EXCERPT OF CENTRAL COMMAND OPERATIONAL BRIEFING, APRIL 5, 2003
BRIEFER: MAJOR GENERAL VICTOR RENUART
MAJ. GEN. VICTOR RENUART: ...[T]he special operating forces, in coordination with conventional forces from the Marine Corps and the Air Force and the Army were able to successfully rescue [Pfc. Jessica Lynch] out of a hospital and irregular military headquarters facility that was being used by these death squads in Nasiriyah and successfully return her to U.S. hands and on to medical care and a reunion with her family...
...[A]s you know, on about the 23rd of March, her 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah. A number of the members of that maintenance company were killed, a number of captured, and a number were unaccounted for, she being one of them.
As the situation developed over time, we began to get some indications from local contacts in the community. And as we have used Special Forces to develop intelligence on the battlefield, as we do everywhere on the battlefield, we got an indication that there may be an injured U.S. military member held in this hospital, the Saddam Hospital in An Nasiriyah.
Any time we have a situation like that, we put together a planning team that investigates the intelligence and decides, is this credible, and if so, do we have the capability to respond to recover our service member?
In this case, after some detailed planning and study, it was felt that we not only had good intelligence information and had good access and had the potential for good access, but we, in fact, also felt that we had a feasible plan.
On the night of the first of April, a coalition Special Forces operation was put together that included the U.S. Army Rangers, Special Forces, and aviators from the Army, U.S. Navy SEALs, Air Force pilots, combat controllers and United States Marines.
The team was designed in a way to very rapidly get into the area of the hospital, to determine the location of Private Lynch, and then to bring her out, and at the same time exploit some areas of the hospital where we had reports of enemy headquarters, command-and-control facilities and the like.
As the night unfolded, the Marine task force was given two missions. Task Force Charlie was asked to create a diversionary tack, to focus what small elements of Iraqi irregulars there might be in the surrounding part of the town away from the hospital, in order to draw them into a fight in another part of the town.
At the same time, elements of the Marines, using helicopters, moved the recovery force rapidly into the hospital area with both ground transport and helicopter infiltration, with the principal priority being to recover Private Lynch and very rapidly move her out of the hospital area.
Upon entering the hospital, the assault force actually persuaded a local physician to lead them to Private Lynch's location, and this local physician claimed at the same time that there were potentially remnants -- I'm sorry, were remains of other U.S. military, either in the morgue or possibly buried close by.
As the team entered the hospital room, they found Private Lynch in a hospital bed. The first man approached the door and came in and called her name. She had been scared, had the sheet up over her head because she didn't know what was happening. She lowered the sheet from her head. She didn't really respond yet because I think she was probably pretty scared.
The soldier again said, "Jessica Lynch, we're the United States soldiers and we're here to protect you and take you home." She seemed to understand that. And as he walked over and took his helmet off, she looked up to him and said, "I'm an American soldier, too."
As they prepared to evacuate her, a team member made a preliminary assessment of her medical condition. The physician who had accompanied them -- this is our physician who accompanied the assault -- took the opportunity to further evaluate her condition, stabilized her for evacuation. She had injuries both to her legs, her arm, a head injury, and seemed to be in a fair amount of pain.
After she was prepared for movement and secured to the stretcher, the team members carried her down the stairwell out to the front door to the waiting helicopter. While the helicopter transported her to a nearby aircraft, who was then going to move her on to a field hospital, Jessica held up her hand and grabbed the Ranger doctor's hand, held on to it for the entire time and said, "Please don't let anybody leave me." It was clear she knew where she was and she didn't want to be left anywhere in the hands of the enemy.
After a short period of time, the hospital (sic) departed and she was moved back to the field hospital and her condition -- I'm sorry, her evaluation, her treatment was expanded.
After Private Lynch was removed from the hospital, the team continued with the rest of its mission. Searching through the hospital they found a weapons cache. They found a terrain model.
And, in fact, what this was was a planning -- it was like a sandbox model done on the floor of the basement of the hospital, and it was a model of the town of An Nasiriyah, and it had blue and red markers on there just like we would use for a war game, and depicted with relative accuracy the general positions of U.S. forces and also enemy forces in the town. So it allowed our Special Forces to gain a bit of intelligence as well from that activity.
At the same time, the team was led to a burial site, where, in fact, they did find a number of bodies that they believed could be Americans missing in action. They, in fact, did not have shovels in order to dig those graves up, so they dug them up with their hands. And they wanted to do that very rapidly so that they could race the sun and be off the site before the sun came up; a great testament to the will and desire of coalition forces to bring their own home.
After completing the excavation and ensuring there were none left behind, the force recovered all bodies and transported them back to the staging location and moved those back with the rest of the assault force. And as you know, we've since returned those bodies to the States, and we have identified nine of those sets of remains.
Eight of them, in fact, were from the 507th Maintenance Company and one from the -- a soldier from the Third Forward Support Group of the Third Infantry Division. And those next of kin now know -- have been notified and they know the status of their loved ones.
So while we grieve at the loss of those soldiers, we are pleased that we were able to make a determination of their fate and bring that back to their families.