Navy SEAL Team 6 founder Richard Marcinko dies at 81

Richard Marcinko, the first commanding officer of the Navy’s legendary SEAL Team 6, died Saturday at his home in Virginia, National Navy SEAL Museum announced on social networks. He was 81 years old.

Already a highly decorated officer with more than a decade of SEAL service, Marcinko in 1979 was one of two Navy representatives on a joint Joint Chiefs of Staff task force assembled to help develop a plan for rescue during the Iranian hostage crisis. The mission that followed, Operation Eagle Claw, was disastrous, with 12 casualties and seven planes and helicopters destroyed or abandoned in Iran. Its aftermath, however, would see Marcinko at the forefront of an emerging mission for US special operations personnel.

In 1980, Marcinko was selected by Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, at to build a new SEAL unit dedicated to rapid response, hostage rescue and counter-terrorism operations.

While special operations grew tremendously in the decades that followed, at the time it was an underutilized and underemployed aspect of the military.

The now iconic name – SEAL Team 6 – started out as a bit of Cold War-era deception. At the time, there were only two active SEAL teams. Marcinko designated his new unit “six”, hoping that the Soviet Union and other nations would greatly overestimate the size of the Navy’s special operations community.

Marcinko led the unit from 1980 to 1983, selecting new members from existing Navy SEAL teams and underwater demolition teams. As commander, Marcinko helped establish his new unit’s aggressive and tough culture and made little effort to conceal his maverick nature, openly displaying rules and regulations. In his autobiography, “Rogue Warrior,” Marcinko wrote about the importance of drinking together and often as an inescapable part of building Team 6 togetherness.

Marcinko’s personality and the nature of the unit weren’t for everyone. Adm. William McRaven, who would later lead Special Operations Command and oversee SEAL Team 6 in its famous raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was drummed out of the unit after disagreeing with Marcinko over what he perceived to be a culture of recklessness.

Over the next few decades, SEAL Team 6, today known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU, would continue to live up to Marcinko’s rogue reputation, taking on some of the most dangerous missions. and the most secret in the country. From Operation Anaconda, to the hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama, to the aforementioned bin Laden raid, the unit’s exploits have been retold over and over again and have been the subject of dozens of films and books.

Marcinko retired from the Navy as a commander in 1989, becoming a bestselling author, motivational speaker, and military consultant. His 1992 autobiography “Rogue Warrior,” sold millions of copies and is filled with countless feats of a life spent at the forefront of special ops combat. Marcinko then used the “Rogue Warrior” brand for a series of eight best-selling novels, beginning with “Red Cell”, co-written with John Weisman.

Author and former US Navy SEAL Richard Marcinko arrives at the Sapphire Pool & Day Club on August 1, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)

Marcinko’s career has not been without its troubles either. In 1990 he was sentenced of having defrauded the government on the acquisition prices of hand grenades and sentenced to 21 months in prison, 15 of which were eventually served.

Marcinko was born on November 21, 1940 in the small town of Lansford, in eastern Pennsylvania. Drafted into the Navy in 1958, he rose through the ranks and eventually joined a SEAL team in 1966.

In 1967, Marcinko deployed to Vietnam with SEAL Team 2, participating in a raid on Ilo Ilo Island which the Navy described as one of its most successful operations in the Mekong Delta. During a second deployment, which took place during the Tet Offensive in 1968, Marcinko led his SEAL platoon in house-to-house fighting, later rescuing several American nurses and teachers trapped in a nearby hospital. Marcinko will receive four bronze stars, a silver star and a Vietnamese cross for bravery, according to at the National Navy SEAL Museum.

Sunday, Marcinko’s son wrote on Twitter that “his legacy will live forever. The man died a true legend.

Correction: This article has been corrected to note that Richard Marcinko’s first sequel to his “Rogue Warrior” franchise was “Rogue Warrior: Red Cell” and not “Rogue Warrior: Green Team”.

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