Fact Check: Helicopter Crash That Killed 30 U.S. Service Members Did NOT Happen 'Yesterday'

Fact Check

  • by: Gita Smith
Fact Check: Helicopter Crash That Killed 30 U.S. Service Members Did NOT Happen 'Yesterday' 2011 Crash

Was a U.S. military helicopter shot down on June 4, 2020, over Afghanistan, with the crash killing 30 members of a Navy SEAL team? No, the crash in question happened nine years before, in 2011. The crash did kill 30 service members, 22 of them SEALs.

The claim, calling for a moment of silence for the crash victims and their families, appeared in a post (archived here) where it was published on Facebook on June 5, 2020. It opened:

"R.I.P. I am asking everyone to please take a moment of silence for the United States Navy Seal Team and their families. Their helicopter was shot down yesterday in Afghanistan and they lost 30 members of the team. It would be nice to see this on everyone's page... even if it's only for an hour. Come on friends, please show your supporters! My prayers for all family member."

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Jun 9 19:24:52 2020 UTC)

The actual crash happened on Aug. 6, 2011.

The New York Times reported on Aug. 7, 2011, that:

"a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province, to the west of Kabul. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack... American officials said that 30 military personnel died and 22 were Navy SEAL commandos, including members of Seal Team 6, and eight were Afghanis. Although other commandos from that team conducted the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in May in Abbottabad, Pakistan, those who were killed in this crash were not involved in the Bin Laden mission."

The Stars and Stripes' Aug. 6, 2011, edition displayed photos of the servicemen aboard that helicopter. The military news outlet reported, "The American troops killed in the deadliest single mission of the Afghanistan war came from two dozen states and all corners of the nation, mostly young men in their 20s and 30s." Along with the photos of those on the mission, the Department of Defense revealed the names, job descriptions and ranks of the 30 killed service members.

CNN's broadcast of Aug. 6, 2011, reported that the crash was

"caused by a rocket-propelled grenade, fired by insurgents, that struck the aircraft's aft rotor blade, the U.S. Central Command officially confirmed."

Barack Obama was president at the time of the crash. He released a statement of sympathy and solidarity with the families of the killed servicemen, reported by CBS News on Aug. 6, 2011, saying,

"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan," adding that his thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who perished.

This is not the first time someone on social media has referred to the 2011 crash as having just happened "yesterday." A request for prayers for the families of 30 Navy SEALs, using many of the same phrases, went out in 2017 when it was debunked by fact-checking outlet Snopes.com. The post said:

"I ask everyone to say a prayer for the United States Navy Seal Team and their families. Their helicopter was shot down yesterday in Afghanistan and they lost 30 members of the team. It would be nice to see this on everyone's page ... even if it's only for an hour. You will have to copy and paste by holding your finger on the post till it turns grey, then touch the copy and then post on your page. Come on people -- Show your support for our brave military! God bless them and their families."

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  Gita Smith

Gita Smith covered news for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Montgomery Advertiser, and she wrote/edited medical newsletters for American Health Consultants at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic when clear, factual information was as needed. 

For a time, she taught in Auburn University’s journalism department and ran the History-Geography lab at Alabama State University, where she taught students to write research papers . She believes the following to be true: The power of the free press may appear to be a weak reed to lean on, but it separates democracies from juntas.

Read more about or contact Gita Smith

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