After a marked decline in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq in February, the toll is again escalating.
So far this month 38 U.S. troops and two Department of the Army civilians have died, according to the Pentagon's count. The two civilians, Fern L. Holland and Robert J. Zangas, were the first Pentagon civilians to be killed in Iraq. They were slain by Iraqi policemen on March 9.
The Pentagon's count does not include a Marine who was reported killed Friday in heavy fighting in the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. The Marine's name has not been released so he is not yet on the Pentagon list.
On Thursday another Marine, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey C. Burgess, 20, of Plymouth, Mass., was killed near Fallujah. This week, the Marines took over authority in Fallujah and surrounding areas from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The city is situated in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where support for Saddam Hussein was strong and rebel attacks on American forces are frequent.
Homemade bombs continue to cause U.S. casualties. On Friday the Pentagon announced that Spc. Adam D. Froehlich, 21, of Pine Hill, N.J., died Thursday in Baqubah from injuries sustained when his patrol was hit by such a bomb, which the military calls an improvised explosive device.
The Pentagon also announced Friday that Lance Cpl. James A. Casper, 20, of Coolidge, Texas, died Thursday due to a non-combat-related incident at Al Asad.
Mid-March saw the heaviest death toll for any 10-day period since November, which was the deadliest month of the war so far.
Pentagon records say 24 American troops died in the March 13-22 period, including the first Marines to be killed in action in Iraq since last June 1, although six other Marines died last summer of non-hostile causes. The Marine Corps left Iraq last summer and returned just this month.
As of Friday, 586 U.S. service members not including the two civilians have died since military operations in Iraq began March 20, 2003, according to the Defense Department.
The death toll has followed an irregular pattern during the course of the war. The lowest monthly total was February's 21; the highest was November's 82. Even though February showed improvement, it was one of the deadliest months for Iraqi civilians.
In addition to deaths from a range of hostile action, including Friday's fighting in Fallujah, there have been an unusually large number of non-hostile deaths this month. They include Spc. Clint Richard Matthews, 31, of Bedford, Pa., who died March 19 from injuries sustained when his Bradley troop carrier went over a 60-foot embankment and flipped over on March 17.
Also, 1st Lt. Michael R. Adams, 24, of Seattle, Wash., died March 16 when he was struck by the barrel of the .50-caliber weapon mounted on his armored vehicle. Pvt. Dustin L. Kreider, 19, of Riverton, Kan., died March 21 during what the military described as a "weapon test-firing incident."
Pfc. Ernest Harold Sutphin, 21, of Parkersburg, W.Va., died March 18 from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident a week earlier.
The deaths in March included one of the oldest troops to have died so far in Operation Iraqi Freedom: Army National Guard Master Sgt. Thomas R. Thigpen, 52, of Augusta, Ga. He died March 16 at a support base in Kuwait of non-combat-related injuries. Details were not made public.
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