The Facebook page of the Navy SEAL Museum in Ft Pierce, Florida, is reporting that the founder of SEAL Team Six, Dick Marcinko, has passed away at age 81. According to a tweet shared by his son Matt, he died on Christmas day.

As reported by the Museum, “The Museum is very saddened to learn of the passing of Richard “Dick” Marcinko. “Demo Dick” was a retired U.S. Navy SEAL commander and Vietnam War veteran. He was the first commanding officer of SEAL Team SIX.”

Commander Marcinko was born in Pennsylvania in 1940 and was a high school dropout. Rejected by the Marines for not having a diploma, he was accepted into the Navy as a Radioman rating in 1958. Marcinko applied for and was accepted for SEAL training and joined Underwater Demolition Team Twenty-one(UDT-21) in class 26 in 1961. Marcinko went to college while with UDT-21 and was offered a commission in 1965. The former high school dropout would go on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from Auburn in International Relations and a Masters in Political Science from the Navy Post Graduate School.

Marcinko then went to SEAL Team Two as an officer.

In 1967 Marcinko was with SEAL Team Two, Second Platoon, and led what was called one most successful SEAL operation in the riverine war being waged in the Mekong Delta. In the battle of Ilo Ilo Hon, Marcinko and his SEALs killed an untold number of the enemy and destroyed six sampans used to transport men, weapons, and supplies up and down the Mekong River. His operational successes caught the attention of the North Vietnamese high command, who offered a bounty to anyone who killed or captured him. This bounty was never collected.

He was then made Officer in Charge of 8th platoon on TEAM Two. During the Tet Offensive in 1968, he and his men joined up with Green Berets in the house-to-house fighting at Chau Doc and rescued a group of American nurses caught in the midst of the battle. Marcinko would go on to be awarded a Silver Star, The Legion of Merit, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and four Bronze Stars, during the course of his career. After this tour, Marcinko would do an eighteen-month stint as the Naval Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia before returning again to ST-2 as its commanding officer as a Lt Commander from 1974 to 1976,

In 1979 Marcinko would find himself attached to the staff of the Joint Chiefs as one of two naval officers assigned to the Terrorist Action Team or TAT. Here he would be involved in the ill-fated mission to rescue the American hostages held by Iran. The failure of this mission prompted the Navy to develop its first counter-terrorism unit, and Marcinko was put in charge of standing it up.

The Navy only had two SEAL Teams at the time, one on the East and the other on the West coast. In a move calculated to confuse the Soviets as to how many SEAL Teams actually existed, the new unit was called SEAL Team Six.

Marcinko would be the first commanding officer of ST-6 and would stay in that billet for three years, a year beyond the usual tour of command. He was then tasked with creating Naval Security Coordination Team OP-06D, called Red Cell. Their job was to test the vulnerability of naval installations to terrorist attacks. Made up of just fourteen personnel Red Cell would go on to pull off some stunning feats of infiltration onto military bases using false IDs, uniforms, and other classified methods. They once planted a bomb near Air Force One, entered a submarine base, and even made it aboard a submarine. They also managed to kidnap several high-ranking officers. In an attempt to make the training as realistic as possible, Red Cell once abducted a civilian security guard at the Naval Weapons Center at SEAL Beach in California. The guard spent some thirty hours being subjected to abuses like beatings and having his head dunked in a toilet. Red Cell videotaped everything, and the commanding officers of the installations the team infiltrated were often humiliated at how easily their security was breached, even when they knew Red Cell was going to be testing them.

These methods may have seemed extreme in retrospect, but Red Cell was testing what was then considered some of the most secure installations in the Navy.

The budget for Red Cell was buried in Defense Appropriations and considered “off the books” and classified. As a result, Marcinko enjoyed broad discretion in how this money was spent and was able to depart the normal procurement channels.

In 1989, Marcinko, now a full Commander, was indicted in federal court on conspiracy charges, conflict of interest, and lying to the government. At issue was a kickback system involving the sale of hand grenades sold to a company Marcinko had some interest in. Marcinko would be acquitted of the conflict of interest charges, and the jury would fail to reach a verdict on the other two charges. In 1989 Marcinko would be in court again, this time charged with conspiracy to defraud the government and bribery. He would be acquitted on the bribery charge but be convicted for conspiracy and was sentenced to twenty-one months of confinement and discharged.

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Marcinko would go on to claim that the charges were vengeful acts motivated by the number of high-ranking officers he had humiliated by the exposure of their security problems during Red Cell exercises, a claim the Navy denies.

Marcinko would be released from custody to find his reputation as a warrior undiminished in the eyes of the public and other veterans. He would make a new career for himself, writing five best-selling books, including an autobiography. He was a sought-after speaker who gave lectures to law enforcement and business executives and conducted hands-on training for U.S. and foreign hostage rescue teams.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of Dick Marcinko’s career was summed up best by SOFREP’s publisher Brandon Webb in 2019,

“It struck me, that if it weren’t for Dick, the Navy may have never developed the same counter-terrorism unit that would decades later take down the World’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.”

SOFREP conducted a series of interviews with Dick Marcinko in 2017 that you can watch,

He discusses the creation of the SEAL Teams and their missions Here.

And here he talks about joining the Navy

Navy SEALs in Vietnam

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