Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Site Notices
Posted: 6/19/2003 9:19:32 AM EDT
[url]http://www.msnbc.com/news/928674.asp?0dm=N14NN[/url] The Air Force has decided not to court-martial the two pilots who mistakenly bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan last year, killing four, a senior defense official said Thursday. THE PILOTS, Maj. Harry Schmidt and Maj. William Umbach, had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and dereliction of duty and faced up to 64 years in prison if convicted in a court-martial. Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, the 8th Air Force commander who reviewed the case, decided that both pilots should receive non-judicial punishment but not face criminal prosecution, according an official familiar with the decision. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity. Carlson also recommended that Schmidt, who released the bomb from the F-16 fighter, should face a flight evaluation board, which could decide to restrict or end his flying career, the official said. The case had been closely watched in Canada, where many were outraged by the bombing and the two days it took President Bush to publicly apologize. The bomb also wounded eight other Canadians. The Air Force has told relatives of the victims that Carlson’s decision would be released Thursday afternoon, said Dick Murthe, a lawyer who represents the family of Pvt. Richard Green, one of those killed in the April 17, 2002, bombing near Kandahar. An Air Force judge who presided over a military hearing in January recommended that all criminal charges against the pilots be dropped. Col. Patrick Rosenow said Schmidt and Umbach should face internal Air Force discipline, not a criminal trial. Carlson is not bound by Rosenow’s recommendation. The bombing killed Green, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Sgt. Marc Leger, and Pvt. Nathan Smith. They were the first Canadians to die in combat since the Korean War. A joint U.S.-Canadian investigation concluded the two pilots were at fault. The head of the probe said the men showed “reckless disregard” for standing orders against attacking, ignored briefings about allied troop locations and should have simply flown their F-16s out of the area. PILOTS’ DEFENSE Schmidt, 37, who dropped the bomb, blamed the “fog of war” and said he believed he and Umbach, 44, had been ambushed. Defense attorneys also suggested Air Force-issued amphetamines had clouded the pilots’ judgment. The pilots said they were never told the Canadians would be conducting live-ammunition exercises that night. Schmidt, who dropped the bomb, said he believed the jet had been ambushed by Taliban forces. The pilots were returning from a 10-hour patrol, at more than 15,000 feet, when they spotted surface-to-air fire. It turned out to be from Canadians with the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based near Edmonton. The Canadians were firing rounds horizontally, not vertically in a way that would have threatened the two F-16s, according to investigators. The bomb was dropped despite a flight controller telling Schmidt to “hold fire.” Defense lawyers and Joan Schmidt, Schmidt’s mother, have said blame for the accident lies with Air Force brass, for ignoring breakdowns in communication between pilots, air controllers and commanders. “I don’t feel that my son and Maj. Umbach should absorb any punishment for something that was out of their control to know,” Joan Schmidt said Wednesday from her Missouri home. “I’m hopeful that all the charges will be dropped,” she said.
Top Top