Michael P. Murphy

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Michael P. Murphy
Color photograph of Michael Murphy, a U.S. Navy officer, wearing a military dress uniform. There is a blue background behind him and he is wearing a gold Navy Seal Trident, two blue and green striped ribbons, one red and yellow striped ribbon and gold parachute insignia wings below the ribbons.
Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy
Nickname(s)"Murph", "Mikey", "The Protector"
Born(1976-05-07)May 7, 1976
Smithtown, New York, United States
DiedJune 28, 2005(2005-06-28) (aged 29)
Kunar Province, Afghanistan
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service2000–2005
UnitUnited States Navy SEALs
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan
AwardsMedal of Honor
Purple Heart
Alma materPennsylvania State University

Michael Patrick Murphy (May 7, 1976 – June 28, 2005) was a United States Navy SEAL officer who was awarded the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the War in Afghanistan. He was the first member of the United States Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War.[1] His other posthumous awards include the Silver Star Medal[2][3][n 1] and the Purple Heart.

Michael Murphy was born and raised in Suffolk County, New York. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with honors and dual degrees in political science and psychology. After college he accepted a commission in the United States Navy and became a United States Navy SEAL in July 2002. After participating in several War on Terrorism missions, he was killed on June 28, 2005, after his team was compromised and surrounded by Taliban forces near Asadabad, Afghanistan.

The U.S. Navy ship USS Michael Murphy and several civilian and military buildings have been named in his honor.

Early life and education[edit]

Murphy was born on May 7, 1976, in Smithtown, New York, to Irish American parents Maureen and Daniel Murphy, a former assistant Suffolk County district attorney and a wounded veteran of the Vietnam War.[4] He was raised in Patchogue, New York. He attended Saxton Middle School, where he played youth soccer and pee-wee football, with his father serving as his coach. In high school, he continued playing sports, and took a summer job as a lifeguard at the Brookhaven town beach in Lake Ronkonkoma, New York. He returned to the job every summer throughout his college years.[4]

Murphy was known to his friends as "Murph" and as "The Protector" in his high school years. In 8th grade, he protected a child with special needs who was being shoved into a locker by a group of boys, ending with Murphy physically pulling the attackers away from the child. This was the only time the school principal had to notify Murphy's parents of a 'disciplinary' issue; his parents later reported that they "couldn't have been prouder". He also protected a homeless man who was being attacked while collecting cans. He chased away the attackers and helped the man pick up his cans.[5]

In 1994, Murphy graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School and left to attend The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). He graduated in 1998 with a double major in political science and psychology.[4] Murphy was engaged to his college sweetheart, Heather Duggan, and their wedding was scheduled for November 2005.


Michael Murphy in tan and brown desert camouflage looking at the camera. He is wearing several pieces of green military combat gear and is holding a weapon. There is a hill behind him covered in rocks, dirt and sticks.
Murphy in Afghanistan
A color image of six military personnel dressed in their combat uniforms and holding weapons.
Navy SEALs of Operation Red Wings, with Murphy on the far right
A map of the area and plan relating to Operation Red Wings
The map given to the U.S. Navy SEALs detailing their mission.

After graduating from Penn State, Murphy applied and was accepted to several law schools, but decided to attend SEAL mentoring sessions at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. In September 2000, he accepted an appointment to the U.S. Navy's Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. On December 13 of that year, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy and began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, California, in January 2001, eventually graduating with Class 236 in November 2001.[4]

Upon graduation from BUD/S, he attended the United States Army Airborne School, SEAL Qualification Training, and SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) school. Murphy earned his SEAL Trident and checked on board SDV Team ONE (SDVT-1) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in July 2002. In October 2002, he deployed with Foxtrot Platoon to Jordan as the liaison officer for Exercise Early Victor. Following his tour with SDVT-1, Murphy was assigned to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) in Florida and deployed to Qatar in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After returning from Qatar, he was deployed to Djibouti to assist in the operational planning of future SDV missions.[4]

Combat in Afghanistan[edit]

In early 2005, Murphy was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE as officer in charge of Alpha Platoon and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.[4] While deployed, Murphy was known for wearing the patch of FDNY Engine Co. 53, Ladder Co. 43 ("El Barrio's Bravest") in remembrance of the terrorist attacks on September 11th and an FDNY friend of his who had died that day.[6] Shortly before deploying to Afghanistan, Murphy had asked for several patches from a close friend of his who had been assigned to the station.[7]

Operation Red Wings[edit]

Operation Red Wings was a counter-insurgent mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan, involving a four man special reconnaissance team of United States Navy SEALs. Murphy and two other SEALs in the team, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson, were killed in the fighting, in addition to 16 other U.S. special operations members, who were killed when their helicopter was shot down while attempting to extract the SEAL recon team. Prior to a helicopter being shot down in 2011,[8][9] Operation Red Wings was both the largest loss of life for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the invasion began[10] and the largest loss for the SEALs since the Vietnam War.

Murphy was the commander of the four-man reconnaissance team made up of himself, Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell. The team was tasked with conducting surveillance on a top Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah (code name Ben Sharmak),[11] who commanded a group of insurgents known as the "Mountain Tigers,"[12] west of Asadabad.[13][14] They were dropped off by helicopter in a remote, mountainous area east of Asadabad in Kunar Province, near the Pakistan border. After an initially successful infiltration, local goat herders stumbled upon the SEALs' location. Unable to verify any hostile intent from the herders, the team cut them loose. Hostile locals, possibly the goat herders they released, alerted nearby Taliban forces, who surrounded and attacked the small team. At the cost of his own life, Murphy was able to get a message out to friendly forces of their situation, which prompted reinforcements flown in on an MH-47 Chinook helicopter. The helicopter was shot down by an RPG, killing all 16 personnel aboard; eight were SEALs, the other eight were 160th SOAR.[4]

Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were killed in the action. Luttrell was the only U.S. survivor and was eventually rescued, after having wandered in the mountains before being taken in by friendly local Afghan villagers.[4] All three of Murphy's men were awarded the Navy's second-highest honor, the Navy Cross, for their part in the battle; alongside Murphy's Medal of Honor, their team became the most decorated in Navy SEAL history.[15]


A military grave stone with an image of a man with a cross next to it. Also shows the name of the individual and info about them with an image of the Medal of Honor.
Murphy's grave at Calverton National Cemetery

Murphy was killed on 28 June 2005 during Operation Red Wings. He had left cover and moved to a clearing away from the mountains, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to obtain a signal for his satellite phone to contact headquarters, relay the situation and request help.[16] He dropped the satellite phone after being shot but managed to pick the phone back up and finish the call. Murphy signed off saying "Thank you",[17] then continued fighting from his exposed position until he died from his wounds.[4]

On 4 July 2005, Murphy's remains were recovered by a group of American soldiers during a combat search and rescue operation and returned to the United States.[18] On 13 July, Murphy was buried with full military honors at Calverton National Cemetery.[19]

Awards and decorations[edit]

A gold image depicting an eagle perched on an anchor, clutching a trident with one claw and a gun in the other.
A light blue military ribbon with five white stars with five points each. A purple military ribbon with a thick white line at each end A multicolored military ribbon. From left to right the color patellow stripe, thin red stripe, thin white stripe, thin blue stripe, very thick yellow stripe, very thick red stripe
A multicolored military ribbon. From left to right the color pattern is; very thick red stripe, thin white stripe, thin blue stripe, thin white stripe, thin red stripe, very thick gold stripe, thin red stripe, thin white stripe, thin blue stripe, thin white stripe, very thick red stripe.
A dark blue military ribbon with a thick yellow stripe, thick red stripe, space and then a white stripe, then mirrored on the other side
A dark blue military ribbon with three thin green stripes. One stripe is in the center of the ribbon and the other two are at near the edge of the ribbon. The is a large silver E centered in the ribbon. A dark blue military ribbon with 2 think green lines, one at each end of the ribbon with a large silver E centered on the ribbon.
Special Warfare Insignia[4][n 2]
1st row Medal of Honor Purple Heart Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal
2nd row Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Combat Action Ribbon National Defense Service Medal
3rd row Afghanistan Campaign Medal
w/ 1 campaign star
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
4th row Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon Navy Rifle Marksmanship Medal
w/ expert device
Navy Pistol Marksmanship Medal
w/ expert device
Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia

Medal of Honor[edit]

On 11 October 2007 the Bush administration announced Murphy would be presented the Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously, during a ceremony at the White House on 22 October 2007.[20]

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government and is bestowed on a member of the armed forces who distinguishes himself "...conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States..." Due to the nature of the award, it is commonly presented posthumously.[21]

A color image of Murphy's parents standing next to President George Bush in front of an American flag. They are holding Murphy's Medal of Honor in a display case and are looking down at it.
The parents of Lt. Murphy receive his medal from President Bush.

President George W. Bush presented Murphy's Medal of Honor to his parents on 22 October 2007.[20]


A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare task unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005.
While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy's team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[22]


During his military career, Murphy received 11 different military decorations, including the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Navy Commendation Medal.[4] Since his death, the high school he attended, a post office in his home town, a park and a guided missile destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), have been named in his honor.[23]

In addition to the Medal of Honor, his military awards, and his inscription on the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon,[20] Murphy has received several other honors.

A color picture of Daniel and Maureen Murphy standing next to a monument in front of the Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Post Office in Patchogue, New York. The monument has a purple heart and some wording inscribed on it and there are two men in the background.
Daniel and Maureen Murphy stand next to a monument in front of the Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Post Office in Patchogue, New York.
Maureen Murphy breaks a bottle of champagne to christen the ship named after her son, USS Michael Murphy.
  • Lt. Michael P. Murphy Combat Training Pool - On 9 July 2009, the newly constructed Combat Training Pool at the Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, was dedicated in honor of Murphy.[31]
Guests tour the new LT Michael Murphy Combat Training Pool during a dedication ceremony at Officer Training Command, Newport. The pool will be used by officer candidates and students at Officer Training Command Newport for swim qualifications.
Guests tour the new Lt. Michael Murphy Combat Training Pool during a dedication ceremony at Officer Training Command, Newport. The pool will be used by officer candidates and students at Officer Training Command Newport for swim qualifications.
  • LT Michael P. Murphy Navy SEAL Museum - The LT Michael P. Murphy Navy SEAL Museum/Sea Cadet Training Facility is a dual purpose building located in West Sayville, New York, with a museum dedicated to telling the history, legacy and sacrifices of Naval Special Warfare operators from World War II and the underwater demolition teams through the present day, the War on Terror with seven exhibition halls, a theater, and SEAL Adventure Ride. The building also houses a Sea Cadet Training Facility which is the home of the LT Michael P. Murphy Sea Cadet Division of the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps.[citation needed]

Murph workout[edit]

Murphy created his own CrossFit-style workout called "Body Armor", which involved running, pushing, pulling, and lifting exercises while wearing body armor, a 16.4 lb (7.4 kg) vest that he wore while deployed.[32] After Murphy's death, the Body Armor workout began to become popular among SEAL teams everywhere as it could be done almost anywhere and required very little equipment.[32] On August 17, 2005, Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, posted the workout to CrossFit's website as the Workout of the Day (WOD). Now the workout is often performed at CrossFit affiliates, military bases, and Navy ships around the world on Memorial Day.[32][33] The regimen of a one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats and another mile run, while wearing the body armor vest, is named the "Murph Challenge" in his honor.[30]

In media[edit]

In the 2013 film Lone Survivor, Murphy is portrayed by actor Taylor Kitsch.[34]

Murph: The Protector is a 2013 documentary about Murphy as told by his family and friends.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Uncertain if the Silver Star was upgraded to the Medal of Honor or it was in addition to
  2. ^ This footnote applies to all awards listed in the table.


  1. ^ "Now there are nine: Medal of Honor recipients since U.S forces entered Afghanistan". July 12, 2011.
  2. ^ "Key Senate Committee Approves Clinton Bill To Rename Patchogue Post Office In Honor Of Lt. Michael Murphy". Charles Schumer United States Senator for New York. July 26, 2006. Archived from the original on March 3, 2022. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
  3. ^ Williams 2010, p. 28 (Silver Star Citation).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT MICHAEL P. MURPHY". United States Navy. Archived from the original on June 1, 2022.
  5. ^ Williams 2010, p. 40.
  6. ^ Ford, Sabrina (October 7, 2012). "Navy launch for hero SEAL". New York Post. Archived from the original on July 25, 2022. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
  7. ^ Lemire, Jonathan (February 3, 2007). "War hero's spirit fills a firehouse". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on July 25, 2022. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
  8. ^ Rivera, Ray; Rubin, Alissa J.; Shanker, Thom (August 6, 2011). "Copter Downed by Taliban Fire; Elite U.S. Unit Among Dead". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Boone, Jon (August 6, 2011). "Worst US loss of life in Afghan war as helicopter crash kills 38" – via www.theguardian.com.
  10. ^ Blumenfeld, Laura (June 11, 2007). "The Sole Survivor – A Navy Seal, Injured and Alone, Was Saved By Afghans' Embrace and Comrades' Valor". Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  11. ^ Luttrell 2007.
  12. ^ Bahmanyar, Mir & Osman, Chris (October 21, 2008). Seals: The US Navy's Elite Fighting Force (21 October 2008 ed.). Osprey Publishing. pp. 145–146. ISBN 978-1-84603-226-4.
  13. ^ Naylor, Sean D. (June 18, 2007). "Surviving SEAL tells story of deadly mission". Army Times. Retrieved July 21, 2008.
  14. ^ Matt Dupee (April 17, 2008). "Bara bin Malek Front commander killed in Pakistani shootout". long war journal. Retrieved December 10, 2008.
  15. ^ "Matthew Gene Axelson". Military Times. Hall of Valor. Archived from the original on May 9, 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
  16. ^ Wilson, Jamie (July 12, 2005). "Navy Seal's body found after failed Afghan mission". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  17. ^ Fuentes, Gidget (October 12, 2007). "First Navy MoH since Vietnam to go to SEAL". Navy Times. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  18. ^ Crankshaw, Joe (April 16, 2010). "Parents of slain Navy SEAL meet men who recovered their son's body". TCPalm. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  19. ^ "Calverton cemetery, resting place for fallen heroes". Newsday. November 8, 2009. Archived from the original on November 12, 2009. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c The White House (October 22, 2007). "President Bush Presents Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, U.S. Navy" (Press release). Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. Retrieved October 23, 2007.
  21. ^ "Defense link Medal of Honor history". U.S. Department of Defense. Archived from the original on May 19, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  22. ^ "Medal of Honor citation". United States Navy. Archived from the original on January 13, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2007.
  23. ^ a b "SECNAV Names New Guided-Missile Destroyer USS Michael Murphy". United States Navy. May 7, 2008. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  24. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "Penn State Veterans Plaza, 2011 class gift, to be dedicated Sept. 14". news.psu.edu. September 10, 2012.
  26. ^ "TOWN PARK RENAMED IN HONOR OF FALLEN HERO". Brookhaven City Council Website. May 12, 2006. Archived from the original on August 28, 2008. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  27. ^ Lykins, Lt. Lesley (May 9, 2008). "Patchogue Citizens Remember Lt. Michael Murphy". United States Navy. Retrieved July 31, 2009.
  28. ^ Bishop, Timothy H., Congressman, New York (20 October 2005). "H. R. 4101". 109th CONGRESS. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. ^ "Fallen Navy SEAL honored with warship". USA Today. May 8, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  30. ^ a b "John Krasinski, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson take the Murph Challenge for a good cause on Memorial Day". Fox News. May 26, 2020. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  31. ^ Thornbloom, Scott A. (July 17, 2009). "Newport Combat Training Pool Dedicated to MOH Recipient". Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs Office. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
  32. ^ a b c Easter, Michael (May 6, 2021). "How Murph Became the Most Legendary Fitness Challenge Ever". No. May 2021. Men's Health. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  33. ^ Hughes, Mallory (May 27, 2019). "What is The Murph challenge and why is everyone doing it on Memorial Day". CNN. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 2, 2012. Retrieved December 2, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ Gold, Daniel M. (March 21, 2013). "Posthumous Salute to a SEAL Team Leader". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved May 28, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

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