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Navy SEALs remembered on anniversary of Operation Red Wings

Chief Petty Officer Jacques Fontan, a U.S. Navy SEAL, killed in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings. [Provided by Char Fontan Westfall/TNS]
June 28, 2023

On the 18th anniversary of Operation Red Wings, the United States continues to honor the legacy of the courageous team of Navy SEALs that fought outnumbered against a group of terrorists in Afghanistan.

In an intense and dire firefight that unfolded on June 28, 2005, in the rugged Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a devoted four-man Navy SEAL team fought a desperate battle deep in enemy territory.

The team, led by LT Michael P. Murphy, was comprised of Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell. Their mission: to scout Ahmad Shah, a notorious terrorist leading the militant group “Mountain Tigers,” who were allied with the Taliban and other militant groups.

The mission was compromised when local nationals spotted the SEAL team, presumably informing the Taliban. A fierce and lopsided battle ensued, pitting the four SEALs against a force of over 50 anti-coalition militia.

Despite being significantly outnumbered and pushed deeper into a ravine, the SEALs fought relentlessly, demonstrating tremendous courage and fortitude.

Caught amidst chaos, Dietz, a communications petty officer, was injured in an attempt to relay a distress call to the base. Risking his own life, Murphy, determined to contact headquarters, exposed himself to enemy fire to reach a location suitable for transmission.

His selfless act not only made him an easy target for the enemy but also highlighted his exceptional valor.

During the intense gunfire, Murphy managed to establish contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base, providing crucial details about their location and the enemy forces. Despite sustaining serious injuries, Murphy carried on, displaying extraordinary heroism until the very end.

As the firefight escalated, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter was dispatched for extraction, carrying an additional sixteen special forces personnel. Despite knowing the risk, the crew proceeded without their armored escort to reach the embattled SEALs faster.

The helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, tragically claiming the lives of all eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers onboard.

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On the ground, the four SEALs continued their fight. By the conclusion of the two-hour gunfight, Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson had fallen. Luttrell, severely injured, managed to evade the enemy, traversing treacherous terrain before being aided by local nationals who defied Taliban demands to surrender him. Ultimately, a rescue operation launched on July 2 successfully extricated Luttrell from enemy territory.

This tragic incident marked the worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began and the largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

Murphy’s bravery, evidenced by his determination to relay his team’s position, not only epitomizes the spirit of the Navy SEALs but also resulted in Luttrell’s rescue and the recovery of the remains of his fallen Navy SEAL comrades.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.