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Friendly Fire Incidents
Accidental deaths, sour relations
One of the sorest spots in recent Canada-US military relations is the result of the
April 18, 2002 ‘friendly fire’ deaths of four Canadian soldiers.
US F-16 pilot Major Harry Schmidt dropped a 250-kilogram laser-guided bomb on the nighttime
live fire military exercise being conducted by the Canadian troops outside Kandahar,
Schmidt was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and eight counts of
assault, while pilot William Umbach was charged with four counts of aiding and abetting
manslaughter, and eight counts of aiding and abetting assault.
But, commander of the US 8th Air Force, Lieutenant General Bruce Carlson, decided that
both pilots should receive punishment outside the courts.
- Harry Schmidt now faces two counts of dereliction of duty for not being positive
that he was dropping a bomb on the enemy and for disobeying air controllers' instructions
to "standby" while information was verified. If the non-judicial hearing
does proceed, Schmidt could receive a reprimand, forfeiture of a month's pay and confinement
- William Umbach agreed to accept a reprimand and retire from the Air Force.
The Canadian soldiers killed were…
- Sergeant Marc Leger: 29, of Lancaster Ontario; he was in the army for nine years.
- Corporal Ainsworth Dyer: 24, of Montreal, Quebec.
- Private Richard Green: 21, of Mill Cove Nova Scotia; he joined the military in
- Private Nathan Smith: 27, of Porter’s Lake, Nova Scotia; he joined the military
Eight more soldiers were injured: six returned to Canada the following week, while
the other two were treated for minor injuries and remained with their unit in Afghanistan.
Reaction to the Friendly Fire Incident
In the incident's aftermath, two weeks of official mourning concluded with a highly
emotional memorial service at the soldiers’ home base in Edmonton.
The US military’s announcement that it would not prosecute the two Air Force pilots
devastated the families of the soldiers killed, and disappointed many Canadians. Both
the Canadian and American military investigations into the incident concluded that the
pilots had acted recklessly.
Marc Leger’s mother, Claire Leger, commented that she wanted the Pentagon to learn
a lesson from the tragedy and try to prevent more "friendly fire" deaths.
But based on similar mistakes in the war in Iraq, she said “it's obvious the U.S. hasn't
made life any safer for coalition troops.”
Some of the families have considered launching a civil lawsuit.
For more background on the friendly fire incident, see CBC’s