Army Revoking Awards for Valor in Friendly Fire Incident
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Army is revoking awards for valor given to three servicemen involved in a ``friendly fire″ battle during the Persian Gulf War in which an American soldier was killed, a spokesman says.
The Army’s action came after congressional investigators challenged the Bronze Star awards, alleging they were based on misleading statements by Army officers also involved in the fighting, which occurred when one group of soldiers mistook another group as the enemy.
A report by the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative branch, on the ``friendly fire″ event was to be released today. It was first reported over the weekend by U.S. News and World Report.
The parents of the victim, Cpl. Douglas Lance Fielder, were first informed that had been killed by the Iraqis when in fact no Iraqis were in the area at the time. Later they were told by Fielder’s military friends that he was killed by ``friendly fire,″ and pressed Congress for an investigation.
Army spokesman Maj. Ray Whitehead said the Army’s top official in charge of awards and decorations, ``after receiving preliminary GAO findings, recommended that the three awards for valor, be revoked.″
That recommendation was made last fall, but final action was held up pending reviews of the matter, and allowing time for the servicemen involved to comment on the decision, Whitehead said.
Fielder and several other engineers from the 1st Armored Division were hit by machine gun fire during the third day of ground fighting in the war, when soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment mistook the Americans for Iraqis.
While the 3rd Armored unit was absolved of any criminal responsibility for Fielder’s death, the judge advocate of U.S. Forces Command, which is in charge of all U.S.-based troops, in 1992 recommended reprimands against three soldiers: Capt. Bodo Friesen, Lt. Col. John Daly, Jr., and Col. Douglas Starr, the commander of the regiment.
But the head of Forces Command, Gen. Edwin Burba, at the time decided to drop the reprimand against Friesen and leave the other reprimands out of Daly’s and Starr’s permanent files.
Three soldiers under the command of Starr, Daly and Friesen received Bronze Stars ``for bravery and valor″ in the battle.
A majority of soldiers in the Gulf War received Bronze Stars for participating in combat, but the additional `V’ award for valor is only supposed to be given in certain cases of dealing with hostile fire.
U.S. News reported that the GAO report argues that the awards for valor were based on misleading statements made by Starr, Daly, and others, and therefore should be revoked.
Starr and Friesen have left the Army. But critics of the matter, including Fielder’s parents, complained to then-Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., that Daly had been recommended for promotion to full colonel, sparking the continued investigation. After Sasser left the Senate last year, Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., continued his efforts.