Local servicemen's deaths detailed in leaks

Secret Afghan war documents posted online tell fuller stories

July 27, 2010 

  • Area War Dead

    Five U.S. service members from the Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills have been killed in action in Afghanistan.

    • Marine Lance Cpl. Gavin R. Brummund, 22, Arnold, June 10
    • Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James R. Layton, 22, Riverbank, Sept. 8, 2009
    • Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Hansen, 24, Tracy, Feb. 14, 2009
    • Army Sgt. 1st Class Chad Gonsalves, 31, Turlock, Feb. 13, 2006
    • Army Sgt. Robert T. Rapp, 22, Sonora, March 3, 2008

Classified military documents published on the Internet this week contain new details about the deaths of two soldiers and a Marine from the Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills who were killed in Afghanistan.

They show that:

• The Feb. 13, 2006, death of Army Sgt. Chad Gonsalves of Turlock provoked a massive U.S. airstrike — including bombs dropped from a B-52 — that leveled three buildings.

• Army Sgt. Robert Rapp of Sonora died at the hands of suicide attacker on March 3, 2008. The attack was preceded by U.S. patrols finding and disarming two similar weapons in the same area March 2.

• Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Hansen of Tracy was killed Feb. 14, 2009, while an explosives team tried to disarm a roadside bomb. Previously, it had been reported that he died while on a patrol.

The documents — 91,000 pages in all — were posted to WikiLeaks, a Web site that aims to publish internal documents from governments around the world.

The newly published Afghanistan documents mainly feature ground-level accounts about violence, intelligence and politics in the war, now in its ninth year.

They do not name soldiers involved in the incidents. The Bee identified the reports pertaining to Gonsalves, Rapp and Hansen by matching public information — such as the dates of their deaths — with documents available on WikiLeaks.

The reports cover the war from 2004 to 2009, and do not include information about the June 10 death of Marine Lance Cpl. Gavin R. Brummund, 22, of Arnold.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James R. Layton, 22, of Riverbank was killed in Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009, in an ambush that was witnessed by a McClatchy reporter embedded with his unit. That incident prompted extensive internal reviews that have been reported. The Wiki-Links documents do not appear to have new information about the ambush.

Reports on WikiLinks expand on the slim information the Defense Department typically publishes after a soldier's death.

For example, the Defense Department four years ago reported that Gonsalves, 31, was killed with three other soldiers when a bomb detonated underneath their armored vehicle.

The WikiLinks report reveals that the convoy in which they were driving came under fire after the bomb exploded. A B-52 dropped eight 2,000-pound bombs on insurgent positions, creating space for the U.S. soldiers to leave the site.

Apache helicopters then came on the scene, firing 42 rockets at three buildings where the attackers were believed to be hiding. The rockets also destroyed two already damaged U.S. vehicles, including Gonsalves' Humvee.

Likewise, the Defense Department has reported that Rapp was killed when a man wearing a suicide bomb attacked a base in Afghanistan's Sabari district, killing one other soldier and wounding 11. Documents on Wiki-Links show that patrols in the Sabari district had uncovered at least two other bombs that were rigged for suicide attacks the previous day.

The report on Hansen's death shows that a Marine patrol found a string of improvised explosive devices in a road at 11:15 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2009. The Marines called an explosives team, and the bombs were detonated without harming the soldiers.

Three hours later, the patrol found another improvised explosive device. It exploded, killing Hansen.

Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service