Jessica Lynch 2003 Chronology

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The original version of this timeline was written by Gary Dorsey, "An American tale How the media made her a star, The Baltimore Sun, November 11, 2003. It has subsequently been added to.


March 23: U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch is injured in a Humvee crash during an ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq. An Army inquiry later shows that exhaustion, a few wrong turns and faulty communications contributed to the deaths of 11 Americans and the capture of Lynch and six other soldiers.

April 3: The Washington Post reports an exclusive story about Lynch's capture and heroic rescue from an Iraqi hospital under a front-page headline: "She was Fighting to the Death." The story details Lynch's alleged gun battle with Iraqi ambushers, in which she reportedly killed several attackers and sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Defense Department officials described her rescue on April 1 as a classic Special Operations raid, with U.S. commandos in Black Hawk helicopters engaging Iraqi forces on their way in and out of the medical compound, according to the newspaper.

April 4: Lynch's father says doctors found no gunshot wounds on his daughter.

April 7: A Nexis search of major world publications over the two weeks since Lynch's capture shows 652 references to the name "Jessica Lynch." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's name shows 331 references.

May 4: The Middle East bureau chief of the Toronto Star, Mitch Potter, reported that Iraqi soldiers had left the hospital two days before the US military 'rescued' her and a subsequent attempt to return her in an ambulance had been repelled by shooting prevented by shooting from the Americans military. Potter also reported Iraqi hospital staff statements that she had been well cared for. [1]

May 8: Military officials say Lynch has no recollection of what happened between the time of her unit's ambush and when she awoke at a nearby hospital.

May 9: Potter from the Toronto Star is interviewed on CNN Newsnight by Aaaron Brown and repeats the key points of the story: that Iraqi military had left the hospital approximately 30-26 hours before the US military 'rescue' and that, from his interviews with hospital staff, she was given special treatment contrary to claims that she had been mistreated while in hospital.

May 15: The BBC airs an interview with an Iraqi doctor who says no Iraqi troops had been at the hospital during Lynch's rescue. Hospital staff say Iraqi military and civilian leaders fled before the raid occurred.

May 23: New York Times staff writer Rick Bragg is suspended for writing a story under his byline using information and observations gathered by a stringer from scenes Bragg did not witness for himself.

May 23: Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen weighs in on the emerging controversy over the newspaper's initial report of the Jessica Lynch story: "Journalism is alchemy with words. We turn nuances, lies, denials, spin and unreturned phone calls into something called The Truth. Often we succeed. When we don't, we don't want anyone to notice."

May 25: Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler, responding to reader complaints about the paper's Lynch story, writes that "If there is a different version [of the story] ... I hope somebody will write it, along with a more probing account of her rescue."

May 28: Rick Bragg resigns from The New York Times.

June 16: The Times reports on media efforts to woo Lynch for interviews and appearances, referring to her as "the get." The report says Katie Couric of NBC News sent Lynch a bundle of patriotic books, and Diane Sawyer of ABC sent her a locket.

CBS News, it says, sent Lynch a letter that included a pitch for a two-hour TV documentary, an offer from MTV for a possible news special, a music-video program or a concert in her honor with "a current star act such as Ashanti" in her hometown, and a potential book deal with Simon & Schuster. CBS News correspondent Jane Clayson, it says, sent Lynch a birthday greeting in May noting that they shared the same astrological sign.

June 17: The Washington Post runs a story of more than 5,000 words correcting its original version of Lynch's actions in the war and providing competing versions of the rescue.

June 29: Post ombudsman Getler writes in a column: "This was the single most memorable story of the war, and it had huge propaganda value. It was false, but it didn't get knocked down until it didn't matter quite so much."

July 21: Lynch is awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious combat service, the Purple Heart and the POW medal.

July 22: Lynch returns to a hero's welcome in Palestine, W. Va. Former Times reporter Bragg is spotted climbing out of a state-police car in the crowd. He tells a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he is just "hanging around," but rumors circulate that he is writing a book about Lynch.

Aug. 5: NBC announces its choice to play the lead role of Jessica Lynch in a planned TV movie: Laura Regan, star of Wes Craven's 2002 horror movie They.

Aug 7: The New York Times reports that "representatives" of Lynch are close to arranging a deal for her paid cooperation to make a TV movie about her experience as a prisoner of war.

Aug 8: The Lynch family says it has scuttled a movie deal with NBC, which is scheduled to start production in two weeks. They say they would prefer to see the story told in book form.

Aug. 17: In an interview with The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Bragg tells an interviewer: "I have got a writing life ahead of me most people would kill for." The next royalty check or advance check he receives, he says, will include a spending spree on new tires for his 1986 Ford Bronco.

Aug. 22: Lynch receives a medical discharge from the Army. The discharge, according to her lawyer, clears the way for her to pursue possible book or movie deals.

Sept. 2: Lynch agrees to a $1 million book deal with Bragg's publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. In a statement released by Knopf, Bragg says: "I feel a kinship with Jessica and her family." In another statement from Knopf, Lynch says: "It will be a story about growing up in America." Paul Bogaards, the publisher's director of publicity, says Lynch's memory is intact, and "The book will ... answer any lingering questions about her injuries."

Sept. 5: Random House Audio announces that Bragg himself will narrate Lynch's story on audio and it will be released simultaneously with the book by Knopf.

Sept. 10: Knopf publicity director Bogaard says the publisher received some e-mail from people complaining about the book deal for Lynch, but that most of the response is positive. "In a war that continues to deliver bad news," he tells Publishers Weekly, "this is a story with a happy ending."

Sept. 15: ABC's Diane Sawyer wins the first exclusive television news interview with Lynch, to be aired on Veterans Day. Bogaard tells the Associated Press, "It was like blood sport, the competition for this story."

Sept. 24: NBC's movie production gets under way in Dallas. Dan Paulson, executive producer of the film, tells Reuters News Service: "That is the magic of movies. ... We brought Iraq to Texas, and we made it work."

Oct. 1: In a soon-to-be-published book, New Yorker media critic Ken Auletta decries the "synergy" between corporate journalism and entertainment industries, using the Lynch story as an example.

Nov. 6: The New York Daily News reports that Bragg's book will reveal that Lynch was raped by her captors.

Nov. 7: Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker, who has previewed the NBC movie, calls it "odious," decries its "assiduously bland storytelling," and concludes that it "represents everything that's wrong with this genre," a subdivision of TV docudramas that he refers to as the "so-called women-in-jeopardy telefilm."

To add gravitas to the movie, he reports, NBC has announced that "the opening 40-minute sequence, which includes the ambush," will be aired without commercial interruption.

Nov. 7: The Daily News reports that ABC has released excerpts of Diane Sawyer's interview with Lynch in which the former POW "has angrily accused the Pentagon of using her for propaganda."

Nov. 7: Amazon.com sales' pre-release rank for I'm a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story by Rick Bragg: No. 9.

Nov. 10: NBC's Sunday movie Saving Jessica Lynch attracted 14.9 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings. CBS' competing docudrama, The Elizabeth Smart Story, attracts a slightly larger audience.

Nov. 11: Bragg's book on Lynch is released. Diane Sawyer interviews Lynch on ABC's Primetime. Veterans Day is observed.