One Of The Worst Days In U.S. Special Ops History, One Lone Survivor And An Unlikely Hero Emerge

By  //  June 29, 2016

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19 Soldiers killed during Operation

ABOVE VIDEO: Former Navy SEAL Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell recounts the battle that took the lives of 19 of his fellow military brothers. Luttrell was the “Lone Survivor” during an operation which became informally known as Operation Red Wings. The Operation took place on June 28, 2005, nearly 11 years ago to the day. (Down Range Video)

What happened on June 28, 2005 in the Hindu Kush Mountains near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is known mostly only because of one lone survivor, Navy SEAL Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell. 

Nearly 11-years ago to the day, a four-man Navy SEAL team consisting of Lt. Michael Murphy, and petty officers Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell departed for a reconnaissance mission high in the treacherous steep rocky mountain range near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The team’s target was Ahmad Shah, a local terrorist leader with close ties to Bin Laden who led a group of insurgents referred to as the “Mountain Tigers”. Five days after insertion, Luttrell was the only SEAL to make it out alive.

Operation Redwing and the deaths of eleven Navy SEALS and eight 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is June 28th 2005.
Operation Redwing and the deaths of eleven Navy SEALS and eight 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is June 28th 2005.

After an initially successful infiltration, local goat herders stumbled upon the SEALs’ hiding place. Unable to verify any hostile intent from the herders, Murphy asked the team what should be done with them.

Axelson reportedly voted to kill the Afghans, and Dietz didn’t offer an opinion, causing Murphy to state that he would vote the same as Luttrell, who said the herders should be set free.

Shortly after the goat herders disappeared over the mountain ridge, the SEALs were confronted by a force of Afghan fighters, estimated between 50-200 strong, causing Luttrell to believe that the released herders had given away their position.

The insurgents set up a “well organized, three-sided attack”, which forced the SEALs to begin running down the slope. After 45 minutes of fighting, Dietz abandoned the cover of the forest and ran into the open intent on placing a distress call for immediate support from Bagram Air Base, but was shot in the hand.

Luttrell and Gulab are close friends to this day as the former Afghan Shepard visits Marcus frequently on his Texas Ranch. ( Image)

Murphy then moved into the open himself, after noting the team’s radio transmitters weren’t functioning properly in the mountains, and placed the emergency call for support from his cell phone. He was shot in the abdomen during the conversation.

Nevertheless, he returned to his cover after the call and continued to battle.

After two hours of fighting, only Luttrell remained alive, although he was lying unconscious behind a ridge where he had been knocked out by the blast of a rocket-propelled grenade.

Two MH-47D helicopters, four UH-60 Blackhawks and two AH-64D Longbows attempted to come to their rescue to provide extraction in the mountains of Kunar.

ABOVE VIDEO: Movie trailer for the blockbuster hit movie ‘Lone Survivor.’

One of the MH-47 helicopters, carrying eight Navy SEALs and eight 160th Nightstalkers, was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade shot through the open rear ramp, causing the pilot to lose control of the craft. It hit a mountain ledge, and then fell to the bottom of a ravine, killing all sixteen on board.

Shah, the original target of the SEAL team, later gave an interview where he claimed that his forces had set a trap for the American forces,

“We certainly know that when the American army comes under pressure and they get hit, they will try to help their friends. It is the law of the battlefield.“

The only survivor of the attack, Luttrell tried to hide himself as he waited for rescue from the search helicopters flying overhead.

Driven by thirst, shot in the leg and with three cracked vertebrae, he traversed seven miles over the remainder of the day. He remained unnoticed until, falling from a ledge where he was discovered by an Afghan shepherd named Gulab.

(US Military Image)
(US Military Image)

Gulab summoned his companions to help carry the wounded Luttrell to the village of Sabray-Minah. The villagers took care of Luttrell, providing food and medical attention, and protecting him from the Taliban that came to the village demanding that he be turned over to them.

Meanwhile, nearly two days after the initial confrontation, the military had 300 men searching for the team, and had located the downed helicopter and verified that all 16 aboard had been killed.

Despite multiple attempts, the search helicopters were unable to locate the wounded Navy SEAL. On July 2, the village elder, armed with a note from Luttrell, went down to seek help from Camp Blessing, a Marine outpost several miles away, and approached First Lieutenant Matt Bartels with his information.

With this news, the U.S. forces drew up extraction plans which according to Lt. Col. Steve Butow were “one of the largest combat search-and-rescue operations since Vietnam”.

As the rescue teams closed in upon the village they ran into Luttrell and some of the villagers who were moving him from one hiding place to another.

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Luttrell with Patrick Robinson wrote a book about the events titled, Lone Survivor. In 2013 the book hit the big screen. Directed by Peter Berg, the movie starred Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell.

Remember those who fought bravely for our freedoms, the grave sacrifices made by the heroes of that day, and for the families, friends and comrades whose lives were forever changed by the valor of these men.

LT Michael P. Murphy
SO2 Matthew Axelson
SO2 Danny Dietz
SOC Jacques J. Fontan
SOCS Daniel R. Healy
LCDR Erik S. Kristensen
SO1 Jeffery A. Lucas
LT Michael M. McGreevy, Jr.
SO2 James E. Suh
SO1 Jeffrey S. Taylor
SO2 Shane E. Patton
SSG Shamus O. Goare
CWO3 Corey J. Goodnature
SGT Kip A. Jacoby
SFC Marcus V. Muralles
MSG James W. Ponder III
MAJ Stephen C. Reich
SFC Michael L. Russell
CWO4 Chris J. Scherkenbach