Project Hero: Lt (SEAL) Michael P. Murphy, Medal of Honor Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, October 13, 2007
The third Medal of Honor will be presented October 22nd to the parents of Lt. Michael Patrick Murphy, a SEAL killed in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wing. This will be the first MOH for the war in Afghanistan.
On June 28, 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a very committed four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. The SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell had a vital task. The four SEALs were scouting Ahmad Shah – a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.
Under the assumed name Muhammad Ismail, Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the "Mountain Tigers" that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEAL mission was compromised when the team was spotted by local nationals, who presumably reported its presence and location to the Taliban.
A fierce firefight erupted between the four SEALs and a much larger enemy force of more than 50 anti-coalition militia. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. They also had terrain advantage by holding the higher ground. They launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. The firefight continued relentlessly as the overwhelming militia forced the team deeper into a ravine.
Trying to reach safety, the four men, now each wounded, began bounding down the mountain's steep sides, making leaps of 20 to 30 feet. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, pinned down by overwhelming forces, Dietz, the communications petty officer, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base. But before he could, he was shot in the hand, the blast shattering his thumb.
Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates.
Murphy, known as “Mikey” to his friends and family, although shot and wounded himself, managed to move onto a ridgeline and radio headquarters at the nearby air base for them to send in reinforcements. Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the ordeal, describes what he did in his book “Lone Survivor”.
“Mikey was ignoring his wound and fighting like a SEAL officer should, uncompromising, steady, hard-eyed, and professional,” Luttrell wrote.
Then, says Luttrell, after Dietz was wounded, Murphy took his mobile phone, “walked to open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ.” He was attempting to call the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and request assistance.
“I could hear him talking,” Luttrell wrote. “My men are taking heavy fire ... we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here ... we need help.’
“And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them both, sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.
“ ‘Roger that, sir. Thank you,’ ” Luttrell heard Murphy say before he reengaged the enemy by fire.
“Only I knew what Mikey had done. He’d understood we had only one realistic chance, and that was to call in help,” Luttrell wrote. “Knowing the risk, understanding the danger, in the full knowledge the phone call could cost him his life, Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy, son of Maureen, fiancé of the beautiful Heather, walked out into the firestorm.
“His objective was clear: to make one last valiant attempt to save his teammates,” he wrote.
Not long after the call, Murphy was shot again, calling for Luttrell to help him, but Luttrell, also hit and wounded, couldn’t reach him. “There was nothing I could do except die with him,” he wrote.
An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, were sent in as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. As I’m sure your recall, the 160th SOAR was involved in the famous “Blackhawk down” incident in Somalia.
The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armed, 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.
But the heavy weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armed 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. Even though the MH-47 went down, the crew of an escort attack helicopters sited the SEALs on the ground as putting up "an unbelievable firefight."
On the ground, with the rescue ship down and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson, continued the fight. By the end of the two-hour gunfight, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead.
Marcus Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket propelled grenade and was knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness some time later, Luttrell managed to escape – badly injured – and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff. He was eventually rescued on July 2 after a courageous and harrowing time avoiding Taliban who were looking for him.
By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.
This was the worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II. But the courage and determination of LT. Murphy to do what was necessary to try and save his men, even at the cost of his own life, demonstrated a level of valor that even awed the special operators.
His leadership, valor and sacrifice have now been properly honored. In a White House ceremony on October 22nd, his parents will accept the award of the Medal of Honor on behalf of their son from the President of the United States.
The family is deeply honored by the award. Said his father, Daniel Murphy, "I think it is a public recognition of what we knew about Michael, of his intensity, his focus, his devout loyalty to home and family, his country and especially to his SEAL teammates and the SEAL community."
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here (published on Saturday), please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.