18 APRIL 2002: AMERICAN ERROR KILLS FOUR CANADIAN SERVICEMEN
18 JUNE 2002: INQUIRY FINDS U.S. PILOT BROKE RULES
14 SEPTEMBER 2002: THE AIR FORCE CHARGES TWO U.S. PILOTS WITH MANSLAUGHTER AND ASSAULT FOLLOWING A JOINT INVESTIGATION BY WASHINGTON AND OTTAWA.
Members of the Third Battalion, Princess Patricia's Light Infantry at a memorial service at Kandahar airport. American troops joined the mourners. New York Times, Section A, page 12, 24 April 2002. (Associated Press photo)
Source: The New York Times, Section A, page 15, 19 April 2002, and Section A, page 11, 19 June 2002.
Four men were killed, more were wounded, when an American fighter pilot hit a Canadian training force with a 500-pound bomb. The tragedy occurred just before 2:00 a.m. on 18 April. It was the first Canadian deaths in a battle zone since the Korean War.
The Canadians (of the Third Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry) were on a live-fire nighttime training mission in southern Afghanistan. American F-16 pilots (of the 183rd Fighter Wing) mistook the muzzle flashes for hostile fire.
President Bush called Prime Minister Jean Chrťtien to offer condolences and to say that a full investigation would take place.
"Canada is a vital member of a mighty coalition against terrorism and hatred," President Bush said in a statement. "It is shouldering great burdens and making tremendous sacrifices to make the world a safer place for all people. It is doing so in defense of the values that define the Canadian nation and that unite our two peoples."
Prime Minister Chrťtien reaffirmed Canada's commitment. "The campaign against terrorism is the first great struggle for justice in the 21st century."
Chrťtien also assured the Canadian people that questions about this tragedy would be answered.
In Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Paul Stogan, a Canadian commander told The Canadian Press Agency that his troops had been hit psychologically as well. "They are all sorts of emotions they're going to have to spend the next ten years or so sorting out."
The military inquiry lasted eight weeks and the full findings have not been made public. However, one official characterized the report by saying: ďItís pretty cut and dried. They didnít follow proper procedures.Ē An F-16 pilot, Major Harry Schmidt of the Illinois National Guard, mistakenly dropped the bomb because he did not take time to assess the threat properly before striking.
Investigators believe the following account:
Just before 2 a.m. in Afghanistan on April 18, the pilots of the two F- 16's (Major Harry Schmidt and Major William Umbach) were finishing a routine patrol, and preparing to meet a refueling plane to gas up for the three-hour flight back to Al Jaber air base in Kuwait. The pilots had flown missions from there since late March.
Flying near Kandahar, the pilots saw muzzle flashes on the ground behind them and thought they had come under fire. What they did not know was that Canadian infantry troops were conducting an exercise using live ammunition and small arms in a designated training area south of Kandahar. The training area was well known to American forces, and aircraft were not supposed to fly below 10,000 feet when over it.
It is unclear why the pilots did not know they were flying past the range. Officials said that Canadian troops had properly notified their allied partners that the drill was taking place, and that the information was available to the pilots.
Moreover, flying at 23,000 feet, the pilots were in no danger of being hit by small-arms fire. If they had felt threatened, officials say, the proper course would have been to fly higher, or leave and assess the threat.
But in this case, the planes wheeled around. Major Schmidt requested and was denied permission to attack the troops. The pilots were given permission to mark the target by determining its precise location.
As he did this, Major Schmidt saw what looked to him like fire aimed at Major Umbachís jet. He dove to just above 10,000 feet to drop his bomb. The pilots then left, learning about the accident only after they landed.