Allies suffer first casualties as troops advance
As the United States and Britain pushed into Iraq, the allies also suffered their first casualties. Two U.S. Marines died in combat and another dozen American and British Marines were killed in a helicopter crash that appeared to be accidental.
A U.S. Marine was the first to die in action. His company was advancing on a burning oil pump station when he was shot in the stomach, a comrade said. President Bush was informed of the death early Friday and expressed his regrets.
He was from the U.S. 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Lt. Col. Neal Peckham, a British military spokesman in Kuwait. He died in the sweep on the Rumeila oil field in southern Iraq, where acrid smoke blackened the sky.
U.S. Central Command gave no other details.
The second Marine, also from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, died Friday at about 4 p.m. while fighting enemy Iraqi forces near Umm Qasr, a strategic port which came under allied control Friday.
The eight British and four U.S. Marines died when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed and burned about nine miles south of the Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr. Military officials said no hostile fire was reported in the area.
The Pentagon identified the four Marines killed in the crash as Maj. Jay Thomas Aubin, 36, of Waterville, Maine; the pilot, Capt. Ryan Anthony Beaupre, 30, of Bloomington, Ill.; Cpl. Brian Matthew Kennedy, 25, of Houston; and Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Waters-Bey, 29, of Baltimore.
Aubin was from a unit out of unit Yuma, Ariz., while the other three were out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.
At a Washington news conference, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed gratitude for their sacrifice.
"The world will be a safer place because of their dedicated service," he said.
In Illinois, Alyse Beaupre, 31, said her brother was a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and a member of the Roman Catholic church in St. Anne's, about 60 miles south of Chicago.
University registrar Jack Fields said he was surprised when the young man with the shock of unruly red hair enlisted in the Marines.
"The image that comes to mind is from 'The Andy Griffith Show,' and Opie walking down the road with a fishing pole," he said.
But Alyse Beaupre said, "He always wanted to fly."
Waters-Bey was the only son among five children in his family. He is married, and has a 10-year-old child from a previous marriage.
Speaking from his Baltimore home, his father, Michael, said he did not support the war. Asked what he would tell President Bush, he said: "This was not your son or daughter. That chair he sat in at Thanksgiving will be empty forever."
The holiday last year was the last the family saw of him, the father said.
Aubin's mother, Nancy Chamberlain, said her son enlisted in the Marines and served four years before leaving for college. After he graduated from the University of Southern Maine, the Marines contacted him to see if he was interested in rejoining.
"To be a pilot -- that's all he really wanted to do," said Aubin's cousin, Colby Willett, 24, of Portland, Maine. "He was a lifer and he really believed in everything he was doing over there."
Aubin was married and had a daughter, 10, and a son, 7.