Army report describes attack on Piestewa's unit
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A humvee driven by Army pfc. Lori Piestewa, the only U.S. servicewoman to die in the Iraqi war, was hit by "direct or indirect" fire during a March 23 attack before crashing into another vehicle, according to a preliminary report being released by the Army this week.

Piestewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, survived the accident but was "seriously injured," the report goes on to say. Without going into specific details, it only states that she died later "in captivity."

Posted online by The El Paso Times yesterday, the "draft predecisional" document provides some insight into the circumstances that led to the death of the 23-year-old mother of two. Hailed as a hero in Indian County, Piestewa was promoted to the rank of specialist posthumously.

"Every soldier performed honorably and each did his or her duty," the report states.

At the same time, investigators admit their assessment is incomplete. "This report does not answer all questions," the unsigned and undated document says.

The report does not corroborate initial press accounts, spurred by The Washington Post, about the ambush near Nasinriyah in southern Iraq, and the subsequent rescue of Jessica Lynch, 19, a friend and roommate of Piestewa, from a hospital. Lynch was riding in the back of the vehicle Piestewa was driving, the report notes.

But nowhere does it indicate that Lynch or Piestewa were wounded by Iraqi fire. The Post at first reported that Lynch was stabbed or wounded.

The investigation also doesn't confirm more recent accounts of the nature of the injuries sustained by Piestewa and Lynch as a result of the crash, described as "horrific" by Pentagon sources cited by The Washington Times. Other than to say the injuries were serious, there is no description of what happened to the pair.

Nor does the report disclose how Piestewa and Lynch were treated in captivity, whether there was any wrongdoing by U.S. soldiers, or whether any soldier should receive special honors for his or her actions. "All these matters are under separate investigation," it states. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) has told The Arizona Republic that Piestewa died courageously.

The document does describe how an 18-vehicle convoy got lost, due to a "navigational error," in Nasinriyah and how the soldiers defended themselves from attack. Most of those involved, including Piestewa, were from the the 507th Maintenance Company out of Fort Bliss in Texas.

"Soldiers fight as they are trained to fight," the report's executive summary reads. "Once engaged in battle, the soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company fought hard. They fought the best they could until there was no longer a means to resist. They defeated ambushes, overcame hastily-prepared enemy obstacles, defended one another, provided life-saving aid, and inflicted casualties on the enemy."

Piestewa grew up in Tuba City, Arizona, a town on the Navajo Reservation and near the Hopi Reservation. She was deployed to Iraq earlier this year.

"Specialist Piestewa . . . as well as many Native American women who enlist in various branches of the military, joined because of one reason that unites us all," Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. said at a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. "They were Americans. Americans who simply answered the call of duty."

Get the Report:
Executive Summary | Full Report [consists of scanned document pages]

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