(To read all of our Lone Survivor posts, please click here. The most important post is "A List of the Mistakes and Differences Between Lone Survivor (Film), Lone Survivor (Book) and Reality" so read that first if you are new to the blog or this topic.)
When we first wrote about Lone Survivor, we identified several clear mistakes:
1. The number of fighters involved (Luttrell put the number of enemies in interviews at over 100 when military documents kept it at 30-40.)
2. Ahmad Shah/”Ben Sharmak” (Luttrell claims he was a top al Qaeda commander and Osama bin Laden lieutenant when he wasn’t even in the Taliban, but allied with it.)
3. The name of the mission (Red Wing versus Redwings)
4. The fact that a vote took place. (Though we can’t prove that it didn’t, the military is not a democracy.)
In addition to those mistakes, we also took issue with the idea that Luttrell only had a choice between killing the goatherders, or letting them go free. We believe the SEALS also had the options to take the goatherders captive or evacuate after they let them go, which they chose not to do.
Later, we pointed out in “Marcus Luttrell Stands by His Mistakes” that Luttrell repeats these inaccuracies ad nauseum, in interviews, speeches before the NRA and other political groups, and campaign ads.
All the mistakes above have been corrected by Marcus Luttrell in his most recent 60 Minutes interview. (We should also mention that Peter Berg also took out the mistakes in the Lone Survivor movie.) Below, we’ve cut paragraphs from the transcript of the 60 Minutes interview, to point out where Marcus Luttrell has changed his story.
Did they take a vote?
“Luttrell told us the unit discussed what to do and were divided. In the past he’s been criticized for saying they took a vote… something that’s not supposed to happen in SEAL teams because it’s up to the team leader to make a decision.
Anderson Cooper: What did Mike finally decide to do?
Marcus Luttrell: Oh, we cut 'em loose.”
How many people attacked?
“The first guy I saw had an RPG over each shoulder and an AK-47 and then there was about 30 or 40 guys in line with him.”
Ahmad Shah, al Qaeda or Taliban?
“Their job was to locate this man whom the four SEALs had only seen in grainy photographs. He was an elusive militia leader aligned with the Taliban named Ahmad Shah.
Anderson Cooper: Who was Ahmad Shah?
Marcus Luttrell: He had a group that he ran called the Mountain Tigers. He was creating all kinds of havoc out there in that particular region that he was in, killing Marines, Army, I mean, you name it.
Kill the Goatherders?
Actually, this one isn’t from Luttrell, it’s from a retired officer in the Navy.
“Retired Vice Admiral Joe Maguire says the only options the SEALs really had were to take the goat herders captive and try to get evacuated by helicopter or let them go.”
Oh, and the name of the mission?
“They were part of a larger mission called Operation Red Wings.”
Appropriately enough, we didn’t actually buy a copy of Lone Survivor, the book, until two weeks ago. Eric C, after he saw Lone Survivor, the movie, bought a copy of the memoir to see if the ending of the film is completely made up. (Spoiler alert: it is.) And in that copy of Lone Survivor all of the mistakes remain. The inaccurate number of attackers, the al Qaeda affiliation for Ahmad Shah, and the vote.
Hell, the title still reads “Operation Redwing”.
So everyone who rushes out to buy a copy of this book will remain woefully misinformed.