Today, June 28th, marks the seven year anniversary of one of the bravest acts in military history. LT Michael P. Murphy, USN, was awarded the Medal of Honor by the United States for his actions in Operation Red Wings.

Michael Patrick Murphy was many things.  He was a New Yorker (more specifically a Long Islander), a Naval Officer, a  Penn State Nittany Lion, a war hero, a medal of honor recipient, and a Navy SEAL.  All of these titles accurately apply to a man who history will remember as one of the greatest warriors spawned from the Global War on Terror era.  He and a revered group, which included Douglas Zembiac (also known as the Lion of Fallujah), Salvatore Giunta, Dakota Meyer, Jason Dunham and a few others, will enter the pantheon of American heroes who are held as the sacred ideal of patriotism, and will be remembered for generations as men who were larger than life in combat and did incredible things in battle.

LT Murphy was in charge of a secret mission titled ‘Operation Red Wings’ that included a small force of Navy SEALs tasked with capturing or killing a key Taliban target.  The insertion by helicopter went smoothly and the team entered a highly dangerous region of Afghanistan undetected.  However, as the team moved into a position to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance they were detected by local goat herders passing through the area.

A quick decision had to be made about what to do with the goat herders who could easily give away the SEAL’s position to the enemy and compromise the mission.  LT Murphy decided as the commanding officer, and in accordance with the rules of engagement, not to detain, harm, or kill any of the locals as they were merely civilians.  Knowing full well that making this call had a very real chance of putting the lives of his soldier’s and himself in jeopardy.

Shortly after releasing the local men, LT Murphy’s team was ambushed from three sides by a larger force with heavy firepower.  The SEALs were pushed back and LT Murphy left his area of cover in an attempt to establish communication with his headquarters, give the team’s position, and ask for reinforcements.  He was injured during the attack but continued fighting with his men until he fell mortally wounded.  Two other members of the team were killed in action but one, Marcus Luttrell, survived although injured.  He evaded the enemy in the mountains and was eventually aided and harbored by friendly local villagers until rescued by American forces.  It is his story that detailed the heroic fight that day and the actions of LT Murphy.

When the forthcoming Hollywood movie hits theaters and the Navy’s new destroyer (USS Michael Murphy) sets sail, they will only create greater interest in the LT Michael Murphy story.  It is great that these things will glorify the memory of a fallen hero.  However, it is most important to keep in mind that he was not only brave in battle but he was someone that was willing to do what was right even when it meant endangering his own life.  That is truly courageous and heroic.

Fair winds and following seas to a fallen hero and one of the US Navy’s finest.


This article was originally published by the Institute for Defence and Government Advancement (IDGA) – written by Nick Younker.

This entry was posted in Afghanistan-Pakistan, Elite Units, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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