ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Winter war games during one of Alaska's most extreme cold spells claimed nine lives and 88 frostbite victims and forced major cutbacks in maneuvers, military officials reported Friday while characterizing the exercise as a success.
In all, some 253 cold-weather injuries occurred, including frostbite, respiratory illness and fractures and sprains from slipping on ice, according to a military summary.
'We whipped the weather,' Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said of the two-week joint forces Brim Frost '89 exercise involving 26,000 troops from the United States and Canada.
Army Maj. Gen. Harold T. Fields Jr. called Brim Frost 'a great exercise.'
An official summary of the largest winter maneuvers ever staged in Alaska -- during one of Alaska's worst winters -- painted a picture of success in the face of adversity and said, 'Although the extreme cold took its toll on some exercise activities, most of the exercise objectives were achieved.'
'It's been a bad two weeks,' Maj. Jim Tillman said in an interview before the wrap-up report was issued.
The chief Brim Frost exercise and grand finale was supposed to be a large-scale, force-on-force mock battle pitting friendly Blue forces against enemy Red forces and involving all 26,000 troops, but the battle ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
'We jokingly called it the squad-on-squad, instead of force-on-force, because the command made a decision to reduce so much,' Tillman said. He said the force was reduced 90 percent.
Extreme cold and dense ice fog plagued the $15 million exercise from beginning to end.
Even when maneuvers ended Wednesday, weather grounded planes bringing troops in from maneuvers. By Feb. 10, all Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, National Guard and reserves should be back at their home stations in 17 states.
Canada formally pulled out of the exercise Monday after Sunday night's C-130 crash that killed nine and injured nine when the transport plane crashed at Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks. The plane, carrying arctic gear for a 500-troop parachute jump, landed in dense ice fog at 52 below zero.
Military officials reported 88 cases of frostbite, including two serious cases involving permanent injury or amputation. There were 61 fractures or sprains from slipping on ice. And there were 104 upper respiratory ailments, which Air Force Capt. Monica Aloisio said were caused by cold.
Brim Frost commanders scheduled 590 fighter operations involving F-15s and other aircraft, but fewer than one-quarter of the sorties, 143, were flown because of bad weather.
Of 491 planned airlifts by C-130 transport planes, 326 were flown. All 103 strategic airlift flights by C-141s were flown.
Brim Frost involved 120 planes and 1,000 vehicles, some of which failed to operate in such cold.
A mid-Brim Frost statement said, 'The weather is playing havoc with all concerned.' Public affairs officers intervierwed during Brim Frost echoed this.
'We modified parts of the exercise significantly when the weather risk was too high,' McInerney said in a statement. 'Airlift would stop if weather minimums were exceeded, which forced the 6th Infantry Division to conduct the land battle with fewer troops than planned.
'Some of the critical site defense activity was cancelled because of low temperatures,' the statement said. 'Our ground forces were in areas where the wind chill reached minus 120. On the average, most of them were sitting in areas betwewen minus 50 and minus 75.'
Air Force officials declined a request for an interview with McInerney, who said in the wrap-up statement that 80 percent of Brim Frost objectives were met.
In the same release, Field said, 'In spite of the adverse weather, 17 of 19 training objectives were accomplished for Army forces in Alaska. Soldiers endured up to three weeks' exposure to record low temperatures and were able to function effectively.'
McInerney said, 'Our peolple responded to all challenges eagerly and professionally and proved they can perform in the harshest conditions.'
Brim Frost is held in Alaska every two years. There were two deaths in 1983 and one in 1981. This year's 480 medical cases -- including the 253 cold-related injuries -- compares to 418 in 1987. Last year's Brim Frost involved 24,000 troops.