Richard Marcinko, first commander of Navy SEAL Team 6, dies at 81

Richard “Dick” Marcinko, the first commander of Navy SEAL Team 6, the group of highly trained warriors that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, died on Christmas Day at the age of 81, according to his family.

Richard Marcinko signs copies of his book ‘Seal Force Alpha’ at the Base Exchange at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia in July 2006. Bill Tiernan / Virginian-Pilot via AP File

Kathy Ritchie, Marcinko’s daughter, confirmed the death of the retired commander and Vietnam War veteran to NBC News Monday morning.

In a family statement released later Monday, Nancy Marcinko, Marcinko’s wife, said he “passed away quietly at home due to a heart attack.”

“To the outside world he was the Rogue Warrior and Demo Dick, but to us he was and always will be a loving husband, father and Opa,” Nancy Marcinko said. “For more than thirty years, he proudly dedicated his life to service to his country as a Navy Seal. After his retirement, he continued to mentor and encourage young Seals while inspiring and entertaining many with his books and her personality.”

“Few know of his gentle and generous nature. Although he is gone, the mark he left will never fade. As a family, we recognize that this is not just our loss and many of you are cry with us. We sincerely appreciate the warm thoughts and condolences.”

The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, remembered Marcinko in a Facebook post, saying he “played a very unique role in SEAL history, leaving a legacy like no other.”

Marcinko enlisted in the navy in 1958 and eventually rose through the ranks to the rank of commander. Along with developing SEAL Team 6, he also created Red Cell, another top counterterrorism unit within the military, according to

Marcinko was a two-time Vietnam War veteran who also served in Cambodia and Iran, according to the museum.

He was part of a joint Joint Chiefs of Staff task force known as the Terrorist Action Team (TAT) during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, where Iranian protesters attacked the embassy from the United States to Tehran and took Americans hostage. TAT’s work led to Operation Eagle Claw, the failed 1980 attempt to rescue the hostages, the museum wrote in its article. The 52 American captives were finally released on January 20, 1981.

“After this tragic operation, the Navy recognized the need for a dedicated full-time counterterrorism team and tasked Marcinko with its design and development,” the museum said.

Marcinko was chosen as the first commander of the new unit. Although the Navy only had two SEAL teams at the time, he named the unit “SEAL Team 6″ to “deceive other nations, especially the Soviet Union”, into believing that the United States had more teams they didn’t know about, according to the Museum.

He commanded SEAL Team 6 from August 1980 to July 1983.

In addition to his military career, he has written several books including an autobiography titled “Rogue Warrior”.

CORRECTION (December 28, 2021, 9:25 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of Richard Marcinko’s wife. She is Nancy Marcinko, not Marinko.

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