1 Marine Dead, 8 Service Members Missing After Assault Amphibious Vehicle Mishap in Southern California

July 31, 2020Nolan Peterson
An amphibious assault vehicle departs from the well deck of Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Troy Milburn/Released.

An amphibious assault vehicle departs from the well deck of Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Troy Milburn/Released.

One US Marine is dead and eight service members remain missing after an assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) accident off the coast of Southern California on Thursday.

Some 15 Marines and one sailor were aboard the vehicle when it began taking on water at 5:45 p.m. local time on Thursday, officials said. Two Marines are reported injured and in the hospital, with one in critical condition and the other listed as stable, the Pentagon said Friday.

All 16 personnel involved in the mishap were assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is based at Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. I ask that you keep our Marines, Sailors, and their families in your prayers as we continue our search,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s commanding officer.

Amphibious Assault Vehicles drive down Onslow Beach, North Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018. AAVs are capable of projecting the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s strength and capability from ship to shore in any littoral or deep water environment. US Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Durham.

The mishap reportedly took place during a training exercise in the vicinity of San Clemente island. A widespread search and rescue effort is reportedly underway for the missing service members, comprising Navy and Coast Guard helicopters, as well as the USS John Finn destroyer, a Coast Guard cutter, and other small boats from nearby Navy ships.

The AAV is the Marine Corps’ workhorse amphibious landing vehicle, designed to transport Marine surface assault elements onto shorelines and support them onward to inland objectives. Known among Marines as an “amtrac,” the AAV is a tracked vehicle that operates both as a boat and a ground vehicle. Unlike landing vessels used in World War II, the AAV transports landing Marines through the deadly surf zone and allows them to disembark farther inland.

As per military policy, the name of the deceased Marine will be withheld until next of kin notification.

Nolan Peterson
Nolan Peterson
Nolan Peterson is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine and the author of Why Soldiers Miss War. A former US Air Force special operations pilot and a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Nolan is now a conflict journalist and author whose adventures have taken him to all seven continents. In addition to his memoirs, Nolan has published two fiction collections. He lives in Kyiv, Ukraine, with his wife, Lilya.
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