Richard Marcinko, who founded the Navy SEAL Team 6 after being recognized as a SEAL guide during two tours in Vietnam, died on Christmas Day at the age of 81, the National Navy SEAL Museum said.
Since the Navy needed an elite counter-terrorism unit after the Pentagon’s failure to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, Chief of Naval Operations selected Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, Marcinko to support the new SEAL team, according to Fort Pierce. Fla., Museum. Marcinko, known as “Demo Dick”, commanded SEAL Team 6 for about three years, retired from the Navy as a commander in 1989 and wrote a number of non-fiction and fiction books based on the Navy SEALs.
“Dick Marcinko played a very special role in SEAL history and left a legacy like no other,” wrote the SEAL Museum in a Facebook post on Sunday announcing his death. “‘Demo Dick’ is widely recognized as the United States’ leading counterterrorism agent. We express our deepest condolences to his family, teammates and friends.”
His family confirmed his death at his Fauquier County, Virginia home in a message on Twitter.
Marcinko, the son of a Pennsylvania miner, entered the Navy in 1958 after dropping out of high school, according to his 1992 autobiography “Rogue Warrior”. He completed underwater demolition training as a recruited seaman before entering service through the Officer Candidate School in 1965. Less than two years later he sent Team 2 to Vietnam with SEAL.
In Vietnam, Marcinko became known for leading successful SEAL attacks, including a raid on Ilo Ilo Hon in May 1967, which the SEAL Museum identified as the Navy’s most successful SEAL operation in the Mekong Delta.
“Because of his strong leadership and great success, the North Vietnamese Army put a bounty on his head that was payable to anyone who could capture and kill him,” according to the SEAL Museum. “Marcinko was never caught.”
He led a SEAL platoon on a second Vietnam mission and eventually received the Silver Star and four Bronze Star medals with the Battle “V” for bravery, according to the museum.
Marcinko served at the Pentagon during the April 1980 rescue attempt by US specialists to rescue 52 American diplomats and citizens who had been taken hostage five months earlier by Iranian college students who supported the Iranian Revolution. The failure of Operation Eagle Claw – including the deaths of eight American military personnel – caused the Pentagon to reconsider its response to crises around the globe.
“It was embarrassing to think that this almighty nation couldn’t get 50 of its own people out of Iran,” Marcinko said in a 2019 interview with special-operations online publication SOFREP. “Everyone had balls on their faces … and it was some retired admirals and generals who looked at all the things that screwed up and basically came out and said we should … have a permanent, dedicated counter-terrorism force.”
Hayward, the CNO, hired Marcinko to design the unit, select its members, train it, and serve as its first in command. He selected the best SEALs and underwater demolition specialists to build the Navy’s most elite and famous unit. He told SOFREP that he even took the opportunity to mess with the Soviet Union and name the unit Team Six, even though there were only two SEAL teams at the time.
“We had none [SEAL Team] three, four or five, “he said.” I picked six as a lucky number – let the Soviets find out where the others are. “
After leaving the Navy, Marcinko went into business, gave motivational speeches, and wrote about 20 books, including several bestsellers. After writing about his naval career in his autobiography, Marcinko wrote a number of novels in which he was the protagonist.
Jim DeFelice, who co-wrote six of these books with Marcinko, named his co-author an “American hero” in a Twitter post on Monday.
“As far as I know, Dick and his warriors never traveled to Hell itself, but if they did the devil would surely have found a place to hide instead of confronting them,” wrote DeFelice. “Dick’s indomitable courage was legendary, but his sense of humor and generosity were just as deep. He was a man who never took a ‘no’ for an answer or who ever faced a challenge he couldn’t meet. We just didn’t lost a warrior; we lost a great man. “
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