Fallen U.S. soldier being carried by a military honor guard.

Pentagon releases pictures of fallen American soldiers

Burial at Sea ceremony
The casket bearing the body of US Navy Machinist’s Mate Third Class Nathan Taylor goes over the edge of the USS Enterprise during a Burial at Sea ceremony.

WASHINGTON (Fotophile.com) — The U.S. Department of Defense on 28 April 2005 released more than 700 images of American soldiers’ flag-draped caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Many of the photographs have faces of identifiable personnel blacked out.

Ralph Begleiter, a journalism and political science professor at the University of Delaware, sought public access to the photographs, which were classified as part of the Defense Department’s ban on media coverage of returning war casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is an important victory for the American people, for the families of troops killed in the line of duty during wartime, and for the honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Begleiter, also a former CNN Washington correspondent, said in a statement. “This significant decision by the Pentagon should make it difficult, if not impossible, for any U.S. government in the future to hide the human cost of war from the American people.”

Flag-draped coffins
The flag-draped coffins of U.S. servicemembers are transported by military cargo plane.

Begleiter’s lawsuit received backing from the National Security Archive and Washington, D.C., law firm Jenner & Block.

“The government now admits it was wrong to keep these images secret. Hiding the cost of war doesn’t make that cost any less,” archive director Thomas Blanton said in a statement. “Banning the photos keeps flag-draped coffins off the evening news, but it fundamentally disrespects those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

As of 28 April 2005, 1,748 coalition troops have reportedly died in Iraq. Of those, 1,573 have been American.