What really happened with Marcus Luttrell and operation red wings

Now that a movie is coming out based on the book lone survivor, I’m guessing there will be more attention brought to this issue.

I read Luttrell’s book a few years ago and liked it, but a few things stood out for me.

(I’m going to assume anyone reading this has a basic idea of the story).

When the 4 SEALs came across the civilians, there was a vote on whether to execute them. The SEAL commander’s father said that wasn’t something his son would do (hold a vote as a commander of a small SEAL team, or execute civilians). Luttrell mostly just used that situation as an opportunity to take political shots at liberals. I have no idea if there even was a vote. It seems unlikely that for one thing, a navy SEAL team would have a vote (I doubt it, being a military org) or that they would even consider the murder of civilians just to complete an operation.

Another thing was Luttrell claimed they had nothing to tie the civilians up with. That seems totally unbelievable to me. They had no zip ties, no velcro, no straps, no shoelaces, no extra fabric? That can’t be true. I’m not even in the military but I usually carry a couple things on me that could be used to tie someone up in a pinch (not that that comes up much in my life anymore).

Now in the movie (at least according to the trailer) they portray Luttrell as being opposed to killing the civilians. In the book Luttrell is very pro killing the civilians, he just votes against it because he fears a backlash in the (his words) liberal media.

Add in the fact that this site, which is supposedly based on info lifted from wikileaks:

States only 8-10 taliban fighters were there, not the 20-100 that are normally presented in the story.

I have no idea what really happened. A lot of things don’t add up.

A vote to kill civilians being treated like a serious issue
Making that decision (rather than abandoning the op after being spotted) the reason the op went bad.
The claim they had no tools to restrain civilians
The claim that there were far more enemy fighters than were later reported (again, 8-10 was the report given later)

Sorry for the bump, I just noticed this post now.

I too, am curious about what exactly happened during Operation Red Wings, and I am familiar with Ed Darack’s article in the Marine Corps Gazette. While I was reading Lone Survivor, I had several doubts as to the veracity of the specifics that Luttrell wrote about, and a lot of questions about why the SEALs did what they did. Supposedly, the AAR Luttrell filed—the one where he estimates they were ambushed by 20-30 ACM, not 200±–was released in the Bradley Manning Wikileaks document dump. The Wikileaks War Diary section does mention that some of the initially released material has since been redacted, as it dealt with various SOF operations/methods, and perhaps the AAR was one of those documents? I’ve been unable to find it, though I did findthis blurb from Wikileaks about how Operation Red Wings turned out. I’ve not been able to find out who the “1x person rescued and extracted to Bagram Air Field” was supposed to have been. Supposedly, an AH-64 noted a survivor at the crash site, and an AC-130 four hours later spotted an IR-strobe heading away from the crash site. Still a lot of unanswered questions.

You might be interested in this blog, which devotes several posts to a very critical review of Lone Survivor. My own thoughts are that Darack goes way the other direction in his critique, with a very pronounced Marine Corps bias. As the Marines, per him, felt they were unnecessarily excluded from the operation to observe/neutralize Ahmad Shah, the Seals’ performance wasn’t going to be viewed by the Marines in an favorable light. And since Darack’s main primary sources for his article and book seem to be within the USMC…

From the trailer I watched the other day, I expect a glowing, almost bombastic, picture of the very brave men who fought that day. Purported infantry personnel (on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog) who’ve screened the movie already have claimed that the firefight scenes are very realistic. If I were to see it in the theater, I’d probably think it was getting really dusty in there at times. But I wouldn’t expect a rigorously honest picture of what happened at the end of June, 2005 on the Sawtalo Sar.

The book had some horrible propaganda. the whole having a debate on whether or not to kill the civilians because the librul media will come after our ass, was just pure, un admitigated bullshit.

Add in doses of pure puppy adoration of love for Pres Bush.

The book was written to sell to ignorant born again bible thumping redneck patriots. Trying to ascertain what might have been real first person account versus the propaganda is impossible.

I saw a sneak preview of the movie a couple of weeks ago. I would not have seen it if it hadn’t been free. In fact, I went to the theater intending to use the pass to get upstairs, then see something else (yeah yeah, I know), but there was nothing starting around the same time. I don’t dislike war movies (hell, I’m seeing Apocalypse Now on Monday), I like all the actors and I like the director but I really wasn’t in the mood.

Neither the librul media nor Pres Bush are mentioned. President Obama is seen giving a speech on the TV at the base, but no one comments on the speech or him. The whole thing is pretty much apolitical.

The goat herders’ hands were tied with cable ties while the debate on what to do with them is going on. The soldiers talk about tying the herders to the trees as one of the options they consider, but never mention that they have no way to tie them to the trees. In my mind that’s what they should have done, even if they had to use their shirts or the herders’ clothes. My jaw was on the floor when they just cut the cable ties and let them go, knowing that at least one of them was a Taliban sympathizer. At the very least, keep their hands tied and tie their feet together. They’d either get loose or be discovered eventually, but keeping them tied up would have gained some extra time. After that craziness, I really, really didn’t want to be there.

I believe it was Ben Foster’s character who was the one all gung-ho about killing them. There’s no vote. Taylor Kitsch’s character just says No, we’re not going to do that, everybody says Ok, and they let them go.

There were a lot of Taliban. I don’t know how many, but a lot. I missed a big chunk of the movie because as soon as a fire fight would break out, I’d close my eyes.

I’m glad I stayed to the end, because the herders who helped Lutrell (in the movie anyway, because I have no intention of reading the book) deserved their due and it was very moving.

Note I was referring to the book and have not seen the movie.

Yes, in the book, Lutrell wrote very well about how the villagers/herders helped Lutrell and risked their lives to do so.

Thats horsepucky - you can tie people around a tree ‘holding hands’ - wrist to wrist. You can cut up clothing to make rope to tie them with. Belts. Headgear if they are wearing the ‘prophet’s sleeve’ type headgear. There are all sorts of creative ways to secure people.

Note - I have not seen the movie nor read the book, nor really heard about it until now. I seriously doubt I will even watch it when it hits cable, it is not the style of flick I like.

(shortened for clarity)

Hollyweird movies are notorious for twisting the truth, changing the story line for visual effect, combining multiple characters into single persons, adding a love interest, and outright lying. Whatever is presented in any movie is the director’s/producers’ impression squeezed by the head office and bean counters. Hollyweird doesn’t make documentaries, only “entertainment”.

Luttrell was actually there. That should count for something. There are also official reports of the action. They would be more reliable than anything Hollyweird puts out.


Yahoo! Comments called. It wants you back.

Yeah, that’s what I thought!

The dichotomy: “Do we let them go, or do we kill them?” never made sense to me when I read the book, for reasons you all have laid out. I mean, these were seemingly the first commandos to go into the field without para cord or—now—zip ties? Tie them up, gag them if need be, and follow their lost comms procedures—probably exfiltrate to their pre-determined LZ. By the time the herdsmen got loose, the Seals would be gone.

My guess, entirely unsupported by either the book, or other interviews Luttrell has given, was that they were compromised at a distance by the goatherds, too far to be able to run them down. The choice then became to kill them with their suppressed weapons or let the goatherds run away. My guess is the section of the book dealing with the debate, the vote, and the resolution to let them go, stemmed from Luttrell’s or his ghost’s dissatisfaction with the ROE, and never actually happened as described. A debate and vote, over a contingency wholly foreseeable—getting their hide compromised by locals—just doesn’t make sense.

In fact, I wouldn’t put it past the ghost to have lifted the idea wholesale from the similar scene in Bravo Two Zero.


Read the book. That’s what I did. :slight_smile:

In 2005 , there was a less favourable view of the circumstances . ORW was 2005 . They needed to rationalize , avoid political disgrace , questions no wanted to ask or hear . Ask me anything .

Hell, screw dignity and cut their own clothing into strips to do the tying with. The SEAL I lived with and those I hung out with were nothing if not creative and would have considered all options. One is generally not concerned with the modesty or embarassment level of a captive. Only consideration given to clothing is if they would freeze to death if the clothing was turned into restraints …