Monday, July 25, 2005

Friendly Fire

Historically, about 20% of allied soldiers are killed by their comrades - so-called "Friendly Fire". The guy killed on Friday by Brit police is in this category, and as the Brit police chief said, citizens should expect more. Brits will get used to it, as their parents did.

Here's the background (selected from my March 7 post).

Friendly fire results from armed young men having to make split-second decisions that could save or lose their own lives, their comrades' lives, or the lives of innocents. The young men make errors of position (shelling their own troops), or identification (mistaking their own, or civilians, for the enemy).

World War 2

The Pentagon estimates US friendly fire deaths in WW2 at 21,000, which is 16% of all combat deaths. Details are heartbreaking. Thousands of men dying through recognition failures, trigger-happy gunners, poor aircraft recognition, incorrect map references and every error you can imagine - often after surviving the worst the enemy could do. The leader of the Iwo Jima flag raisers later died in a US Navy bombardment.

Gulf War

The Pentagon estimates friendly fire deaths at 35, 23% of all deaths.

Brits losses to FF were 56%.

Afghanistan

Numbers not available, but include the attack by US planes on a Canadian Army unit which killed 4 soldiers. Plus US Special Forces hit by Daisy Cutters.

Iraqi Freedom

No final statistics available but incidents included Patriot missile downings of allied planes, Warthogs attacking Brit armor, and one Brit tank destroying another.

Conclusion

Friendly Fire is a nasty reality of warfare. The allies didn't ask for the curent war, and we can now only end it the way we've always ended wars - by destroying the enemy.

And in the meantime, we'll get used to the tragedies of Friendly Fire, just as our parents and grandparents did.