The scene after a deadly attack on a Stryker left little hope that anyone would emerge from the obliterated infantry carrier.
The hull and rear door were gone, the tires blown off. One wounded and trapped soldier was struggling to exit the hatch of the upside-down Stryker.
An explosives team scanned the area and found a crater next to a sewer with wires running to a house where the bomb was triggered. The attack was well-coordinated, and three other Strykers came under fire from a nearby mosque when the bomb ripped through their companions’ vehicle.
At the time, the May 6, 2007, assault in Iraq’s Diyala province was the deadliest hit on a Stryker in the war. It killed six Fort Lewis soldiers, wounded another and killed a photojournalist who was traveling with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
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That account came from a trove of classified Iraq war documents published last weekend by WikiLeaks, a website that aims to reveal secret government reports worldwide.
Some documents, such as the one describing the May 2007 attack, detail fatal attacks on dozens of soldiers stationed at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The reports are immediate accounts of daily events in Iraq between 2004 and 2009. They’re quick descriptions, full of military acronyms, and do not reveal much new information to families who already received copies of final Pentagon investigations into the deaths of their loved ones.
But the WikiLeaks records provide a fuller picture of fatal attacks than the Defense Department typically releases to the public following a soldier’s death. They give a sense of how more than 4,400 American service members died in Iraq since 2003, including nearly 300 who served at Lewis-McChord or had other ties to Washington state.
In the reports, death comes from snipers, roadside bombs and mortars, as well as suicides and accidents.
Here’s a look at some of the incidents linked to soldiers stationed at Lewis-McChord.
• On June 8, 2008, Pfc. Thomas Duncan III of the 75th Ranger Regiment was killed by friendly fire in a house raid in Sinjar. Special Forces officers have said that friendly fire was a probable cause of his death. The WikiLeaks report shows that seven other soldiers were wounded in the incident.
• On Sept. 18, 2007, Stryker soldiers searching a home in Iraq’s Diyala province saw an Iraqi behaving suspiciously. They told him to stay back several times. He approached and detonated a suicide vest as they left the home. The attack killed three Lewis-McChord soldiers: Spc. Nicholas P. Olson, Spc. Donald E. Valentine III and Spc. Joseph N. Landry III of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
• Reports also provide some information on noncombat deaths that usually are described in especially vague terms in Pentagon announcements. For instance, Staff Sgt. Amy Tirador of the 3rd Brigade was found with a gunshot wound to her chest Nov. 4, 2009, at a base in Kirkush. Tirador’s family has protested Defense Department reports that suggest her death was a suicide; they maintain she was murdered.
• Some of the most devastating attacks have the fewest details because of the urgent atmosphere in which the reports were written. A suicide attack at an American dining facility in Mosul on Dec. 21, 2004, killed 14 soldiers, six from Lewis-McChord. The report says the bomb killed 14 soldiers and wounded 51 more. Four American civilians were killed, as well as a mix of other foreign contractors. The report provides little other information.
Reports disclosed on WikiLeaks do not name victims or sources for American intelligence. They’ve also been scrubbed of information that can help insurgents plot attacks. For example, the description of the May 2007 Stryker attack does not detail the size of the crater or an estimate of the charge that hit the vehicle.
Still, the Pentagon regards the documents as sensitive because officers believe they can be pieced together to highlight the weaknesses of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.