a fresh attack on U.S. soldiers in Fallujah itself, where witnesses said an explosion struck one vehicle in a U.S. Army convoy at about 9 a.m. Sunday. They claimed four soldiers died, but U.S. military sources said they couldn't confirm the report.

             The presence of the portable anti-aircraft missiles has represented a significant threat for military aircraft and raised concerns over the security of the few commercial flights in and out of Baghdad International Airport. The U.S.-led coalition has offered rewards of $500 a piece to Iraqis who turn in the weapons.

             As of Sunday night, this Chinook was the third helicopter known to have been brought down by Iraq's insurgents since President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq on 1 May 2003. The 15 soldiers killed in the crash on Sunday, plus 1 other death in a separate attack and two U.S. civilians working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers killed in Fallujah by a roadside bomb, brings to 139 the number of U.S. military personnel who were combat fatalities since President Bush declared an end to major hostilities, and 377 since the start of military operations in Iraq, according to the latest Department of Defense figures. Since the start of military operations, 1,811 U.S. service members have been injured as a result of hostile action, according to U.S. Central Command. Non-hostile injured numbered 338.

             Five of those on board were helicopter crew members assigned to the Army's 12th Aviation Brigade flying in support of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, officials said. The other soldiers were believed to be stationed at Camp Ridgeway, the western Iraq headquarters for the 82nd Airborne.

             Four of those injured were members of an Iowa Army National Guard unit based in Davenport, National Guard spokesman Colonel Robert King said. Names were not immediately available for the guardsmen, who were part of the helicopter's crew and are members of Detachment 1, Company F, 106th Aviation, King said. He added that he had mixed reports on the soldiers' medical conditions and would not release those details. The helicopter shot down near Fallujah was part of a Peoria, Illinois, based unit that serves as headquarters for Company F, he said.

             Fort Carson, Colorado, officials confirmed at least some of their own were injured in the crash, but would not give an exact number or confirm whether any from the post were among the 15 dead until all the relatives had been notified, said Lt. Col. Thomas Budzyna.

             A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter crash-landed on 25 October in Tikrit after being hit by an unknown weapon, injuring one crewmember. On 12 June, a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter was shot down by hostile fire in the western desert, and two crewmembers were rescued unhurt.

             The Pentagon had announced Friday it was expanding the home leave program for troops in Iraq, to fly more soldiers out of the region each day and take them to more U.S. airports. As of Sunday, it said, the number of soldiers departing daily via a transit facility in neighboring Kuwait would be increased to 480, from 280.

             The workhorse, 10-ton Chinook, which has a crew of four, is the military's most versatile heavy-lift helicopter, used primarily for troop movements, transporting artillery and similar functions.

             The downing of the Chinook came after what U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer on Saturday called "a tough week" in Iraq, beginning with an insurgent rocket attack on Sunday against a Baghdad hotel housing hundreds of his Coalition Provisional Authority staff members. One was killed and 15 wounded in that attack.

             A day later, four coordinated suicide bombings in Baghdad killed three dozen people and wounded more than 200, and that was followed by widespread rumors and leaflets threatening an escalation in the anti-U.S. resistance.

             Attacks against U.S. forces had already stepped up in the previous week, to an average of 33 a day.

             Since it's development over 40 years ago, several CH-47 Chinook helicopters have been shot down by SA-7 missiles. A total of five CH-47A helicopters owned and operated by the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), previously property of the U.S. Army, were lost during the conflict due to SA-7 missile attacks. Numerous airframes have been lost due to Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and mortar fire. Prior to Sunday's attack, the most recent downing of a Chinook was when an MH-47E helicopter was lost in the "War on Terrorism" in Afghanistan.

 

 

         
U.S. soldiers observe the scene after a U.S. Chinook helicopter (center, background) believed carrying dozens of soldiers to leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah, on Sunday, 2 November 2003, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

 

             U.S. soldiers observe the scene after a U.S. Chinook helicopter (center, background) believed carrying dozens of soldiers to leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah, on Sunday, 2 November 2003, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

 

 

         
U.S. soldiers search through the rubble after a U.S. Chinook helicopter believed carrying dozens of soldiers to leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah on Sunday, 2 November 2003, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

 

             U.S. soldiers search through the rubble after a U.S. Chinook helicopter believed carrying dozens of soldiers to leaves abroad was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah on Sunday, 2 November 2003, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 26 others, the U.S. command and witnesses reported.

 

 

         
A Chinook helicopter hovers over the scene where guerrillas shot down another U.S. Chinook helicopter as it flew towards Baghdad airport on 2 November 2003. 15 soldiers were killed in the crash and 26 wounded, near the village of Baisa, south of the flashpoint town of Falluja, a stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad.

 

             A Chinook helicopter hovers over the scene where guerrillas shot down another U.S. Chinook helicopter as it flew towards Baghdad airport on 2 November 2003. 15 soldiers were killed in the crash and 26 wounded, near the village of Baisa, south of the flashpoint town of Falluja, a stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad.

 

 

         
US soldiers inspect the site where a Chinook helicopter was shot down outside the flashpoint town of Fallujah, 50km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

 

             US soldiers inspect the site where a Chinook helicopter was shot down outside the flashpoint town of Fallujah, 50km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

 

         
US soldiers inspect the site where a Chinook helicopter was shot down outside the flashpoint town of Fallujah, 50km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

 

 

         
A crane lifts debris of a U.S. Chinook helicopter on Monday, 3 November 2003 west of Baghdad, near Fallujah. The helicopter carrying dozens of soldiers on their way home for leave, was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah, on Sunday. Fifteen soldiers were killed in the incident and 26 others were wounded.

 

             A crane lifts debris of a U.S. Chinook helicopter on Monday, 3 November 2003 west of Baghdad, near Fallujah. The helicopter carrying dozens of soldiers on their way home for leave, was struck by a missile and crashed west of Baghdad, near Fallujah, on Sunday. Fifteen soldiers were killed in the incident and 26 others were wounded.

 

 

          Fallen Comrades

 

 

             On Monday, 3 November 2003, President Bush said that some of the best Americans have fallen in defense of freedom and liberty. "We mourn every loss. We honor every name. We grieve with every family. And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders," he said during a speech in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

 

         
A row of U.S. Army helmets are perched on M-16 rifles during a memorial at Al-Asad Air Base on Thursday, 6 November 2003, for the 15 victims of a Chinook helicopter which was shot down by insurgents on the weekend. Against a backdrop of 15 helmets resting on M-16 rifles, American soldiers on Thursday honored their comrades, victims of the single deadliest incident for U.S. forces since they invaded Iraq.

 

             A row of U.S. Army helmets and ID tags are perched on M-16 rifles during a memorial at Al-Asad Air Base, Iraq, on Thursday, 6 November 2003, for the 15 victims of a Chinook helicopter which was shot down by insurgents on the weekend. Against a backdrop of 15 helmets resting on M-16 rifles, American soldiers on Thursday honored their comrades, victims of the single deadliest incident for U.S. forces since they invaded Iraq.

 

 

             For their actions in attempting to control the damaged aircraft and minimize loss of life, the pilots (pictured below) of the helicopter were awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

 

 

         
First Lieutenant Brian Slavenas.

 

          First Lieutenant Brian Slavenas

 

         
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Brian Slavenas is shown inside of a Chinook helicopter in this undated family photo. Lt. Slavenas was one of the pilots of the U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that was shot down in Falluja, Iraq.

 

             Above and below, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Brian Slavenas is shown in the cockpit and then in front of a Chinook helicopter in this undated family photo. Lt. Slavenas was one of the pilots of the U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that was shot down in Falluja, Iraq. From Genoa, Illinois, he was an Illinois Army National Guardsman with F Company, 106 Aviation, based at the Greater Peoria Airport.

 

         
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Brian Slavenas is shown in front of a Chinook helicopter in this undated family photo. Lt. Slavenas was one of the pilots of the U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that was shot down in Falluja, Iraq

 

 

         
Chief Warrant Officer Bruce A. Smith, of West Liberty, Iowa, is shown in this undated handout photo. Smith, 41, was among 15 U.S. soldiers confrimed killed on Sunday, 2 November 2003, in an attack on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter near Fallujah, Iraq.

 

             Chief Warrant Officer Bruce A. Smith, 41, of West Liberty, Iowa, assigned to Detachment 1, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Army National Guard, based in Davenport, Iowa.

 

 

         
Staff Sergeant (SSG) Joe N. Wilson of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, is shown in this undated handout photo. Wilson, 30, was among the 15 U.S. soldiers killed in an attack on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter near Fallujah, Iraq.

 

             Staff Sergeant (SSG) Joe N. Wilson of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, is shown in this undated handout photo. Wilson, 30, was among the 15 U.S. soldiers killed in an attack on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter near Fallujah, Iraq. He was assigned to Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Corps Artillery, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

 

 

         
Isabel Jimenez of Sacramento, California, on Monday, 3 November 2003, stands outside of the Lau home in Livingston, California, holding a photo of her cousin Karina Lau, one of the 15 U.S. Army soldiers who died when their helicopter was shot down in Iraq on Sunday morning. Lau, 22, boarded a Chinook transport helicopter headed toward the Baghdad Airport, where she was scheduled to board an airplane to the United States for a two week surprise visit with her family in California.

 

             Isabel Jimenez of Sacramento, California, on Monday, 3 November 2003, stands outside of the Lau home in Livingston, California, holding a photo of her cousin Private First Class Karina Lau, one of the 15 U.S. Army soldiers who died when their helicopter was shot down in Iraq on Sunday morning. Lau, 22, boarded a Chinook transport helicopter headed toward the Baghdad Airport, where she was scheduled to board an airplane to the United States for a two week surprise visit with her family in California. She was assigned to the 16th Signal Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

 

 

         
Sergeant Ernest Bucklew is shown in this undated Bucklew family photo. Bucklew was one of 15 soldiers killed when their Chinook helicopter crashed in Fallujah, Iraq on Sunday, 2 November 2003, after being hit by a surface to air missle. Bucklew, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, was en route to Pennsylvania to attend his mother's funeral.

 

             Sergeant Ernest G. Bucklew, 33, of Enon Valley, Pennsylvania, assigned to Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

 

 

             Private First Class Anthony D. Dagostino, 20, of Waterbury, Connecticut, assigned to the 16th Signal Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

 

 

             Sergeant Keelan L. Moss, 23, of Houston, Texas, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

 

 

         
U.S. Army Sgt. Ross A. Pennanen, 36, of Shawnee, Okla., in this undated family photo, who was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was one of the 15 U.S. soldiers killed on Sunday, 2 November 2003 in an attack on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter near Fallujah, Iraq.

 

             Sergeant Ross A. Pennanen, 36, of Oklahoma, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

 

 

             Staff Sergeant (SSG) Paul A. Velazquez, 29, of San Diego, California. He was based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

 

 

             Specialist Frances M. Vega, 20, of Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, assigned to the 151st Adjutant General Postal Detachment 3, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

 

 

             Specialist Darius T. Jennings, 22 of Cordova, South Carolina, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

 

 

             Sergeant Steven D. Conover, 21, of Wilmington, Ohio. His mother, Lorraine Earley, said he was a specialist in field artillery based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

 

 

             Staff Sergeant Daniel Bader, 28, of York, Nebraska, assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tiger Squadron, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

 

 

             Specialist Brian H. Penisten, 28, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, assigned to Air Defense Artillery Battery, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

 

 

         
U.S. Army Sgt. Joel Perez, in this undated photo, is one of 15 U.S. soldiers killed on Sunday, 2 November 2003, in an attack on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter near Fallujah, Iraq. Perez, who was born in Puerto Rico, had been assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

 

             Sergeant Joel Perez, 25, of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

 

 

          America's Wounded

 

 

         
An injured soldier is brought out of a plane on a stretcher at Ramstein Air Base in Germany Monday Nov. 3, 2003 in this image from television. About 18 U.S. soldiers wounded in Sunday's Chinook helicopter attack in Iraq arrived at Ramstein where they will be taken to the nearby Landstuhl Medical Center for treatment.
   LANDSTUHL, Germany - Sixteen of the U.S. soldiers wounded in a deadly attack on their helicopter in Iraq underwent treatment Monday at an American military hospital in Germany for injuries that included head wounds and broken bones.

             Eleven were in serious or critical condition in the intensive care unit at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, said U.S. Army Colonel Rhonda Cornum, the hospital's commander. Five others less seriously wounded were receiving care on regular surgical wards.

             "The actual medical condition of those in the intensive care unit is still being evaluated, but they are all stable," Corman said. She noted it was too early to tell if they had suffered non-crash related wounds, such as from an incoming missile.

             The 15 men and one woman who arrived early Monday at Ramstein Air Base aboard a C-17 transport aircraft were the latest in a stream of patients the hospital has had to cope with since combat began in Iraq in March.

             A 17th soldier injured in the attack was to arrive Tuesday morning, said Marie Shaw, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

             Names and units are being withheld pending the notification of families, and the patients were unavailable for interviews, Cornum said. The families of two of the injured soldiers reached so far planned to travel to Landstuhl, she said.

 

 

          Another Fatality

 

 

             WASHINGTON - Thursday, 6 November 2003: Sergeant Paul F. Fisher, 39, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died at the Homburg University Klinikum, Homberg, Germany. Fisher was very seriously injured on Sunday during the shoot down of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter in which he was riding went down. Fisher, one of the stricken helicopter's crew, was assigned to Detachment 1, Company F, 106th Aviation Battalion, Army National Guard, based in Davenport, Iowa.

             Sergeant Fischer's death brings to 16 the number of soldiers killed in action and 26 wounded as a result of this incient.

             The Army helicopter shot down apparently had a last-second warning of an approaching missile and managed to launch flares designed to draw the heat-seeking missile away, a senior Army official said Thursday.

             It is not clear why the defensive moves did not work, but the official, who discussed the attack investigation on condition he not be identified, said U.S. officials believe the shooter simply got in a "lucky shot."

             The helicopter was flying at between 200 and 300 feet, he said meaning that the fast-moving missile, when fired at the correct angle of approach, allowed little time for its target to escape.

             Two missiles were fired. One slammed into the right side of the helicopter's rear engine, causing it to fail catastrophically and triggering a fire.

             Three of the four crew members assigned the CH-47 perished. The only crew member to survive the attack was SGT Gerald Santos.

             The exact type of missile used has not been determined, the Army official said, although it is known to have been of the shoulder-fired variety, also known as a man-portable air defense missile. Speculation has centered on the SA-7, a Russian-designed missile widely available in Iraq.

             The official said a number of survivors, Iraqi eyewitnesses on the ground and passengers aboard a second Army helicopter flying nearby reported having seen flares after the missile was launched. The official stressed, however, that he considered this information to be unconfirmed.

   The investigation is likely to continue for many weeks, the official said.

             U.S. military officials said on Tuesday that the Chinook in question was equipped with an ALQ-156 missile alert system, as is standard for the entire Chinook fleet. But it had not previously been disclosed whether the alert system functioned and whether flares were dispensed.

             The destroyed Chinook was operated by pilots of the Illinois and Iowa Army National Guard, attached to the active-duty 12th Aviation Brigade, based in Germany. It was a 1991 model and was ferrying soldiers to Baghdad; some were due for short R and R breaks in Baghdad, others were headed out of the region for two-week breaks.

             The Army official said the Chinook had not only an ALQ-156 missile warning system but also an APR-39V radar warning system. The ALQ-156 system is linked electronically with the M-130 flare dispenser, and can be set either to automatically or manually dispense them once a missile is detected. The official said he could not disclose whether it was in automatic mode at the time but described the system as "operational."

             "The aircraft had what is required to defeat the threat over there," the official said.

             Some Chinooks in Iraq are equipped with a different missile alert system, called the ALE-47, the official said. He insisted that while different in function, the ALE-47 is not necessarily more effective against all missile threats.

             Another military official, Colonel William Darley, a spokesman for U.S. military operations in Iraq, said the CH-47 Chinook was fully equipped and was not overloaded at the time of the incident, as some reports had suggested.

             "The reports that you have heard or read are entirely false," Darley told a news conference in Baghdad.

             Darley said the downed Chinook had not been overloaded, saying such helicopters are capable of carrying up to 55 people and there were not more than 60 soldiers being transported in two Chinooks at the time of the attack.

             "I can also tell you that this helicopter was not older than others in service," Darley told reporters. "The downed Chinook had been in operation for 13 years, whereas the average age of those helicopters in operation is 14.6 years."

             Darley said investigations were continuing into the incident and forensic experts had been called in to inspect the crash site since only a charred wreckage remained.

 

 

          Suspects Detained

 

 

             TIKRIT, 13 November 2003 - U.S. forces raided locations in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Thursday and detained four people believed to be behind the downing of a U.S. Chinook helicopter in Falluja, an American military official said.

             "We were targeting individuals believed to be involved in the downing of U.S. aircraft," said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell, referring specifically to the Chinook transport helicopter brought down west of Baghdad on 2 November 2003, which killed 16 Americans.

             "We were looking for four specific individuals and we found all four. We're going to take in a few other people for questioning in relation to the event and we will only know the exact information they possess once we've had a chance to interview them," Russell said.

              The raid, which took about 90 minutes, targeted four houses in the northern part of Tikrit. Tikrit, which is 170 km (106 miles) north of Baghdad, and Falluja, about 65 km (40 miles) west of the capital, form two points of the Sunni Triangle where U.S. forces have encountered frequent deadly attacks.

 

 

         
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