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Michael Murphy

U.S. Navy / Medal of Honor

He moved within range of Taliban's guns in a desperate effort to save his men's lives

Surrounded and outnumbered, Lt. Michael Murphy and his men were pinned down on an Afghan mountainside and running out of ammunition.

Petty Officer Danny Dietz was dead. Murphy and Petty Officer Matthew Axelson were wounded. They needed help, but Murphy couldn’t get a signal on the satellite phone. He’d have to move farther up the mountain, away from the cover of rocks and trees and into the open. He started climbing into a savage storm of bullets.

At Murphy’s funeral two weeks later, Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire approached Murphy’s father, Dan. “My men did not go down easy,” Maguire told him. “There were Taliban bodies and blood trails strewn all over the place.”

Murphy’s four-man SEAL reconnaissance team had been hunting a Taliban leader near the Pakistan border on June 28, 2005, when three goat herders discovered the team’s hiding position. Murphy had let the men go, and within an hour the SEALs were attacked by dozens of Taliban fighters. If help didn’t come soon, they would be overrun.

Murphy climbed atop a boulder, phone in hand. Bullets slammed into his back, and he tumbled off the rock. He picked up the phone and again moved to high ground. The call went through, and he relayed his team’s position. He traded fire with Taliban fighters until he was shot again and killed.

Responding to the call for help, an MH-47 Chinook helicopter loaded with more SEALs roared over the mountains to rescue the men, but Taliban fighters shot it down with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 men on board.

Axelson died on the mountainside. Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor from Murphy’s team, was blown down the rock face by an RPG blast and badly wounded. He was found the next day by villagers, given shelter and rescued by U.S. forces six days later.

Luttrell, Axelson and Dietz received the Navy Cross.

“These were his brothers, and he would sacrifice his life for his brothers,” Dan Murphy says. “Michael’s philosophy was always that the only life worth living was one in service to others.”

Read about the other Medal of Honor recipients

Brian Mockenhaupt is a Detroit-based writer who is an Alicia Patterson fellow reporting on the physical and psychological effects of war. He served as a noncommissioned officer with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division from 2002 to 2005, spending 18 months in Iraq.

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Michael Murphy

Navy Lt. Michael Murphy was killed after he voluntarily left his position of cover to move into the line of enemy fire so he could radio for help to save his men. “They were willing to go to the extreme of putting themselves in jeopardy to save someone else,” Murphy's father, Dan, said of those who were awarded the Medal of Honor. “I don’t think it gets any more honorable than that.”

  • Michael Murphy
  • Murphy-with-teammates

Michael Murphy

U.S. Navy / Medal of Honor

Died June 28, 2005

Lt. Michael Murphy, 29, was born May 7, 1976, in Smithtown, N.Y. He grew up in Patchogue, N.Y., and joined the Navy in September 2000, eventually serving with SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He deployed to Jordan, Qatar and Djibouti, then to Afghanistan in early 2005. He was killed in June 2005.

Intentionally moved within easy range of Taliban guns so he could establish better radio contact and inform U.S. forces where his fellow Navy SEALs could be found.

Afghanistan / Asadabad

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