The New York Times says that initial reports of an Army sergeant’s heroism in the Fort Hood shootings appear “to be inaccurate.” Another sergeant, the Times reports, apparently “fired the shots that brought down the rampaging gunman,” an Army major named Nidal Malik Hasan.
“The confusion over what happened and the quickness of the military to label someone a hero” is reminiscent, the Times says, “of the case of Pfc. Jessica Lynch in 2003, when the Army initially reported Private Lynch had been captured in Iraq after a Rambo-like performance in which she emptied her weapon and was wounded in battle. It was later learned she had been badly hurt in a vehicle accident during an ambush and was being well cared for by the Iraqis.”
The erroneous report about Lynch’s heroics in fighting Iraqi irregulars was published by the Washington Post in early April 2003 and picked up by news organizations around the world. The Post‘s report was placed on its front page beneath the headline, “‘She was fighting to the death.'”
The international hoopla over Lynch’s purported heroics effectively obscured the deeds of an Army cook, Sergeant Donald Walters, who apparently did fight Iraqi irregulars “to the death.” Walters was captured when his ammunition ran out, and executed. As is discussed in my forthcoming book Getting It Wrong, Walters’ story attracted nowhere near the attention of the erroneous reports about Lynch, who was then 19-years-old.
Getting It Wrong also challenges the view, which is widely held and was reiterated by the Times, that the U.S. military pushed the Lynch-heroics story. One of the authors of the Post‘s “Fighting to the death” article has said the military wasn’t the source for the story.