“Why Would They Burn It?”

Posted on by Jesse Lee

One of the strangest aspects of the tragedy surrounding Army Ranger Specialist Patrick Tillman’s death was the destruction of his property, as reported by the Associated Press last Friday:

Army ordered Tillman’s uniform burned within hours of death
Associated Press – April 20, 2007

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.

Later in the story:

Inside Forward Operating Base Salerno, near Khowst, Afghanistan, a soldier heard the dreaded call come across the radio: “KIAs.” There were two killed in action, one allied Afghan fighter and one Army Ranger, identified only by his code name.

The soldier checked a roster and discovered the fallen American was Tillman. He rounded up four others and broke the news but withheld Tillman’s name.

Had this soldier wanted to share the news outside the tactical operations center, it would have been difficult. “The phones and Internet had been cut off, to prevent anyone from talking about the incident,” he told investigators.

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.

As covered extensively here, on Tuesday the Oversight Committee held a hearing on the death of Army Ranger Specialist Patrick Tillman in Afghanistan and the capture and rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq. This exchange between Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10) and Kevin Tillman, Patrick Tillman’s brother, delved into the destruction of Patrick Tillman’s property, which has still not been explained:

Kevin Tillman:
“And you’ve got all this stuff that — it just doesn’t make sense, why would they cut it off, why would they burn it? What medical doctor would allow a bunch of sergeants to roll into his domain and have people taking his stuff off and burning it? And some of the emails are really strange, you know, like quietly burning it, no one’s watching, people looking behind their back, it’s real weird.”
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