UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: February 16, 301 AP.

President Okarvits' requiem for Dignania casualties

Report on the death of Pvt James Layton, KIA.
Report on the deaths of Lt R. Prince, KIA, and Corp D Kaye, KIA.

President Okarvits held a brief press conference to honour the three men killed in service in the peacekeeping mission in Dignania.

President Okarvits made clear that he had not released the casualty reports of those killed in Dignania to coincide with the political turmoil that is gripping his administration, but had chosen the date in consultation with the families of the deceased over four weeks ago. He emphasised that he would answer no questions about the present political situation regarding defence expenditure during the press conference, held in the Presidential Administration building.

President Okarvits said he took "no delight" at the conflagration Utanians had experienced in Dignania, but was "heartened" by their defiant but measured responses.

"No leader takes delight in sending men into situations that may result in their deaths, and I am personally grieved by their loss, and particularly for the families they leave behind. I do not delight in their deaths, nor in the deaths of the men and boys they have fought. But, conflict inevitably results in casualties, and there is no doubt that these brave men are in the middle of a conflict situation. While I would prefer that they were not, that I would never need to report the deaths of these Utanian men, the mission they have embarked upon is essential to the restoration of peace to Dignania. And Utanians, as people of peace, must stand firm on their principles, on the guiding principles and faith of our forefathers. We cannot defer where there is injustice, nor flee from unrighteousness. We are a people who stand firm and defiant, and we must stand for that same peace for Dignania." President Okarvits pointed out that the current truce was proof that Utanian efforts were not in vain.

"The Utanian peacekeeping force is outperforming our greatest expectations in the way they are responding with limited force, defending and rebuilding rather than resorting to open conflict. Several other confrontations with communist rebels could have resulted in further casualties, but they did not. Some resulted in skirmishes, but most have not. In all, Utanian peacekeepers have confronted rebels or advancing communist troops eleven times, including Yemden and Ransbruk, and on only five occasions have these confrontations resulted in casualties."

President Okarvits admitted that a formal structure for the "War widows pension" was not in place, but that he saw no reason why it would not be soon. He would, for now authorise payments through his department, if necessary. None of the families of the deceased were present because the President said he respected their privacy.

While he was also asked several questions about the current political wrangling over defence expenditure disguised as questions about the Dignanian situation, he pointedly refused to answer those questions.

Report on the death of Pvt James Layton, KIA.

December 18th, 300 AP.
Sector 14, 100km south of Mansa.
1510 hrs
Weather: Fine, sunny, a mild 23 degrees celcius.

The 3rd platoon of the 5th Regiment Utanian Peacekeepers was on security patrol to the village of Ransbruk, population 290, which is within the 10 mile security perimeter of the western supply lines to the MLFLD front-line. The heavy infantry platoon was commanded by Lieutenant Roahn N'yoma, and consisted of 35 infantrymen and one tracked, armoured personnel carrier (APC) with a crew of three men, including gunner and radioman, 38 men in all.

Lieutenant N'yoma reports:
We approached the town from the east, climbing a slight incline. As we passed the first farmhouse on the outskirts of town, it was noted that there was an absense of townsfolk to greet us, or, for that matter, even working the fields. Normally there would be people greeting us as we normally bring rare foods or goods for them, such as sugar. I placed the platoon under mild alert, that is, to be alert and on the ready. All that could be heard was the soldiers boots crunching stones on the road, and the high-pitched squeal of the APC tracks as it advanced forward slowly.

When the forward squad reached point (1), rifle and automatic machine gun fire shattered the near-silence, and all eight men hit the dirt, seeking cover. The rest of the platoon were positioned at (2) behind the farmhouse or on the southern side of the road in the ditch. The rifle fire was coming from the house before the security (formerly police) station (3), and machine gun fire from the burnt-out ruins of a farmhouse approximately 80-100 metres north of the town. The advance squad were pinned, and their return fire was difficult and ineffective. It was during this initial burst of enemy action, that a rifle bullet struck Private Layton in the head and killed him instantly.

In retrospect, I feel we were unable to avoid the circumstances that lead to Pvt Layton's death. Perhaps more extreme caution was warranted, however, being a good 60km behind the frontline, and having never been informed of any direct rebel conflict with peacekeepers, I made the judgement that only mild caution was required. Obviously we were very unlucky to have received the consequences we did, Pvt Layton taking the worst of them.

I sent the APC (armoured personnel carrier) forward, with orders to lay down suppressing fire upon the northern source of fire, allowing the forward squad to raise their heads from behind trees and on the ground and fire upon the enemy nearest us. I ordered the other two rear squads to secure the two nearest buildings on the outskirts (4), while the armoured vehicle kept fire on the northernmost enemy, and the forward squad reached for cover to fire upon the nearest enemy (3).

A tactical error on the part of the enemy in the village building (3) saw them attempt to evacuate the building, attempting to secure another nearby building (5). They were ambushed by the forward squad of the platoon who has, by now, secured sufficient cover. The Armoured vehicle, now moving to assist the ambushing squad, also opened fire on the enemy. The ambush lead to five injuries and one death and complete surrender of the enemy, and no Utanian casualties.

The heavy fire from the platoon machine-gunner plus the armoured vehicle allowed a sneak attack by the second squad on the northern most enemy position. However, when the team arrived, they found four rebels suffering significant injuries, to which the team attended.

A sweep of the town found another four young rebels holding captive the townspeople in an abandoned warehouse, and they surrendered immediately to Utanian peacekeepers. In all sixteen rebels had seized control of the village: three were dead, a further eight wounded and five uninjured surrendered. The notable fact about the rebels was their age: of the sixteen, no more than four were of adult age, and at least two we estimated to be no more than thirteen years of age, a fact very disturbing to the platoon.

The platoon suffered one death, two minor wounds.

Interrogation of the rebels revealled that they were surprised by our patrol into the town, and had been plotting to perform a raid on the supply lines in due course.

The battlefield at Ransbruk
<end report>

Afterword by Col. Frederik T. Warthing, CO. (Sector 14)

The Platoon have been taken off active duty for a period while they are evaluated and counselled by army doctors and psychologists. Colonel Doctor Aylebraik reported that many of the men had been "disturbed" by the firefight with an enemy of little more than youths.

This is a new line of activity for the enemy, the recruitment of soldiers so young, and the working behind enemy lines to disrupt supply lines. The village of Ransbruk lies 13km from a major supply route for western Dignanian munitions.

General Gordain has since visited the village and spoken with all regional commanders about the new dangers. He also awarded the platoon high honours for their bravery, but also offered warnings to other patrol commanders about such strong responses to small opposing forces.

The President has offered his personal condolances to the family of Pvt Layton, and the government will continue to pay a war widows' pension to his wife and children.

Report on the deaths of Lt R. Prince, KIA, and Corp D Kaye, KIA.

December 20th, 300 AP.
Sector 17, 50km south of the Citidel.
0800 hrs
Weather: Overcast, a mild 19 degrees celcius.

Sector 17 was the newest sector to be added by the incredible advance of frontline troops south. It stretches from the eastern coast to 100 km west, all in territory that was formerly the front line of the conflict. The regimental headquarters for 1st/12 regiment, commanded by Major Phillip Tokara, one of two regiments making up the Sector 17 peacekeeper battalion, and one of the the first regiments to arrive in Dignania, was located in the town of Yemden, pop. 1200. The town was also a through-route for several supply convoys heading south.

The regimental HQ, based in the old Yemden town hall, was a resupply point for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid operations, and consisted of 25 soldiers, one light tank, and eight non-combatants. The peacekeeping sector had only been established two months when this attack occurred.

Sergeant Blake (platoon B) reports:
B Platoon, 33 men and one armoured personnel carrier, were about to set out on routine patrol of the supply route at 0800, when an illness struck down Corp. Jason Olyer. This delayed the departure of the platoon until an estimated 0900.

At 0820, fortified nest in a disused church on the eastern side reported sneak movement by camoflauged individuals to the town's south east (1). The northern nest (2) reported the same and B Platoon, and the regimental guard, were placed on high alert. Regimental commander Major Tokara determined to defend positions rather than assault an unknown number of enemy.

At 0835, the town's former church, at the south-eastern corner of the town, occupied by one machine-gun nest and one infantry squad from B platoon, came under heavy assault from enemy infantry in the forest below. The burst of sub-machine gun fire kept heads low, and it was during this initial attack that a mortor round, fired by the enemy, exploded in a third floor room occupied by Lieutenant Roger Prince and Corporal David Kaye of B platoon. We believe Lt. Prince was killed instantly, while Corp. Kaye survived another eight minutes before succumbing to substantial wounds. I had dispatched our platoon medic to the room immediately, but he reports there was little he could do for the Corporal, with whom I had served five years, but applied substantial painkillers.

After five minutes of this initial assault, our APC (armoured personnel carrier) laid down heavy suppressing fire on the enemy in the forest, and we were reinforced by a second squad from the platoon on the ground. The enemy made a measured and slow retreat into the denser bushland to the south-east, but the area was still designated "hot" and a watchful eye was kept. It was also clear that the enemy had suffered casualties, wounded and dead lying around the trees and graveyard stonewall, but I gave no order to rescue them for fear that our men would be too easily picked off by enemy troops.

Private Kenneth Omara was also severely wounded in the initial firefight by gunfire, however his wounds were far less substantial and he was later taken by helicopter to the nearest field hospital where he remains in a satisfactory condition.

The assault ended at approximately 0915.

A second attack was launched (3) at 0855 against our northern perimeter (2), but the infantry support vehicle (light tank) and two squads of regimental troops returned fire and forced a retreat of the enemy after about ten minutes. Regimental guard commander, Lieutenant Phillip Gorman, lead his troops north at 0925 to advance on the enemy there, and resecure former enemy positions (3). A sweeping advance around the northern perimeter (4) found no enemy until they returned to the road east (5) where a former farmhouse (6) was found to be held by the remaining enemy troops. Meanwhile, a third and final squad of B platoon had swept from the south-west eastward (7) to flush the enemy out, only to find wounded and dead (1).

The counterassault on the farmhouse, by the combined Regimental Guard and B platoon, commenced at 1155, and by 1215 the remaining enemy soldiers had been wounded and/or surrendered.

In all, of the thirty-one communists that began the assault, fourteen survived to surrender to Utanian Peacekeepers, and the peacekeepers have buried seventeen men, several presumed to have killed themselves rather than face capture. The thirty-one were mostly young adults, the average age approximately twenty, though three men aged fifteen were found among the surrendering soldiers.

Utanian Peacekeepers suffered two wounded and two dead.

The battlefield at Yemden
<end report>

Afterword by Brig. N. P. Otama, CO. (Peacekeeping operations)

This conflagration occurred when a suspected advance party of communist troops attacked the HQ, as retreating allied forces began to pass through the town. The casualties can be explained as unfortunate consequences of the ill-managed retreat by allied forces along the north-eastern front line. Had the retreat been managed, peacekeepers could have retreated themselves before any advance parties were within range. It is regretable, but this is the nature of warfare.

Sector 17 is now exclusively the peace village of St Johns after the ceasefire in early January, and B Platoon are now serving in the further north Sector 8. The town of Yemden now falls under the control of the MLFLD military command, as it is within 10 miles of the current ceasefire line.

Private Kenneth Omara was returned to Utania from peacekeeping operations, and will undergo reconstructive surgery of his knee. He is expected to experience a full recovery in twelve months, and has been awarded the Veterans Medal in addition to the Medal of Honour awarded to all the men of the regiment present at the skirmish. Sergeant Blake is up for promotion to Regimental Sergeant-Major. Major Tokara is up to promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, and continues to serve in Sector 17, St. Johns.

The President has offered his personal condolances to the families of Lieutenant Roger Prince and Corperal David Kaye, and the government will continue to pay a war widows' pension to Lt Prince's wife and children, and to Corp. Kaye's village and family.

The President has also visited Pvt Omara at the military hospital in Luka, and offered him a service pension for "his exemplary duty to the mission of peace". Pvt Omara has chosen to continue serving in the defence of the nation for now. In the interim he will serve in an administrative position at Brigade HQ in Luka, close to his family.

©UPA, 301 AP.

©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)