Peter Worthington - November 1993

Probing those UN deaths
By Peter Worthington
Toronto Sun
17 November 1993

Ever since Cpl Daniel Gunther of Val-Belair, Que. was killed on June 18 while serving with the Van-Doos in the former Yugoslavia, the Defence Department has said he was a victim of mortar fire.

On June 23, on a tip, I wrote that the M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) Cpl. Gunther was driving was so thin skinned it wouldn't stop mortar fragments and that the Americans stopped using that vehicle in combat situations during the Vietnam War.

As recently as last Tuesday, the Defence Department insisted Gunther was a casualty of mortar fire. On Wednesday all that changed. (November 1993)

After information unearthed by the independent military magazine, Esprit de Corps and from soldiers who were there, the Defence Department now says Cpl. Gunther was killed by a direct hit from an anti-tank gun - most probably an 82-millimeter Recoilless rifle, fired from a Serbian position 800 meters away.

The army has known this since a court of inquiry was concluded last July 10 1993. But until Esprit de Corps began investigating and soldiers began talking, the Defence Department kept a lid on details. The questions beg, why?

Presumably it is more politically acceptable to have a Canadian killed by accidental mortar fire, than deliberately shot by hostile forces. But the story is even more complex. According to those who were there, the Canadians had been warned that an Armoured Personnel Carrier would be shot at if used at the observation post, because it had night- vision capabilities. Instead, they were told to use a Cougar reconnaissance vehicle, which has no night-vision capabilities.

Chronically short of vehicles the Canadians had no spare Cougar so sent the Armoured Personnel Carrier to the overwatch that June 18. At 12:40 p.m. Cpl. Gunther was standing up, looking out the front of his Armoured Personnel Carrier, his captain and sergeant at the back, when they were fired upon. The anti-tank shell went through Gunther's chest, and exploded on the turret behind him, blowing his head off. Shrapnel wounded the other two, who ducked to safety inside the vehicle.

Showing considerable presence of mind, sergeant Robert pulled the headless torso out of the driver's space and drove the Armoured Personnel to a medical center. Others who heard the explosion said there was a two to three second gap between the sound of a weapon being fired and the explosion on the APC. With a mortar, there'd be a 15-20 second delay. Why the .....story of a mortar was invented when the truth has been known all along is a question that remains unanswered.

In another Canadian death, that of Capt. Jim DeCoste in a road accident in September, the official version is that the driver, Cpl. Tracy Bouck, was passing a tractor on a hill and hit a Serbian army truck head on. She was trapped in the wreck with her legs crushed. I've spoken to her, and she insists she wasn't passing but that the Serbian truck was. She says she hasn't yet seen the accident report, nor has she been interviewed as to what happened.

She says, while she was lying on the road semi-conscious and near death after Serbians pulled her free, she was searched, her money stolen as well as her United Nation's cap and rifle. None of this has been publicized, and there are questions about whether there isn't a rush to judgment to blame the Canadian.

In yet another incident, troops of the returning Canadian Princess Patricia Light Infantry Batallion tell of pushing aggressive Croatian troops out of an area they had occupied, and finding two dead young women tied to chairs in a barn, raped and set on fire. Reportedly, the Canadians were so outraged they had to be restrained from taking action. If true it's yet another unpublicized story of United Nations "peacekeeping".

Coupled with strange goings-on when our troops were in Somalia, it argues strongly for a permanent, independent media presence wherever our troops are on UN duty in combat zones.

Web Authors: Peter Gunther and Dominique-Leiba Gunther