When POW Jessica Lynch heard helicopters and gunfire from her hospital bed on the night of April 1, her first reaction wasn't happiness — but fear.
She could hear soldiers asking where, "'Where's P-F-C Jessica Lynch?'" But she couldn't tell if they were U.S. or Iraqi soldiers.
"I thought, 'Oh, you know, here it comes, they're about to kill me. It's, you know, about to happen,' " Lynch told Diane Sawyer in her first interview since her nine-day captivity in Iraq.
Lynch's dramatic rescue would be touted as one of America's most heroic episodes in the Iraq war, but Lynch says she was actually expecting the worst until she actually saw the soldiers.
"The guys come in and I was, like, OK, they don't look Iraqi," she told Sawyer. "And I actually had to, you know, see that it said U.S. Army on their uniforms."
One soldier, Lynch said, ripped an American flag off his suit and handed it to her. "I would not let go of his hand. I clenched to his hand because I was not going to let him leave me here. He was going to take me out."
Clarifications and Disclosures
In the interview, Lynch also discloses some of the details recounted in her upcoming book — including a sexual assault she suffered during her captivity in Iraq.
A medical report indicates the private was sexually assaulted at the hospital, but Lynch says she has no recollection of the attack. "Even just the thinking about that, that's too painful," she said.
She also clears up conflicting stories about her actions during the March 23 ambush in which she 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 told Sawyer in the interview airing tonight.
"I did not shoot, not a round, nothing," she said. "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 added. "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.
A Soldier, But Not a Hero
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 told Sawyer.