ERSNews has exclusively obtained never before seen photos showing a destroyed US Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) that was attempting to evacuate wounded Marines out of a fierce battle with Iraqi forces on March 23, 2003 in An Nasiriyah as the US led collation rolled toward Baghdad. Eighteen U.S. Marines died that day. The incident remains the single largest loss of life for American troops in the Iraq conflict since the start of the war.
The official Pentagon investigation concluded that "friendly fire" had happened. But the report concluded that no US Marines had been killed by "friendly fire."
The photographs used in the official military investigation were withheld until obtained by ERSNews under the Freedom of Information Act after a long protracted fight over their release. The photos released by the Pentagon’s Central Command (CENTCOM) were altered by military officials and despite repeated requests to provide unaltered photos, the Pentagon has so far refused to do so.
Two of the exclusive photos obtained from non-military sources (of a series of more than two dozen) show the complete destruction of the AAV. The photos were taken by an embedded photojournalist traveling with another US Marine unit who happened on the scene shortly after it had happened.
According to the Pentagon’s own investigation released in early 2004, the mistake, made by a Marine forward air controller, resulted in a US A-10 Warthog attacking the US Marine vehicles. The A-10, from a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit, targeted and destroyed the AAV with at least one and possibly two Maverick missiles according to the A-10 pilot’s account of the ill-fated attack. The name of the A-10 pilot, has never been made public nor has the name of the Marine forward air controller code-named MOUTH.
Pentagon investigators concluded that they couldn’t determine what killed the nine US Marines — despite the fact that their own investigation determined that the AAV was struck by at least one Maverick missile fired by the American A-10. Although an initial Military investigation determined that six to seven Marines were killed by friendly fire, that conclusion was later changed and eliminated from the final report.
One key piece of evidence could have been the A-10 Heads-Up-Display (HUD) cockpit videotape. The HUD tape itself was never located by investigators and according to the pilot, who fired two Maverick missiles at the Marine AAV in question, the tape was lost somehow and probably accidentally re-recorded.
The photographs exclusively obtained by ERSNews and additional on-scene eyewitness accounts are evidence the Pentagon and Marines never uncovered in their official investigation.