Marine combat deaths in Iraq reach 503

By Otto Kreisher

June 16, 2005

WASHINGTON – The Marine Corps has passed a grim milestone in its service in Iraq this week, topping 500 deaths since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.

A tally of casualties reported by the Pentagon shows that 503 Marines have died from hostile action or accidents in Iraq, as of the last reported death Monday.

Thirty-two Navy personnel also have died in Iraq, most of them hospital corpsmen serving with the Marines or Seabee construction specialists.

The Marine and Navy losses represent 31 percent of the total U.S. military death toll of 1,703 recorded by the Pentagon yesterday.

A report by the Pentagon shows at least 4,138 Marines and 274 Navy personnel have been wounded or injured in Iraq, out of a total of 12,896 American service members hurt since March 2003.

Despite concerted efforts by the military to improve the protection of personnel and vehicles against improvised explosive devices, nearly all the latest deaths were caused by explosions. Five of the 12 Marines who died this month were killed June 9 in one vehicle that was destroyed by an explosive device.

After an initially slow response to the IED threat, commanders in Iraq now say every military vehicle operating outside a U.S. compound has the best armor protection available and all personnel have the improved body armor.

The better body armor and improved battlefield medical care and evacuation procedures contribute to the exceptionally high ratio of personnel surviving their wounds.

But commanders have noted that the Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters have adjusted their tactics to match improvements by the U.S. forces, including use of more powerful explosives.

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