Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘Lone Survivor’ smackdown

In the new issue of Marine Corps Gazette, Ed Darack takes apart Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor, which purported to be a history of a botched operation in Afghanistan in June 2005. Darack, himself the author of Victory Point, a book about the same operation, does a good job of explaining why he thinks the Luttrell ...

www.darack.com/sawtalosar
www.darack.com/sawtalosar
www.darack.com/sawtalosar

In the new issue of Marine Corps Gazette, Ed Darack takes apart Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor, which purported to be a history of a botched operation in Afghanistan in June 2005. Darack, himself the author of Victory Point, a book about the same operation, does a good job of explaining why he thinks the Luttrell book, which was a bestseller, was off base. Most strikingly, Luttrell stated in his after-action report that his SEAL team was attacked by 20 to 35 fighters, but his book claims that the team faced hundreds. (In fact, Darack adds, video analysis and other intelligence indicates it probably was eight to 10 insurgents.) Darack calls the book "gripping, yet extraordinarily unrealistic."

Also, another book, Seal of Honor, about the same incident, refers to Marines from "Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne)," a unit which Darack notes actually does not exist.

Unusually, Darack concludes his critique by listing the ranks, names, and positions of 12 Marines he interviewed.

In the new issue of Marine Corps Gazette, Ed Darack takes apart Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor, which purported to be a history of a botched operation in Afghanistan in June 2005. Darack, himself the author of Victory Point, a book about the same operation, does a good job of explaining why he thinks the Luttrell book, which was a bestseller, was off base. Most strikingly, Luttrell stated in his after-action report that his SEAL team was attacked by 20 to 35 fighters, but his book claims that the team faced hundreds. (In fact, Darack adds, video analysis and other intelligence indicates it probably was eight to 10 insurgents.) Darack calls the book “gripping, yet extraordinarily unrealistic.”

Also, another book, Seal of Honor, about the same incident, refers to Marines from “Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne),” a unit which Darack notes actually does not exist.

Unusually, Darack concludes his critique by listing the ranks, names, and positions of 12 Marines he interviewed.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

Oleg Salyukov salutes to soldiers during Russia’s Victory Day parade.
Oleg Salyukov salutes to soldiers during Russia’s Victory Day parade.

Stop Falling for Russia’s Delusions of Perpetual Victory

The best sources on the war are the Ukrainians on the ground.

A fire rages at the Central Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Forces in Tver, Russia
A fire rages at the Central Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Forces in Tver, Russia

Could Sabotage Stop Putin From Using the Nuclear Option?

If the West is behind mysterious fires in Russia, the ongoing—but deniable—threat could deter Putin from escalating.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is received by his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo, in Mombasa, Kenya.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is received by his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo, in Mombasa, Kenya.

While America Slept, China Became Indispensable

Washington has long ignored much of the world. Beijing hasn’t.

A bulldozer demolishes an illegal structure during a joint anti-encroachment drive conducted by North Delhi Municipal Corporation
A bulldozer demolishes an illegal structure during a joint anti-encroachment drive conducted by North Delhi Municipal Corporation

The World Ignored Russia’s Delusions. It Shouldn’t Make the Same Mistake With India.

Hindu nationalist ideologues in New Delhi are flirting with a dangerous revisionist history of South Asia.