Two U.S. helicopter crewmen believed captured
March 25, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi state television on Monday showed two men said to have been the U.S. crew of an Apache helicopter forced down during heavy fighting in central Iraq.
Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. war commander, confirmed that one helicopter did not return from its mission Sunday and that its two-man crew was missing. The men were identified as Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, of Lithia Springs, Ga., and Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, 30, of Orlando, Fla.
If confirmed, the airmen would be the second set of POWs displayed by the Iraqis in as many days. On Sunday, the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera carried Iraqi television footage of five U.S. soldiers who were captured near An Nasiriyah, a crossing point over the Euphrates River.
Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri said Monday his government would allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the prisoners, as called for in the Geneva Conventions.
“I can assure you that our religion, our customs, our social values, order us to protect those prisoners and to protect their life,” he said in an interview with Associated Press Television News.
Some of the soldiers shown on Iraqi television Sunday appeared to be injured, but the men shown Monday did not.
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The two wore cream-colored pilots’ overalls and did not speak to the camera but appeared confused. They turned their heads and looked in different directions while being filmed. One of the men sipped from a glass of water, looking wary but not cowed.
The contents of one man’s wallet were displayed across a table, including a Texas driver’s license, a card from the Fort Hood National Bank, phone cards and credit cards.
A spokesman at the U.S. Army Post in Fort Hood, Texas, said that a helicopter from its 1st Battalion of the 227th Aviation Regiment was missing in action in Iraq.
“The unit was deployed in February,” spokesman Dan Hassett said. “That’s all I can really say right now.”
Military officials said Williams has been in the service for 12 years, and has a wife and two children who live on Fort Hood. Young, an Army man for three years, is single.
“He felt good about what they were doing, that they were going to get out there and it was going to be a quick situation,” his father, Ronald Young Sr., told CNN.
The footage was shown after Iraq claimed it shot down two Apache helicopters and was holding the pilots.
“A small number of peasants shot down two Apaches,” Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said. “Perhaps we will show pictures of the pilots.”
Franks denied that a second chopper had been lost, or that any craft had been shot down by farmers.
Iraqi state television showed pictures of one Apache helicopter in a grassy field. Men in Arab headdresses holding Kalashnikovs automatic rifles danced around the aircraft.
The station also aired pictures of two helmets apparently belonging to members of the helicopter’s crew, as well as documents and other papers lying on the ground.
Al-Sahhaf said Iraq would consider displaying the other helicopter it claims to have shot down.
He, too, said the POWs would be treated according to the Geneva Conventions and rejected accusations that Iraq had violated such accords by allowing Iraqi television to film them and ask questions.