Trevor Alders – The Man Who Killed Pat Tillman

I’m reading Jon Krakauer’s book on Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal safety who volunteered to join the U.S. military and was shot down by mistake by his fellow Rangers.

Krakauer writes that all the evidence points to Trevor Alders as the man who killed Pat Tillman.

What was his punishment? He was kicked out of the Rangers and returned to the Army.

Alders submitted a five-and-a-half page single-space letter protesting this draconian punishment. "The thrust of Alders’s letter seemed to be that the primary victim of the tragedy was not Pat Tillman…but Trevor Alders." (pg. 312)

Krakauer’s book is an angry contemptuous look at the U.S. military’s incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan and is blistering about the incompetent politicians (namely neoconservatives and the Bush administration) who sent them there.

Following Jon’s book, I started reading a completely different approach — "Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood".

This book is all about the U.S. military as a sacred force dedicated to holy goals. The protagonist is a Princeton graduate who enlists because of patriotism, very similar to Pat Tillman. Tillman, however, opposed the war in Iraq.

According to Wikipedia:

Jones reported that members of Tillman’s unit burned his body armor and uniform in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that he was killed by friendly fire.[14] Perhaps most tragically, his notebook, in which, according to author Jon Krakauer, Tillman had recorded some of his thoughts on Afghanistan, was also burned, a blatant violation of protocol.[15] Several soldiers were subsequently punished for their actions by being removed from the United States Army Rangers.[14] Jones believed that Tillman should retain his medals and promotion, since, according to Jones, he intended to engage the enemy and, in Jones’s opinion, behaved heroically.[14]

Tillman’s family was not informed of the finding that he was killed by friendly fire until weeks after his memorial service, although at least some senior Army officers knew of that fact prior to the service.[14] According to author and journalist Jon Krakauer’s book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, the extensive cover-up that followed his death included the military ordering Tillman’s comrades to lie to his family at the funeral.[15] Tillman’s parents have sharply criticized the Army’s handling of the incident; Tillman’s father charges that the Army "purposely interfered in the investigation" because of the effect it could have on their recruiting efforts, while Tillman’s mother charges that "this lie was to cover their image".[16]

His mother Mary Tillman told The Washington Post, "The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting." Tillman’s father, Patrick Tillman, Sr., was incensed by the coverup of the cause of his son’s death, which he attributed to a conscious decision by the leadership of the U.S. Army to protect the Army’s image.

After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation; they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.[16]

He also blamed high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public.[17]

Later, Tillman’s father suggested in a letter to The Washington Post that the Army hierarchy’s purported mistakes were part of a pattern of conscious misconduct:

With respect to the Army’s reference to ‘mistakes in reporting the circumstances of [my son’s] death’: those ‘mistakes’ were deliberate, calculated, ordered (repeatedly), and disgraceful — conduct well beneath the standard to which every soldier in the field is held.[18]

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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