“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has often mentioned being aboard a helicopter hit by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq back in 2003. Even as recently as last Friday he retold the story on “Nightly News:”
…a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG. Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armored mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army third infantry.
But that’s not how it happened, according to soldiers who were there. And in an interview today with Stars and Stripes, Williams admitted as much.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake. I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
The incident came into question when crew members of the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets told Stars and Stripes that Williams was nowhere near the helicopter that went down. Williams and his crew were on a different chopper, about an hour behind the one that was fired upon.
Williams explained further on Nightly’s Facebook page:
To Joseph, Lance, Jonathan, Pate, Michael and all those who have posted: You are absolutely right and I was wrong. In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy. I feel terrible about making this mistake, especially since I found my OWN WRITING about the incident from back in ’08, and I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp. Because I have no desire to fictionalize my experience (we all saw it happened the first time) and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened, I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize. I certainly remember the armored mech platoon, meeting Capt. Eric Nye and of course Tim Terpak. Shortly after they arrived, so did the Orange Crush sandstorm, making virtually all outdoor functions impossible. I honestly don’t remember which of the three choppers Gen. Downing and I slept in, but we spent two nights on the stowable web bench seats in one of the three birds. Later in the invasion when Gen. Downing and I reached Baghdad, I remember searching the parade grounds for Tim’s Bradley to no avail. My attempt to pay tribute to CSM Terpak was to honor his 23+ years in service to our nation, and it had been 12 years since I saw him. The ultimate irony is: In writing up the synopsis of the 2 nights and 3 days I spent with him in the desert, I managed to switch aircraft. Nobody’s trying to steal anyone’s valor. Quite the contrary: I was and remain a civilian journalist covering the stories of those who volunteered for duty. This was simply an attempt to thank Tim, our military and Veterans everywhere — those who have served while I did not.