Lorenzo A Brieba & Matthew D Wehausen
Matthew D Wehausen (r) M60 Gunner with Lorenzo A Brieba (l) M203 Grenadier, Headquarters Platoon Company C 3/19th Infantry 'Rock of Chicamangua' 24th Division, 'First to Fight', LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol), deactivated, in a rare covert special ops photo wearing 'opposing force' battle fatigues during desert warfare training, prior to storming into history during General Barry McCaffrey's command of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) 'Operation Desert Storm' conducted the "left hook" attack 370 km into Iraq, in one of the boldest military maneuvers ever undertaken, leading to decisive battle victory in the First Gulf War in the largest air assault in Army history, putting troops in place for the final battler of the war.
Company C 3/19th Infantry would be hit by a Tomahawk missile fired by the US Navy's battleship, USS Wisconsin (BB-64), in an incident of friendly fire costing Wehausen an eye. The attack would also wound Sgt. Ken Kozakiewicz, and Cpl. Mike Tsangarakis and kill Pvt. Andy Alaniz in what would become one of the most famous photos of the war and 1991.
Of the 148 U.S. troops who died in battle, 24% were killed by friendly fire.
According to SGT Ken Kozakiewicz and other sources the events that led to the incident occurred like this:
USS Wisconsin (BB-64), "Wisky" or "WisKy", is an Iowa-class battleship, the second ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. She was built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and launched on 7 December 1943 (the second anniversary of the Pearl Harbor raid)
As part of President Ronald Reagan's Navy Secretary John F. Lehman's effort to create a "600-ship Navy" Wisconsin was reactivated 1 August 1986 and moved under tow to the Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, Louisiana, to commence pre-re-commissioning workups.
Wisconsin, escorted by Nicholas, relieved Missouri on 6 February, then answered her first combat call for gunfire support since March 1952.
On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In the middle of the month, President George H. W. Bush, in keeping with the Carter Doctrine, sent the first of several hundred thousand troops, along with a strong force of naval support to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf area to support a multi-national force in a standoff with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. On 7 August, Wisconsin and her battle group were ordered to deploy in defense of Kuwait for Operation Desert Shield, and they arrived in the Persian Gulf on 23 August. On 15 January 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced operations, and Wisconsin found herself serving alongside her younger sister Missouri, just as she had done in Korea forty years previously. Both Wisconsin and Missouri launched Tomahawk Missile attacks against Iraq; they were among the first ships to fire cruise missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. Wisconsin served as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) strike commander for the Persian Gulf, directing the sequence of launches that marked the opening of Operation Desert Storm and firing a total of 24 of her own TLAMs during the first two days of the campaign. Wisconsin also assumed the responsibility of the local anti-surface warfare coordinator for the Northern Persian Gulf Surface Action Group.
The most recently recommissioned battleship sent 11 shells across 19 mi (31 km) of space to destroy an Iraqi artillery battery in southern Kuwait during a mission called in by USMC OV-10 Bronco aircraft. Using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) as a spotter in combat for the first time, Wisconsin pounded an Iraqi communications compound on 7 February. Her main guns lobbed 24 shells on Iraqi artillery sites, missile facilities, and electronic warfare sites along the coast. That evening she targeted naval sites with her 16 in (410 mm) guns, firing 50 rounds which severely damaged or sunk 15 Iraqi boats, and destroyed several piers at the Khawr al-Mufattah marina. In response to calls for fire support from US and coalition forces, Wisconsin's turrets boomed again on 9 February, blasting bunkers and artillery sites, and shelling Iraqi troop positions near Khafji after the Iraqis were ousted from the city by Saudi and Qatari armor. On 21 February, one of Wisconsin's UAVs observed several trucks resupplying an Iraqi command post; in response, Wisconsin trained her 16 in (410 mm) guns on the complex, leveling or heavily damaging 10 of the buildings. Wisconsin and Missouri alternated positions on the gun line, using their 16 in (410 mm) guns to destroy enemy targets and soften defenses along the Kuwait coastline for a possible amphibious assault.
On the night of 23 February, Missouri and Wisconsin turned their big guns on Kuwait's Faylaka Island to support the US-led coalition ground offensive to free Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation forces. The two ships were to conduct a diversionary assault aimed at convincing the Iraqi forces arrayed along the shores of Faylaka Island that Coalition forces were preparing to launch an amphibious invasion. As part of this attack, Missouri and Wisconsin were directed to shell known Iraqi defensive positions on the island. Shortly after Missouri completed her shelling of Faylaka Island, Wisconsin, while still over the horizon (and thus out of visual range of the Iraqi forces) launched her RQ-2 Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to spot for her 16 in (410 mm) guns. As Wisconsin's drone approached Faylaka Island, the pilot of the drone was instructed to fly the vehicle low over Iraqi positions so that the soldiers would know that they were once again being targeted by a battleship. Iraqi troops on the ground heard the Pioneer’s distinctive buzzing sound, and having witnessed the effects of Missouri's artillery strike on their trench line, the Iraqi troops decided to signal their willingness to surrender by waving makeshift white flags, an action dutifully noted aboard Wisconsin. Amused at this sudden development, the men assigned to the drone’s aircrew called Wisconsin's commanding officer, Captain David S. Bill III, and asked, "Sir, they want to surrender, what should I do with them?" This surrender to Wisconsin's Pioneer has since become one of the most remembered moments of the Gulf War; the incident was also the first-ever surrender of enemy troops to an unmanned aircraft controlled by a ship. Wisconsin drone also carried out a number of reconnaissance missions on occupied Kuwait before the coalition's ground offensive.
The next day, Wisconsin answered two separate call fire support missions for coalition forces by suppressing Iraqi troops barricaded in a pair of bunkers. After witnessing the effects of Wisconsin's strike against the Iraqi positions an elated Saudi marine commander commented over the radio, "I wish we had a battleship in our navy."
Both Wisconsin and Missouri passed the million-pound mark of ordnance delivered on Iraqi targets by the time president George H. W. Bush ended hostilities on 28 February. With one last salvo from her big guns, Wisconsin fired the last naval gunfire support mission of the war, and thus was the final battleship in world history to see action. Wisconsin remained in the Persian Gulf after the cease-fire took effect, and returned home on 28 March 1991. During the eight months Wisconsin spent in the Persian Gulf, she had flown 348 UAV hours, recorded 661 safe helicopter landings, steamed 46,000 nmi (53,000 mi; 85,000 km), fired 319 16 in (410 mm) rounds, 881 5-inch (130 mm) rounds, 5,200 20 mm Phalanx CIWS rounds., and launched 24 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Since all four remaining battleships were decommissioned and stricken following the Gulf War, this was the last time that United States battleships actively participated in a war
“Nothing but rockets,” Sgt. Ken Kozakiewicz. “We just stared at them. We didn’t expect that. That was never part of the training.
The rocket strikes looked like lightning. Seconds after the first rockets cratered the airfield, soldiers could feel the hardscrabble desert floor quake beneath their boots. They were on alert, awaiting orders to swarm their shell-shocked enemy. Jalibah Airfield was among the final objectives of America’s lopsided campaign to evict Saddam Hussein from neighboring Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm was an unqualified rout. When the rocket assault began at 5 a.m. Feb. 27, 1991 – less than three days after Saddam ignored a U.S. deadline to withdraw his troops – Kuwait had been all but liberated. Cease-fire was scant hours away. “They unleashed hell on this airfield,” Cpl. Mike Tsangarakis said. “I was thinking ‘Damn, imagine what those poor Iraqi bastards are going through right now.’ “We’ve got to go over there in a little while, and hopefully there’s nothing left.”
U.S. soldiers were anxious about sweeping Jalibah Airfield, overmatched as it was. More than 1,000 dug-in members of Saddam’s elite Republican Guard loomed ahead. They were respected professional soldiers with at least 20 tanks and 60 air-defense guns. The Americans were exhausted. Much of the mighty 24th Infantry’s time was spent traversing the bleak desert from Kuwait into Iraq and toward the Euphrates River Valley – with Jalibah Airfield now in their cross hairs.
Along the way, they dealt with zero visibility, rain, dust and shamal winds of 50 mph. A post-battle Army memorandum stated “soldiers had been on the move almost continuously for previous 63 hours during the drive to the Euphrates River Valley. ” Five days before the mission, Pvt. Andy Alaniz sent a letter to his 19-year-old pregnant wife back home in Texas, telling her “something combat-like would be appreciated” because the desert boredom was frustrating the troops. His request was soon granted. “Our mission looks pretty simple,” Alaniz wrote in his journal, dated Feb. 27 at 0300 hours. “An airport is our next objective. Armed vehicles are closing in on it. So are we. With the skies clearing up and a full moon, it looks alright to fight. “The rest of the night should be long, but exciting. ... This is no time for sleep. A hasty defense is all we are doing right now. The trip home lies ahead. ” Daylight broke and roughly 2,000 U.S. soldiers and 180 combat vehicles rolled toward the airfield. “We were so overpowering,” Tsangarakis said last month at a cigar bar near his home in Palm Harbor, Fla. “So much power. We had power in overkill. “That’s what got us: our own powerful power.” No going home
Dominance, however, wasn’t without catastrophe. Grave errors on the approach to Jalibah inflicted pain that persists 21 years later. U.S. soldiers accidentally killed and dismembered their own brothers.
In the photo, Kozakiewicz sobs as he stares out the window of a medical evacuation helicopter. His left arm is in a sling. Next to him, in the middle of the frame, Tsangarakis lifts the bottom edge of his head bandages to peek at the bloody body bag that has been loaded at his feet. They have just learned that Alaniz is inside. “As graphic and as horrible as that picture is – because of what it is – I think it’s an amazing photo,” said Catherine Alaniz-Simonds, a bride of eight months when Andy got killed. “It shows the effects of war and that not everybody comes home alive. “The guys crying and injured in there are going to be changed forever.” She is right. The lives of those in the photo remain scarred, their recoveries almost certain to be continual works in progress. Kozakiewicz, Tsangarakis and Alaniz’s widow spoke to The Buffalo News about their lives and how the photograph, seen in newspapers and magazines around the world, affected them. Survivor’s guilt and bitterness toward the government are serious issues. None of the three soldiers, who signed up to serve in peacetime and without expectation of going to war, was an enthusiastic participant in Operation Desert Storm. All express doubts over U.S. motives.
Kozakiewicz and Tsangarakis are both divorced, in their 40s and have no children. They experience panic attacks and dark depression. They’ve struggled in the workplace, even with menial jobs. Loud noises frighten them. Tsangarakis filed for bankruptcy last year. He’s a loner, estranged from his father and brother for long periods because he can’t interact without confrontational outbursts. He takes anti-anxiety medicine to sleep at night and slipped into a deep depression for days after meeting with The News for this series. Kozakiewicz can’t drive through open countryside because he feels too vulnerable and comes undone. He lashes out at well-intentioned people, even his fiancee. He has a scowl that could make a rabid dog back away. There was a long pause after Kozakiewicz was asked to name his biggest success in life. “I couldn’t tell you,” Kozakiewicz said, shaking his head. “I’m still alive?” Alaniz’s daughter, Andee, turned 21 this month. She is older than her father was when he died. She desperately wants to speak with Kozakiewicz and devour any new morsel of insight. Kozakiewicz, who just learned a few weeks ago that Andee Alaniz wants to meet him, is terrified by the idea. Andy and Catherine Alaniz were married so briefly that they never had the chance to live together.
So Catherine stayed with her parents in Eagle Pass, Texas, and then moved with them to Oklahoma City, where her father, a U.S. Customs Service agent, was transferred with a promotion. Four years after she lost her husband in Iraq, her father was killed by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh drove a Bradley Military Vehicle in Operation Desert Storm, just like Andy Alaniz did. Kozakiewicz, upon hearing this story for the first time recently, muttered a barely audible “Wow.” He couldn’t say anything more, but his expression was quizzical, as if to ask “Wasn’t what happened near Jalibah Airfield more than enough suffering for everyone?”
Alaniz, Kozakiewicz and Tsangarakis were in different Bradley Military Vehicles that were destroyed by friendly fire as they approached the airfield. Hours before the cease-fire to a war that ostensibly had been won, two soldiers were killed and nine were wounded by their own troops, with their own devastating equipment.
The Pentagon didn’t own up to the mistakes for months. The military wasn’t forthcoming and told the media near Alaniz’s hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, that he had driven his Bradley over a land mine. His family believed that for months. Parade magazine published David C. Turnley’s jarring photo on its cover June 9, 1991. In between her husband’s funeral and seeing the picture, Catherine Alaniz was contacted by a relative of Pvt. John Hutto – the other soldier killed in the Jalibah Airfield encounter – about investigating suspicions of friendly fire. Parade magazine did not identify who was in the blood-soaked body bag. Alaniz-Simonds tracked down Turnley, a veteran Detroit Free Press war photographer, in search of clues. “I probably still wouldn’t know the truth had David [Turnley] not been there,” Alaniz-Simonds said. “I still love him for that.” Turnley, embedded with the 5th MASH unit, told Alaniz-Simonds what he saw and heard when the chopper landed at the casualty collection point. Smoke billowed from the Bradleys in the sun-scorched desert morning. The soldiers were grief-stricken and highly agitated. “I remember these guys’ faces covered in grease and grit and dirt and sweat,” Turnley said last month. “A couple guys already suspected it had been friendly fire. One guy in particular was steaming.” Battlefield confusion
Interviews with soldiers involved in the battle and a review of Army inquiries, memorandums and other government documents reveal costly mistakes amid the chaos of war. Artillery rained down on Jalibah Airfield for an hour when the Bradleys from Charley Company were unleashed. Their mission was to sweep the area from west to east while two other Task Force units watched over them. One of the observing units – 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment – veered too far east from its intended position and was in the process of correcting formation when it began to take small-arms and indirect fire from the airfield. In response, the 3-69 fired on a tank decoy. Iraqi soldiers, dug in nearby, emerged from their holes. Ron Martz, an Atlanta Constitution reporter embedded with the 3-69, listened to what he called “a mass jumble of noise” on the battalion radio. “People were saying ‘There’s movement over here! There’s movement over there!’ And they couldn’t make out who was who,” said Martz, now a professor at North Georgia College and State University. “You could hear the stress. You had too many people keying the microphone at the same time. Transmissions were getting cut off because they were stepping on each other. It was a very chaotic thing.” The 3-69 fired between eight and 16 armor-piercing, 120 mm sabot rounds on the Bradleys. Sabot rounds are made with depleted uranium, a substance 2ø times denser than steel and with a radioactive component.
Tsangarakis’ vehicle was struck first. A missile entered through the Bradley’s ramp in the back, took off two soldiers’ legs at the knee (Hutto was one of them), detonated a portable antitank weapon that took off another soldier’s leg and whistled straight through the vehicle’s left wall. Tsangarakis suffered flash burns on his face. He blacked out for a few minutes, regaining consciousness to the sight of black smoke and the smell of burnt flesh. “I look to my right and I can see this guy freaking out,” Tsangarakis said. “I’m, like, ‘Why is this guy screaming so loud?’ I had no idea. Then I notice Sgt. [Anthony] Walker, who’s missing a leg, standing up on the other leg. He looked down at the leg that was missing and just shook his head.” Alaniz wanted to stop his Bradley and help. But his commander feared that whoever targeted the first Bradley was locked on and would fire again. The commander ordered Alaniz to keep driving toward the airfield. The sabot ripped through the right side of Alaniz’s vehicle, just below the turret. The missile avoided the other seven soldiers in the Bradley but flew right through the driver’s compartment and cut Alaniz in half. Kozakiewicz’s Bradley was the only vehicle hit twice, but miraculously the only one without a death. The second round missed Kozakiewicz by six inches. Evacuation The wounded soldiers were shuttled off to a collection point, where helicopters would take them to a MASH unit. “It was like a scene out of a horror movie,” Tsangarakis said. “There were three legs in there, chunks of human flesh everywhere.”
Kozakiewicz had a broken left wrist. He remembers trying to calm down Sgt. Matt Wehausen, a gunner in Alaniz’s vehicle. Wehausen’s right eye was gone because he was looking through a sight at the time of the blast. Medics escorted Kozakiewicz and Tsangarakis into the evacuation helicopter. The rotors whomped and whipped up the sand. “They got in the helicopter and were very manly,” Turnley said, choking up at the memory. “I just thought there was something heroic in it all. There was such dignity in these guys, and that’s what I wanted to photograph. They risked their lives for this war. ” Kozakiewicz and Tsangarakis were dazed. But they offered comforting reassurances to each other. They were done with the Middle East and finally headed home. But before the helicopter lifted off, the body bag was loaded on board. Kozakiewicz was surprised. The medic leaning into the helicopter on the right side of the photo handed an ID card to the medic right behind Kozakiewicz, who demanded to see it. The medic refused to show him at first, but Kozakiewicz was firm. “I had to know,” Kozakiewicz said. “I just had to know.” He and Alaniz were buddies. They were roommates for a while at Fort Stewart. Kozakiewicz knew Alaniz was excited about becoming a father. Kozakiewicz returned the ID card to the medic, gazed out the right side of the helicopter and cried.
Turnley’s photo was rare – if not unique – in that it included a dead Operation Desert Storm soldier. “It surprised me to see that photo because the restrictions were ridiculous,” said Martz, past president of the Military Reporters & Editors Association. “Sanitizing images only serves to glorify war and conceal from people the true cost of war. “That’s why David’s photo was a masterful piece of journalism. It told in that one image the anguish and the sacrifice soldiers went through in this war.” Feelings about the photo are mixed for Kozakiewicz, Tsangarakis and Alaniz’s widow. Alaniz-Simonds displays the photo in a shrine to Andy. Neither Kozakiewicz nor Tsangarakis has it hung at home and look at it only reluctantly. Tsangarakis, however, noted the value of other people seeing the image as a reminder of “how much damage war really does.” “It’s not something I’m proud of,” Kozakiewicz said. “It’s not something I want to keep looking at. Out of respect for Andy and anybody else who got killed or injured, I don’t want to look at it. “But with or without that photo, I live with it every day.” ... show more