Report details SEAL's last stand in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Navy SEAL survived a fall from a U.S. helicopter March 4 and fought off enemy fighters for over 30 minutes before being killed at close range when his gun jammed, according to a classified report.
Petty Officer Neil Roberts died in the opening hours of Operation Anaconda, a mission targeting Taliban and al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan.
A source familiar with the report said Roberts was thrown from the helicopter as it lurched violently after being hit by rocket-propelled grenades. In April, a classified internal Special Forces report said the MH-47 Chinook helicopter was trying to drop off troops, including Roberts, on a ridge when it came under fire.
Roberts, the source said, had unhooked his safety harness because he was preparing to be the first off the aircraft. The tail gunner, who was tethered to the aircraft, was also thrown from the helicopter but was pulled back in.
The classified report described Friday estimates Roberts, the only U.S. or allied soldier on the ground, held off enemy troops for more than 30 minutes with a high-powered belt-fed machine gun.
Roberts was overrun and killed at close range -- a shooting some of his colleagues have described as an execution -- when his weapon jammed. He was dead by the time a six-man rescue team arrived on the scene, an official said.
The team, believing the SEAL was still alive, came under heavy fire when it reached the site. One member of this rescue group, Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman, was killed by gunfire.
Four more men died in a second rescue effort, including Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, who was on his first combat mission. The fighting did not end until U.S. Air Force gunships came in and attacked the al Qaeda mortar positions, and U.S. personnel had cleared the area within 12 hours after arriving.
The military plans to give summaries of the report to relatives of those killed in the mission, followed by a congressional briefing. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may ultimately decide whether the full report ever becomes public.
U.S. troops have since named the area where the March 4 fighting took place "Roberts Ridge," in memory of their fallen comrade.
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