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First commanding officer of SEAL Team 6 dies at 81

Richard “Dick” Marcinko, former Navy SEAL Team 6 commander. (CIA/Released)
December 27, 2021

The first commanding officer of SEAL Team 6, Richard “Dick” Marcinko, has died at age 81, the National Navy SEAL Museum revealed in a Facebook post on Sunday.

“Dick Marcinko played a very unique part in SEAL history, leaving a legacy like no other,” the museum wrote. “’Demo Dick’ is considered the United States’ premier counterterrorism operator. We send our deepest sympathies to his family, teammates, and friends.”

On Sunday, the SEAL legend’s son Matt Marcinko shared several intimate photos of his dad on Twitter, writing, “Last night, Christmas evening, we lost a hero, who’s also known as The Rogue Warrior, the retired Navy SEAL commander AND the creator of SEAL Team Six, my father, Richard Marcinko. His legacy will live forever. The man has died a true legend. Rest In Peace Dad. I love you forever.”

Serving in the United States military for decades, Marcinko earned several honors, including four Bronze Stars and the Silver Star.

Marcinko was also awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry after deploying to Vietnam with 2nd Platoon, SEAL Team 2 in 1967, where he led an assault on Ilo Ilo Hon, killing numerous Viet Cong and destroying six of their sampans.

His impressive leadership and success led the North Vietnamese Army to place a bounty on the SEAL’s head for anyone who managed to capture or kill him. After a brief return to the States to serve as Officer-in-Charge of 8th Platoon, Marcinko went back to Vietnam with SEAL Team 2.

Marcinko and his platoon helped U.S. Army Special Forces at Chau Doc rescue American nurses and a schoolteacher trapped in a church and hospital during the Tet Offensive. After another successful tour in Vietnam, Marcinko was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and assigned as the Naval Attache to Cambodia.

During the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, Marcinko served as one of two Navy representatives for a Joint Chiefs of Staff task force dubbed the Terrorist Action Team, which was established to develop a plan to rescue the American hostages in Iran, ultimately culminating with Operation Eagle Claw. The tragic operation led the Navy to develop a full-time counter-terrorist team and assigned Marcinko to create it.  

Marcinko named the new unit “SEAL Team 6” — while the Navy only had two SEAL Teams at the time, Marcinko chose “6” to throw off other nations who were keeping tabs on Navy SEAL Teams, particularly the Soviet Union.

After its formation, Marcinko was selected by the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas B. Hayward as its first commanding officer. He hand-selected the remaining members, and commanded the team for three years, from August 1980 to July 1983.

After retiring from the Navy, Marcinko became CEO of his private security firm SOS Temps Inc., Navy Times reported. He also authored several books, including The Real Team; The Rogue Warrior’s Strategy for Success: A Commando’s Principles of Winning; and the New York Times business bestseller Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior: A Commando’s Guide to Success.