Camp Keating That Was Attacked is Abandoned

Attack Aircraft Were Stacked Up

The U.S. and Afghan army soldiers inside Keating had been reduced in ranks because the camp was scheduled to be closed as part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy of pulling back from sparsely populated areas to protect population centers instead.

The camp's defenders, who endured small attacks several times a week, had been warned by villagers about 10 minutes before the onslaught began. While the camp prepared for a pending attack, soldiers were not alarmed by the warning because it was one of the almost daily stream of tips they received.

"We get reports all the time," Shrode said. "I will say it's 50-50 [the attack] will happen."

The soldiers quickly realized the assault was much larger than any they had ever endured. The camp's generator was hit immediately, plunging the camp into pre-dawn darkness.

Soon the camp was on fire with strong winds fanning it along to additional buildings. Eventually, every building in the camp, except one, was burned.

"We were basically surrounded 360 degrees," Shrode said. "I think there were significant numbers [of enemy fighters] throughout the day."

He immediately called for air support.

"We had fixed wing [jets] 20 minutes after fight started," Shrode told ABC News. "We had helicopters 20 minutes later. ... We had so many different assets up in the air ... they were stacked on so many different levels."

Nevertheless, the battle raged throughout the morning. There was a lull about noon, before the attack resumed.

"We had everything we needed. It was just a big attack with a lot of people. Bad things happen, but I think we did well, considering the circumstances."

He added that cooperation with the air cover ensured that a "bad situation did not turn worse."

For the pilots, it was, at times, difficult to find the enemy. And because of the smoke, visibility was restricted to a half mile.

"One of the primary reasons the fight took so long, it is in extreme terrain," said Lewallen, of Clarksville, Tenn. "There are a lot of rocks and a lot of cover. You really can't detect the enemy until they start moving again."

Three Apaches Damaged by Insurgent Fire

Three of the attacking Apaches were damaged by insurgent fire, officials said.

By the afternoon, cloud cover moved in, which helped reveal the position of enemy gunners.

"At that time we were able to see some of the larger muzzle flashes that were a little higher in the mountains," Lewallen said. "We started to eliminate the larger weapons."

One concern was a report that several large caliber weapons were trained on the helicopter landing zone, waiting for a Medevac flight to take out the wounded. The Medevac chopper didn't arrive until after 9 p.m. that night under the cover of darkness and after those weapons had been located and destroyed.

ABC News had previously reported that when the Medevac flight arrived, some of the wounded refused a chance to leave Keating and kept on fighting. Soldiers also confirmed an earlier ABC News report that some troops gave blood during the fight to be transfused into wounded comrades.

When the attack was over, Souter and Shrode said the soldiers checked on each other and assessed the damage. The fire had destroyed much of the camp.

Lost in the blaze were "cameras, movies, stuff that helps you pass the time ... but there were guys who literally lost everything except the clothes off their backs and the weapons in their hands," Souter said.

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