The Final Mission of Extortion 17: Special Ops, Helicopter Support, SEAL Team Six, and the Deadliest Day of the U.S. War in Afghanistan

The Final Mission of Extortion 17: Special Ops, Helicopter Support, SEAL Team Six, and the Deadliest Day of the U.S. War in Afghanistan

by Ed Darack


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On August 6, 2011, a U.S. Army CH-47D Chinook helicopter approached a landing zone in Afghanistan 40 miles southwest of Kabul. The helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, was on a mission to reinforce American and coalition special operations troops. It would never return. Insurgents fired at the Chinook, severed one of its rear rotor blades, and brought it crashing to the ground. All 38 onboard perished instantly in the single greatest moment of sacrifice for Americans in the war in Afghanistan. Those killed were some of the U.S.'s most highly trained and battle-honed commandos, including 15 men from the Gold Squadron of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known popularly as SEAL Team 6, which had raided a Pakistan compound and killed Osama bin Laden just three months earlier. The downing of Extortion 17 spurred a number of conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the shootdown was revenge for bin Laden's death. In The Final Mission of Extortion 17, Ed Darack debunks this theory and others and uncovers the truth behind this mysterious tragedy. His account of the brave pilots, crew, and passengers of Extortion 17 and the events of that fateful day is interwoven into a rich, complex narrative that also discusses modern joint combat operations, the history of the Afghan war to that date, U.S. helicopter use in Afghanistan, and the new and evolving military technologies and tactics being developed to mitigate such tragedies now and in the future.

Amazon Best History Book of the Month - September 2017

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588345899
Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 419,552
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

ED DARACK is a writer and photographer who has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan numerous times to embed with infantry and aviation units at the front lines of modern war. He is the author of four books, including Victory Point, and numerous articles on military topics ranging from counterinsurgency to close air support. His work has been published in Air & Space magazine, the Marine Corps Gazette, Leatherneck Magazine, Foreign Policy, Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, and others.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 REDCON 2 1

2 America's Longest War 11

3 "Make It Count" 19

4 Forging a Modern U.S. Army Aviator and Commander 25

5 Extortion Company and the Modern American War Machine 36

6 Special Operations and the 160th 46

7 Through the Perilous Skies of War 56

8 Progression of Excellence 64

9 Families and War 73

10 Born to Fly 85

11 Never Stop Flying the Aircraft 92

12 Three Steps ahead of the Helicopter 107

13 Wooden Wings 112

14 The Invisible Warfighters 119

15 The Mechanics of the Mission 137

16 Decision Point 144

17 The Passengers 150

18 Highest Valor 156

19 Aftermath 168

20 Operation Ginosa 181

Epilogue 192

Abbreviations and Acronyms 199

Sources 201

Acknowledgments 214

Index 217

Figure and Map Credits 227

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