Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Last of the Missing Recon Team

Froggy Ruminations has a postmortem of the mission in which a SEAL team ran into superior numbers near Asadabad, Afghanistan. A helicopter carrying a quick reaction force was subsequently lost in an attempt to extract them. Froggy Ruminations believes it was fundamentally due to bad luck that the team was discovered.(Hat tip Peg for discovering a mistake in the earlier version of this post).

I have received an unofficial “debrief” account of what happened on the SR mission and the subsequent actions of the QRF that went in to save them. I am not going to go into that here in an open forum, but I do want to address the broader issues of the operation. ... My understanding of how they were compromised amounts to basically a freak occurrence.

As to the issue of whether the commander of the quick reaction force misjudged the dangers of attempting a rescue, he argues that although the SEAL commander knew the odds, he nevertheless did everything possible to extract his men and led the mission himself.

Chances are good that the TF Commander had some kind of UAV surveillance in the area, and he therefore knew essentially how grave the SR team’s situation really was. Since LCDR Kristensen was on the bird that crashed, it is clear that the SEAL leadership element at the TF had no qualms about going in to get the SR team. Since the Nightstalkers flew the mission, it is clear that their leadership element was willing to take the risk of a daytime insertion in order to rescue their SEAL brothers. And since the QRF did in fact launch, it is clear that the TF Commander decided in his experience that he had to make the attempt to get his men out of there. The fact that people died as a result of those decisions does not make them incorrect. Soldiers and Sailors die in war, that’s just the way it is.


Blogger EddieP said...

All things considered in hindsight, would the commander attempt the QRF again? I suspect he would have and that makes me very proud of these magnificent men.

8/24/2005 06:08:00 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

This is why it is so important for people to understand the mission, and at least some of the planning that goes into each mission. There is always an element of chance in every mission, things can go wrong.

If the public is merely deluged with coalition casualty figures without an understanding of the mission and the other things happening, and reminded a million times how casualties "continue mounting," they merely grow more ignorant and more confirmed in their pessimism about the resistance to arab/muslim global terrorism.

You are performing a great service, Wretchard. You and all the strategy blogs, Iraqi blogs, and military blogs. The only cure for all the apathetic pessimism the public is drowning in, is the application of the knowledge of what is actually happening.

8/24/2005 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Boston said...

That so many will risk everything to rescue so few says more about the morale, courage and professionalsim of the US Military than one million column inches of their disparagement in the NYT ever can.


8/24/2005 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

I do wonder if at times the military goes too far with rescue missions like this, when the potential for additional casualties outweighs the potential lives that will be saved. I have no idea whether or not that is the case in this instance; that is just a thought.

8/24/2005 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

These were proud and professional warriors, and freedom-loving people the world over owe them honor. They make us proud.

Hindsight sometimes is only blindsight.

8/24/2005 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger Peg C. said...

Wretchard, Matt at FroggyRuminations actually wrote his post before this past weekend's reunion (I am a loyal reader of his).

To 49erdweet: I think you've identified the problem. "Proud and professional warrior" is without doubt an utterly foreign concept to today's MSM and for that matter to all the Left and much of the Democratic Party.

That's why I read milbloggers and not the MSM.

8/24/2005 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger anybudee said...

"Soldiers and Sailors die in war.."

Oh. Are we at war? There seems to be some indecision, some ambivilence about this. I mean, it LOOKS like we are at war. It SOUNDS like we are at war. There are people DYING like we are at war. But are YOU acting like this country is at war?

Maybe it's the term 'war'. When people look at, say, the "war on drugs", they get the idea that that is the way war is done. Halfhearted. Unclear. Conflicted. With a large percentage of the population actually working for the other side. And those caught in the middle die.

We shouldn't be surprised. With the exception of Desert Storm, that's the way we've done war in this country. Since after WWII.

If we're going to ask soldiers to die for something we think is important enough to ask them to die for, then our political leadership (and I mean ALL of them) needs to a better job of deciding, declaring, informing, marketing and asking for sacrifice of WE THE PEOPLE.

Or don't do it at all.

8/24/2005 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

In the Viet Nam war, there were two militaries fighting for the US allies: the volunteer military and the draftee military. The volunteer military fought bravely with courage and dedication, just as the coalition troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are doing. These hard core troops from several countries suffered many such setbacks in Viet Nam, with heavy losses. It only made them more determined, more deadly. They put a lot more enemy into the ground than what they themselves lost.

The same ratcheting up of determination and deadliness is no doubt happening in Iraq and Afghanistan now.

Comparing the courage of coalition troops with the utter cowardice of the news media "journalists," one is almost forced to ask whether the two groups belong to the same species.

Cowards of the media. Stay in your bars and drink up, cowards. The real world would never miss you if you did nothing else.

8/24/2005 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Tlear said...

Sending recon team deep into enemy territory is a huge risk that can net a large payoff, problem is that when such team is compromised chances of getting them out alive are slim. Unless the team can get away by themselves.

Bravo two zero is a good example, caught on foot and without radio to call help even dedicated and extremely proffesional soldiers are doomed. In contrast other SAS teams that used jeeps for desert mobility survived multiple contacts due to firepower and ability to evade using vehicles.

In the mountains, you only have your feet chopper are sluggish in the thin air. Bad place to be. Assigning blame will not do much good I think. If anything can be learned is that Special forces need specially deisgned helos for mountain operations (not sure if such things exist).

8/24/2005 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

The nature of special operations is that they fight an unconventional war. A war not declared. A war that is not really war with set piece armies but specialists who understand the mission of Special reconnaissance It is because of this that their were already Special Forces in Afghanistan, working with the Northern Lords, to put their eyes on the terrain and their minds in their allies minds when the planes hit the towers.

“Special Reconnaissance (SR). These are reconnaissance and surveillance actions conducted as a special operation in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to collect or verify information of strategic or operational significance, employing military capabilities not normally found in conventional forces. These actions provide an additive capability for commanders and supplement other conventional reconnaissance and surveillance actions. Even with today's sophisticated long-range sensors and overhead platforms, some information can be obtained only by visual observation or other collection methods in the target area. SOF's highly developed capabilities of gaining access to denied and hostile areas, worldwide communications, and specialized aircraft and sensors enable SR against targets inaccessible to other forces or assets.”

It is a war with risks they understand and are willing to face.

8/24/2005 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

OT From central issue of the honor and magnificence of the brothers in arms, but why were the locals able to shelter, aid, and comfort the survivor and still survive themselves?

8/24/2005 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

why and how

8/24/2005 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

The terrain was definately pretty steep.

In hindsight, the only comment I heard that makes sense, and had the terrain allowed it, the CDR should have landed his bird directly on the SR team, sacrificing the Helo to gain tactical advantage. The firepower (and the diversion of the bird on the ground ) then at his disposal could have turned the battle.

But you can never second guess the commander on the ground unless you have walked through the events and had his appreciation of the situation.

8/24/2005 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger anybudee said...

I can see that, -mouse.

The 'they' you are speaking of are those I said were in the middle - our sword edge. Their objectives are obedience and honor.

My problem is with the hand that wields it. Like you said, "a war that is not really a war.." But there are set piece divisions in Iraq. (please read this correctly, I'm actually a supporter, but one that critiques) But I don't know if they're doing what they volunteered to do. That's the other edge of this problem.

I detest Clausewitz' meme 'war is the furtherance of policy by other means', -which trivializes the lives and sacrifices of those who protect us. I'm not just talking semantics. There needs to be a sea change in the way we go about war. I thought we turned a corner with Desert Storm. I guess we backslid.

8/24/2005 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

anybudee -

Our soldiers do not always hold their civilian leadership in the highest regard - Bill Clinton was not a popular commander in chief with the troops. Still, they follow orders - whether they agree with them or even like them or not - and do their best to accomplish the assigned mission.

The "sword" as you put it, must be obedient to the hand that wields it regardless of the circumstances. Anything different from that would reduce us to any of the third world banana republics we see know where the military interferes with the government or takes it over for themselves.

8/24/2005 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

But sometimes the old adage is true: you don't throw troops into a losing fight. It's like a bad group position in go/weiqi. Forget about the doomed pieces and find an advantage somewhere else. Tossing more stones to try to salvage the position only gets more stones killed.

A callous attitude, yes, but often the correct decision is also the hardest one.

8/24/2005 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The man on scene disagreed, put his life on the line, and paid.

I have no doubt you have had your moments when no danger was an obstacle to your belief.

8/24/2005 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

...and your love.

8/24/2005 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Is this a weakness? I could be considered as one from a certain point of view. We know that UBL trained the Somalis to shoot down helos in Mogadishu so that he could kill Americans converging on the crash site. While 18 US soldiers died in that battle, I have never considered it a failure, but rather a badge of honor that so many would give so much to save so few. As an American fighting man I am expected to perform at a level above all soldiers in the world, in exchange for that I expect that my comrades and government will back me up when I am at my point of need. That is just the way it works.

It is sad that so many outstanding men died on that day to save one exceptional man’s life, but as the Admiral said at the Memorial in Hawaii, “If no one had been rescued, the effort would have been worth it.” He is right."

8/24/2005 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

True enough. It's also a very fine line for commanders to walk, especially the higher up the command chain they are. The freedom to take action on the spot and to place oneself's butt on the line is a luxury not every commander has.

The officer on the spot felt it was worth it. He was willing to put his own life at risk. And yet, if it was a desk jockey behind the lines who gave the order, I think it would, should have been understood too.

8/24/2005 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger david bennett said...

It is a basis of the US military that we will fight to get our people out. Tragedies in specific cases do not disprove the value of this tactic. It increases the morale and the things people will dare accomplish.

The negative effect of our high valuation of troops is that in guerilla war it often means heavy use of heavy weapons that kill many civilians.

In a guerilla war the ideal dispersion is many small units. With regular troops this involves things like "checkerboard" patterns, multiple ambushes and other techniques to cover lots of territory and directly interact with the terrain and people.

Within this context forcing troops into heavily armored vehicles and making them very suspicious of the people is a victory for the insurgency.

In the "empty" areas, elite troops going in on small patrols, spotting activity and often bringing down air power or even directly engaging is a necessity. Guerillas simply get out of the way of large units. The issue is probably whether or not we are doing enough of this. The method is very erffective, in Vietnam a number of divisions were devoted to blocking green beret/ montegnard patrols.

There seems to be some debate about whether a 4 man swim team was the proper size for such a mission. There are arguments that it should have been slightly larger to increase survivability.

We shall probably have to wait some years before we get a good view of how effectively special operations have been carried out.

There are some caveats about such forcers. One is that they drain many of the best non coms from the regular infantry, another is that they create an independant command somewhat outside of regular channels. For good reasons and bad this has caused a traditional dislike in the regular military as did certain questionable operations with the CIA in SE Asia and elsewhere. There are reports of regular army nits getting information on key suspects, but because of the current bureaucracy of responsibilities these individuals having a chance to get away because these tasks were deemed too important and special units were assigned to them, bu the time they were ready the suspects were gone.

This claims must be taken with a grain of salt just as claims by individual close to the Seals (Newsweek carried some of them) complained that the army (special forces/ delta) had been dominating the "secret" warfare and that Seals got few missions, were feeling second class and were leaving the sevice for more lucrative calilins in unacceptable numbers.

The use of these troops can not be separated from various aspects of military politics.

8/24/2005 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"I do wonder if at times the military goes too far with rescue missions like this, when the potential for additional casualties outweighs the potential lives that will be saved. I have no idea whether or not that is the case in this instance; that is just a thought."

I've thought so too occasionally, but everyone is so proud of it that it is a very hard thing to question. Been thinking about it ever since I read we used to station entire sections of subs to rescue individual airmen in the Pacific.

Yes, I'm aware of that Japanese quote about "I knew why we'd we lose the war when I saw they'd save one person..." concerning G. Bush I, but I'm still not convinced, even considering morale boosts.

8/24/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Cutler said...

The Saving Private Ryan debate, I suppose. A squad for one?

8/24/2005 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Good representation of inter-service bickering. It just shows that nobody wants to devote a decade or more of their life and not get a chance to have their number called. I agree that the SEALs may not be the ideal operations specialist for mountainous SR missions, but between sea, air, and land, it is only the sea that is not applicable here. Special Forces does their fair share of littoral and riverine ingress/egress training so there will always be areas of overlap. I am not sure what kind of operations that were called for in this situation, but it is more than likely that the SEALs were up to the job.

Many layers of defense or offense, as the case may be, may cause some friction here and there, but the uncertainty keeps our adversaries at bay all the more.

“No man left behind.” Kind of inspires confidence doesn’t it?

8/24/2005 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

The whole point of these discussions is to second-guess; there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

In the early years of Vietnam, the military went to incredible lengths to rescue personnel who were down behind enemy lines. And in many cases, that resulted in significant additional loss of life and equipment. They then went to a policy of only going in for rescues when the personnel were able to get to a location that was relatively safe. That resulted in a huge drop in the losses associated with the rescue attempts. As someone else noted, that is tough decision that needs to be made by the commander; at times I think that emotion gets too involved, and the "recover the people at all costs" mentality takes charge. As I posted earlier, I don't know if that was the case here, but it looks like it might have been. Historically, as an example, we could have thrown away the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Wake Island, but the correct decision was made to let the Japanese capture it, and conserve our forces for the future.

I know that in the squadrons I was in (FYI, I did not see any combat, so I don't have personal experience with this) we would discuss this occasionally, and it was always unanimous that we would not want someone else taking huge risks to rescue us if we were shot down.

8/24/2005 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Exhelo: As far as going "too far" the Son Tay raid was pretty much the same thing, wasn't it? It did have better and longer term planning, but it was even more daring.
If you "do the math" on how much good SAR efforts do us in wartime - in terms of pilots recovered that return to duty - you probably would get rid of all of the choppers and just take your losses. After all, that is pretty much what we did in WWII, except for limited cases in the Pacific and a small anount in the CBI.
But the morale value of the "Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service" as it was once known is incredible. And it says a great deal about us as a people.
One more interesting thing: The local USAF rescue squadron has pointed out that no one cares any more if it is a USAF SAR mission or if some Army or Navy Special Ops guys bit off more than they can chew. They go in and get them.
Conclusion: The war stopped the B.S., or at least cut it down. In Vietnam the B.S. was still pretty much around.

8/24/2005 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

No one, including myself, has suggested never rescuing anybody. There is also an implied fallacy by some of the posters here, not necessarily you, that we have always tried to rescue everybody. That is clearly not the case, as I pointed out. Each instance has to be looked at dispassionately, and a commanding officer needs to be able to do that. In some cases, I don't think that happens. As far as your point re SAR efforts in wartime, you are partially correct. If you eliminate the 10-20% of most dangerous attempts, you eliminate probably 95% of the casualties associated with the rescues.

8/24/2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Abakan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/24/2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

When we discussed this shootdown, I think there was agreement around the fact that it was a golden b-b shot that got this chopper. Somebody up on a hill shot an RPG down on the aircraft, probably as it was slowing in approach, seems most likely.

The commander and his troops knew they were flying into a fire fight, running towards the sound of the guns, but I don't think he necessarily knew he was flying into any kind of anti-air defenses beyond small arms. An RPG shooting downwards is not exactly ack-ack or Stinger material.

Of course, that takes nothing away from the heroism of these selfless warriors.

8/24/2005 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

The question is whether or not they should have flown in, given that terrain, the limitations that high altitude and canyon flying puts on helicopters, and the knowledge that the SEAL team had met a significant force (at least relative to their size.) Did they have current surveillance of that area, and knowledge of the current threat level there? You are correct that an RPG is not a "major" weapon, but a helo trying to land in that environment is, for a few seconds to a minute or so, a sitting duck, there were plenty of sites where an RPG could be fired from. And that combination does make the RPG, for a short period, a very effective weapon against the helo.

8/24/2005 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Like Exhelodrvr, I thought about this in the military. Being in the Navy, we had a different ethos than elite ground forces. Instead of "leave no man behind, regardless of cost" we had an ethos that men should and would be sacrificed to save the ship and the entire crew. Subs would shut the door on a flooding compartment with men inside rather than take the whole sub down, surface ships of high value would not stop and attempt rescue of a torpedo'd ship's crew if an undetected sub threat was still in the vicinity, and air rescue was done with limitations after losing too many people in WWII and Vietnam that ventured into a mass casualty-inflicting firestorm from seeking to rescue downed aviators against too steep enemy odds.

It should be a matter for Commanders and troops to work out in their unit what cut off points exist. Risking losing 20 to save one might be too high, but risking 3? Can the troops reliably estimate odds, or are they so caught up in the "leave no man behind" credo and the fear of being called cowards by those that take the credo as an absolute that they will irrationally not just risk, but cause 7-15 deaths on not just a rescue op, but corpse retrieval missions, as happened in Vietnam, Somalia, and Tora Bora?

The President and the Congress have voices too in this issue on mission completion criteria and costs.

We sometimes excuse waste of lives under the rubric "bravery". A commander who sends 5 eager volunteers to their death to rescue a fatally wounded man in full view of an expert sniper can call the 6 deaths "heroic" but realistically, it is not prudent. We can call the firefighters that refused superior's orders to evacuate WTC #1 noble and brave because they refused to abandon victims they had no hope of reaching - but in their case it was a good illustration of how a culture that emphasizes bravery over results is a flawed culture.

While the SEALs and the Army Nightstalkers can remain justly proud of the valor of the 16 lost to save 2-3 recon troops still surviving the enemy assault, we expect that incidents like that will make them think long and hard about tactics. The troops in Afghanistan know to a person that the enemy has RPGs out the Yin-Yang and slow moving, low to the ground helos deep in mountainous territory swarming with enemy troops in broad daylight are not "exposed to a one-in-a-thousand lucky shot" but considerable odds of loosing all aboard. The claim that the helo downing was just an incredibly lucky shot, is like claiming the 2 helos downed in Somalia within 1/2 hour of one another were both by "unlikely, lucky shots".

I would not be surprised if once the enemy forces realized they had put a small American force in a trap that they did not assign men with machine guns and RPGs to solely be assigned to awaiting any American rescue helos entering their kill zone. Other options exist - land in a safe area and move in to divert enemy forces while gunships fly in - suppressing fire to get recon troops to a safe egress point, etc.

The American Navy learned their lesson from the Royal Navy. One day in 1940, a Brit cruiser was torpedo'd by a Nazi sub in frigid waters. A 2nd cruiser bravely went in to rescue - and - making a perfect target, that cruiser was a given a torpedo broadside and sunk. Then a 3rd cruiser, determined as well to leave no sailor behind - raced to the rescue and also took 3 torpedos from the same sub while stopped and a sitting duck.

The Admiralty then issued orders that any captain in the future that hazarded his vessel and crew on foolhardy rescues of Royal navy or Merchant ships, failing to meet certain criteria so would be relieved of command, court-martialed at an Admiral's Mast, and likely jailed.

8/24/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


I highly value your comments on flying helicopters. You enhance the Belmont Club, at least for this Walter Mitty.

Given the RPG is dangerous, I was just resisting a tide I must have imagined in this thread ... where the commander was flying into Dien Bin Phu all over again ... on purpose.

This heavily armed team expected to be able to turn back the attackers. Once on the ground, with air support on the way, this team would kill way beyond their numbers. That's how they were thinking.

It wasn't just a rescue mission at that point, it was a battle. Sadly, through a single RPG stroke of bad luck, it turned out like the Little Big Horn for this platoon.

I know we followed this disaster up with a liberal dose of Mk.82's, but I doubt we took 1,000 bad guys like that team did in Mogadishu.

It was a terrible tragedy. We are at war, and sadly tragedies accrue in war. Peace is on the other side of this war against our implacable enemies. Going slow and considerate only makes it last longer.


8/24/2005 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Tony sez-

I think there was agreement around the fact that it was a golden b-b shot that got this chopper.

If that was only true. Even on the sites that the SEALs have, the real special ops posters seem to have a tendency to emphasize the value of bravery and dismiss risk as a secondary matter and claim that this was "another well=planned, low-risk rescue that killed the whole rescue team only because of a lucky one in a thousand or one in a million shot".

The "Hero Mujahadeen Freedom Fighters" of the 80's in Afghanistan were trained how to use time and special proximity fused RPGs by Pakistani and CIA forces to bring down Soviet troop transport helos. RPGs are nowhere near as effective as the MANPADs we gave the radical Islamists, but good enough to down dozens of Soviet helos.

As I mentioned in my other post, hitting a slow moving low flying helo in broad daylight with RPG rounds is no "one in a million shot" as 2 bagged in 30 minutes in Somalia proved. Sitting ducks.

It is an issue that must be faced by officers an non-coms who must be held responsible about how they command and manage troops who are sometimes so caught up in the emotionalism of honor and credo and code so much that it becomes a detriment to minimizing casulaties and mission completion.

8/24/2005 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Cedarford, w/ all due respect "special proximity fused RPGs" is bullshit, in the context of this shootdown.

You would be arguing that this valley has seen so much activity that Haji can gauge the likely flight path of our manuevering SpecOps helos, to the point where they can dial in an airburst on an RPG? C'mon.

And in such an imaginary valley, we'd send in and lose such an advanced small crew as this one?


8/24/2005 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Somebody(exhelodrivr )referenced backing off sending in rescues unless teams could get to lz's in Viet Nam.I don't know how true that is except maybe for SOG teams in Laos and Cambodia.I was a straight leg infantryman not a lrrp so my experience is limited .We always got extracted from company size operations.The first firefight I was in,we entered a hot lz ,had a fierce little contact,but they came back and got us at the cost of one KIA pilot on the way out.
All the literature I've read showed the great bulk of helocopter pilots constantly put their lives on the line to bring home the guys on the ground.
In Operation Lam Son,the ARVN foray into Laos in 1971,the 101st Aviation guys lost half their ships and crews trying to rescue the battered ARVNs.
Stoically they just kept mounting up and going in.
I can't imagine what kind of men would run the ridges of the HinduKush in 4 men teams.I think guys like that are worth going after because they're so rare.

8/24/2005 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Tony - You would be arguing that this valley has seen so much activity that Haji can gauge the likely flight path of our manuevering SpecOps helos, to the point where they can dial in an airburst on an RPG? C'mon. And in such an imaginary valley, we'd send in and lose such an advanced small crew as this one?

Oh, no Tony! They must have forgotten all they learned about shooting down low level, limp along Soviet troop transports entering hot zones in broad daylight with RPGs! And they were just lucky in bagging 2 in Mogadishu because we all know Muslims are stupid and can't shoot weapons straight. Surely you have seen all the Israeli Supermen - Muslim Dumb Barbarian Boob movies in the Days before CAIR became the counterweight to the ADL??

8/24/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

The islamists probably knew the projected position of the trapped troopers. Ringing the aerial approaches to a known position with steel and fire ain't that tough. That's also the definition of a trap, forcing your opponent to move to a position where you can slaughter him.

It's a tough, tough line to draw. And it may become harder yet. Luckily, I think it won't, because the sheer curent imbalance of power means that the ability and willingness of US to go after their own is an asset.

However, switch the positions around. You think the islamists would fare better if they adopted a 'no man left behind' espirit de corps? It would have meant their doom.

The US would have wiped them out in weeks.

How I wish for a few months, they could just be the 'selfless brave' martyrs the leftoids make them out to be.

8/25/2005 12:37:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Those canyons are very narrow, and since the helos were coming in to rescue someone, yes, the RPG gunners could position themselves along the likely flight path. It also would not require a time air burst; an RPG going through the rotor system, going through an engine or hitting a hydraulic line would be enough to either bring the helo down or damage it significantly. At that altitude, helos lose a huge amount of their manueverability, and have little to no "extra" power from the engines, so any damage can be enough. And remember that in this case, the helo flew another mile or so, and attempted unsuccessfully to land; the troops were killed in the subsequent crash.
Trang, I was referring to the atttempted rescues of downed aviators behind the lines, not to extractions of infantry from hot LZs.
The courage of the flight crews/rescue forces has never been questioned; it is just whether the risk is worth the reward.

8/25/2005 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger the mad fiddler said...

Responding to exhelodrvr...

Early in WWII as Britain was suffering stunning losses from bold attacks by Japanese, German and even Italian forces, stranded British troops on the Mediterranean island of Crete were on the point of being captured or pushed into the sea by German paratroops. Most of the British garrison had only recently been evacuated from Greece, and were exhausted, less trained and experienced than the German paratroopers, but gained the grudging admiration of German General Student for their determined resistance. When it became clear the Germans were on their way to taking the island, British Army generals were reluctant to let the Royal Navy risk the capital ships that would be needed to save the thousands of soldiers in danger. Admiral Cunningham is quoted as replying, "It takes three years to build a ship, but three centuries to build a tradition."

This might be the sort of reasoning behind the willingness to risk such good soldiers. And it is well to remember the consequences of retiring from the conflict, and the resulting vacuum . Consider the einzatsgruppen and the police recruited to slaughter civilians whom the Nazis regarded as potentially troublesome. Consider Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and the millions of their own countryfolk they methodically slaughtered, and the tide of hundreds of thousands Viet Namese refugees called "boat people" fleeing Communist "re-education camps." The Liberal opponents of our efforts in Southeast Asia sneered at the Domino Theory, but have never acknowledged that it proved absolutely true.

An article in Wikipedia ( mentions that in addition to the appalling losses of combat soldiers by both sides in the short battle there were many civilian casualties in the battle and “Many Cretans were murdered by the Germans in reprisals, both during the battle and in the occupation that followed. One Cretan source puts the number of Cretans killed by German action during the war at 6,593 men, 1,113 women and 869 children.”

8/25/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Mad Fiddler,
Then why did the entire British fleet not stay in the Scandinavian waters to keep Norway out of the hands of the Germans? And as Cedarford pointed out, why did they discontinue stopping in dangerous waters to pick up survivors? And not everyone was picked up at Dunkirk, or later at Dieppe for that matter. What about the tradition there? The obvious point is that there are times when the risk/reward ratio makes it worth it, and times when it doesn't. Admiral Cunningham had obviously already made that calculation before he msde his grand pronouncement.

8/25/2005 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

o/t, sorry, but this is a worthy read: Scrappleface finds a way to be serious.

8/25/2005 11:04:00 PM  

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