CBC In Depth
Statements issued by Majors William Umbach and Harry Schmidt
CBC News Online | Updated October 22, 2003

Here are key excerpts from statements issued by two U.S. fighter pilots involved in the accidental bombing in Afghanistan that killed four Canadian soldiers and injured eight others in April.

William Umbach
U.S. Air Force pilot, Maj. William Umbach, leaves his Article 32 hearing, Tuesday Jan. 21, 2003, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Maj. William Umbach, the flight leader:
"Sgt. Mark Leger, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Nathan Smith, Pte. Richard Green, Sgt. Loren Ford, Master Cpl. Curtis Hollister, Master Cpl. Stanley Clarke, Cpl. Rene Paquette, Cpl. Brett Perry, Cpl. Brian DeCaire, Cpl. Shane Brennan, Pte. Norman Link: I want to address your family and your friends.

"I want to address your family and your friends. I fear that any words of mine will be weak because nothing that anyone can do can undo what happened. I know that I will never understand the depth of your grief. I also know that those lost and injured were good men who loved their country and heard the call of duty to preserve freedom for all of us."

"They have earned the highest praise: they were patriots, they were true heroes. Know that my family and I hold you all in our hearts. I pray that God will help you in your anguish ... not a day has passed that I have not thought of that night: in the sky, in the darkness and all that has happened since. I deeply regret that this terrible accident has occurred."

"Maj. Schmidt and I were doing our best to protect ourselves in a situation where we honestly believed we were under attack. I hope and pray for your understanding and forgiveness, and that all of the factors that contributed to this tragedy will be made known and fixed so that neither pilots nor their brave brothers-in-arms on the ground are ever in this situation again. If I could turn back time, I would. But since I cannot, I want you to know that I am truly sorry."

Harry Schmidt
U.S. Air Force pilot, Maj. Harry Schmidt, leaves his Article 32 hearing, Tuesday Jan. 21, 2003, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Maj. Harry Schmidt, the wingman, who dropped the bomb:
"I would like to say first and foremost that I sincerely regret the accident that occurred ... My heart goes out to the families of the men killed and injured in what can only be described as a tragic accident in `the fog of war'. The accident was truly unfortunate and I am sorry that it happened."

"I was called upon to make a perfect decision in a rapidly unfolding combat environment. I had to make that decision with what I now know, with the acuity of 20/20 hindsight, was imperfect information..."

"My perception was that we had been ambushed, as we had been briefed that Taliban were expected to use ambush tactics in and around Kandahar. I believed that the projectiles posed a real and present danger to our flight and specifically to my flight lead...

"While I was assigned to the 332 Aerospace Expeditionary Group, I was never alerted to the possibility of live-fire training being conducted in the war zone. Further, at no time prior to our mission on 17 April 2002 were we briefed of a live-fire exercise at Tarnak Farms or in the vicinity of Kandahar. Nor were we ever advised while airborne by the AWACS command and control platform, or any calls on the Guard frequency, that there was a live-fire exercise ongoing anywhere in the war zone. Because such an event in a combat area would have been so unusual and unexpected, information about such training would be the type of information we would note so that we could avoid it. This lack of information is the one link in the chain, which if corrected, would surely have avoided this accident...

"I attempted to use warning shots to suppress the threat but I was denied by bossman (the controller on the AWAC -- or Airbourne Warning and Control System -- aircraft). I finally communicated to bossman that I was engaging in self-defence because my flight lead was at risk of being shot down."

"Finally, I would like to tell the families of Sgt. Leger, Cpl. Dyer, Pte. Green and Pte. Smith that I am deeply sorry for what happened ... I will always regret what happened that night. Next, I apologize to each of the men I wounded ... I think about the men who were killed and the men who were injured. As a family man myself with a wife and two young boys, I can only imagine how difficult it is for they and their families to grapple with the fact that these men volunteered to serve their country and were killed in a wartime accident. I sincerely want them to know that my heart goes out to them and that I am truly sorry for their loss."

Source: Canadian Press


THE VERDICT: Text of USAF decision Harry Schmidt
THE HEARING: The friendly fire hearing Statements issued by Majors William Umbach and Harry Schmidt Transcripts of the friendly fire incident radio communications (pdf)
THE SOLDIERS: Who they were The Fog of War: Casualties of friendly fire
THE INVESTIGATION: Final reports from the Canadian and U.S. board of inquiries Go-pills, bombs & friendly fire The Board of Inquiry Maurice Baril
KEY RESOURCES: Media CBC News Archive Links Photogallery: Send-off for Canadian forces
VIEWPOINT: Reaction Military wife diary
RELATED: Witness: Friendly Fire

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