Richard Marcinko, First Commander of Seal Team Six Dead at 81

Faye Higbee
richard Marcinko

Richard Marcinko, the first Commander of SEAL Team Six and Red Cell has died, according the Navy SEAL Museum. He was 81. He was the recipient of a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with V-Device and three gold stars, two Navy commendation medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and many others. He was a legend, controversial, and had several nicknames including Demo Dick, Rogue Warrior, and The Geek. (Military Times)

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In January 1967, Marcinko deployed to Vietnam with 2nd Platoon, SEAL Team TWO. On May 18, 1967, Marcinko led his men in an assault on Ilo Ilo Hon where they killed many Viet Cong and destroyed six of their sampans. This became known as the Navy’s most successful SEAL operation in the Mekong Delta. Because of his strong leadership and great success, the North Vietnamese Army placed a bounty on his had, payable to anyone who could capture and kill him. Marcinko was never caught; he went on to be awarded the first of four Bronze Stars, as well as a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Silver Star.

After returning stateside and serving as Officer-in-Charge of 8th Platoon from Dec 1967 to June 1968, Marcinko went back to Vietnam with SEAL Team TWO. During the Tet Offensive, Marcinko ordered his platoon to assist U.S. Army Special Forces at Châu Đốc. What began as an urban street battle turned into a rescue mission of American nurses and a schoolteacher trapped in the city’s church and hospital…

Marcinko was selected by the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas B. Hayward, as the first commanding officer of this new unit. At the time, the Navy had only two SEAL Teams. Marcinko named the unit “SEAL Team SIX” in order to fool other nations, notably the Soviet Union, into believing that the United States had at least three other SEAL Teams that they were unaware of. The creator of SEAL Team SIX, Marcinko hand-selected the Team’s members from across the existing SEAL Teams and Underwater Demolition Teams, including a special counter-terrorist tactics section of SEAL Team TWO, codenamed MOB-6. SEAL Team SIX became the Navy’s premier counter-terrorist and hostage rescue unit. Marcinko commanded SEAL Team SIX for three years, from August 1980 to July 1983.

Navy SEAL Museum on Facebook
Richard Marcinko in the early says of his career – Screenshot via Pinterest

SEAL Team Six grew out of the need for a full time counterterrorism unit after the failed Iran Hostage debacle known as “Operation Eagle Claw.”

Marcinko was not without controversy. His men loved him, but according to some, he was “mean and fierce.” He was asked to head RED Cell, a team composed of 13 former SEAL Team 6 and one Force Recon Marine. The unit also known as OP-O6D, was organized to try and infiltrate and test the security of U.S. military bases and other sensitive US sites. A mission that revealed serious security issues landed Marcinko in prison in 1990, sentenced to 21 months…he claimed his innocence, saying that commanders were embarassed at the breach. He served 15 months of the sentence.

Marcinko was an author, speaker, consultant, talk show host and leader. Fair Winds and Following Seas, Sir.

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Featured screenshot: Richard Marcinko in 2011 via Special-ops.org

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