It became known as the "Wrong Way Convoy," a hapless group of American mechanics, clerks and computer technicians who were waylaid in an unexpected firefight early in the war with Iraq. Eleven soldiers would die while others — including Pfc. Jessica Lynch — would be taken captive. One question persists: who was responsible for the mix up?
• Read the Army's executive summary of what happened to the 507th Maintenance Company.
A still-classified Army report has concluded that at a checkpoint, vehicles from the 507th Maintenance Ordnance Company were accidentally sent in the wrong direction — and straight into a harrowing ambush.
It was March 23, the fifth day of fighting, and before the sun set, it would go down as the deadliest day for U.S. forces during the war. Lynch, the 19-year-old supply clerk from Palestine, W.Va., would end up being taken captive — not after a gun battle as early reports suggested, but after a devastating Humvee accident as the driver tried to get away from Iraqi fire.
"When I look back on that day, I can see the trouble we were headed for from miles away. Minute by minute, hour by hour, it was obvious it would end that way," one soldier who was part of the convoy told ABCNEWS.
Heading Into Iraq
Sometime after midnight on Friday, March 21, a convoy of vehicles of the 507th set off into Iraq in support of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. It was a dark night, on the cusp of the last quarter of the moon's monthly phase. The 507th was part of an almost inconceivably long convoy that included thousands of military vehicles that snaked across the border and followed Iraq's Route 1 northwest from Kuwait. The route passed south of the city of Nasiriyah and then turned almost 90 degrees north, skirting the western suburbs of town.
There was a late-night briefing at Camp Virginia in Kuwait, the 507th's temporary headquarters, just before departure. The soldiers were told that they would be heading into Iraq and instructed to maintain a tactical interval between vehicles — usually 1½ lengths — in case of trouble.
The lead vehicle was a Humvee carrying the company commander, Capt. Troy Kent King. It was equipped with a "Plugger," the Army's precision lightweight global positioning receiver, and a "SINGARS" radio, a standard single-channel, jam-resistant, VHF radio. Other vehicles, those with ranking enlisted men, also carried VHF radios and GPS devices.
Every soldier was armed with at least an M-16 assault rifle. At least four soldiers were equipped with "SAWs," or squad automatic weapons — the M249 5.56mm light machine gun. One 5-ton truck in the string was topped with a belt-fed .50-caliber machine gun on a ring mount that enabled the gunner, Cpl. Damien Luten, to swivel from side to side around a 180-degree arc.
When they departed, the 507th convoy numbered at least two tow trucks, three Humvees and 11 5-ton trucks — including "bobtailed" tractors that hauled 40-foot-long "M870" trailers hitched to a swivel. There were 31 soldiers, together capable of living up to the unit's motto, "Just fix it."
The soldiers included a compendium of "Military Occupational Specialty" designation codes. There were diesel mechanics (63-Bravo), heavy equipment mechanics (63-Whiskey), a computer technician (35-Juliet), supply clerks, (92-Alpha) cooks (92-Golf) and supply sergeants who ran a the company warehouse and supply room (92-Yankee).