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Ground War Kicks Off; Helicopter Crash in Kuwait

Ground War Kicks Off; Helicopter Crash in Kuwait Kills 16
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2003 -- A Marine helicopter crash is believed to have killed at least 16 coalition troops in northern Kuwait just hours before a major ground offensive kicked off in the Persian Gulf. Defense Department officials confirmed the Army's 3rd Infantry Division rolled into southern Iraq late March 20.

A U.S. Marine CH-46E Sea Knight with 16 American and British passengers and crew crashed in the Kuwaiti desert south of the Iraq border at about 7 p.m. March 20 Eastern time -- 3 a.m. March 21 in the Gulf, a spokesman said.

"Initial reports indicate there were no survivors," the spokesman said. U.S. Central Command officials are investigating the cause of the crash.

The CH-46E is the Marine version of the tandem-rotor Chinook helicopters designed primarily as personnel carriers. In combat, it typically carries a crew of five and up to 14 passengers. Neither U.S. or U.K. militaries will publicly release names of dead or injured service members until their families have been notified.

Meanwhile, the Army's storied "Rock of the Marne" division out of Fort Stewart, Ga., started moving across southern Iraq "largely unopposed." The offensive began at 10 p.m. in Washington, 6 a.m. March 21 in Baghdad.

The 3rd ID is comprised of nearly 20,000 soldiers, 300 tanks and a similar number of Bradley fighting vehicles.

ENDS

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