‘Friendly Fire,’ Not the Iraqis, Killed Ohio GI
An American soldier whose death during a ground battle in the Persian Gulf War was described in two front-page articles in The Times was killed not by Iraqi forces, as had been believed, but by a mistaken barrage from a U.S. M1-A1 tank, military officials said Wednesday.
Army Specialist Clarence Allen Cash, 20, of Ashland, Ohio, was among the 35 U.S. soldiers now acknowledged by the Defense Department to have been killed during the war by so-called “friendly fire.”
An initial military investigation into the incident had made no mention of errant fire by U.S. forces. Instead, witnesses said Cash, a member of the 1st Armored Division, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi forces ripped into his Bradley Fighting Vehicle as his unit mounted an attack Feb. 27 on a bunker complex in southern Iraq.
A Times account March 5 of a poignant battlefield memorial service for the fallen soldier reported the Iraqi ambush to be the cause of his death. That version of the tragic incident was later featured prominently in a Times article July 4 that described the ground war as it was remembered, among others, by members of Cash’s scout platoon.
But military officials said Wednesday that careful scrutiny of what was left of Cash’s vehicle and of another destroyed in the attack found traces of the depleted uranium used only in American shells, leaving no doubt that the fatal rounds had been fired by a U.S. tank.
In sharply upgrading its list of “friendly fire” cases Tuesday, the Pentagon refused to identify those killed and wounded in the incidents. But military officials confirmed Wednesday that Cash was killed when “an M1-A1 tank incorrectly identified and fired at” two Bradleys during an attack on a bunker complex.
His widow, Sandy Cash, who was told in early March that her husband was killed by an Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade, said she did not learn until receiving a hand-delivered letter from the Pentagon on Monday that the cause of death had been revised.
“It was quite a shock after five months to be told that it was friendly fire,” Sandy Cash said in a telephone interview from her home in Ashland.
The attack in which the young soldier was killed took place on a rainy, smoky afternoon just hours before the war ended in a cease-fire. In its letter to the widow, the Pentagon blamed the case of mistaken identity on the poor visibility and confusion that existed in the final stages of what had been one of the war’s biggest tank battles.