Richard Marcinko: His Navy SEAL Team Carried Out the Raid That Killed Osama bin Laden

From a New York Times obit by Vimal Patel and Azi Paybarah headlined “Richard Marcinko, Founding Commander of SEAL Team 6, Dies at 81”:

Richard Marcinko, the hard-charging founding commander of Navy SEAL Team 6, the storied and feared unit within an elite commando force that later carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, died Saturday at his home in Fauquier County, Va….

Commander Marcinko climbed the ranks to command Team 6 and wrote a tell-all best seller that cemented the SEALs in pop culture as heroes and bad boys. Though the highly decorated Vietnam veteran led Team 6 for only three years, from 1980 to 1983, he had an outsize influence on the group’s place in military lore.

After a failed 1980 mission to rescue 53 American hostages seized in the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran, the Navy asked Commander Marcinko to build a SEAL unit that could respond quickly to terrorist crises. The name itself was an attempt at Cold War disinformation: Only two SEAL teams existed at the time, but Commander Marcinko called the new unit SEAL Team 6, hoping that Soviet analysts would overestimate the size of the force.

He flouted rules and fostered a maverick image for the unit. (Years after leaving the command, he was convicted of military contract fraud.) In his autobiography, “Rogue Warrior,” Commander Marcinko describes drinking together as important to SEAL Team 6’s solidarity; his recruiting interviews often amounted to boozy chats in bars.

For years, SEAL Team 6 embraced its rogue persona and was assigned some of the military’s toughest operations. Only Team 6 trains to chase after nuclear weapons that fall into enemy hands. And the team’s role in the 2011 raid that killed bin Laden — the Qaeda leader who 10 years earlier had overseen the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 — spawned a wave of books and movies, elevating the unit to even higher heights of fame.

Young officers were sometimes run out of Team 6 for trying to clean up what they saw as a culture of recklessness. Adm. William H. McRaven, who rose to lead the Special Operations Command and oversaw the bin Laden raid, left Team 6 during the Marcinko era after disagreements about leadership.

After retiring from the Navy in 1989, Commander Marcinko embarked on a career as a best-selling author, motivational speaker and military consultant, relying heavily on his authenticity as a military veteran. He also appeared on the cover of several of his books, presenting an imposing image of muscular forearms, bearded jaw and piercing eyes staring out at readers.

Some SEALs over the years have said that Commander Marcinko invented his own legend. Of his 1992 book, “Rogue Warrior,” written with John Weisman, David Murray wrote in The New York Times that “his story is fascinating” but the method of telling it “is not.” In the book, Commander Marcinko “comes across as less the genuine warrior than a comic-book superhero who makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Little Lord Fauntleroy.”

The book sold millions of copies. Readers apparently wanted more, and Commander Marcinko obliged. His 1995 novel, “Rogue Warrior: Green Team,” also with Mr. Weisman, has “so much action that the reader scarcely has time to breathe,” Newgate Callendar, another Times reviewer, wrote.

Richard Marcinko was born on Nov. 21, 1940, to George Marcinko and Emilie Teresa Pavlik Marcinko in his grandmother’s house in Lansford, Pa., a tiny mining town. In his autobiography, he described his mother as “short and Slavic looking” and his father as dark and brooding, with a “nasty temper.”

All the men in the family, Commander Marcinko wrote, were miners. “They were born, they worked the mines, they died,” he wrote. “Life was simple and life was hard, and I guess some of them might have wanted to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but most were too poor to buy boots.”

He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy in 1958. He was deployed to Vietnam with SEAL Team 2 in 1967, according to the National Navy SEAL Museum, which announced the death on its Facebook page.

He received many honors for his service, including four Bronze Stars, a Silver Star and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry….After completing two tours in Vietnam, he was promoted to lieutenant commander and then took the reins of SEAL Team 2 from 1974 to 1976…..

On Sunday night, Admiral McRaven called Commander Marcinko “one of the more colorful characters” in Naval special warfare history.

“While we had some disagreements when I was a young officer, I always respected his boldness, his ingenuity and his unrelenting drive for success,” Admiral McRaven wrote. “I hope he will be remembered for his numerous contributions to the SEAL community.”

Azi Paybarah is a reporter covering breaking news, based in New York. Before joining The Times in 2018 he covered politics for WNYC and The New York Observer. He helped launch the website that later became Politico New York and co-founded the FAQ NYC podcast. He is a lifelong New Yorker and graduate of the University at Albany.


Speak Your Mind