WASHINGTON - Two U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq in February were killed by friendly fire, according to a military investigation that blamed poor training and planning.
Pvt. Matthew Zeimer, 18, of Glendive, Mont., and Spec. Alan E. McPeek, 20, of Tucson, Ariz., were killed at an Army outpost in Ramadi, in western Iraq, on Feb. 2. The families of the two soldiers initially were told the men were killed by enemy fire.
Responding to a Freedom of Information request from the Associated Press, the military released its subsequent investigation into the deaths. The soldiers' families were told in March that they might have been killed by comrades.
The investigation found that the two were killed by tank fire from a second Army outpost after insurgents engaged both outposts from numerous locations. The tank gunner and commander thought they were taking on the enemy position, the investigation concluded.
"A series of decisions and actions by both the tank crews and their command, taken collectively, fell short of the high expectations we have of our soldiers and their leaders," the report said.
It was not immediately clear whether the tank crews and their command were reprimanded by the Army.
The report cited "deficiencies in training, manning, mission preparation, target validation procedures, and tactical level friendly force marking that, if addressed and corrected, can limit fratricide such as this in the future."
The author of the report, whose name was omitted, said all parties acted prudently and genuinely and attempted to fire only at Army targets.
"Although I find that corrective action is required for tank team and crews to learn from the errors made in this incident, I do not find the errors of the (tank commander) or others to be actionable or criminal," the investigator wrote.
The report's recommendations were blacked out in the copy sent to the AP.
An Army spokeswoman said yesterday she could not say whether anyone was reprimanded. "The fact that these soldiers died as a result of fratricide in no way diminishes their sacrifice," Maj. Anne Edgecomb said.