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When Men Win Glory
By Horace Coleman (reviewer)
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
(Anchor; Rev Rep edition July 27, 2010)
This book covers new developments and material obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Doubleday published a first edition in 2009.
Krakauer cites sources, includes maps and spares no one—no matter their rank, position or their self-serving conduct. He clears up murky issues. He explains the SNAFUs that caused the destruction of Jessica Lynch's convoy. He explains what corroded the mission that led to Pat Tillman's death and the deliberate trashing and suppression of evidence about it.
Tillman's wife Marie is well depicted. You learn things Tillman's mother didn't reveal in her book "Boots on the Ground by Dusk." Pat Tillman's brother Kevin is fully developed. Krakauer describes barracks life, Ranger training and Tillman's personality and philosophy of life.
He details how the sleep deprived Captain leading the convoy Lynch was in missed crucial turns twice and only checked his GPS an hour after doing so. While backtracking the convoy ran into Fedayeen—and a hostile city.
Ironically, Ranger Tillman and his brother Kevin were flown in as part of a quick reaction team to back up Lynch's rescuers.
Positioned outside Nasiriyah where Lynch was first hospitalized, they were never used. The hype about Lynch's conduct and rescue foreshadowed the smothering of factual data about Tillman's death."
Sources other than Krakuaer's said an Iraqi ambulance tried to return Lynch to US forces before she was "rescued." The ambulance, supposedly fired on when it neared a US checkpoint, turned back.
Krakauer says (page 337) "Standard operating procedure dictates that when a soldier is killed in action, their uniform is left on the body for shipment back to the United States to be removed during the autopsy and analyzed as forensic data." He continues: "For reasons that have never been explained, Tillman's blood-soaked uniform and body armor were removed...and placed into a trash bag before the body was flown to Bagram."
Then things got deeper: [page 337] "Sergeant James Valdez testified, a captain named Wade Bovard, came to me with an orange plastic bag containing Tillman's clothes. He then related that he wanted me to burn what was in the bag for security violation, leaks and rumors."
And even deeper: [page 337] "Before destroying the items in the bag, Valdez went through the pockets of Tillman's uniform. In the cargo pocket of the pants he found Pat's notebook, after which he started a fire in an empty oil drum and destroyed the notebook, uniform and body armor." Many have speculated what might have been in the notebook Tillman was carrying (for security reasons) instead of a journal. Normally personal property is returned to the next of kin.
Things to know about Pat Tillman.
After 9/11, still an NFL player, he enlisted in the Army in May 2002. He refused to give interviews to the media or make public appearances for the Army. The Army offered him—and he rejected—an early discharge. By doing this he lost out on NFL teams' offers of more money than his last NFL contract paid. His last mission was on April 22, 2004, near the tribal area between north eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan where the Taliban and insurgents had free reign. His platoon was ordered to enter and clear a village near the "zero line" between the two countries. A Humvee in Tillman's convoy broke down on a rugged mountain road. Then its suspension failed. No helicopters were available. The platoon was ordered to not abandon it and to reach the village and clear it before darkness fell. An Afghan trucker was hired to transport the Humvee. The platoon was ordered to split into two sections. Private Jade Lane, a friend of Tillman, was wounded by friendly fire. A Staff Sergeant and three machine gunners (including the one who killed Tillman) were later RFS'd (Released for Standards, expelled from the Rangers and sent to the regular Army). Lieutenant David Uthlaut, the Platoon Leader who became a fall guy, was ordered to clear the village at 4 P.M.—shortly before daylight ended—was wounded by friendly fire and RSF'd!
A Company First Sergeant was asked at an investigation into Tillman's death why the mission had to be done so quickly. He answered "I think a lot of times at higher [headquarters]—maybe even, you know, higher than battalion [headquarters]—they may make a timeline, and then we just feel like we have to stick to that timeline. There's no—you know, 'intel' driving it. There's no—you know, there's no events driving it. It's just a timeline . . . ." Tillman filled out an Army document before his first deployment (to Iraq) in which he'd stated he didn't want a chaplain or minister officiating at any memorial service held for him. In the space reserved for "special instructions" he wrote "I do not want the military to have any direct involvement with my funeral." (page 369) Major General Stanley McCrystal (who trashed President Obama in a Rolling Stone magazine interview) approved a Silver Star for Tillman one day and the next sent a back-channel message to high level civilians. It said they should be careful about using information about Tillman's Silver Star because they might be embarrassed. (pages 372-373) Thomas F. Gimble, acting attorney general in the Department of Defense's inspector general's office, wrote "Corporal Tillman's chain of command made critical errors in reporting Corporal Tillman's death and . . bears ultimate responsibility for the inaccuracies, misunderstandings and perceptions of concealment that led to our review." The military and its civilian overlords had tried a variation of the same hype they'd used about Jessica Lynch. Two of the world's leading pathologists (Dr. Robert Bux and Dr. Vincent DiMaio, also gunshot wound authorities) believed "The pattern of the bullet impacts suggests that the rounds [that killed Tillman] were all part of a single burst from the Squad Automatic Weapon." (page 372)
Feces flow downhill but truth bubbles up—sometimes. Losing Tillman's brain, which was put into an ammo box after being scooped off the ground, burning his clothes and spinning reality into fantasy ultimately didn't work.
Standard Operating Procedure, according to Krakauer, is shipping a KIA troop's body home in the uniform worn when killed. The uniform is removed during autopsy and analyzed for forensic evidence. Tillman's body was shipped naked.
Ultimately, there are no secrets. Just limited distribution of information. Contrary to what those covering up mistakes and spreading propaganda intend, big lies don't always last.
Horace Coleman was an Air Force air traffic controller/intercept director in Vietnam (1967-68).