Bradley Steven Korthaus was born on May 19th, 1974, and was raised in Davenport, IA. Korthaus graduated from Assumption High School in Davenport, IA in 1992. He was active in football, wrestling, soccer, and tennis while in high school. After graduation, Korthaus followed his lifelong dream of becoming a United States Marine. He served for four years in various parts of the world, including in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. After this four year term of service, Korthaus pursued becoming a plumber at home in the Quad Cities, meanwhile continuing to serve in the Marine Reserves C – Company, 4th Support Service Group, 6th Battalion. It was during his service in C – Company that Korthaus would be deployed to Iraq to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Korthaus and the rest of C – Company were deployed east of the embattled city of Nasiriyah, where they were given the mission of securing the water purification site at the Saddam Canal. On the north bank of the canal, C – Company saw 30 to 50 Iraqis gathering over the course of a few days. Due to the nature of the War in Iraq, it was difficult to determine whether these were displaced civilians, or enemy combatants, “a force protection officer [described] how some Iraqi soldiers in an area farther north had waved white flags, then disappeared. A short time later, shots were fired at the troops from the Iraqis’ direction.” Furthermore, there was a 15 ft. ridge on the north bank where hostile combatants or secret weapons could very well have been lying in wait to be unleashed on the Marines. Captain William C. Leonhardt recognized that the north bank was his company’s weak point in the effort of securing the water purification site. Leonhardt gathered his squad leaders, and together they decided that the best course of action was to send four swimmers to the north bank to secure a beachhead, rather than wait for a helicopter to transport them across. The four swimmers were Sergeant Alden Conrad, Corporal Evan James, Corporal Joel Graves, and Sergeant Bradley S. Korthaus.
It was during this fording of the Saddam Canal that Bradley S. Korthaus was killed by drowning. The four Marines stripped down as much of their gear as they could in order to be able to swim safely to the north bank. Unfortunately, they still had to endure thirty to forty pounds of equipment while they swam, including heavy Gor-Tex combat boots. It was these combat boots, combined with the sucking mud at the bottom of the canal, that led to Korthaus’ and James’ drownings. During the swim, Korthaus’ and James’ boots became waterlogged, and it was as if the two were swimming in cement shoes. Both seemingly tried to propel themselves off the canal floor as they were dragged down by the weight of their boots and gear, where they were caught in the sucking mud. The two were stuck to the canal floor, where they tragically drowned despite their comrades’ efforts to save them. Their bodies were later freed from the canal and its mud by Navy divers, and returned to their homes in America.
A military investigation was held by Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Hogberg to determine whether Capt. Leonhardt’s decision to send swimmers across the Saddam Canal was justified. The investigation determined the deaths of Korthaus and James to be unfortunate accidents of war; Leonhardt’s decision was justified given the potential danger behind the north bank’s ridge, and the sucking mud of the Saddam Canal could not have been anticipated. Korthaus’ family was distraught upon receiving news of their son’s death in Iraq, with his father Steve developing a gallbladder problem. Nevertheless, Korthaus’ mother Marilyn stated that she was not angry with Korthaus’ superiors, “I can’t see myself going off the deep end trying to change things… he wouldn’t want us to place blame.” Korthaus was survived by his parents, siblings, extended family, and his fiancee Barbi Schneckloth, who he planned to marry upon his return from Iraq.
Korthaus was buried with full military honors at the National Cemetery, Rock Island Arsenal on April 6th, 2003. He was awarded posthumous journeymanship as a plumber by his employers at Ryan & Associates, Inc. In honor of Korthaus, baseball field no. 2 in Davenport’s Ridgeview Park was renamed ‘Korthaus Field’ at the Little League Hometown Heroes Day Picnic ceremony on May 17th, 2003. League President Keith Byars Jr. honored the heroics of Korthaus and his comrades in Iraq with the following eulogy, “It is because of men and women like Korthaus that millions of people enjoy Little League baseball and softball… None of these people are drafted; they are volunteers who willingly take on the task of protecting us and often with little recognition.”