As night closed in on February 26, a rugged battle awaited
a group of scouts from the 4th Battalion, 32nd Armor.
First Lieutenant James Barker's Bradley, HQ-21, moved into
position on a screen line to the north front of the battalion.
Joining HQ-21 were HQ-24 and HQ-26, commanded by SSG Christopher
Stephens. To their right rear flank were elements of Task Force
5-5 Cav scouts. The night was overcast and pitch black.
The 4-32 scout platoon had been in position about five minutes
when a T-72 came into view on a nearby berm. With his night vision
goggles, 1LT Barker could see the Iraqi tank and some dismounted
infantrymen as they headed toward Stephens' track. The tank was
part of the Republican Guards' Tawaklana Division, and the Bradleys
were no match for its 125-mm main gun.
Stephens spotted the tank, reported it, and fired two TOW
missiles. The first missed, but the second knocked off one of
the T-72's roadwheels. The gunners on HQ-21 and HQ-24 then opened
fire on the dismounts with their 25-mm, and Barker fired a TOW,
which streaked toward the target and popped the turret off in
an explosive fireball. The sky lit up as secondary explosions
began to engulf the doomed T-72.
What happened next isn't exactly clear. Platoon Sergeant Dennis
McMasters, in HQ-21, said he saw Stephens' track taking fire
from an unseen position. The incoming rounds caused some of the
Bradley's ammunition to cook off. DeMasters tried to raise Stephens
on the radio, but no one answered.
PFC Frank "Ranger Bob" Bradish was in the open hatch
of HQ-26, reloading TOWs, when the track took incoming rounds.
The blasts severely injured Bradish's right hand, Stephens suffered
shrapnel wounds of his head and legs, and PFC Adrian Stokes,
Bradish's fellow observer on the track, suffered severe abdominal
and groin injuries, but was still alive. SGT Donald Goodwin was
struck in the chest, but was conscious. PFC John McClure was
the only member of the crew who did not have life-threatening
McClure and Bradish kept their heads, as if they were seasoned
combat veterans. Bradish reported, saying he was OK, but Stokes
was "hurt bad." He tried to pull Stokes from the vehicle.
Goodwin was able to climb out of the disabled track. McClure
assessed the situation, pulled some flares from the ammo box
in the turret, and secured the radio. He passed these to Bradish,
who also grabbed his M-16 with grenade launcher, and prepared
to defend his friends.
While McClure tended to the wounded, Bradish called the lieutenant's
track, reporting they were hit and needed a medic. He cursed
at the flares because he couldn't open them with his injured
hand. He managed to open them with his teeth instead, then sent
them up to mark their position. Bradish then told McClure that
he was worried about his own hand wound, but urged him to continue
treating Stokes and Goodwin. As McClure treated his friends,
Bradish heard enemy forces approaching.
Meanwhile, 1LT Barker radioed battalion to send some tanks
and an ambulance track to their location. He saw an enemy infantry
squad heading directly toward Bradish and McClure, so he called
in mortars on their position and watched as the rounds dispersed
the attacking enemy dismounts. He then headed for the stricken
Bradley, where he linked up with Bradish.
Within 20 minutes, SFC Craig Kendall's Ml platoon from Charlie
Company arrived with two ambulance tracks. SGT Sergio Nino, a
HQ Company medic, assessed the casualties. He went first to Stephens.
"Is he gone?" asked DeMasters.
"I'm afraid so," SGT Nino replied.
Inside HQ-21, Stokes had gone into shock. SGT Nino and medic
Michael Gindra redressed Stokes' wounds and tried to start an
intravenous infusion, but it was no use; Stokes had lost too
Only after his friends were treated and ready to evacuate
did Bradish mention that he needed help. "Ranger Bob"
was injured much worse than he'd let on. He had lost portions
of his right hand, suffered a painful groin injury, and had taken
a round through both upper thighs.
The medics wondered how he had run around, popping flares,
radioing for help, tending the wounded, and trying to set up
Holding up his injured hand, Bradish quipped, "They thought
they got me, but I fooled them... I shoot left-handed."
Bradish received the Purple Heart and McClure was awarded
the Silver Star for actions under fire.