- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

A family member of one of the soldiers killed during the Iraq war ambush in which Pfc. Jessica Lynch was captured is frustrated about an official Army report due to be released today.

The document, first reported in The Washington Times yesterday, rebutts early press accounts about the March 23 incident in which Pfc. Lynch and other members of the 507th Maintenance Company were ambushed by Iraqi forces.

“They don’t tell you where they got the information,” said Arlene Walters, the mother of Sgt. Donald R. Walters, who died as a result of the ambush and was buried in a shallow grave outside a hospital in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

Mrs. Walters, of Salem, Ore., and other parents of soldiers involved in the ambush have already seen the report. After reading it, Mrs. Walters told The Times: “[The Army] just better keep digging, because if they don’t, I will.”

The Times reported yesterday that the Army report will show that during the ambush, Pfc. Lynch and another female soldier suffered extensive injuries in a vehicle accident, but not from Iraqi guerrillas.

The Army’s report, which will be released at the Pentagon, was based largely on an extensive commander’s investigation, called a 15-6 for the Army regulation that authorizes investigations of major incidents. The 15-6 investigation itself will not be released.

The 15-page Army report deals only with the actions of American soldiers and covers neither their time in Iraqi captivity nor any possible war-crimes issues. The Army’s Central Investigative Command is conducting a separate probe on those matters.

The Army report also may shed light on the events that surrounded the ambush and the dramatic footage of Pfc. Lynch’s April 1 rescue from the Nasiriyah hospital.

Pentagon officials have said the Army report officially will debunk newspaper accounts that Pfc. Lynch fired two weapons at her attackers and was shot and stabbed before being taken prisoner of war. In fact, she was riding in a Humvee that was struck by a projectile during a frantic attempt to escape the ambush.

Asked about the report yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he had not read it, although he expects it will differ from some of the newspaper accounts of the details of the ambush.

“I do know that reports [about the ambush] vary widely,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “I would think that whatever is reported by the official report will differ from at least some of those [newspaper] reports.”

The Army report is expected to contain details about how members of the 507th were killed in the ambush. Several parents of those killed have voiced frustration, with one telling The Times that the report is incomplete.

Mrs. Walters said there were big holes in the report, particularly in its account of how her son perished.

What is particularly bothersome are implications in the report that her son may have been left alone on the battlefield after his truck broke down during the ambush, Mrs. Walters said.

According to Mrs. Walters, the report says another soldier was picked up by a passing truck, but it is not clear whether her son was. “I was told … he was never picked up. I don’t know if he was waiting for more trucks to come,” she said.

An autopsy report says Sgt. Walters was shot twice in the back, once in the right leg, and he was stabbed twice in the abdomen as well as having his left shoulder dislocated. The number of injuries was “overkill,” Mrs. Walters said, adding that the Army’s investigation should be extended to include a probe into whether the ambush involved war crimes.

Pentagon sources said the Army’s report does not find fault with the actions of any 507th member. Nine surviving members of the unit received medals for bravery last week.

Several family members told the Oregonian newspaper of Portland that they were angry at the Army for telling them nobody would be disciplined for the errors leading to the attack.

“I’m not a spiteful person,” said Randy Kiehl, who lost his son James in the attack. “I don’t want a witch hunt. But yes, I think someone should be held accountable.”

Mrs. Walters said the Army report’s claim that during the ambush members of the 507th Maintenance Company had difficulty defending themselves because their guns jammed is no more than an attempt by military officials to “cover their tracks.”

“Don’t tell me those soldiers did not properly take care of their guns. I don’t want to hear that,” she said, adding that her son had asked her to send sticks of uncooked spaghetti to clean his rifle and thick balloons to put on the end of the rifle to keep it clean.

James G. Lakely contributed to this report.

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