Video: Video shows Lynch, Piestewa hospitalized

By Richard Engel Chief foreign correspondent
NBC News
updated 12/30/2003 9:09:47 PM ET 2003-12-31T02:09:47

Iraqi doctors took good care of captured Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch and labored hard but unsuccessfully to save her best friend, according to Iraqi television videotape shot during the  soldiers’ captivity in Iraq last spring.

The tape, which was never aired in Iraq but has been obtained by NBC News, provides a new look at the treatment the Iraqis gave Lynch and other members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Co. after they were ambushed March 23. Lynch and four other soldiers were rescued by U.S. special forces on April 1, but 11 of their colleagues died during and after the ambush in Nasiriyeh.

Lynch, 20, of Palestine, W.Va., appears in the videotape along with her best friend, Pfc. Lori Piestawa, 23, who died after Iraqi doctors failed to stop brain swelling as they treated her for serious injuries. The identities of Lynch and Piestawa were verified for NBC News by Spec. Shoshana Johnson, one of the soldiers who was rescued.

Officials said Iraqi television videotaped the U.S. POWs for propaganda purposes, but because the tape of the wounded prisoners did not make the Iraqis look good, the network never aired it. NBC News informed the Army that it had obtained the tape before airing it so the families of the soldiers could be told first.

‘A little peace’
Johnson, who recently retired from the Army, saw the tape for the first time Tuesday.
“It was a little shocking to see Lori, but it also gave me a little peace to know that they tried, they did their best for her,” said Johnson, 30, of El Paso, Texas. “I mean, it was obvious they tried to bandage her up and give her medical care.”

Early news reports portrayed a courageous Lynch fighting her attackers despite knife and bullet wounds. Military officials later conceded that Lynch was not shot but was instead injured after her utility vehicle crashed into another vehicle.

Lynch has resisted attempts to turn her into a hero, insisting that her weapon jammed and that she is unable to remember much about her captivity. The videotape appears to confirm her version of events.

Johnson, however, clearly remembered becoming angry when Iraqi television crews shoved a camera in her face in another room at the same hospital.

“I was a little caught off-guard. ... We know the rules of the Geneva Convention, obviously, so it catches you off-guard," she said Tuesday.

“It gets you a little angry, but I was in a lot of pain, also, so it kind of evened out,” she said.

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