Most of us will probably not remember exactly what we were doing on June 28, 2005. But for the operatives of Operation Red Wings, it was the day that they became heroes and lay down their lives in the service of their country. Only one man lived through the horror to eventually tell the story.
A lot has been written about Operation Red Wing, but to mark the five years since that fateful day, we find it fitting to remember the story behind it, to serve as a reminder of the sacrifice of those who perished.
Operation Red Wings is a counter-insurgent mission in Kunar province in Afghanistan. Four members of the U.S. Navy SEALs were sent on the mission, and their names are now famous to anyone who has followed the story: team leader Lt. Michael Murphy and petty officers Matthew Axelson, Danny Dietz and Marcus Luttrell. They were all young, not quite thirty, very skilled and dedicated.
Their mission was to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. Shah was said to be the commander of the “Mountain Tigers,” a group of insurgents.
The SEALs’ hiding place was discovered by local goat herders. Since they were unable to establish any hostility from the herders, the SEALs took a vote as to whether the Afghans should be killed or set free; they were eventually let go, a decision that Luttrell expressed later that he regretted.
A little while after they set the goat herders free the SEALs were attacked by an estimated two hundred Afghan fighters; with a ratio of four against two hundred, it was not difficult to see who prevailed in that battle.