Medal of Honor: Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy

Posted By on October 22, 2007

Lt. Michael Murphy MOH
The parents of Lt. Michael Murphy received the highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, two year after the death of their son from President Bush on Monday. His sacrifice for his team and nation are second to none and well deserve the highest recognition. I’ve written previously about the Navy SEAL team chronicled in the book “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell, and the great sacrifice that was made in the defense of out country.

Lt. MurphyA brief history: Lt. Murphy was part of a Navy SEAL team conducting a reconnaissance mission on June 28, 2005. Besides himself, the four man team consisted of Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell. The four SEALs were hunting a terrorist called Ahmad Shah who grew up in the adjacent mountains to where they were inserted. As the SEALs worked under cover, they came across a young man tending his animals and debated whether to eliminate the risk (kill) or allow him to return to his village and continue to try to move toward their target. Their decision would cost 3 of the SEALs their lives as well as an extraction chopper that went down with and additional 16 men as word quickly spread of American solder in the 10,000-foot peaks of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush. The anti-coalition militia closed in on the four SEALs and a fierce firefight erupted. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered, knew the terrain and forced the four into a ravine.

Lt MurphyEach man suffered injury as they scrabble to avoid being trapped and a firefight ensued. The four SEALs were pinned with little hope of succeeding against a well armed militia of 75+ men. Lt. Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates in attempting to contact with headquarters by moving to an exposed position to transmit a call to get help for his men; he became an open target. According to Marcus Luttrell, Murphy used his cell phone to contact the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base to request support and extraction team. He was shot in the back, completed the call and continued to fire at the enemy while trying to return to his cover position.

According to SOA accounts the Reaction Force responded immediately and “an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent is as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters. Entering a hot combat zone, attack helicopters are used initially to neutralize the enemy and make it safer for the lightly-armored, personnel-transport helicopter to insert.

The heavy weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armored escort. They knew the tremendous risk going into an active enemy area in daylight, without their attack support, and without the cover of night. Risk would, of course, be minimized if they put the helicopter down in a safe zone. But knowing that their warrior brothers were shot, surrounded and severely wounded, the rescue team opted to directly enter the oncoming battle in hopes of landing on brutally hazardous terrain.

As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.”

Meanwhile the four SEALs, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson held on and continued to fight until they were out of ammunition. The two hour gun battle killed an estimated 35 Taliban fighters and eventually Murphy, Axelson and Dietz. Luttrell was knocked unconscious by a rocket propelled grenade which tossed him over a ridge. He was able to regain his consciousness and escape on hands and knees; he was dehydrated, had a bullet wound in one leg and shrapnel in the other. Three of his vertebrae were cracked and he was too weak to contact the rescue helicopters. Eventually he traveled seven miles and evaded the enemy.

The next day a group of locals took him in and hid him from the Taliban who were looking for him. A Marine outpost was notified and on July 2, 2005 the U.S. forces sent troops in to bring him home. The loss of so many SEALs in one day is noted as “the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.”

For Lt. Murphy’s heroism, President Bush thanked Dan and Maureen Murphy and their son John, and presented them with their son’s Medal of Honor.
Dan and Mareen Murphy

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  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
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