Friendly Fire

by:  RAF_Yank

This is a story that I'm not proud of but I think it should be told. It came out when I received an email from an RAF member who is currently in the armed forces. I will leave his name out of it for now since he is on leave from the RAF while he is serving his country. This is a portion of what he wrote to me a few a months back. The context of it is not as important as the content.

"(While in the Persian Gulf) During this time I would spend 4 months in the back of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. My view of the Airforce was changed by what was described in the media as "a friendly fire incident" I witnessed first hand the destruction of a Bradley identical to my own by an A-10 pilot who was "confused". My fellow soldier and I cursed the Airforce and the Media! I don't think that I will ever forget the sight of soldiers that I knew screaming in pain, or seeing the removal of the two who were not fortunate enough to survive. "

This is what I wrote him back with some editing and additions for clarity:

``In the first few weeks after we had begun operations in Normandy during July of 1944, we were called upon often to attack enemy armored units. The battle for Caen and St. Lo were still under way. The allies were pouring in men and materials at a fantastic rate but the advances were slow. The Germans had finally freed up their Panzer reserves from Calais that were frozen there.

Hitler and much of the German High Command had fallen for an elaborate ruse that Calais was the real target of the Allied Invasion. For weeks and months prior to the Normandy Invasion the allies had created a false invasion force around General Patton. Fake radio messages, plywood tanks, and dummy troop concentrations had added to the deception. The Germans were convinced Patton would lead the attack at Calais. My first mission after my arrival in England was an attack on the Port of Calais. The Allies pounded that area to give credence to the impression that Calais was the real target of the Western Invasion.

Days turned into weeks after the real invasion on June 6th, 1944. Crack German troops and armor were kept glued to the Calais area with the false view that Normandy was just a diversionary move. On one of my first missions out of Normandy, we were given coordinates and were told any thing east of a certain point was almost certainly the enemy. This was a ``Seek and Destroy" targets of opportunity mission. Imagine turning loose a group of barely out of there teens, young men, into the sky strapped to these ``Razorbacks" filled with gas, 3000 rounds of ammunition, and a load of 500 lb. bombs. Then tell them, ``Go kill something". Frightening thought.

My flight leader and I were flying along low over the "Hedge Row" country when we saw a tank begin crawl through some hedges. According to our position reports we were behind enemy lines. This tank had only just stuck its front through the hedge. All we could see was the cannon and first third of the vehicle. We took after it and our 50-caliber fire began to stitch towards it. All of sudden as our bullets were about to converge on it in earnest I saw a white star on its side as it fully emerged. I yelled at my leader "Cease fire!" but quite a few shells hit the side of the tank. We circled back to see the tank we had hit, and another that came through, kept rolling along. If we had fired for much longer it would have become a smoldering wreck.  Concentrated 50 caliber fire at nearly 100 rounds a second could do devastating damage even to a heavily armored tank. I broke out in a cold sweat and my heart was racing. I will never forget how that felt. I breathed a big sigh of relief when the tank we had had begun to hit kept rolling on.

To be truly honest, I can't say for certain whether or not I ever killed allied soldiers on the ground. We were frequently required to concentrate fire sometimes within yards of our own positions. Many times I held fire if I had any question, but one never knows. I don't know the specific circumstances of the A-10 incident you are speaking of. I do know this, that after the families of the dead, that pilot was the most remorseful guy on earth. ``

I guess the point of this story is to emphasize that War is remarkably indiscriminate in who it harms. With the best of intentions it only takes a split second to make and error in judgement that can cost people there lives. Often it didn't even take an error, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I pray constantly that we can find a way to stop this madness.

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