Never Forget

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Late in the night of June 27, 2005, two MH-47Special Operations Aircraft of the Army Special Operations Command’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (SOAR(A)) approached Sawtalo Sar. As one of the aircraft performed a number of “decoy drops” to confuse any possible enemy on the ground as to the specific purpose of helicopters, the other inserted, via fastrope, a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team in a saddle between Sawtalo Sar and Gatigal Sar, a peak just to the south of Sawtalo Sar. The insert point was roughly one and one half miles from the nearest Named Area of Interest. The team members were team leader Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT- 1); Petty Officer Second Class Danny P. Dietz from SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2 (SDVT-2); Petty Officer Second Class Matthew G. Axelson from SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1); and SO1 Marcus Luttrell, of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1). On June 28, 2005 After moving to a pre-determined, covered overwatch position, from which the SEALs could observe the Named Areas of Interest, the team was discovered by local goatherders. After determining that they were civilians, and not combatants, Lieutenant Murphy had them released, as was protocol in the area of operations at the time, according to rules of engagement. Within an hour, the SEAL Reconnaissance and Surveillance team was ambushed by Shah’s militia.

The ambush was intense, came from three sides, and included PK light Machine Gun fire, AK-47 fire, RPG-7 Rocket Propelled Grenade fire, and 82mm mortar fire. The ambush team forced the SEAL team into the northeast gulch. The SEALs made a number of attempts to contact their combat operations center. The team could not establish consistent communication, however, other than for a period long enough to indicate that they were under attack. Three of the four team members were killed, and the only survivor, Marcus Luttrell, was left unconscious with a number of fractures, a broken back, numerous shrapnel wounds, and later a gunshot. He would soon regain consciousness and evade the pursuing enemy, with the help of local Pashtun villagers, who would eventually send an emissary to the nearest U.S. base to secure his safe release, and ultimately save his life.

A 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, killing all on board.

Michael Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor. Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell were awarded the Navy Cross.