Operation Desert Storm:

Investigation of a U.S. Army Fratricide Incident

OSI-95-10: Published: Apr 7, 1995. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO investigated the February 27, 1991, fratricide incident during the Persian Gulf War, focusing on: (1) events and factors that contributed to the incident; (2) the Army's investigations of the incident; and (3) whether the Army hindered investigations of the incident or influenced their outcome.

GAO found: (1) that factors contributing to the fratricide incident included incomplete and confusing operation plans and orders, disintegrated coordination along the corps boundary, and commanders that did not maintain control of their units; (2) that the Army did not conduct a complete and thorough investigation of the incident and one investigating officer had a predetermined conclusion concerning the case; (3) that the Army recommended that three officers be reprimanded and the executive officer of engineers be admonished, but two reprimands were not made part of the officers' personnel files and the third reprimand was withdrawn; and (4) no evidence of intentional document destruction, witness intimidation, or witness retaliation, although questions regarding the completeness and accuracy of the investigations remain, and three Army personnel received heroism awards based on misleading statements and inaccurate information.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The 3rd Squadron Commander had received a Bronze Star for services during Operation Desert Storm. Following investigation into circumstances surrounding the fratricide incident, revocation of the award was approved by the Secretary of the Army. The Commander, Military District of Washington, issued an administrative letter of reprimand in July 1995 for providing false information in an award recommendation for a subordinate involved in the friendly fire incident. That letter was filed in the commander's official military performance file in August 1995. A promotion review board convened in November 1995 and recommended that the commander's name be removed from the 1993 Colonel, Army promotion list. The Secretary of the Army approved the board's recommendation in January 1996. Following this decision, the commander's application for retirement was approved, effective January 31, 1996. Based on the foregoing, the Army has determined that no further reexamination is necessary.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should reexamine, for their appropriateness, the disciplinary actions resulting from the February 27, 1991, fratricide incident and the disposition of those actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The U.S. Total Army Personnel Command was tasked with several actions in regard to the recommendation. First, an Army-wide awards policy and clarification message was dispatched. This information will be incorporated in the next printed update to Army Regulation 600-8-22, "Military Awards." Second, the review action was completed for the soldiers--named in the Department of the Army Inspector General report--whose valorous awards were revoked by direction of the Secretary of the Army. Some of the award recommendations were reconstructed and service/achievement awards, when appropriate, were issued. Third, an extensive review of the 11 friendly fire incidents during Operation Desert Storm was completed. A decision memorandum outlining each incident, identifying all subsequent awards issued, and providing recommended actions was submitted to the Secretary of the Army. As of April 24, 1997, all recommendations will be implemented by the U.S. Total Army Personnel Command.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should follow up on the request put forth by the Army Office of Inspector General concerning revocation of improperly supported valorous awards for participation in fratricide incidents.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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