Retired Sgt. First Class Dillard Johnson, a veteran of the War in Iraq who has been called one of the “deadliest American soldiers,” recently completed a new book to shed light more light on what happened during his two tours, from his perspective, but now it has some questioning his battle statistics.
Earlier this week, TheBlaze interviewed Johnson about “Carnivore: A Memoir by One of the Deadliest American Soldiers of All Time,” which was published by HarperCollins and was co-authored with James Tarr, learning his purpose for writing the book, however reluctantly, and what he thought of being called among the deadliest of soldiers.
The book’s promotional materials state Johnson has “an estimated 2,500 enemy [kills in action]” and 121 sniper kills from his time in duty. The inside jacket of the book puts him at an estimated 2,600 confirmed kills.
It is these numbers that have some questioning Johnson’s claims.
Business Insider reported looking into Johnson’s records after receiving emails from other veterans:
We contacted Army headquarters and got Johnson’s records, and they check out. He definitely has four purple hearts and a silver star. Those medals are not just given out to anyone, so, that is hero-status for sure.
The biggest problem though seems to be his claim to kills, which come in at 500 more than what the official website of the unit claims to have gotten in total.
Then Johnson, following up on a Christian Science Monitor article written with some other veterans refuting some of the claims made of Johnson’s kills, said he didn’t provide such a number.
Here’s some what Christian Science Monitor’s Dan Murphy wrote of his follow-up exchange with Johnson (emphasis added):
I spoke to Mr. Johnson after this story was first published. He says his new book doesn’t claim that he killed 2,746 enemy combatants or that he has 121 sniper kills. He says while those numbers are on the book jacket, and in HarperCollins’ publicity for the book, that the claim is never made in the text of the book and that it is inaccurate. He says he is not responsible for the publisher’s writing. The 2,746 number he says is his battlefield estimate of those killed by both him and the men he was fighting with. Johnson says [that] he did kill 121 enemy combatants on his second deployment to Iraq, with M4 and M14 rifles, and that the choice of the term “sniper” was because average readers don’t understand the difference between a marksman and a sniper. He says that Mr. Spaid could not have read the book, that Spaid’s claim that dismounts were extremely rare during the invasion are inaccurate, and that Spaid wasn’t in a position to speak to what Johnson witnessed and experienced. Johnson says that while he once gave an estimate that he’d perhaps fired 7,000 depleted uranium rounds from his Bradley during the invasion of Iraq that he gave that estimate to an interviewer while wounded and at Walter Reed hospital in 2003 and that it was only an estimate. He is uncertain about how many rounds were fired. He says the story about cutting the wire is true, that it was the sort of wire you might buy at the hardware store for a dryer, and that it’s played for laughs in the book. He says that he regrets that he did not correct the Fox and Friends interviewer’s statement that he had 2,746 confirmed kills in Iraq, but that it was his first television appearance and he was a bit flustered; he says he did correct this assertion on a later airing of the O’Reilly Factor on Fox (available here) and in other media interviews. Johnson said his motivation in writing the book was so that his comrades would get more credit for what happened and so there would be less focus on him, correcting a failure in emphasis in an official US Army history of the Iraq invasion published in 2004 that he was interviewed for.
Many of these clarifications Johnson made to Murphy were also highlighted by the now 48-year-old veteran in his interview with TheBlaze earlier this week.
He told us he was only a small part of what occurred during his tours in Iraq and that he wants readers to understand “that every soldier has a story.”
“It’s not just Sgt. First Class Johnson out there by himself. Don’t forget about the other people who were there, because all of these stories are important,” Johnson told TheBlaze earlier this week. He wanted to shed light on the actions of others who were involved.
Some had also called out some of his claims “sniper” claims. Johnson too told TheBlaze that he doesn’t consider himself a sniper:
And as for sniper kills, which the book places at 121 — his longest from 821 yards — Johnson said he doesn’t consider himself a sniper. When asked why, he said because he didn’t usually shoot long distances.
“It was just done with an optic on the rifle,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained that the reason kill counts were recorded to begin with after some missions, at the direction of the commander, was to paint a better picture of the battlefield to allow soldiers to understand and be prepared for what they could face in the future.
Johnson acknowledged that many units never had the opportunity to conduct a battle assessment because they had to keep moving. For reasons such as these and because he said the deaths are attributed to the Bradley vehicle he commanded as a whole, he would not consider himself America’s deadliest soldier.
“I was a very, very, very small part of what took place there,” he said.