As the nation lauds the daring raid by East Coast Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden, a Pearl Harbor SEAL’s bravery in Afghanistan — resulting in his death in 2005 and a Medal of Honor — will be recognized Saturday with the christening of a Navy ship in his name.
The Navy will christen its newest guided-missile destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy, at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine.
The ship naming honors Pearl Harbor SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.
Murphy, 29, from Patchogue, N.Y., was one of 19 U.S. military personnel killed in the Hindu Kush mountains of eastern Afghanistan — three in a firefight with the enemy and 16 on a helicopter shot down as it flew in to aid Murphy’s unit. Five of the SEALs killed, including Murphy, were with SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One based at Pearl City Peninsula.
It began when a fierce gunbattle erupted between a four-man SEAL team led by Murphy and 80 to 100 enemy fighters high in the remote mountains of Kunar province.
Intent on making contact with headquarters, Murphy, wounded and disregarding his own safety, moved into the open to get a better position to transmit a call for help for his men, the Navy said.
At one point he was shot in the back, causing him to drop the transmitter, but Murphy retrieved it, completed the call, and continued firing on the enemy.
When it was over, 11 SEALs had been killed — the greatest loss for Naval Special Warfare since World War II — along with eight Army "Night Stalkers" assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Daniel Murphy, the SEAL’s father, took some solace in the fact that fellow SEALs had killed bin Laden.
"I was confident that Michael or his teammates would eventually get him. I’m proud for them and that my son was part of that unit," Murphy told Newsday.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead will deliver the keynote address at Saturday’s christening. Maureen Murphy will serve as "sponsor" of the ship for her late son, and in accordance with Navy tradition, will break a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow to formally christen the ship.
Supporters here have said they would like to see the USS Michael Murphy based in Hawaii, but Navy officials said a home-porting announcement hasn’t been made yet.
"Obviously, it’s something that we’re extremely proud of and definitely think that we’ve done right by Mike (Murphy)," Lt. Cate Wallace, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokeswoman, said of the ship naming.
The usually secretive SEALs have been mum on the success of the operation that took out terrorist leader bin Laden.
"We just don’t really have any opportunities for media when it comes to that operation, and that means availabilities, interviews, comments — anything like that," Wallace said by phone from Coronado, Calif.
The head of the Navy SEALs, Rear Adm. Edward Winters, sent an e-mail congratulating his forces and cautioning them about talking, the reported.
"Be extremely careful about operational security," Winters said. "The fight is not over."
The SDVT-1 commandos shun publicity and conduct a lot of their training at sea with SEAL delivery vehicles — underwater vessels launched from submarine-mounted shelters requiring the use of scuba gear.
The Navy celebrated in 2004 the completion of a $47 million waterfront home for SDVT-1 on 22 acres at Pearl City Peninsula. At the time, the team had 45 officers and 230 enlisted personnel — 93 of them SEALs.
The Navy has two SEAL Delivery Vehicle teams. Special Operations Command said last year that the Hawaii unit had about 300 officers, enlisted members and civilians who are a mix of SEALs, combat support sailors and technicians.
A 326,000-gallon freshwater test tank was built at the SEAL’s compound for the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, which was supposed to be the first in a fleet of high-tech minisubs that were to cost $80 million apiece, ride attached to a larger attack submarine, and deliver commandos undetected into harbors.
Instead, the Northrop Grumman effort spiraled to more than $885 million, with only one sub built. A November 2008 fire as the minisub’s batteries were recharging proved to be a death knell for the troubled program.
In the wake of the ASDS problems, Special Operations Command is pursuing development of a Shallow Water Combat Submersible, a new SEAL transport vehicle.