Who Ordered Tillman’s Uniform and Notebook Burned?

I missed this part of the congressional investigation into the Tillman/Lynch fiasco, first reported six days ago.  Was this an under the radar aspect of the story, or was this under-reported?

Within hours of Pat Tillman’s death, the Army went into information-lockdown mode, cutting off phone and Internet connections at a base in Afghanistan, posting guards on a wounded platoon mate, and ordering a sergeant to burn Tillman’s uniform.

Does anyone else feel a sharp pit of disgust in their stomach? If you have human feeling, you should.

How common is burning a soldier’s private property after s/he has been killed in action? I don’t know anything about millitary justice, but my J.D. from Law & Order University tells me destroying evidence is a no-no.  My moral compass tells me that destroying a fallen soldier’s property is beyond disgraceful. It’s repugnant. It’s…well, I’m speechless.

Also, just in case you missed it, here is a concise recap from The Belfast Telegraph:


The fiction

Lynch, then a 19-year-old army private, resisted heroically when her supply unit was ambushed near Nasiriyah on 23 March 2003, four days into the invasion. Badly injured, she was taken to an Iraqi hospital where she was allegedly mistreated. After a tip-off, American special forces stormed the hospital on 1 April, rescuing her and recovering the bodies of eight US soldiers. The night raid, which was filmed, was said to have met with fierce resistance.

The facts

During the ambush, Lynch was knocked unconscious as her vehicle crashed. She woke up in the Iraqi hospital with broken bones but no recollection of the incident, and certainly never fired her weapon. She seems to have been well treated. As for the rescue raid, Iraqi doctors said they were herded at gunpoint and treated like insurgents. Medical equipment was smashed. All Iraqi soldiers had left the hospital the previous day, and there was no resistance.


The fiction

Tillman, a corporal in the elite Army Rangers, was killed on 22 April 2004, when his unit was attacked in an ambush near the village of Sperah in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. He was said to have been killed by enemy fire in the incident, in which an Afghan militia soldier was killed, and two other Rangers injured. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valour, on the basis of a falsified citation. George Bush called him a “national inspiration”.

The facts

Tillman’s unit was split into two groups as it moved through a canyon on a search mission for al-Qa’ida and Taliban fighters. Tillman was assigned to the advance unit, but it was the second, trailing unit that came under attack. Tillman tried to chase off the attackers. He was killed in chaotic firing by the second unit – even though the driver of its lead vehicle later testified he recognised Tillman as a “friendly” and tried to signal to his colleagues to cease fire.

Further viewing: YouTube video of Kevin Tillman and Dennis Kucinich discussing the burning of Tillman’s uniform.

With each day that passes I find deeper resonance in the words of Wilfred Owen, a Brittish soldier killed in the first World War:

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.*

*It is sweet and becoming to die for one’s country

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24 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Careful...

    the military has protocol.  I don't have any idea what it is, but it seems to me that if (a) they didn't suspect there to be a forthcoming investigation, and (b) his uniform was bloody or otherwise unusable

    that burning it just might be protocol.  Furthermore, I'm not sure that a soldier's uniform is considered his property.  His responsibility sure, but his property?  Maybe not.

    Again, I have no clue.  But, it sounds like you don't either.  Anyone care to share?

    • Just asking the question. It doesn't sit right.

      I came across this story browsing Speaker Pelosi's Blog. And Kevin Tillman's testimony linked above is compelling.  This testimony was given on the 20th.  If indeed it is protocol, then just say it, you know?  But I can't imagine destroying all the soldiers possesions within hours after his death is protocol.

      Why burn his uniform, socks, gloves, flack jacket and notebook? Also troubling is this from the same article:

      Furhter down the Nearby on the same base, a staff sergeant was in his tent when a captain walked in and told him to burn Tillman's bloody clothing.

      "He wanted me alone to burn what was in the bag to prevent security violations, leaks and rumors," the staff sergeant testified. The superior "put a lock on communications" in the tent, he testified. Other Army officers said this was probably a directive to the staff sergeant to keep the conversation to himself.

      Then he left the staff sergeant to his work: placing Tillman's uniform, socks, gloves and body armor into a 55-gallon drum and burning them.

      Yet another question gleaned from listening to the Tillman Family/Kucinich exchang is the fact that Pat Tillman's head was completely blown off, yet there were defibrillator paddle marks on his chest. Why in the hell would someone try to defribrilate a man with no head?

      • like JFK?

        Didn't doctors try working on JFK even though he had a gaping head wound?

        • I din't say *wound*

          Pat Tillman had no head.

        • Not to justify the gist of this thread with a comment...

          ..but to answer your specific question.

          As an EMT, my protocols are to not attempt rescucitation in the following situations; obvious amputation of the head, and gross lividity.

          We do not, however, know what the battlefield situation was, nor the conditions under which the medic made his/her spot decisions. And it would be ignorant and presumptuous for anyone not in possesion of all of the facts to second-guess those actions.

          • The Tillman family has the facts

            Army Ranger Kevin Tillman, Pat's brother was there that night.  Tillman's mother has the medical records. This is all spelled out in the clip from the congressional testimony linked above.

            Tillman was declared dead on the battlefield, he had "no brain due to trauma". The paddle marks were not made on the battlefield, they were made in the field hospital at minimum 90 minutes after his death.

            The second guessing by the Tillman family is not ignorant or presumptious - why difribulate someone 90 minutes after death if he has no head? If there is a reasonable answer to that question, let's see it and move on.

      • The notebook I find strange...

        the rest, I really don't.  But, like I said, I don't know the protocol.

        • Tillman's brother was in the same unit...

          ...he's the one who finds this strange.  Even if he wasn't familiar with the protocol then, he's had plenty of time to find out.  If he's still asking these questions three years later at a congressional hearing, then it doesn't pass the smell test.

          • Yes but...

            someone with that close a personal connection involved with such a charged issue doesn't make it not pass the smell test.

            Give me more than a brother dealing with his brother's tragic death.  Surely he could find some active or retired military expert of sorts to make a comment.

            • Agreed

              And this is partially my point.  If he is asking this in front of congress, surely someone should be able to comment and say "hey, we do this all the time."

              Browsing through the news, the concensus seems to be (and I could be missing something) that this is still a mystery and reeks of further cover up.

    • tilman's uniform

      When I was in the military, the first thing they did was issue my uniforms and the price was witheld from my first paycheck. All additional uniforms were my responsibility. If it is still this way, I believe the uniforms were Tillman's property.

  2. Transcript and video of Kevin Tillman's opening remarks

    Transcript | Video


    Crucial evidence was destroyed, including Pat's uniform, equipment and notebook. The autopsy was not done according to regulation and the field hospital report was falsified.

    The soldier who shot Pat admitted in his sworn statement that just before he delivered the fatal burst from about 35 meters away, that he saw his target waving hands. But he decided to pull the trigger anyway.

    Such an act is not an accident. It's a clear violation of the rules of engagement.

    Writing up a field hospital report, stating that Pat was, quote, transferred to intensive care unit for continued CPR, after most of his head had been taken off by multiple 5.56 rounds is not misleading.

    Stating that a giant rectangle bruise covering his chest that sits exactly where the armor plate that protects you from bullets as being, quote, consistent with paddle marks is not misleading.

    These are deliberate and calculated lies.

    Writing a Silver Star award before a single eyewitness account is taken is not a misstep. Falsifying soldier witness statements for a Silver Star is not a misstep.

    These are intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition for fraud.

    Delivering false information at a nationally televised memorial service is not an error in judgment. Discarding an investigation that does not fit a preordained conclusion is not an error in judgment.

    These are deliberate acts of deceit.

    Pat is, of course, not the only soldier where battlefield realities reach the family and the public in the form of a false narrative. [Tillman goes on to cite the examples of First Lieutenant Ken Ballard, Private Jesse Buryj, Sergeant Patrick McCafferty, and Staff Sergeant Brian Hellerman.]

    Lest anyone think I'm just throwing out conspiricy theories.  The questions I ask in this post come from the Tillman family themselves.  I say again, if there are reasonable answers to why his property was burned and why a defribrilation attempt was made more than 90 minutes after his head was blown off, let the millitary and government answer so it can be scrutinized.  The silence would be deafening if it weren't for the mountains of already exposed lies.

  3. Unless I'm missing something...

    ...these aren't new.  I read about the Tillman issue months ago, and the Lynch issue years ago.

    About the burning of the Tillman uniform, there was a reason given for why it was done, which reason seemed to make sense, but I'm no expert, and I don't recall what the reason that was given was.  Irrespective of that, this information isn't new.

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