According to Pvt. Bryan O'Neal, "'The canyon was very rough, there were large boulders everywhere, and the walls were at least 100 feet high on each side. I actually had to lay on top of the vehicle to be able to pull security.' The cliffs rose so precipitously that O'Neal had to lie on his back in order to scan the canyon's ledges for Taliban through the scope of his M4 carbine."
O'Neal and the other Serial One soldiers made it safely through the canyon, but drew enemy fire from across a ridge as they emerged from the canyon.
Then, from behind them, gunfire erupted inside the canyon. The Rangers in Serial One looked back to see red tracer bullets blasting out of the passage, and scrambled to position themselves to provide cover fire for their embattled fellow soldiers.
Pat Tillman was ordered up a hilltop.
"Pat was like a freight train,'' Pvt. Josey Boatwright told Krakauer. Boatwright said Tillman sprinted past him. "Whoosh. A pit bull straining against his leash. He took off toward the high ground yelling, 'O'Neal! On me! O'Neal! Stay on me!'"
"Wherever he went, I went,'' O'Neal said.
Tillman reached the crest first with O'Neal and an Afghan militia fighter Krakauer identifies as Sayed Farhad. They scrambled a few feet down the lip of the canyon behind some boulders.
But just then, two vehicles came speeding out of the canyon and stopped about 90 yards beneath the boulders. They looked up to see gunfire from across the ridge and then more coming from just above their position. The soldiers mistook Farhad, an Afghan with an AK47, for the Taliban and turned their guns on the small crop of boulders behind which Tillman and his fellow Rangers were wildly waving their arms.
Farhad was gunned down. Pinned down by friendly fire behind thigh-high boulders, Tillman and O'Neal began to wave frantically, seemingly to no avail.
O'Neal said he noticed that Tillman's voice suddenly took on a distinctly different tone -- Pat had a "cry in his call," is how O'Neal described it -- and O'Neal assumed Tillman had been hit, according to the book. Tillman, it turned out, had taken one or more shots to the chest plate of his body armor -- sharp blows that would have felt like a jackhammer hitting his sternum. Astounded that his fellow Rangers would act so recklessly, he began hollering at the top of his lungs, "What are you shooting at?! I'm Pat Tillman! I'm Pat (expletive) Tillman!"
Moments later, Tillman's voice was silenced as several rounds hit him in the face, killing him instantly.
None of the Rangers in the firefight that day conveyed the circumstances of Pat's death to his brother Kevin, though many, and eventually all of them, would learn what happened. Nor did any of the commanders on up the line to the Pentagon and the White House. Soon after his death, Tillman's Ranger superiors ordered that his clothes be burned, a clear violation of protocol, according to the book.
It wasn't until days later, when Kevin Tillman, back in the U.S. for his brother's funeral, was on the verge of finding out the truth that White House and Pentagon officials finally relented and acknowledged the strong probability of a friendly fire death.
News of their son's death hit Tillman's divorced parents hard, a relative, Alex Garwood, told Krakauer.