Videos shot during a 2009 battle in Afghanistan appear to contradict with the narrative of events described by the Marine Corps, White House and a Marine sergeant who was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions there.
An ongoing McClatchy investigation found that those videos, which were shot by Army medevac crewmen as they flew into the Ganjgal Valley, add to evidence that suggests many of the events reported by Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer in his memoir were “untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated.”
The 25-year-old Meyer, of Columbia, Kentucky, wrote in his 2012 memoir that he’d reflexively switched from his machine gun to his rifle and back to his machine gun as he cut down a group of Taliban fighters charging his vehicle’s turret.
But videos and eyewitness accounts showed no Taliban fighters anywhere in the area, McClatchy reported.
“We totally flew over everything,” said Army National Guard Sgt. Kevin Duerst, the helicopter crew chief whose helmet camera recorded one of the videos. “There was nothing going on down there.”
Meyer was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle, including his claim that he helped remove casualties from the valley while under fire, and the White House and Marine Corps defended their accounts of the Marine’s actions.
Former Army Capt. William Swenson is due to receive a Medal of Honor on Tuesday for his actions during the same battle, declined to discuss Meyer’s actions during an interview Sunday, but he said the videos showed what had actually happened Sept. 8, 2009.
“Those videos allowed me to relive the reality of that battlefield: what I saw, what other people saw, where people were, the valley, the terraces, the trees (and) the friendlies,” said Swenson, 34, of Seattle. “It shows the truth of that battle, a truth I never expected to see again.”
Meyer told McClatchy reporters on Friday that he’d written his book, “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War,” to the best of his recollection.
McClatchy reported that Meyer reviewed the videos during their investigation and said his vehicle had been charged by Taliban fighters after the helicopter left, but he’d written in his book that they’d swarmed while he waited with a wounded comrade for the aircraft.
Co-author Bing West did not address the videos in a request for comment, but he said a McClatchy reporter who survived the ambush “has annually dredged up baseless innuendoes to attack the Medal of Honor process and to denigrate the valor of Meyer.”
The publishing company also reported that the Army narrative of Swenson’s valorous actions and the soldier’s account also contradict White House and Marine Corps narratives, including Meyer’s claim to have killed an insurgent with a rock when he joined Swenson in an unarmored pickup to recover casualties.
Swenson said another Marine, not Meyer, rode with him in the pickup until it broke down, and then he said Meyer joined him and others in an armored vehicle.
The six-hour battle left five American servicemen and 10 Afghans dead, and 17 others, including Swenson and Meyer, were wounded.
Swenson and Meyer were recommended separately for the Medal of Honor for repeatedly returning to the battlefield to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades.
McClatchy says its investigation raises serious questions about the military awards process, which critics say is subject to improper influence or manipulation.
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