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Pat Tillman

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Title: Pat Tillman  
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Subject: Arizona Cardinals, Kevin Tillman, Arizona State Sun Devils football, Archived delete debates/June 6, Arizona State University
Collection: 1976 Births, 2004 Deaths, American Atheists, American Football Linebackers, American Football Safeties, American Military Personnel Killed in the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), Arizona Cardinals Players, Arizona State Sun Devils Football Players, College Football Hall of Fame Inductees, Leland High School (San Jose, California) Alumni, Military Personnel Killed by Friendly Fire, Military Scandals, National Football League Players with Retired Numbers, People from Fremont, California, Players of American Football from California, Propaganda in the United States, Recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, Recipients of the Silver Star, Sportspeople from San Jose, California, United States Army Rangers, United States Army Soldiers
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Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman
Pat Tillman when he was a Specialist
Birth name Patrick Daniel Tillman
Nickname(s) "Pat"
Born (1976-11-06)November 6, 1976
Fremont, California
Died April 22, 2004(2004-04-22) (aged 27)
Sperah, Afghanistan  (KIA)
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 2002–04
Rank Corporal (posthumously)

Patrick Daniel "Pat" Tillman (November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004) was an American football player who left his professional career and enlisted in the United States Army in June 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. His service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and subsequent death, were the subject of much media attention.[1]

Tillman joined the Army Rangers and served several tours in combat before he died in the mountains of Afghanistan. At first, the Army reported that Tillman had been killed by enemy fire. Controversy ensued when a month later, on May 28, 2004, the Pentagon notified the Tillman family that he had died as a result of a friendly fire incident; the family and other critics allege that the Department of Defense delayed the disclosure for weeks after Tillman's memorial service out of a desire to protect the image of the U.S. armed forces.

Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since Bob Kalsu, who died in the Vietnam War in 1970. Tillman was posthumously laterally promoted from Specialist to Corporal. He also received posthumous Silver Star and Purple Heart medals.


  • Early life 1
  • Football career 2
  • Military career and death 3
  • Awards and decorations 4
  • Aftermath 5
    • Surrounding Tillman's death 5.1
    • Congressional inquiries 5.2
    • Memorials and tributes 5.3
    • Controversial criticisms 5.4
    • Media analyses 5.5
  • Religious and political beliefs 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Books 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Tillman was born on November 6, 1976, in Fremont, California, to Mary (Spalding) and Patrick Kevin Tillman.[2][3] The eldest of three sons, with Kevin and Richard as the other two, Tillman excelled at football. He went to Bret Harte Middle School and helped lead Leland High School to the Central Coast Division I Football Championship. Tillman then went to Arizona State University on a football scholarship.[4]

Tillman was very close to his family and high school friends. He repeatedly mentioned in his personal journals during wartime service that he drew strength from and deeply valued his closest friendships, parents, wife and family. Tillman was very committed to his high school sweetheart whom he married just prior to enlistment in the Army Rangers, Marie Ugenti Tillman. He also was very close with his brother, Kevin Tillman, who enlisted with and served alongside him.[5]

Football career

Pat Tillman
No. 40
Position: Safety
Personal information
Date of birth: (1976-11-06)November 6, 1976
Place of birth: Fremont, California
Date of death: April 22, 2004(2004-04-22) (aged 27)
Place of death: Sperah, Afghanistan
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 202 lb (92 kg)
Career information
High school: San Jose (CA) Leland
College: Arizona State University
NFL draft: 1998 / Round: 7 / Pick: 226
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Tackles: 238
INT: 3
Sacks: 2.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

He started his college career as a linebacker for Arizona State University in 1994, when he secured the last remaining scholarship for the team. Tillman excelled as a linebacker at Arizona State, despite being relatively small for the position at 5'11 (1.80 m) tall. As a junior, he helped his team go undefeated that season as well as helping them make it to the Rose Bowl that year. In 1997, he was voted the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Academically, Tillman majored in marketing and graduated in three and a half years with a 3.85 GPA. He also earned many academic awards including: the Clyde B. Smith Academic Award in 1996 and 1997; the Sporting News Honda Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1997; and the 1998 Sun Angel Student Athlete of Year. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

In the 1998 National Football League Draft, Tillman was selected as the 226th pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Tillman moved over to play the safety position in the NFL and started ten of sixteen games in his rookie season.

At one point in his NFL career, Tillman turned down a five-year, $9 million contract offer from the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the Cardinals.[6]

Sports Illustrated football writer Paul Zimmerman ("Dr. Z") named Tillman to his 2000 NFL All-Pro team after Tillman finished with 155 tackles (120 solo), 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 9 pass deflections and 1 interception for 30 yards.

Tillman finished his career with totals of 238 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 interceptions for 37 yards, 3 forced fumbles, 12 pass deflections, and 3 fumble recoveries in 60 career games. In addition he also had 1 rush attempt for 4 yards and returned 3 kickoffs for 33 yards.[7]

In May 2002, eight months after the September 11 attacks and after completing the fifteen remaining games of the 2001 season which followed the attacks (at a salary of $512,000 per year),[8] Tillman turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million over three years from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army.[9]

Military career and death

Tillman and his brother

  • Career statistics and player information from • ESPN • Yahoo! Sports • • Pro-Football-Reference
  • Pat Tillman at the College Football Hall of Fame
  • Pat Tillman Foundation

External links

  • Krakauer, Jon (2009).  
  • Tillman, Mary; Narda Zacchino (2008). Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman. Modern Times.  
  • Tillman, Mary; Narda Zacchino (2010).  


  1. ^ Rickey, Carrie (September 3, 2010). "Pat Tillman Documentary Follows Family's Quest for Answers". Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  2. ^ California Births, 1905 - 1995, Alameda County
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Pat Tillman Biography". 2006 A&E Television Networks. 
  5. ^ a b Krakauer, Jon (2009). Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. Doubleday (September 16, 2009); Page 317. ISBN 978-0-385-52226-7
  6. ^ Matthew B. Stannard (March 27, 2007). "In football and in life, Tillman was determined, independent". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  7. ^ "Pat Tillman". Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  8. ^ "Pat Tillman". Salaries Database ( 
  9. ^ "'"Ex-NFL star Tillman makes 'ultimate sacrifice. MSNBC. Jan 26, 2003. Retrieved 2006-11-23. 
  10. ^ "Army Cpl. Patrick D. Tillman". Military Times. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  11. ^ Krakauer, Jon (2009). Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday. p. 154.  
  12. ^ Krakauer, Jon (2009). Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday. p. 220.  
  13. ^ Dispatches from Afghanistan (2009); Journal Sentinel; December 4, 2009
  14. ^ Military Times .PDF Document copies Copy of U.S. Army CID report; Pages 1–3
  15. ^
  16. ^ "U.S. military probes soldier's death". CNN. July 1, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  17. ^ "Army Cpl. Patrick D. Tillman – Honor The Fallen – Honoring those who fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan". Military Times. Retrieved 2010-10-23. 
  18. ^ Scott Lindlaw; Martha Mendoza (August 4, 2007). "General's memo voiced doubts in Tillman's death". Associated Press. 
  19. ^ "Full text of Tillman memo to top generals". 
  20. ^ Robert Collier (April 11, 2007). "New questions raised over timing of Army's disclosure of killing by friendly fire". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  21. ^ Krakauer, Jon (October 14, 2009). "Gen. McChrystal's Credibility Problem". The Daily Beast. 
  22. ^ a b c Josh White (May 4, 2005). "Army Withheld Details About Tillman's Death:Investigator Quickly Learned 'Friendly Fire' Killed Athlete". Washington Post. p. A-3. Retrieved 2006-11-23. 
  23. ^ a b Sarah Seltzer (September 17, 2009). "Inside Pat Tillman's Life, and the Bush Administration's Cover-Up of His Death". Alternet. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  24. ^ a b Josh White (May 23, 2005). "Tillman's Parents Are Critical Of Army". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  25. ^ Annie Gottlieb (May 5, 2005). "Pat Tillman: It's Even Worse UPDATED". Retrieved 2006-11-23. 
  26. ^ "Army to open criminal probe of Tillman death". CNN. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Review of matters related to the death of Specialist Patrick Tillman" (PDF). Office of the Inspector General. March 28, 2006. 
  28. ^ a b Julia Prodis Sulek; Frank Davies (2007-03-26). """Family blasts latest investigation of Pat Tillman's friendly fire death as "shamefully unacceptable. San Jose Mercury News. 
  29. ^ Monica Davey; Eric Schmitt (March 21, 2006). "2 Years After Soldier's Death, Family's Battle Is With Army". The New York Times. 
  30. ^ a b c Martha Mendoza (July 27, 2007). "AP: New Details on Tillman's Death". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  31. ^ Robert Collier (September 25, 2005). "Family Demands The Truth". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  32. ^ a b Laurence, Charles (August 3, 2007). "Was the pin-up boy of Bush's War on Terror assassinated?". London: The  
  33. ^ "Countdown with Keith Olbermann". NBC. .
  34. ^ Krakauer, Jon (September 11, 2009). "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman". The Los Angeles Times. .
  35. ^ "Second Soldier Alleges Former Tillman Commander Ordered "360 Rotational Fire" in Iraq". Truth out. Retrieved 2010-10-23. 
  36. ^ "Soldier: Army ordered me not to tell truth about Tillman". CNN. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  37. ^ "Lawmakers: Bush Withheld Tillman Documents".  
  38. ^ "White House Denies Request for Documents in Ex-NFL Player's Death". The Washington Post. July 14, 2007. Retrieved Aug 18, 2015. 
  39. ^ "Seeking the Truth About Pat Tillman". The New York Times. July 27, 2007. Retrieved Aug 18, 2015. 
  40. ^ "White House, Pentagon cite executive privilege to hold up documents on friendly fire victim Tillman".  
  41. ^ "Military vets ask Goodell to help release Tillman report".  
  42. ^  
  43. ^ Seibel, Mark (July 14, 2008). "Bush officials' 'lack of recall' thwarted Tillman, Lynch probes".  
  44. ^ Kharli Mandeville (2011-08-16). "Pat Tillman Veterans Center opens in Memorial Union | ASU News | The State Press | Arizona State University". The State Press. Retrieved 2014-05-23. 
  45. ^ "Tillman Tunnel Undergoes Improvements". Arizona State Sun Devils. 2014-04-03. Retrieved 2014-05-23. 
  46. ^ Landers, Jim, "Tillman's Legacy Lives On At Center", Dallas Morning News, January 18, 2009, p. 22.
  47. ^ "Pac-10 Names Award for Pat Tillman" (Press release).  
  48. ^ "The Last Outpost". Archived from the original on 2008-04-05. 
  49. ^ "Memorial to honor Pat Tillman, a kid New Almaden knew well". San Jose Mercury News. August 4, 2007. 
  50. ^ Horii, Ronald (September 8, 2007). "Pat Tillman Memorial Dedication". New Almaden Day ( Retrieved April 30, 2012. 
  51. ^ "Tillman the Skateboarding Bulldog". YouTube.  Video removed by user.
  52. ^ Corbett, Jim (March 7, 2006). "Lot of bang from the Buckeyes". USA Today. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  53. ^ "Arizona State uniforms will honor former Sun Devil Pat Tillman". ESPN. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  54. ^ Ted Rall (October 8, 2005). "Pat Tillman Redux". Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  55. ^ Robert Collier (2005-09-25). "Family demands the truth: new inquiry may expose events that led to Pat Tillman's death". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  56. ^ Stan Goff (July 28, 2006). "Playing the Atheism Card Against Pat Tillman's Family". Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  57. ^ Mike Fish (Spring 2006). "Pat Tillman Timeline". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  58. ^ Henry Waxman; Tom Davis (May 16, 2007). "Letter to General Ham" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-05-30. 
  59. ^ "Report: General faces demotion in Tillman case". USA Today. Associated Press. July 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  60. ^ Filkins, Dexter (September 8, 2009). "The Good Soldier". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-25. 
  61. ^ The Tillman Story at the Internet Movie Database
  62. ^ Tillman, Kevin (October 19, 2006). "After Pat's Birthday". Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  63. ^ Archibold, Randal C. (October 24, 2006). "Brother of N.F.L. Star Posts Antiwar Essay". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  64. ^ Holden, Stephen. "When Heroism Means Finding Truth", The New York Times, August 19, 2010.
  65. ^ Ordoňa, Michael. "Shadowy Truth", The Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2010, p.D-6
  66. ^ Smith, Kyle Smith. "The complex, tragic life and death of Pat Tillman", The New York Post, August 15, 2010.
  67. ^ Mondello, Bob. "'The Tillman Story': One Family's Quest For The Truth", NPR, August 20, 2010.
  68. ^ "Bill Maher interviews brother of Afghanistan 'hero' Pat Tillman". The Guardian (London). September 27, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  69. ^ Bickley, Dan (April 16, 2005). "Fallen Ranger Tillman turned down NFL overtures for 2004 season". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  70. ^ Zirin, Dave (October 6, 2005). "Pat Tillman, Our Hero". The Nation. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 


See also

The September 25, 2005, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported that Tillman held views which were critical of the Iraq war. According to Tillman's mother, a friend of Tillman had arranged a meeting for Tillman with author Noam Chomsky, a prominent critic of American foreign and military policy, to take place after his return from Afghanistan. Chomsky has confirmed this.[70]

Pat Tillman was an atheist.[64][65][66][67] According to speakers at his funeral, he was very well-read, having read a number of religious texts including the Bible, Quran and the Book of Mormon as well as transcendentalist authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. However, responding to religious overtones at the funeral by Maria Shriver and John McCain, his youngest brother, Richard, asserted that "Just make no mistake, he'd want me to say this: He's not with God, he's fuckin[g] dead—he's not religious." Richard added, "Thanks for your thoughts, but he's fuckin[g] dead."[68] Another article quotes Tillman as having told then-general manager of the Seattle Seahawks Bob Ferguson in December 2003, "You know I'm not religious."[69]

Religious and political beliefs

On October 19, 2006, Tillman's brother Kevin broke his silence about his brother's death, lashing out at the Iraq War in a 660-word essay published on Truthdig, a progressive online journal of news and opinion.[62] The essay was widely distributed and was cited in The New York Times and Associated Press.[63]

A documentary film, The Tillman Story, was shown at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2010, and was released in August 2010.[61]

Reviews by The New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins of Jon Krakauer's book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman noted that the book did well to compile the facts and "nauseating" details regarding the coverup of Tillman's death. "After Tillman's death, Army commanders violated many of their own rules, not to mention elementary standards of decency, to turn the killing into a propaganda coup for the American side", Filkins wrote.[60]

Media analyses

Kauzlarich conducted the second investigation into Tillman's death which lasted a week, from May 8 to May 15, 2004.[57] Brigadier General Rodney Johnson, the Commanding General of the United States Army Criminal Investigations Command, testified before Congress that he found these statements "totally unacceptable". Acting Department of Defense Inspector General Thomas Gimble also testified that he was "shocked" that Lieutenant Colonel Kauzlarich would make these statements.[58] According to AP analysis, there are three lower-level officers expected to be punished, and Kauzlarich may be one of the three. Tillman's mother continues to reject the Pentagon's characterization of the officers' offenses as "errors" in reporting Tillman's death, because several officers have said they made conscious decisions not to tell the Tillman family that friendly fire was suspected.[59]

Then-Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, Regimental Executive Officer at Forward Operating Base Salerno on Khost, Afghanistan, under which Tillman was serving at the time of his death, and who led the second investigation into Tillman's death, made statements about the Tillman family's search for the truth based on Tillman's atheism. In comments to ESPN, Kauzlarich said: "These people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs" and "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing and now he is no more... I do not know how an atheist thinks, I can only imagine that would be pretty tough."[56]

After reports of Tillman's anti-war views became public, Ted Rall, who had previously written a comic calling Tillman a "fool" and "idiot", said that he was wrong to have assumed Tillman to be a "right wing poster child" when Tillman regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal.[54][55]

Controversial criticisms

Arizona State University Sun Devils football team will be wearing special uniformed made by Adidas to honor Tillman and his career on October 29th, 2015 when they take on the Oregon Ducks. All proceeds from the uniforms will go to the Pat Tillman Foundation. [53]

In September 2008, Rory Fanning, a fellow Army Ranger who was stationed with Tillman in Fort Lewis, Washington, began his "Walk for Pat" – a walk across the United States in an effort to raise money and awareness for the Pat Tillman Foundation. The stated fundraising goal is $3.6 million—the value of the contract Tillman turned down when he decided to enlist in the military.

Following Tillman's death, the Ohio State Linebackers Corp consisting of A. J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel, as well as center Nick Mangold, grew their hair in tribute to Tillman, imitating Tillman's trademark locks.[52]

Two books about Tillman were published in 2009. Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, chronicles Tillman's story in Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, published by Doubleday on September 15. Meanwhile, Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, also wrote a book about her son, Boots on the Ground by Dusk, which was released in April 2008.

The skateboarding bulldog featured on YouTube and in an Apple iPhone commercial was named after Tillman.[51]

Tillman's high school, Leland High School in San Jose, renamed its football field after him. In New Almaden, an unincorporated community adjacent to San Jose, California where Tillman grew up, a memorial was constructed near the Almaden Quicksilver County Park. This memorial was dedicated in September 2007 during the annual New Almaden Day celebration.[49][50]

Forward Operating Base Tillman is close to the Pakistan border, near the village of Lwara in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.[48]

The Pacific-10 Conference renamed its annual defensive player-of-the-year award in football to the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year.[47]

In 2004, the NFL donated $250,000 to the Bagram Air Base on April 1, 2005.[46]

On Saturday, April 15, 2006, more than 10,000 participants turned out for 1st Annual Pat's Run (the annual, central fundraising event for the Pat Tillman Foundation) in Tempe, Arizona. The racers traveled along the 4.2-mile (6.8 km) course around Tempe Town Lake to the finish line, on the 42-yard line of Sun Devil Stadium in order to commemorate the number which Tillman wore as a Sun Devil and which was later retired in his honor. A second "shadow" race took place in San Jose, California, around the country at the same time as Pat's Run. Sponsored by the Pat Tillman Foundation, a total of 14,000 runners took part. In 2005, about 6,000 took part in a single race in Tempe. Since then, Pat's Run has continued to grow every year, with more than 28,000 attendees in April 2010. Various "shadow races", in locations such as Austin, Texas, take place around the country at the same time as Pat's Run.

The Cardinals retired his number 40, and Arizona State did the same for the number 42 he wore with the Sun Devils. The Cardinals have named the plaza surrounding their University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza. Later, on November 12, 2006, during a Cardinals game versus the Cowboys, a bronze statue was revealed in his honor. ASU also named the football locker room entryway to Sun Devil Stadium the "Pat Tillman Memorial Tunnel" and made a "PT-42" patch that they place on the neck of their uniforms as a permanent feature. In 2011, Pat Tillman Veteran's Center in the lower level of the Memorial Union opened on the Tempe campus.[44] Before the 2013 season, the Tillman Tunnel was renovated with graphics, signage, double doors separate the locker room from the tunnel, and television replaying Tillman's career highlights, sound system and a gate opens up to the field featuring an image of him looking as if he's leading the team out.[45]

A memorial to Tillman was created at Sun Devil Stadium, where he played football for the Sun Devils and the Cardinals.

On Sunday, September 19, 2004, all teams of the NFL wore a memorial decal on their helmets in honor of Tillman. The Arizona Cardinals continued to wear this decal throughout the 2004 season. Former Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer requested to also wear the decal for the entire season, but the NFL turned him down, saying his helmet would not be uniform with the rest of the Denver Broncos. Plummer later grew a full beard and his hair long in honor of Tillman, who had such a style in the NFL before cutting his hair and shaving his beard off to fit military uniform guidelines.

Lincoln Law School of San Jose has established the Pat Tillman Scholarship in honor of Tillman. Tillman's father earned his Juris Doctor from Lincoln in 1983.

A highway bypass around the Hoover Dam has a bridge bearing Tillman's name. Completed in October 2010, the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge spans the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona.

After his death, the Pat Tillman Foundation was established to carry forward its view of Tillman's legacy by inspiring and supporting those striving for positive change in themselves and the world.

Tillman's portrait – Faces of the Fallen gallery – Arlington National Cemetery

Memorials and tributes

The pervasive lack of recollection and absence of specific information makes it impossible for the Committee to assign responsibility for the misinformation in Specialist Tillman's and Private Lynch's cases. It is clear, however, that the Defense Department did not meet its most basic obligations in sharing accurate information with the families and with the American public.

On July 14, 2008, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a proposed report titled "Misleading Information from the Battlefield: The Tillman and Lynch Episodes".[42][43] The committee stated that its "investigation was frustrated by a near universal lack of recall" among "senior officials at the White House" and the military. It concluded:

On August 13, 2007, Sports Illustrated reported that twenty U.S. military veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan asked the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, to help secure the release of all documents relating to the death of Pat Tillman.[41]

On July 13, 2007, Congressmen Henry Waxman and Tom Davis, the leading members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, revealed that the Bush administration and the Pentagon had withheld key documents relating to Tillman's death and denied any new document release request from Congress citing executive privilege.[37][38][39][40]

On April 24, 2007, Specialist Bryan O'Neal, the last soldier to see Pat Tillman alive, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he was warned by superiors not to divulge information that a fellow soldier killed Tillman, especially to the Tillman family. Later, Pat Tillman's brother Kevin Tillman, who was also in the convoy traveling behind his brother at the time of the 2004 incident in Afghanistan but did not witness it, testified that the military tried to spin his brother's death to deflect attention from emerging failings in the Afghan war.[36]

Congressional inquiries

Despite his fame, Tillman did not want to be used for propaganda purposes. He spoke to friends about his opposition to President Bush and the Iraq war, and he had made an appointment with notable government critic Noam Chomsky for after his return from the military. The destruction of evidence linked to Tillman's death, including his personal journal, led his mother to speculate that he was murdered.[33] General Wesley Clark agreed that it was "very possible".[34][35]

  • There has never been evidence of enemy fire found on the scene, and no members of Tillman's group had been hit by enemy fire.
  • The three-star general who withheld details of Tillman's death from his parents for a number of months told investigators approximately 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.
  • Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.
  • Army doctors told the investigators that Tillman's wounds suggested murder because "the medical evidence did not match-up with the scenario as described."[32]
  • There were special forces snipers in the group immediately behind Tillman's platoon.[32]

In addition, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Associated Press, the Defense Department released 2,300 pages of documents which were reported to indicate:[30]

On July 26, 2007, Chris Matthews reported on Hardball that Tillman's death may have been a case of deliberate murder by Tillman's fellow soldiers – specifically that the bullet holes were tight and neat, suggesting a shot at close range. Matthews based his speculation on a report from the doctors who examined Tillman's body. The following day the Associated Press reported that a doctor who examined Tillman's body after his death wrote, "The medical evidence did not match up with the scenario as described",[30] also noting that the wound entrances appeared as though he had been shot with an M16 rifle from fewer than 10 yards (9.1 m) away. A possible motive was not identified. When officers and soldiers were asked during a criminal investigation, they said they were certain the shooting was accidental. According to one of his fellow soldiers, Tillman "was popular among his fellow soldiers and had no enemies."[30][31]

One investigation of the autopsy report and photographs by two forensic pathologists in November 2006 concluded that Tillman was most likely killed as a result of fire from a M249 light machine gun. The M249 uses the same ammunition as the M16 rifle and M4 carbine, but is capable of greater accuracy during higher rates of fire. This would allow a competent user to place three bullets within a several-inch target from forty or fifty yards away more easily, even from a moving vehicle.[5]

Tillman's diary was never returned to his family, and its whereabouts are not publicly known.[29]

After Kevin's testimony Pete Geren, acting secretary of the Army stated to reporters, "We as an Army failed in our duty to the Tillman family, the duty we owe to all the families of our fallen soldiers: Give them the truth, the best we know it, as fast as we can."[28]

The deception surrounding this [Tillman] case was an insult to the family: but more importantly, its primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation. We say these things with disappointment and sadness for our country. Once again, we have been used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise.[28]

Tillman's brother Kevin Tillman testified before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that:

...we emphasize that all investigators established the basic facts of CPL Tillman's death – that it was caused by friendly fire, that the occupants of one vehicle in CPL Tillman's platoon were responsible, and that circumstances on the ground caused those occupants to misidentify friendly forces as hostile. None of the investigations suggested that CPL Tillman's death was anything other than accidental. Our review, as well as the investigation recently completed by Army CID, obtained no evidence contrary to those key findings.[27]

On March 26, 2007, the Pentagon released their report on the events surrounding Tillman's death and coverup. The report reads in part:

On March 4, 2006, the U.S. Defense Department Inspector General directed the Army to open a criminal investigation of Tillman's death. The Army's Criminal Investigative Division was to determine whether Tillman's death was the result of negligent homicide.[26]

He also blamed high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public.[25]

After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation; they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.[24]

Tillman's family was not informed of the finding that he was killed by friendly fire until weeks after his memorial service, although at least some senior Army officers knew of that fact prior to the service.[22] According to Krakauer in his book Where Men Win Glory, the extensive coverup that followed Tillman's death included the military's order to Tillman's comrades to lie to his family at the funeral.[23] Tillman's parents have sharply criticized the Army's handling of the incident; Tillman's father charges that the Army "purposely interfered in the investigation" because of the effect it could have on their recruiting efforts, while Tillman's mother charges that "this lie was to cover their image."[24]

Jones reported that members of Tillman's unit burned his body armor and uniform in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that he was killed by friendly fire.[22] His notebook, in which – according to author Jon Krakauer – Tillman had recorded some of his thoughts on Afghanistan, was also burned; "a blatant violation of protocol".[23] Several soldiers were subsequently punished for their actions by being removed from the United States Army Rangers. Jones believed that Tillman should retain his medals and promotion, since, according to Jones, he intended to engage the enemy and behaved heroically.[22]

Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal approved the Silver Star citation on April 28, 2004, which gave a detailed account of Tillman's death including the phrase "in the line of devastating enemy fire", but the next day he sent a P4 confidential memo warning senior government members that Tillman might actually have been killed by friendly fire.[18] Senior commanders within the U.S. Central Command, including former Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) General John Abizaid, were notified by the P4 memo,[19] which described Tillman's "highly possible" fratricide, four days before Tillman's nationally televised memorial service during which he was lauded as a war hero for dying while engaging the enemy.[20][21]

A report described in The Washington Post on May 4, 2005, prepared at the request of Tillman's family by Brigadier General Gary M. Jones, revealed that in the days immediately following Tillman's death, Army investigators were aware that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire, shot three times in the head.[16] Jones reported that senior Army commanders, including General John Abizaid, knew of this fact within days of the shooting, but nevertheless approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion to the rank of Corporal.[17]

Tribute to Cpl Tillman at the National Infantry Museum. The plaque inaccurately says he was killed in an enemy ambush.

Surrounding Tillman's death


In addition to his military awards, Pat Tillman received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award from ESPN in 2003, as part of that year's ESPY Awards ceremony.[15]

Silver Star
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Achievement Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Army Superior Unit Award
Parachutist Badge
Ranger Tab
Combat Infantryman Badge

Awards and decorations

during their movement through the canyon road, Serial 2 [Tillman's platoon had to split up because of a broken Humvee; the parts were called Serial 1 and 2] was ambushed and became engaged in a running gun battle with enemy combatants. Serial 1 [Tillman's portion of the platoon] had just passed through the same canyon without incident and were approximately one kilometer ahead of Serial 2. Upon hearing explosions, gunfire, and sporadic radio communication from Serial 2, Serial 1 dismounted their vehicles and moved on foot, to a more advantageous position to provide overwatch and fire support for Serial 2's movement out of the ambush. Upon exiting the gorge, and despite attempts by Serial 1 to signal a "friendly position", occupants of the lead vehicle of Serial 2 opened fire on Tillman's position, where he was fatally shot.

An investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) concluded that Tillman and the Afghan militia soldier were killed by friendly fire when one allied group fired upon another in confusion after nearby gunfire was mistakenly believed to be from enemy combatants. The CID Report summary, dated March 19, 2007, stated that:

The Army Special Operations Command initially claimed that there was an exchange with hostile forces. After a lengthy investigation conducted by Brigadier General Gary M. Jones, the U.S. Department of Defense concluded that both the Afghan militia soldier's and Pat Tillman's deaths were due to friendly fire aggravated by the intensity of the firefight.

Tillman was subsequently redeployed to Afghanistan, and based at FOB Salerno.[13] On April 22, 2004, he was initially reported to have been killed by enemy combatants. An Afghan Militia Forces allied soldier was also killed in the action. Tillman's platoon leader first lieutenant David Uthlaut and his radio telephone operator (RTO), 19-year-old Jade Lane, were wounded in the incident. The Army initially claimed that Tillman and his unit were attacked in an apparent ambush on a road outside of the village of Sperah about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Khost, near the Pakistan border. It wasn't until after his burial that investigations by the Department of Defense and U.S. Congress were launched, eventually ruling his death as friendly fire.


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