The Pentagon announced this morning that eight of the bodies retrieved by Special Operations troops when they rescued Pfc. Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital earlier this week were her comrades in the 507th Maintenance Company ambushed two weeks ago.
Members of the unit had made a wrong turn and were unexpectedly caught in a gunfight with Iraqi troops near Nasiriyah on March 23. Lynch, 19, was taken prisoner and others in her unit were listed as missing.
When Navy SEALS and Army Rangers swooped into a hospital Tuesday to rescue her, they also found 11 bodies, nine of them believed to be Americans, and took them with them. Since then, forensic experts at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware have been examining the remains to identify them.
Today's statement changed the status on eight missing soldiers from missing in action to killed in action. They include the war's first combat death of a female soldier, Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, of Tuba City, Ariz. The ninth body was not identified. [A list of names of the dead appears on Page A30.]
The Pentagon statement did not offer any details on the soldiers' deaths nor did it say whether the soldiers had been killed in the ambush or later.
Five other soldiers from the 507th were taken prisoner and have been shown on Iraqi television.
The bodies were a grim find in an otherwise morale-boosting raid that rescued Lynch on Tuesday.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that the family of the supply clerk spoke with doctors who had treated her at a hospital in Germany, and said she did suffer gunshot wounds.
Reports in the media, from The Washington Post and elsewhere, that Lynch suffered two entry and exit wounds were contradicted by the commander of the hospital, Col. David Rubenstein, who had said she was not shot or stabbed.
The wounds were found during treatment of her left leg and right arm for fractures and were "consistent with low-velocity, small-caliber rounds," such as a small rifle or handgun, Dan Little, Lynch's cousin, told the AP.
He said evidence of shrapnel was discovered next to bones, but he didn't know where on the arm or leg. Little said he didn't get into specifics with the doctors.
"We just talked straight with the doctor. We were concerned about her well-being," he said.
The family received permission from doctors to see Lynch and plans to fly today from Charleston, W. Va., to Germany. Lynch was receiving treatment yesterday at the military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
She had a back operation Thursday and surgery for other broken bones yesterday. She suffered a head wound and fractures in her right arm, both legs, her right foot and ankle, and an injury to her spine.
Rods and pins were placed in her arm and broken legs, and she underwent a CAT scan "to make sure everything was intact after they took care of the fractures," Little said.
In addition, "she had a little infection because of the open wound and the environment she was in," Little said.