— Former POW Jessica Lynch, whose dramatic rescue offered Americans a glimmer of hope at one of the low points of the Iraq war, discloses in her upcoming biography that she suffered a brutal sexual assault during her captivity in Iraq.
While a medical report indicates that Lynch had been sexually assaulted, Lynch says she has no recollection of the attack. "Even just the thinking about that, that's too painful," she tells Diane Sawyer in her first interview since her nine-day captivity in Iraq.
I'm No Hero
In the interview, Lynch also clears up conflicting stories about her actions during the March 23 ambush in which Lynch was taken prisoner. Initial reports portrayed the Army supply clerk, then 19, as a hero who was wounded by Iraqi gunfire but kept firing until her ammunition ran out, shooting several Iraqis.
But Lynch confirms that was not the case. She tells Sawyer she was just a soldier in the wrong place at the wrong time, whose gun jammed during the chaos. "I'm not about to take credit for something I didn't do," she tells Sawyer in the interview, airing Tuesday, Nov. 11.
"I did not shoot, not a round, nothing," she tells Sawyer. "When we were told to lock and load, that's when my weapon jammed … I did not shoot a single round … I went down praying to my knees. And that's the last I remember."
Lynch, now 20, says she feels hurt to have received praise she says her colleagues deserved. "It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about. They did not know whether I did that or not. Only I would have been able to know that, because the other four people on my vehicle aren't here to tell that story. So I would have been the only one able to say, 'Yeah, I went down shooting.' But I didn't. I did not."
"I don't look at myself as a hero," she adds. "My heroes are Lori [Pfc. Lori Piestewa], the soldiers that are over there, the soldiers that were in that car beside me, the ones that came and rescued me." Piestewa was one of the 11 members of Lynch's unit, the 507th Maintenance, who were killed in the ambush near the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah.
Lynch, who spent nearly four months in a military hospital in Washington, D.C., after her ordeal, says she still feels like a soldier — and something else. "I'm a survivor, for all the things that I've been through," she tells Sawyer.
Lynch described the moments of the ambush as terror and confusion. "Once it started, it was just chaos," she said, adding, "You could hear them [bullets] bouncing off our vehicle. You could hear people screaming. It was scary, so scary."
She said her convoy was surrounded by Iraqi attackers: "They were coming from everywhere. We had vehicles getting stuck, vehicles running out of gas … our weapons were jamming."
Her unit was ambushed after missing a turn and becoming separated from the convoy they were traveling in. "We weren't thinking quickly. We were so tired, we were hungry … it was just a mistake," Lynch said.
In the chaos of the ambush, Lynch says, she discovered that her gun was jammed and she was unable to defend herself. She was never able to fire her weapon.
She says it may have been Piestewa who fought fiercely and went down firing. "That may have been her. But that wasn't me, and I'm not taking credit for it," Lynch said.
Lynch says she remembers Piestewa protecting her: "She was there for me … She had my back the whole time."
Fearing the Worst