SEAL's father: Survivor's book dishonors son's memory

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Bionic SSSO1 plank owner
Aug 14, 2006
I don't blame Mr. Murphy for being upset. The last person to see his son alive told him one story to his face and another in a book. One way or another, the guy told a lie.
I'm surprised that the Navy would allow an active duty SEAL to even write a book like this.

Father of Patchogue's Lt. Michael P. Murphy says new account of death is a 'disservice' to slain men


June 12, 2007, 11:00 PM EDT

The father of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL from Patchogue who was killed in fighting in Afghanistan in 2005 and who is under consideration for the Medal of Honor for heroism, Tuesday called the first public account of the mission by its only survivor a disservice to the men who died.

Former Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, 31, spoke on NBC's "Today" show about the June 2005 battle in which three SEALs were killed.

His appearance was timed to the publication of his book, "Lone Survivor."

In an interview with "Today's" host Matt Lauer, Luttrell spoke of how the four SEALs were discovered hiding out on a mountainside in eastern Afghanistan by three local goat herders while they waited to kill or capture a high-ranking Taliban leader. He said the four men voted to spare the herders' lives, and that 45 minutes later they were surrounded by 80 Taliban fighters. Killed were Murphy, 29, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny P. Dietz, 25, and Petty Officer Matt Axelson, 29.

In the NBC interview and in the book, Luttrell describes a discussion by the four SEALs and then a vote to let the herders go. That account, said Daniel Murphy, a former Suffolk County prosecutor and now a law clerk in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, is a far cry from what he said Marcus told the Murphy family not long after the death of their son.

"That directly contradicts what he told [Murphy's mother] Maureen, myself and Michael's brother John in my kitchen," said Murphy, who watched Luttrell on television but said he hasn't read the book. "He said that Michael was adamant that the civilians were going to be released, that he wasn't going to kill innocent people ... Michael wouldn't put that up for committee. People who knew Michael know that he was decisive and that he makes decisions."

Luttrell suggests that he sugar-coated the story later in a visit to Long Island, where he met Murphy's mother Maureen. She asked, he writes, "He didn't suffer, did he? Please tell me he didn't suffer."

"No, Maureen. He didn't," Luttrell wrote that he responded. "I had told her what she'd asked me to tell her."

In the book, Luttrell, who was subordinate to Murphy on the team, casts himself as the decisive player in the drama, writing that he cast the deciding vote to release the herders. He says he was torn between his "warrior's soul" that favored an "ice-cold military decision to execute these cats," and his "Christian soul ... crowding in on me."

Luttrell could not be reached Tuesday, and his publicist declined to comment.

According to the book, Murphy was against killing the herders not out of moral considerations but seemingly selfish ones. He quotes Murphy as saying, "The U.S. liberal media will attack us without mercy. We will almost certainly be charged with murder." He said Axelson was in favor of killing the herders, while Dietz said he didn't care.

"I looked Mikey right in the eye, and I said, 'We gotta let 'em go,'" Luttrell writes. "It was the stupidest, most southern-fried, lame-brained decision I ever made in my life ... I had actually cast a vote which I knew could sign our death warrant."

Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Williams, a SEAL spokesman in San Diego, declined to discuss specifics of Luttrell's book but said it had been cleared ahead of time. The spokesman said the official rules of engagement in play for this incident remained classified. In nearly all situations in wartime, experts say, the killing of civilians can be considered murder.

"For this team to have been discovered like that really was a peril to their lives," Williams said. "I don't think it's unfair to say that the thought crossed their minds: 'Should we seal this breach in our security?'"

In the book and interview, Luttrell said he regretted the decision to spare the herders -- this, too, upset Daniel Murphy.

"I died on that mountain, too, sir," Luttrell told Lauer. "It'd be worth me doing the time in prison if my buddies were still alive."

Daniel Murphy said that was a "disservice" to the memory of his son and the two others who died. He said his son "would not have changed his mind even though he knew the result. That's the type of leader he was ... I think he did a disservice to Axelson and even to Danny Dietz to even suggest that they were ambivalent and prepared to dispose with civilians. Michael would never ... allow that to happen, ever."

Two years after his death, Michael Murphy is a candidate for the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor. In his NBC interview, Luttrell made it clear that Murphy all but sacrificed his life -- receiving several gunshot wounds -- while trying to make a mobile phone call atop the mountain for help.

Luttrell was awarded the Navy Cross for the incident. In the book, he describes Murphy as "an iron-souled warrior of colossal, almost unbelievable courage." He said Murphy went into dangerous open ground to call for help and, wounded, kept fighting.

"An act of supreme valor," Luttrell writes. "If they ever build a memorial to him as high as the Empire State Building, it won't be high enough for me."

He also described Murphy pleading with Marcus to help him. A few minutes later, after the screaming stopped, four Taliban fired several rounds into Murphy's body.

Staff writer Lauren McSherry contributed to this story.


This is what Marcus Luttrell told Matt Lauer, the host of NBC's "Today" show, about the decision to spare the lives of goat herders who happened upon the four Navy SEALs:

LAUER: ... Here are these goat herders, they're unarmed, but you know you have two choices. You can let them go, and there's a very high probability they're going to rat you out to the Taliban ...


LAUER: ... and then you're going to get attacked. Or you can execute them right there on the spot ... and cover your tracks. And the group actually - the four of you - took a vote.

LUTTRELL: Yes, sir.

LAUER: How'd the vote break down?

LUTTRELL: We pulled them off to the side, sat them down, put security on top of them, then one by one we started talking to each other and decided what we were going to do with them ... They had a multitude of goats with them, like 100-plus goats with them. And it's a small village around there. They would have - people would have been looking for them. So if we would have executed them, they would have found them ...

LAUER: And if you let them go, you know pretty sure that you're going to be compromised.


LAUER: Let me read you something you wrote in the book, OK? 'It was the stupidest, most Southern-fried, lame-brained decision I ever made in my life to vote to let them go. I must have been out of my mind. I'd actually cast a vote which I knew would sign our death warrant ... I turned into a 'blanking' liberal ... a no-logic nitwit, all heart, no brain, no judgment.' You were attacked after you let them go.

LUTTRELL: Yes, sir.

LAUER: By between 80 and 100 members of the Taliban.

LUTTRELL: Yes, sir.

Later in the interview, there was this exchange:

LAUER: And do you go back and think about that vote every day, that if you had voted to - by the way, you would have been worried that you would have been prosecuted in this country ...


LAUER: ... if you had killed those two goat herders, would have violated the rules of engagement, so to speak ... But do you still second-guess that vote every day?

LUTTRELL: Every day. Every day. It'd be worth me doing the time in prison if my buddies were still alive, if that answers your question.


This is what Daniel Murphy, Michael's father, said Luttrell has told him about the incident in which the four SEALs decided to spare the lives of the herders, as told in a Newsday account of the incident:

Since a SEAL's strength is his ability to get in and out unseen, their cover was effectively blown and a decision had to be made.

What should they do about the goat herder? As the team leader, Murphy was forced to make a fateful decision.

If he were allowed to leave, the herder might tell insurgents in the area of their presence, putting their lives in jeopardy. Taking him prisoner would slow their movements and could bring others out to look for him. Aborting their mission would risk the lives of those who would have to come to extract them and possibly allow an important insurgent leader to go free.

Murphy made clear to the others that killing the shepherd, a noncombatant, to ensure his silence was not an option.

"You know what, we are not murderers," he told the three other SEALs. "We're not just going to kill someone."

They would spare the herder and take their chances.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.
There is emotionality on both sides. Marcus will have a tough road to hoe going forward, maybe the few $$ he makes from the book with help him afford the major expenses of medical school. The Murphys' lost their son!

I haven't walked in mile in either of their shoes & truthfully believe it is none of anyone's business except theirs. I have shuddered at some of the comments made other places. If there is an issue I think both Marcus & the Murphys will address it personally with each other at a later date. I think any comments anyone else makes could be hurtful to either party and both parties have enough pain for a lifetime.

They are both part of our extended SOF/SEAL family, enough said IMHO.
What saddens me is this is between the grieving father and the lone survivor and should not be in the public eye.
As I recall, and I haven't read the book, only the original news accounts, Luttrel's life was saved by a "goat herder", for lack of a better description of the man who kept him alive.

His account now seems more than a little disengenuous and self serving. Better nobody speak for the dead than put forth two separate, differing accounts that cannot be reconciled.
What saddens me is this is between the grieving father and the lone survivor and should not be in the public eye.

Aren't SEAL operations classified; and therefore out of bounds for discussion in a book without permission from the Navy?

It is easy to speak against Lt. Murphy-- He is deceased and cannot answer his detractor.

I'm certainly not in a position to judge or second guess what happened on that operation. However it does seem like the men were faced with a Hobson's choice...

I am very disappointed to see this happening, as I believe that this is a matter between the men who were there, their command element, and the families of the deceased. Mistakes happen in war.

I do think however that Luttrell has probably ruined any chance Lt Murphy had of being awarded the CMH.
You are probably right, but that does not alter his bravery in the fight between the SEAL element and the Taliban...

maybe the few $$ he makes from the book with help him afford the major expenses of medical school.
He could do like everyone else and take out loans. Most books don't really make the authors that much money, anyway. A friend who is a writer with three books printed by a major publishing house makes roughly 50 cents on a $24.95 book. In addition Luttrell has VA benefits to pay for a hell of a lot of schooling. Telling your side of the story without rebuttal because the other participants are dead is not a good way to make a buck. I certainly wouldn't sleep with a clear conscience if I had done it...
IIRC the Navy/SEALs read and OK'd the release of this book.

Like you say Typhoon, medals mean nothing to the act, the act was incredibly brave, and this books honors LT Murphy and the others that died simply by telling their story IMO.

I sincerely hope this book is an accurate account, I tend to think it is particulary after being cleared by Luttrell's command.
I guess can understand Luttrell telling the Murphys' a white lie to make them feel better, more at peace about the way in which their son died. No harm would have been done if he hadn't written the book and done a media tour telling a different story. I don't mean to sound judgmental - God knows how Luttrell must be hurting. As I said, it's sad all the way around.
What else was he going to say when a mother asks him if he suffered?

I'd lie too.

As for the book, well he's doing whats right for him I guess.

I think he probably should have waited before writting the book though, give it some perspective.

I wouldn't have let the goat herders walk free either to be comprimised :2c:
I just bought this book the other day. Looks like I will need to hurry up and read this one to see what it going on.
What else was he going to say when a mother asks him if he suffered?

I'd lie too.

I agree. So why didn't he tell the same story in the book? No one would've known the difference, right? Did he think the families wouldn't find out?

I'm still not sure what the story is regarding Rock's death. I've heard a few different versions/theories about what happened. It's hard, not knowing. Although it doesn't change the fact that he's gone. In addition to being Father's Day, today would have been his 46th birthday. I'm sorry if I'm being a little sensitive about this subject.
I agree. So why didn't he tell the same story in the book? No one would've known the difference, right? Did he think the families wouldn't find out?

I can only speculate, and think of what I would do and that means nothing in this.

Like I said earlier the father is out of line IMO.
I can only speculate, and think of what I would do and that means nothing in this.

Like I said earlier the father is out of line IMO.

I've done my fair share of speculating too, and keeping it all in my head because you're right. What I think means nothing. Wasn't there during the situation and battle, wasn't there at the parents house...and am not in the Lone Survivor's head.

Like FF, I wish this kept between the family and the writer...
Luttrell fought for his country, now he is facing a much much more difficult fight - the questions asked by the family of his best friend. I belive that what we wrote was the truth. He thinks about his LT as the best man that ever walked the Earth. I think that summarizes everything.
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