Name: Neil C. Roberts
Rank/Branch: Aviation Boatswain's Mate-Handling Petty Officer 1st Class / U.S. NAVY, Norfolk, VA
Unit: SEAL
Age: 32
Home City: Woodland, CA
Date of Loss: March 5, 2002
Country of Loss: Afghanistan
Loss Coordinates:
Status: Prisoner of War, Executed/Remains Recovered. Later press releases stated "Killed  in Action"
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground

Other Personnel in Incident: 6 killed

Source: 2002 POW NETWORK, Reuters News, FOX News.


Al Qaeda Men Dragged Away U.S. Navy SEAL
Last Updated: March 05, 2002 09:29 PM ET
(The following story is a pool report filed by a journalist traveling with U.S. forces.)

SIRKANKEL, Afghanistan (Reuters) - ......The officers said the Navy SEAL, Neil Roberts, 32, was left behind when his Chinook helicopter made a rushed take-off after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

"We saw him on the Predator being dragged off by three al Qaeda men," said Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, referring to an unmanned reconnaissance plane mounted with a real-time video camera. ...

Killed Navy SEAL wrote he was prepared to die; Letter: Roberts told his wife he had a blast in the Navy

March 9, 2002


NORFOLK, Va. AP — The Navy SEAL who was slain after falling out of his stricken helicopter in Afghanistan wrote his wife an open-in-the-event-of-my-death letter in which he assured her: "I died doing what made me happy."

"Although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave. My time in the Teams was special," 32-year-old Neil Roberts wrote. "For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast.".......

NOTE: During the daily live Pentagon briefing after the incident, it was stated Roberts was captured and executed after falling off the helicopter. FOX NEWS reports his throat was slashed and he had a bullet in the back of his head - and had been seen running - being chased - by 3 Al Qaeda fighters.

Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002

Apparently when the helicopter he was being transported in began taking fire and had to make a radical tactical maneuver to avoid being shot down, 32 year old Navy Seal, Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts fell out. Nobody is exactly sure how. When something like that happens there is a lot of movement, a lot of wind, and a hell of a lot of gravity. When they got closer to the base and did a head count they were one member shy. That incident happened in Afghanistan, a long way from the island of Cuba. On the island of Cuba a couple of hundred captured Al Qaeda prisoners sit in cells waiting for their lunch. A good Muslim lunch designed to incorporate their traditional foods and to be respectful of Islam's dietary guidelines. Just like their breakfasts and their suppers. They eat really good there in Cuba. Most of them have put on some much needed weight. The weight they lost while fighting against the soldiers who liberated Afghanistan. Most of them have been through the camp infirmary. It is a fully functioning Army field medical hospital where they receive the exact same medical care offered members of the American military. More treatment, in fact, because in addition to treating any injuries sustained during their capture, American specialists have also treated orthopedic and cosmetic injuries sustained in battle many months - and even years ago. All of the Al Qaeda detainees at
Guantanamo Bay have received the best of American medical and dental care - for free - being given procedures and treatment simply unavailable in their native lands. Also, they have been provided a Muslim chaplain flown in especially for them, they have been given copies of the Koran, and there is a big sign at the camp that points them in the direction to pray toward Mecca. The five-times-a-day Islamic call to prayer is played on the camp loudspeaker. That is what is happening in Cuba right now. Yet activists and officials from around the world have publicly condemned American treatment of the Al Qaeda men captured in combat. Muslim governments, our European allies, American leftist groups and Amnesty International have all bitterly accused the United States of being "inhumane." Some of them have claimed there should
be a United Nations condemnation, many have called for international inspectors to go in. The call has been loud, almost deafening, as the world has condemned and cursed the way the Al Qaeda fighters have been treated in captivity by Americans. That is in Cuba. Which is a long way from Afghanistan. In Afghanistan one of those "Prowler" unmanned surveillance planes saw Petty Officer Roberts as he fell from the helicopter and then lie there on the ground, injured from his fall, alive and conscious. The Colonels and the Generals all saw this as it played out on their TV monitors back at headquarters. They also saw the three Al Qaeda terrorist soldiers come out of the bush and grab him. He was now their prisoner. He was Captured in battle. They grabbed him, and then they dragged him away. Then they beat him severely, unmercifully. ... And then they murdered him. They shot him to death. A wounded man. A detainee. No medical care, no food, no holy book, no chaplain. Just a bullet. This incident has produced nothing but SILENCE on the part of all the world's activists. Not a single word. Where are they all
at? Who speaks up for this atrocity? Apparently it is okay to shoot a wounded prisoner, but, if you take him to a hospital, treat his injuries, feed him, and provide him health and comfort over and above anything he has ever known in his pathetic life, then, ... you have gone too far! You have gone over the line! Apparently the act of killing an American detainee is acceptable while coddling an Al Qaeda detainee is not. The exact same people who have seen some kind of war crime committed with regard to our treatment of the POW terrorists in Cuba are totally unperturbed by the slaughter of an American prisoner of war in Afghanistan! We treat them with care and compassion and we get cursed. They treat us with barbarism, butchery, even murder, and they get blessed. Critics of the American detention of Al Qaeda terrorists in Cuba are
not even concerned about those terrorists. They also don't give a damn about human rights. The only thing they want to do is to attack America in any way they can. The great many people who hate the American people and our culture have rallied to the defense of the detainees in Cuba. And not a word of criticism for the bastards who executed Neil Roberts in cold blood in Afghanistan. This war is all about good versus evil, no matter what else you may hear. The forces of light are tackling the forces of darkness. Civilization is at war with savagery. Our Navy Seal gave his life for that cause. Fortunately for them the Al Qaeda detainees in Cuba were captured by civilized men - as opposed to the evil murdering beasts who captured Neil Roberts.


Clinton Wisebaker
Lance Corporal
United States Marine Corps

National Alliance of Families Newsletter
Bits 'n Pieces
March 16, 2002

Was Navy Seal Neil Roberts Captured and Executed By Al Qaeda - That was the original report by commanders on site. According to first reports, Navy Seal Neil Roberts fell out of his helicopter but survived the fall. He was seen being taken away by Al Qaeda forces and subsequently executed. All this was filmed by an unmanned Predator aircraft. The following is excerpted from a New York Daily News article, by Richard Sisk, dated March 06, 2002 "Navy SEAL who fell from a helicopter during a mountain firefight was captured by Al Qaeda forces as his commanders watched helplessly on a drone's TV screen and later executed, U.S. battle commanders said yesterday."

"We saw him on the Predator being dragged off by three Al Qaeda men," said Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, who watched the battle in real time by a  transmission from a Predator spy drone overhead. Air Force commandos later recovered the body of Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, 32, after a fierce 14-hour firefight Monday in which seven Americans were killed and two helicopters were lost..."


Pentagon spokespersons in Washington, immediately began to downplay this story saying they would need to investigate the incident before they could comment. According to a March 6th Associated Press article by Pauline Jelinek "Some details of the U.S. forces' deadliest day so far in the war in Afghanistan remain unclear, Pentagon officials said Wednesday, including whether a Navy SEAL was captured and murdered by al-Qaida.
 "We may never know," said Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld and the war's commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, were responding to reporters' questions about what they knew about the death of Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts of Woodland, Calif...."

"Asked about reports from a field commander that Roberts had been dragged away by al-Qaida and shot dead, Franks said he wasn't sure. "I think there are a variety of possibilities of the way" Roberts may have died, he said...."

"...Commanders watched as an unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft relayed live video of Roberts being taken away by al-Qaida members, said Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, commander of the operation to encircle and kill enemy fighters. "We saw him on the Predator being dragged off by three al-Qaida men," said Hagenbeck.

"Roberts apparently survived the fall and was shot on the ground, said Marine Maj. Ralph Mills, speaking for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla."

"Whether he was taken away to be killed, was already dead when taken away or wounded when taken and died later remains unclear, Franks said Wednesday. "There will be a lot of views on this particular incident," Franks said. "I have talked to three, maybe four people, who were either present or have reviewed the result of this, and it would probably not surprise you that each of the three or four has a different view of what happened."

"He cautioned that first and second reports can often prove wrong. "I'm not sure yet," he said. "And I think, as we work our way through this, we will come to some greater clarity."

"Rumsfeld said details are not the point. "We know a fine American is dead," he said. "It is not whether the bullet hit him from ground fire while he was still in the helicopter or after he fell to the ground ... or after someone came up and shot him again. We may never know that."

  The existence of the Predator pictures was revealed by Hagenbeck in Afghanistan and not by Pentagon officials as they described the incident in briefings Monday and Tuesday...."


POW or Not - It is amazing to us that the eyewitness statement of Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck, commander of the operation is not deemed a creditable eyewitness report of the capture of an American POW and his subsequent execution. Perhaps the Pentagon doesn't want to acknowledge a POW under any circumstances or are they isolated personnel or detainees.....

Looks like evidence and eyewitness reports, including the report of the commanding officer, doesn't mean a thing. The more things change.... the more they stay the same....

The Battle of Takur Ghar

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2002 – The battle on an Afghan mountaintop called Takur Ghar is a story of American courage and bravery. It is a story of a small band of highly trained professionals overcoming the fog and friction of war. It is also at heart, a story of Americans service members' unwillingness to leave one of their own behind.

The battle featured special operations forces from all three services. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and pilots and Air Force combat controllers and pararescuemen fought against entrenched al Qaeda fighters atop a 10,000-foot mountain.

According to an executive summary of the battle, Takur Ghar was the most intense firefight American special operators have been involved in since 18 U.S. Army Rangers were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993....

Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 10:12:34 -0500

Dear POW Network,

Please pass this reply along in response to the inquiry regarding the death of ABH1(SEAL) Neil C. Roberts


The sequence of events leading to the death of ABH1(SEAL) Neil Christopher Roberts are related in the book “NOT A GOOD DAY TO DIE” by Sean Naylor. That book, however, includes an incorrect account of Roberts’ final moments and reports that he was taken alive/wounded and then shot by his captors. Within a few hours of the event there were former members of the Naval Special Warfare community either involved in determining the actual step-by-step sequence of events, or being kept informed. One of those former NSW officers is a personal friend of mine, and a former SEAL Team officer (I must firmly decline to identify him by name, specific Team affiliation, or service time frame). Because of his status as a former SEAL Team officer and his “civilian” work for a firm involved in US security and intelligence matters (again I am not at liberty to be more specific), my friend attended a closed-door briefing which included video footage from an unmanned aerial drone which had been in the vicinity of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan’s Shahikot Valley when the events took place.

There have been numerous, conflicting reports of the actions of that day, and it is clear that many things went terribly wrong (part of the reason for an information blackout regarding the events), but according to what my friend told me, the unmanned aerial drone footage showed Roberts using his SAW, then his sidearm, and finally his few grenades against machine gun positions. During that interaction he was apparently wounded in the legs, which ultimately reduced his ability to evade, and finally resulted in his being killed as the result of a bullet which struck him in the head. The antagonists then moved forward from their cover, firing their weapons as they moved to ensure that he was dead. Apparently they felt that the helicopter from which he had “fallen” would return, and their actions suggested that they intended to use Roberts’ body as “bait”. The video footage reportedly shows a limp (dead) Roberts being dragged by three men from where he fell to a place closer to their machine gun position. His body was searched, and at least one additional shot was made to his head… maybe more.

My friend informed me that it appeared that Roberts had moved aggressively against the machine gun emplacements, and had accounted for numerous enemy combatants, before he ran out of ammunition, was wounded, and then killed by enemy fire. The general consensus of those men involved in the investigation came to the conclusion that Roberts had been sure the helo would return for him (as he was unaware that it was severely damaged) and was attempting to neutralize guns which might be turned against the returning aircraft. His heroic actions – alone – had prompted an examination with an eye to awarding him the CMOH, but due to the lack of evidence that would normally come from companions on the ground (and the stipulation that the actions of CMOH recipients must be observed by a minimum of two others in attendance), that award was ultimately denied and a Navy Cross was posthumously awarded.

Since I was heavily involved in exposing SEAL imposters and answering inquiries about the SEAL Teams, and had been fielding an increasing number of inquiries similar to yours, my friend gave me a very brief overview of the sequence of events in an attempt to give me enough information so that I might provide answers to those inquiries. He was very clear in his statements to me that Roberts was wounded in the legs and then killed by a head shot while fighting from sparse concealment, his dead body was then dragged by three men to a new location where it was dropped and searched, and a very short time later his body/head were shot at least once more and possibly several times At no time did the information I received ever constitute a revelation of classified information, and I was admonished to not go into greater detail than I have given you here. The primary reason for not trying to disseminate information was that the investigation might result in an award of the CMOH and I was cautioned that “we don’t want to disrupt that investigation – let them do their work”.

As noted, the initial press reports included statements about Roberts being captured and then executed, but those quickly and quietly ceased almost immediately. I suspect, but cannot be certain, that key individuals were provided with information which resulted in those public statements not being repeated. I would also note that there was an immediate clamp-down on all information pertaining to the events on Takur Ghar which appeared to be intended to keep outsiders from learning about communications failures between elements involved in that operation… not to prevent “embarrassment” to US higher command elements, but to prevent enemy forces from taking advantage of those failures before they could be resolved.

I, too, have many additional questions about those events, and wish I’d been told more. As I was not present atop Takur Ghar in March 2002, I can relate only what I was told by an individual who was/is “very highly placed”; ABH1(SEAL) Neil C. Roberts was killed while fighting alone against overwhelming enemy forces, his dead body was then dragged to a position where it was apparently intended to “bait” potential rescuers into the kill zone of waiting machine gun emplacements. Enemy combatants manhandled his body and eventually desecrated/mutilated it, including additional gun shots. Roberts was not “captured” or “detained” or “held”… he was killed in action (KIA) and his dead body was then put to use by those who had defeated him.

The “gag order” on details of the event have led (and will continue to lead) many to suspect/claim a conspiracy of silence, a “cover up”, and/or an effort to “spin” the story to hide the truth of what happened. I can only say that the former SEAL officer who provided me with a cursory overview of those events is perhaps the most scrupulously honest man that I know. His former tasking as a SEAL officer led to his being involved in the most intimate evaluation of what occurred at Takur Ghar. He told me that Roberts was killed in action, and that he was not taken alive. That former SEAL officer has been totally truthful when discussing combat events in the past, including accounts of things that did not go right and events which were not reported to the public, and I must ultimately rely upon my personal knowledge of his absolutely truthful nature in the past, and accept his statements as fact. Examination of the varied accounts from various government officials and military men in the days and weeks after the events will clearly show that the story changed with almost every telling; new presumptions are offered and new “details” were revealed from time to time. Yet through all of those variants the story which was recounted by my close friend and former SEAL officer has held up to close scrutiny. As new “details” are circulated from time to time, I find that they actually contain information that I was told years ago by my friend.

The final grim details may never be known since Roberts was the only “friendly” on the ground at the time. Although his actions were seen by an aerial surveillance drone, there was no “audio” and that video coverage was, by definition, remote. There were no officers or enlisted men with him, no one to watch and hear what went on from a ground perspective. In the video from the Predator his limp body was never seen to move during the time it was being dragged, mutilated, and desecrated. From the accounts which I have been given by individual(s) who were involved in investigating the events, I firmly believe that Roberts was KIA and not “captured/executed”.


Steve Robinson
USN 1970-1978
Inshore Undersea Warfare Group ONE
UDT-SEAL Association - Member
Special Operations Association - Member #2440-GA
POW Network Advisory Board
Naval Special Warfare Archives - SOF Analyst/Contributing Journalist
Disabled American Veterans - Life Member
FORMER Special Investigator - SEAL Authentication Team Webmaster
Author of the book NO GUTS, NO GLORY - Unmasking Navy SEAL Imposters