A U.S. Army report on the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company in Iraq says fatigue, bad communications and other difficulties arising in "the fog of war" all factored into the deaths of 11 and capture of six, including still hospitalized Pfc. Jessica Lynch.
The 15-page report answers some questions but leaves still under investigation parts of an incident that is perhaps the most publicized of the war — though shrouded in secrecy and the subject of numerous conflicting reports.
It makes no recommendations for discipline. Instead, the report merely lays out a series of events from the time the unit left Kuwait behind invading combat forces until the time of the incident March 23.
"The report is intended to answer 'what happened?' — it is not to second-guess tactical decisions members of the unit made during the attack," the Army said.
Lynch received numerous injuries — and at least one comrade was killed — after their Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed into another vehicle in their convoy at a speed of roughly 45 mph (72 kph) , officials said.
Initial reports incorrectly said Lynch emptied her rifle fighting off Iraqis before being captured, and that she had been shot and stabbed.
Though it had been reported that the unit took a wrong turn at a checkpoint and strayed into hostile territory, the convoy actually mistakenly went straight toward the town of Nasiriyah when it should have turned, one official said.
Officials believe a soldier at the checkpoint may have waved them in that direction, but investigators don't know who that was or why it happened, said the official, who discussed the report only on condition of anonymity.
"After they made that initial error, everything was compounded," the official said.
It was when the group was doubling back that it was attacked, officials have said.
In the investigation, "it was very important to keep in mind the factors of fatigue, the intense pace of operations and the confusion, lack of information and misinformation that occurs in the fog of war," the Army said. Investigators drew information from witness statements and other sources and the Army has briefed families of the captured and killed on the findings.
The (Portland) Oregonian said in Wednesday editions that families of fallen soldiers gave the newspaper a copy of the report, saying they're frustrated that no one likely will be disciplined. The newspaper said the unit's commander was exhausted and confused and inadvertently led the convoy into an Iraqi stronghold, a mistake compounded by jammed rifles, failed radio communications and a decision not to equip individual soldiers with grenades and anti-tank weapons.
The Washington Times reported Wednesday that the company's senior enlisted soldier, 1st Sgt. Robert Dowdy, worked furiously to reorganize the convoy so it could make a retreat, trying to motivate other soldiers.
He died at the scene, while Humvee driver, Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa was taken to the same Iraqi hospital as Lynch and later died of her injuries, the newspaper reported.
Congressmen briefed on the investigation have said the commander was working with only a photocopy of a map, communications were spotty and the convoy had been on the road for 60 hours, all adding to the unit's problems.