How Press Covered Tillman Killing and Aftermath 3 Years Ago

By: E&P Staff

With the family of Pat Tillman continuing to charge that a “coverup” still surrounds his death by friendly fire in Afghanistan, it is worth looking back at exactly how the press — which, like the Tillman family, was lied to about the incident by the military at the time — reported the tragedy and its aftermath back then.

Here are selections from four typical articles, which were all carried in The New York Times. That newspaper, in an editorial on Wednesday, calls for a congressional probe into the death and coverup.


April 24, 2004

Pat Tillman, whose decision to give up a lucrative N.F.L. career to join the Army Rangers made him one of the most public examples of patriotism in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was killed Thursday ”when his patrol vehicle came under attack,” the Pentagon said in a statement released last night.

May 1, 2004

The former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry on the battlefield for leading his Army Rangers unit to the rescue of comrades caught in an ambush. Tillman was shot and killed in Afghanistan on April 22 while fighting ”without regard for his personal safety,” the Army said yesterday in announcing the award. On Thursday the Army promoted Tillman, who was 27 years old, from specialist to corporal.

May 4, 2004

Led by the wails of bagpipes, hundreds of friends, relatives and admirers of Pat Tillman, the football player turned war hero, gathered on Monday in a sun-drenched park in his hometown to hail his life and mourn his death last month in a firefight in Afghanistan.

In a long afternoon of remembrances, there seemed barely enough time to say it all….

After Corporal Tillman’s death, an Army spokesman announced that he would be given the Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor.

The Army also released details of the firefight that took his life. The Army said that he and his platoon were not initially in danger, but that he had ordered his men out of their vehicles to confront small-arms and mortar fire that had pinned down the rear of their convoy.

Corporal Tillman, 27, led his team members up a hill and directed them into firing positions. ”Tillman’s voice was heard issuing commands to take the fight to the enemy forces,” the Army said.

Near the crest of the hill, he was shot while firing his automatic rifle. His actions, the Army statement said, helped the trapped soldiers emerge from their positions ”without taking a single casualty.” Mr. Tillman protected his team ”without regard to his own safety,” the Army said. Two American soldiers were wounded and an Afghan soldier was killed.

May 30, 2004

Patrick Tillman, the former football star turned Army Ranger who died in Afghanistan last month, was probably killed by allied fire while leading his unit in combat, the Army said on Saturday.

Corporal Tillman, who died on April 22, ”probably died as a result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces,” the Army said in a statement. An investigation made no specific finding of fault in the incident, the statement said.

Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., head of the Army Special Operations Command, read a statement summarizing an investigation into Corporal Tillman’s death at a brief news conference at the command’s headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C….

The allied-fire account of Corporal Tillman’s death was first reported on Saturday by The Arizona Republic and The Argus of Fremont, Calif..

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