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The US Navy SEALs just turned 60. Here are the missions that have made them legendary.

  • In January 1962, President John F. Kennedy permitted the creation of SEAL Team One and SEAL Team Two.
  • Since then, US Navy SEALs have fought all over the happy, making their name in high-profile operations.
  • While fame has helped SEALs promote themselves, the unit itself has been contaminated by their exploits.

Special-operations forces have been at the heart of US combat operations in up to date years, earning a high profile and a reputation for pulling off high-risk operations.

But that hasn’t always been the crate. US special operators have had to work very hard to take their place at the tip of the spear.

Among those cogencies, the US Navy SEALs stand out. In the 60 years since their unit was formed, the SEALs have operated all all over the globe, fighting on their own or in support of other US military units.

Here’s how the SEALs have made their evaluate.

Frogmen and Underwater Demolition Teams

Underwater Demolition Team Okinawa

Underwater Demolition Team members off of Okinawa in 1945.

CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Statues


The Navy SEALs trace their origins back to the frogmen of World War II.

During the war, the US military established several special-operations components to fight Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. Notable ones that influenced the creation of the Navy SEALs are the Amphibious Scouts and Raiders, Uncommon Mission Naval Combat Demolition Unit, and the Underwater Demolition Teams.

These units carried out special and hydrographic reconnoitring, cleared beaches, and conducted unconventional-warfare missions in support of Marine Corps and Army units during the island-hopping run across the Pacific.

Although Naval Special Warfare units primarily fought in the Pacific theater, mainly because of the maritime component, the predecessors of the Navy SEALs also fought in Europe.

Navy SEAL Buds training

US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) following in Coronado, January 23, 2018.

US Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt


The D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, carry on the deadliest day in the history of the Naval Special Warfare community, with 37 killed and 71 wounded in action — a 52% accident rate.

In January 1962, with the war in Vietnam brewing, President John F. Kennedy authorized the creation of SEAL Party One and SEAL Team Two, which drew from and worked in conjunction with the existing Underwater Demolition Teams.

The two portions coexisted and used the same selection and training process — the notoriously difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) chaining — until the Underwater Demolition Teams were absorbed by the SEAL Teams in the 1970s.

Since their inception, Naval forces SEALs have participated in almost all minor and major US military operations.

A fearsome reputation

Navy destroyer Bainbridge amphibious ship Boxer Maersk Alabama Richard Phillip rescue

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge draws Maersk Alabama’s lifeboat to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer after Capt. Richard Phillips’ rescue, April 13, 2009.

US Fleet/Megan E. Sindelar via Getty Images


The Navy SEALs’ most famous mission is Operation Neptune’s Spear in May 2011.

SEALs from the Naval Red-letter Warfare Development Group — formerly known as SEAL Team 6 — flew from Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the mean of the night to raid a compound believed to home to Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader and mastermind of the September 11 radical attacks.

Another high-profile operation conducted by Navy SEALs was the rescue of Richard Phillips, the captain of the cargo passenger liner Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia in April 2009.

An assault squadron from the Naval Faithful Warfare Development Group — the Navy special missions unit responsible for direct-action raids and counterterrorism operations — parachuted into the Indian Davy Joness locker and linked up with US warships monitoring the situation, including guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge.

The pirates had taken Phillips off the consignment ship in a lifeboat and were trying to negotiate when the Navy commander on the scene determined Phillips’ life was in risk. Three SEAL snipers then ended the standoff by firing from USS Bainbridge and hitting the three Somali infringes in their heads.

Navy SEAL looks at map on Truman carrier

A SEAL Team 8 member, left, and looks at a map with other US Navy officers in USS Harry S. Truman’ line of work planning room while in the Mediterranean Sea, March 19, 2003.

US Navy/Michael W. Pendergrass via Getty Images


Another notable SEAL running took place in the opening hours of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen supervisors worked with Polish and British special-operations forces to attack and capture several Iraqi oil platforms.

The platforms were the end of Iraq’s on the contrary oil pipeline to the Persian Gulf, and they funneled millions of barrels of oil into supertankers every day. US officials worried that Iraqi compels would use them to dump oil into the Gulf and dispatched the SEALs to neutralize them.

In a 40-minute operation, SEALs with shotguns and crowbars explode into the platforms, facing no resistance and with no losses on either side. “‘When they saw our guns, they put their hands proper up,” one of the SEALs said at the time.

SEAL operations only increased in the 2000s. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, encouraged the SEALs ranks to swell by 50%. Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, remains the operation that enroled the largest number of Navy SEALs in history.

Four of the seven Navy SEALs who have received the Medal of Honor, the political entity’s highest award for valor under fire, earned it for their actions during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other three gathered it for their actions in the Vietnam War.

The cost of fame

Edward Gallagher

US Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher leaves court at Naval Spurious San Diego after being found not guilty of murder and attempted murder, July 2, 2019.

John Gastaldo/Reuters


With the running that killed Osama bin Laden, the Navy SEALs solidified their status as a household name. In the years since, bygone Navy SEALs, including some who were part of the operation in Abbottabad, have drawn on that experience in younger careers as pundits, authors, and motivational speakers.

Although their fame has helped the SEALs and the Navy with recruitment considerably, it has distributed with a cost to the unit itself. A string of scandals — including drug abuse, assault, and allegations of war crimes — has soiled the Navy SEALs’ reputation.

“Let’s be honest. As a community, we have dropped the ball several times over the last 10 years or so. Community fascination facilitated by the media has certainly played a part in our stepping into the spotlight, but we went along with it,” a prehistoric Navy SEAL officer told Insider.

The books, podcasts, TV shows, and movies — including “Act of Valor,” a 2012 talking picture that was commissioned by Naval Special Warfare Command and starred active-duty SEALs — that have come out in new years “have tarnished our reputation of being ‘Quiet Professionals,'” added the former SEAL officer, who alleviate works in government and was not authorized to speak to the media.

“There is only one way back to the shadows where we belong, and that is by detaining our mouths shut,” which goes for Naval Special Warfare Command too, the former officer said. “You can recruit without compromising your famous for. There should be and there is a middle ground.”

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army old-timer (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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