Officers To Be Disciplined Over Tillman Death

Nine officers will be facing some type of discipline over errors in the reporting of Cpl. Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire, which was initially being reported as a death by enemy fire.

Nine military officers, including four generals, will face “corrective action” for making critical mistakes in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, military officials said Monday.

The NFL player was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 after giving up a professional football career to fight as an Army Ranger.

An investigation by the Army’s inspector general and Criminal Investigation Command concluded officers in Tillman’s chain of command knew almost immediately after his death that he had been killed by friendly fire from his own platoon, but that information was withheld from his family for more than a month, in violation of Army regulations.

Results of the investigation, released Monday, concluded that while there had been no attempt by officers to conceal the circumstances of Tillman’s death, inadequate initial investigations “contributed to the inaccuracies, misunderstandings and perceptions of concealment.”

The reports surrounding Pat Tillman’s death have been strange and inconsistent since the very beginning. While it doesn’t appear that there were any sinister motives by the officers involved, I admit that I can’t come up with any reasonable explanation for these circumstances.

Regardless of how he died, Tillman was by all accounts an honorable soldier and a patriot. His death was, and remains, a heroic one.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. James Joyner says:

    There is a natural tendency in the military to want to present the soldier in the best possible light to his family. If a soldier overseas is killed in a traffic accident, say, they’re not going to forward the guy’s porn collection along with his personal effects. It could well be that they wanted to over-sell the “he died a hero” angle to comfort the family.

    OTOH, it’s possible it was a CYA reflex, too. They didn’t want an investigation into a blue-on-blue incident, especially one involving such a high profile figure.

  2. legion says:

    While you’re right in that there’s an instinct not to make a soldier’s death too ‘ordinary’, that’s almost certainly not what happened in this case…

    However, after “clear evidence of fratricide” emerged on the day after Tillman’s death, his battalion and regimental commanders decided to appoint a subordinate Army captain to investigate, even though they were required to notify U.S. Central Command to convene a legal investigation into a friendly fire death, Gimble said.

    The initial investigation concluded Tillman died from friendly fire, but the regimental commander thought it had not been thorough enough and ordered a second investigation, which came to the same conclusion, Gimble said.

    Those are some commanders that need court-martialing. Unless they have damn good reasons for taking those actions, they’re all in big big trouble…

  3. jpe says:

    The motives may not have been sinister, but they sure were douchebaggy.