The Army’s version of the deaths of Nelson and Suarez

Despite a video that seems to show friendly fire, and the discovery of a tank shell near the impact site, the official investigation attributes their deaths to enemy action.

Topics: Iraq war, Iraq, Middle East,

An Army investigation into a possible friendly fire incident involving U.S. Army units in Ramadi, Iraq, was carried out under the auspices of the commander of one of the tank brigades involved, Col. Sean MacFarland. On Dec. 4, 2006, MacFarland was the commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, which was in Ramadi supporting the infantry. Just before 4:30 in the afternoon, one of MacFarland’s tanks allegedly fired a shell into a position occupied by troops of 2nd Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry of the U.S. Army. Two American soldiers, Pfc. Albert Nelson and Pfc. Roger Suarez-Gonzalez, died.

On Dec. 5, MacFarland initiated what is called a 15-6 investigation, a relatively informal procedure typically carried out by a single officer investigating soldiers in his own unit who reports his results to the unit commander. Salon obtained a copy of the 15-6 investigation through the Freedom of Information Act. The name of the Army major who conducted the investigation was redacted. He reported his findings to MacFarland.

The unnamed major discovered shrapnel from a 120-millimeter U.S. tank round in “building #2” where Nelson and Suarez were hurt, but determined these fragments likely bounced into the building during shooting nearby the next day, Dec. 5. He also found bullets of the same caliber used in the tank’s coaxial machine gun, but said these came from a Heckler & Koch G3 assault rifle fired by insurgents.

You Might Also Like

The documents note that the infantry soldiers in “building #2″ reported friendly fire from a U.S. tank. The documents also allude to the existence of a detailed video that a) shows the soldiers in the building under fire and b) records the real-time statements of numerous eyewitnesses that the fire came from an American tank. According to the Army investigation, however, an analysis of shrapnel, uniform scraps, ammunition impact points and audio from the video showed that the soldiers were mistaken. “Soldiers inside building #2 believed that the tank located to the west was firing on their position,” MacFarland wrote in a Dec. 20 memo in which he concurred with the report’s findings, “when in actuality, it was enemy fire from a mortar position northwest of the Euphrates River.”

Below is the Army’s 10-page 15-6 investigation, followed by MacFarland’s two-page memo in support of the findings. The documents refer to Suarez as a specialist and Nelson as a sergeant, but to Salon’s knowledge they both had the rank of private first class at the time of this incident.

Download this 10-page document as a PDF (1.9 MB)

Download this 2-page document as a PDF (412K)

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Michael Ohl/Museum fur Naturkunde

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Soul-Sucking Dementor Wasp

    Latin name: Ampulex dementor

    Truong Ngyuen

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    10,000th reptile species

    Latin name: Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi

    Jodi Rowley/Australian Museum

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Colour-changing thorny frogs

    Latin name: Gracixalus lumarius

    Judith L. Eger

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Long-fanged bat

    Latin name: Hypsugo dolichodon

    Neang Thy Moe/FFI

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Stealthy wolf snake

    Latin name: Lycodon zoosvictoriae

    Michael Janes

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Feathered coral

    Latin name: Ovabunda andamanensis

    Jerome Constant

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    World's second-longest insect

    Phryganistria heusii yentuensis

    Nantasak Pinkaew

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 8

    Latin name: Sirindhornia spp

    Tim Johnson

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 9

    Tylototriton shanorum

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>