reality and fiction in a film, a book (with video)

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Editor’s Note: Much has been said about the accuracy of Lone survivor, which has been widely praised for its realism and even named “one of the most realistic war movies of all time”. To provide much of its authenticity, writer-director Peter Berg worked closely with Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL played by Mark Wahlberg in the film and the author of the memoir of the same name. However, while the film recreates many realities of war in great detail, it also deviates significantly from the actual Operation Red Wings, which was far more important than a four-man SEAL search for a man named Ahmad Shah. In an article on OnViolence.com, Michael and Eric Cummings detail many of the creative freedoms taken by the film and, in turn, criticize much of the memoir itself. For example, the final battle depicted in the movie never happened. On their blog, the Cummings brothers also reject the idea. – not in the movie but in the book – that there was a vote on whether to release or kill the goatherds who had discovered them and compromised the recognition, in which three of the four SEALs would die. The article has been adapted and reprinted with their permission.

Here are some examples of places where the film Lone survivor diverges from what actually happened in Afghanistan.

MARCUS LUTTRELL NEARLY DEAD.

Lone Survivor opens with a voiceover as a dying Marcus Luttrell is flown back to a military base. As the plane lands, Marcus Luttrell literally dies. Here is how the scenario reads:

Surgical pack working frantically (sic) to save Luttrell.

Tight on HEART MONITOR: FLATLINE…

Push on the flat line. Cries of alarm. Tight on Luttrell’s eyes starting to turn glassy. Dying.

According to Luttrell’s memoir, however, he was not in danger of death. After Army Rangers rescued Luttrell, Army Rangers “radioed to base that I had been found, that I was stable and that I was unlikely to die.” They also stop and have tea with the locals, which you wouldn’t do with a dying person.

WHICH LOCAL AFGHAN FOUND LUTTRELL?

After the battle, according to the book, Luttrell is found by a local man named Sarawa, who is also treating his injuries:

I saw the chief approaching me. He smiles and says his name is Sarawa.

In the movie, a local man named Gulab saves him:

A 30-year-old man GULAB, the leader, very handsome robust, comes forward. Hands in peace.

GULAB: Not the Taliban.

According to Luttrell 60 minutes interview, “It was then that an Afghan man appeared. Luttrell later learned his name was Mohammad Gulab.” Luttrell may have changed this detail to protect Gulab from retaliation, but Gulab is mentioned by name later in memoir. (Although there is a difference there, too: in the movie, Gulab stays behind after Luttrell leaves. In the book, he joins Luttrell on the helicopter flight.)

MARCUS LUTTRELL WAS NOT ALMOST CUT BY THE SOLDIERS OF AHMAD SHAH.

In the movie, Shah’s lieutenant Taraq comes to the village, grabs Luttrell and drags him to a log to behead him, raising a machete in the air. Luttrell is saved at the last minute by the local villagers, who fire their AK-47s to threaten the attackers.

None of this happened. In the book, members of the Taliban enter Luttrell’s room and start beating him. (“I didn’t go to much trouble,” writes Luttrell. “I can suck that kind of shit, like I’ve been trained. They didn’t have a good punch among them anyway. “) The village elder then enters the room and orders the Taliban to leave. The entire ordeal takes about six hours, Luttrell explains, and his life is never in danger.

MARCUS LUTTRELL DIDN’T FIRE A BULLET FROM HIS LEG.

In the film, Luttrell removes a bullet from his leg. Depending on the scenario, Gulab helps:

Horrible sequence of bullets elimination. Some blood. Scream while digging, scraping bullets and shrapnel from Luttrell’s back and legs. Gulab digs with a knife. Pour water on the wounds. The little boy holds Luttrell’s hands and whispers to him.

According to the book, none of this happened. As soon as they arrive in the village, the inhabitants provide him with medical care. And there is no bullet to find:

(Sarawa) carefully cleaned the wounds on my leg, confirming what I suspected, that there was no bullet lodged in my left thigh. Indeed, he located the exit hole of the bullet.

LUTTRELL WAS NOT FOUND DUE TO AN OLD VILLAGEER.

In the film, an old man walks up a mountain to alert the military to Luttrell’s location. In the book, the village elder travels to Asadabad to alert the army to Luttrell’s presence, but that is not how the army found him. Instead, Luttrell uses a radio dropped by the military:

Before I left, I asked them how the hell they found me. And it turned out to be my emergency beacon in the window of the little rock house in the mountain.

60 minutes tells a similar story: “He was finally rescued by the American forces who had scoured the mountains.

THE FINAL BATTLE NEVER TAKEN PLACE.

Lone survivor (film) ends with the village of Kandish repelling a Taliban attack in a massive firefight, which ends when US planes and helicopters come to the rescue. In the storyline, Gulab fires and Luttrell fires again, and Gulab’s house is destroyed by an RPG.

None of this happened. Gulab’s house was not destroyed, nor did the Taliban shoot at the village. Neither Gulab nor Luttrell were shot, and Luttrell did not stab an attacker with a knife.

The most important reason the Taliban did not attack? They couldn’t afford to lose the support of the villagers. Luttrell says it very clearly in his memoirs:

They wanted me, but they would never kill a hundred more Afghans, including women and children, for having me. … I had been (in Sabray) for five nights now,… and the Taliban had only crossed Sabray’s borders twice.

Later, Ahmad Shah and his men actually find Luttrell and Gulab on flat land on the edge of the village. Are they attacking? No why?

Gulab’s presence made it a complete stalemate, and (Shah) wasn’t about to call his guys down to shoot the eldest son of the elder in Sabray village.

THE RESCUE OF LUTTRELL.

In the film, the military comes to Luttrell’s aid with a roar of gunships and men descending from helicopters. In the book, the Rangers find Luttrell in the forest as he and Gulab return to the village after Gulab speaks with Ahmad Shah. (That’s when they settle in for tea.)

THE NUMBER OF AFGHAN FIGHTERS HAS BEEN EXAGGERATED.

The SEALs on the hill that day were overwhelmed by an enemy force with greater numbers and greater firepower that held the upper hand. But there is a considerable difference between an enemy force of 8 or 10 men the size of a squad and an enemy force of 200 men the size of an infantry company. The Korengal and Shuryak valleys – the geographic region of Operation Red Wings – are sparsely populated and could not support an enemy force of 200 people.

Increasing the size of the enemy on this day makes the story much better. Like the story told in Lone survivor became more popular, the size of the enemy force that day appears to have increased with each story. Here are the different descriptions of the number of enemy fighters who attacked:

that of Ed Darack Victory point: 8-10 fighters with a machine gun.

Luttrell’s after action ratio: 20-30 fighters.

Lt. Michael P. Murphy’s Medal of Honor Citation: 30-40 fighters.

Lieutenant Murphy’s Medal of Honor Summary of the action: over 50 fighters.

Marcus Luttrell on the Today’s show: 80-100 Taliban members.

Lone survivor (memory): 140-200 combatants.

speech by Marcus Luttrell after Lone survivor: 200 fighters.

Lone survivor (scenario): At least 50 fighters. (“A continuous line of at least 50 Taliban in firing position on top of the hill above them.”)

WAS AHMAD SHAH REALLY AL-QAIDA?

Ahmad Shah was an insurgent leader in Afghanistan, which is why the Pech Marines launched Operation Red Wings. But there is a big difference between a local Afghan insurgent leader and “one of Osama bin Laden’s closest associates,” as described in Luttrell’s memoir, or “a senior al-Qaida operative. level, ”as described in the production notes and on the film’s official website. According to Victory point author Ed Darack, Ahmad Shah was not a member of al-Qaida and had never met Osama bin Laden before Operation Red Wings.

SHAH DID NOT KILL 20 MARINES IN THE WEEK BEFORE OPERATION RED WINGS.

In the film, Matthew Axelson (played by Ben Foster) claims that Shah killed 20 Marines the week before Operation Red Wings. (This claim is in both trailers.) As iCasualties.org shows, the United States did not lose 20 Marines in the week leading up to Operation Red Wings. Only two American soldiers or Marines died in Kunar province in 2005 before Operation Red Wings. In the week before Operation Red Wings, only 2 soldiers died across the country. So far, only five Marines had died in action since the start of the war.

WHO PLANNED AND CONDUCTED OPERATION RED WINGS?

The film and the book more or less ignore the role of the Marines in the conception, planning and direction of Operation Red Wings. The Marines introduced SEALs to gain access to aviation support.

Michael Cummings left the US military in 2011 after deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. His work was presented by the New York Times, the Washington post, and Foreign Policy.com. He is currently pursuing his MBA at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. With his brother, he runs On Violence, a blog on military and foreign affairs. Eric Cummings is a writer living in Los Angeles. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and other publications. With his brother, he runs On Violence, a blog on military and foreign affairs.

© 2014 Slate


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