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Army Revokes Heroism Awards in Friendly Fire Incident

April 19, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Army revoked heroism awards given to three soldiers involved in a Persian Gulf War ``friendly fire″ incident. Congressional investigators charged the citations were based on misleading statements of commanding officers.

In a statement issued at the Pentagon Wednesday, Army Secretary Togo West announced the revocation and said a panel would look into the General Accounting Office’s findings to determine ``what further action may be required by the Army.″

The Army decision was announced as Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., released a report by the GAO, Congress’ investigative branch, that was highly critical of the Army’s handling of the matter.

Thompson, at a news conference in Nashville, Tenn., said the report raised a question of whether the awards represented a coverup by the Army.

``You can’t look at that without asking yourself a question of whether the whole thing was used to reinvent the facts of that night to bail everybody out,″ Thompson said.

Cpl. Douglas Lance Fielder of Nashville was killed Feb. 27, 1991, when his unit was mistaken for Iraqis by members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Fielder’s was one of 35 ``friendly fire″ deaths tallied among the 148 battle deaths that occurred during the war to oust Iraq occupation forces from Kuwait. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.

``The awards were based on misleading statements and misrepresentations ... . These statements seriously masked the actual events of the fratricide,″ the GAO report stated.

The report cited in particular statements by Col. Douglas Starr, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and Lt. Col. John Daly Jr., the 3rd Squadron commander.

The two men, along with Capt. Bodo Friesen, were later reprimanded by the Army for negligence in allowing their troops to improperly cross into a battlefield sector controlled by another unit.

However, the reprimands of Starr and Daly were not placed in their permanent records and Friesen’s reprimand was withdrawn.

Fielder’s parents were first informed by the Army that he had been killed by Iraqis, when in fact no enemy forces were in the area at the time. Later they were told by Fielder’s military friends that he was killed by ``friendly fire,″ and they pressed Congress for an investigation.

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.

Three soldiers under the command of Starr, Daly and Friesen received Bronze Stars with `V’ devices, the awards involved in the dispute.

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 from enemy forces.

The GAO argued that the awards for valor were based on misleading statements made by Starr, Daly and others, and therefore should be revoked.

And it found that earlier investigations by the Army _ which cleared the officers of wrongdoing in the fratricide _ were ``incomplete, inaccurate and not supported by available evidence.″

Starr and Friesen have left the Army. But Fielder’s parents complained Daly had been recommended for promotion to full colonel, sparking the continued investigation. After Sasser left the Senate last year, Thompson continued his efforts.

Daly is the son-in-law of Gen. Creighton Abrams, a former Army chief of staff and World War II hero. The Army’s premier battle tank was named in his honor.

The Army recommendation to revoke the awards was made last fall, but final action was held up pending reviews, and allowing time for the servicemen involved to comment on the decision, said Army spokesman Maj. Ray Whitehead.

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