Perry Loses Another Friend to Bosnian War
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
CAIRO, Egypt, Apr. 8, 1996 Bill Perry has now lost two friends to the war in Bosnia, but he said their lives were not wasted because they died in pursuit of peace.
The defense secretary said he mourns the recent death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who died April 3 in the crash of a U.S. Air Force jet in Croatia. Brown had been on an economic aid mission. A total of 35 died in the crash, including 13 government employees, 12 business executives, a 6man Air Force crew, a New York Times reporter, and two Croatians, a photographer and an interpretor. Perry cut short a twoday visit here after learning of the crash.
"This was a great tragedy," Perry told reporters during his return flight to Washington. "Secretary Brown was a good personal friend of mine. He was a warm, caring person, a man of boundless energy."
In addition to his personal relationship, Perry said he worked with Brown on the GoreChernomyrdin Commission, assisting in the economic reconstruction of Russia. The commission is a benefit to U.S. national security because it helps provide stability in Russia, Perry said.
"There are those who said Bosnia is not worth even one American life how do you respond to that after having two close friends killed?" a reporter asked the Perry during his homeward flight. The first friend, Deputy Assistant Secretary Joe Kruzel, and two other U.S. peace envoys died in a road accident near Sarajevo in August 1995.
"I know what Joe Kruzels answer to that question would be," Perry replied. "He certainly believed that bringing peace and stability to Bosnia was worth the risks that he took. I believe that also.
"We both care about Bosnia and the Bosnians and feel for the tragedy and suffering theyre going through, but theres an objective reason as well," Perry said. "The security and stability of all Europe can be affected by what happens in Bosnia."
Europes security is a primary interest of the United States, Perry said, and the U.S. national security interest in Bosnia is to prevent the war from spreading. "I believe our security interests are worth those risks," he said. "I can also tell you with great confidence thats the same answer Joe Kruzel would have given."
He said Brown also firmly believed in the need for stability in Bosnia. "Ron was interested in stability, but he also saw it as a way of benefiting U.S. companies," Perry said. "He was helping U.S. companies form joint ventures with Russian companies to make new commercial products."
Brown had the same economic vision for developing business in former Yugoslavia, Perry said. His illfated trip was intended to recruit American executives support for civil reconstruction efforts there, DoD officials said.
"The best chance for achieving longterm security and stability in Bosnia is through economic reconstruction," Perry said. "Ron saw this as an opportunity to serve that important security purpose and help American companies at the same time. He set out very courageously and very energetically to realize that vision."
Brown and his party were on their way from Tuzla, Bosnia, to Dubrovnik, Croatia, when the plane crashed, killing all on board. Their T43A, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737 passenger jet, hit a hilltop about three kilometers from the Dubrovnik airport. Croatian officials reported the plane was attempting an instrument landing in severe weather and extremely poor visibility.
Two days before, Perry and about 24 staff and eight press used that same T43 to fly from Zagreb, Croatia, to stops in Tuzla and Sarajevo. The day before, the T43 carried them from Tirana, Albania, to Egypt. Once the jet left Perrys party in Cairo, the defense secretary said, it had about a onehour turnaround with quick, routine maintenance before it picked up Brown and party in Tuzla.
First lady Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea traveled on the same T43 during their recent trip to Bosnia, as did Secretary of State Warren Christopher in March. The plane was based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
"Ive looked carefully at the data available and I think it reasonably clear this was an accident," Perry said, noting the plane apparently was off course on its final approach. "It was a classic sort of accident that good instrumentation should be able to prevent. An accident like this is almost always a case where several things have gone wrong simultaneously. We will not know until we get a more detailed analysis."
Air Force crew members killed in the crash were Capt. Ashley Davis, 35, of Baton Rouge, La., aircraft commander; Capt. Tim Schafer, 33, Costa Mesa, Calif., copilot; Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Turnage, 37, Lakehurst, N.J., Tech. Sgt. Shelly Kelly, 36, Zanesville, Ohio, and Staff Sgt. Robert Farrington Jr. 34, Brierfield, Ala., stewards; and Staff Sgt. Gerald Aldrich, 29, Louisville, Ill., flight mechanic.