WASHINGTON – Three Marines who were wounded in action during the Fallujah offensive later died at American hospitals in Germany and the United States, the Pentagon said Monday, raising the U.S. military death toll in Iraq for November to at least 101.
Since the initial U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the only other month in which U.S. deaths exceeded 100 was last April, when insurgent violence flared and Marines fought fierce battles in Fallujah (search) and Ramadi (search).
The Pentagon said two Marines died Saturday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (search) in Germany.
Cpl. Joseph J. Heredia, 22, of Santa Maria, Calif., was wounded in action Nov. 10 in Fallujah, and Lance Cpl. Joseph T. Welke, 20, of Rapid City, S.D., was wounded there Nov. 19, officials said.
Landstuhl is a hub for seriously wounded U.S. soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, and officials last week said the flow of injured to the hospital jumped to about twice the normal rate after the battle for Fallujah began.
Lance Cpl. Michael A. Downey, 21, of Phoenix, Ariz., died Friday at National Naval Medical Center (search) in Bethesda, Md. He had been wounded Nov. 11 in Fallujah.
The official U.S. death toll for the Fallujah offensive, which began Nov. 7, has not been updated since Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Nov. 18 that it stood at 51. But Monday's announced deaths mean the toll has risen to at least 54.
The Marines have suffered most of the Fallujah battle casualties. An exact number is not available because the Marines usually do not specify the city in which a casualty happened.
Since Nov. 1, the Marines have had at least 69 deaths throughout Iraq — mostly in Fallujah. That is by far the deadliest month of the war for the Marines; their previous high was 52 last April.
Of the approximately 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about 35,000 are Marines.