by Lisa Hoffman
Scripps Howard News Service
January 27, 2005
The CH-53E Super Stallion crashed at night during a sandstorm near the Iraq-Jordan border, Marine and other military officials said. Those conditions are among the most perilous for helicopters.
While the certain cause of the crash - in which 30 Marines and one sailor perished - will not be known until an investigation concludes, there were no reports of hostile activity in the area in which the helicopter went down, officials said.
The crash about 220 miles west of Baghdad came two days after five U.S. soldiers died when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle accidentally rolled into a canal north of Baghdad. Last Friday, another helicopter - an Army AH-64 Apache - crashed in a training accident in Kuwait, killing a U.S. Army captain.
If the Super Stallion is determined to have been downed by non-hostile causes, its death toll will bring to at least 46 the number of GIs who have died so far this month in accidents and other non-combat incidents, according to a Scripps Howard News Service casualty database.
That compares to at least 37 U.S. troops who have been killed by roadside bombs and other attacks in January - a month that military leaders had warned could prove particularly bloody as insurgents stepped up attacks in advance of Sunday's Iraq elections.
The January accident toll is likely a quirk resulting from the high body count in the Super Stallion crash, which contributed to Wednesday's sad distinction as the single most deadly day for U.S. forces since the war began in March 2003.
Overall, about 70 percent of the nearly 1,400 U.S. deaths have come from combat, with the rest stemming from accidents, illness, suicide and homicide.
That is a higher proportion of combat casualties than were seen in earlier American wars, according to Army statistics. In Vietnam, deaths from enemy action accounted for about 45 percent of the total dead, while in Korea, hostilities killed 55 percent. In World War II, accidents and combat killed about an equal proportion of soldiers.