SEAL Team Six, officially designated as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), is a highly secretive and elite unit within the United States Navy SEALs. Established in 1980 by the Navy as a response to the failed Operation Eagle Claw, which aimed to rescue American hostages in Iran, SEAL Team Six was formed to serve as a specialized counter-terrorism and hostage rescue unit.
Initially, SEAL Team Six was organized to conduct highly classified and sensitive missions, including counter-terrorism, direct action, hostage rescue, and special reconnaissance.
Iran Hostage Rescue 1980
DEVGRU played a significant role in the planning and preparation for the Iran hostage rescue mission in 1980, known as Operation Eagle Claw. The operation aimed to rescue 52 American diplomats and citizens held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, after it was seized by Iranian revolutionaries in November 1979.
As part of the rescue mission planning, elements of SEAL Team Six were involved in various aspects, including the reconnaissance and preparation of potential landing zones in Iran. They conducted simulated exercises and prepared contingency plans for the proposed rescue operation. However, due to various operational challenges, including mechanical failures and adverse weather conditions, the mission faced critical setbacks.
Tragically, during the rescue attempt on April 24-25, 1980, the operation encountered several complications, leading to a helicopter collision at a desert staging area, resulting in the loss of lives and the mission’s failure. The mission’s failure led to a reevaluation of U.S. special operations capabilities and prompted the establishment of specialized units like SEAL Team Six, emphasizing the need for enhanced counter-terrorism and hostage rescue capabilities within the U.S. military.
Grenada Invasion 1983
During the invasion of Grenada in 1983, SEAL Team Six, officially known as the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), played a significant but secretive role. The mission, code-named Operation Urgent Fury, aimed to overthrow the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) and restore order after a coup d’état resulted in political instability on the Caribbean island. While specific details of SEAL Team Six’s involvement during the Grenada invasion remain classified, it is believed that the unit played a critical role in conducting reconnaissance, gathering intelligence, and securing strategic objectives as part of the broader U.S. military operations.
As part of the multinational intervention, U.S. forces, including elements of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALs, were deployed to Grenada to evacuate American citizens, protect international interests, and restore stability. SEAL Team Six’s precise contributions and operational details during the invasion have remained largely undisclosed due to the secretive nature of their missions and the classified status of their involvement in Operation Urgent Fury.
Achille Lauro 1985
On October 7, 1985, Palestinian terrorists, led by Mohammed Abul al-Abbas, hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, carrying approximately 400 passengers, among them American citizens. Under the control of the terrorists, the ship was commandeered in the Mediterranean Sea and directed toward Southern Syria. In response to the crisis, President Ronald Reagan authorized the deployment of Navy’s SEAL Team SIX and Delta Force operators, tasked with strategizing a potential rescue operation to liberate the vessel from its captors.
However, Syria declined permission for the ship to dock on October 8, leading to a tragic turn of events. The terrorists murdered Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jewish American businessman, on board. Following this grim act, the ship altered its course, heading towards Port Said, Egypt. On October 9, members of SEAL Team SIX boarded the USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2), which set sail for Port Said in pursuit. By October 10, the hijackers had boarded an Egypt Air Boeing 737 and departed from Cairo, en route to Tunisia.
President Ronald Reagan authorized military plans to intercept the aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea. Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters tracked the airliner south of Crete, compelling the pilots to land at NAS Sigonella, the NATO airbase located in Sicily. Upon landing, two United States Air Force C-141 Starlifter cargo planes transported SEAL Team SIX, swiftly surrounding the plane.
However, the situation became complex as Italian Carabinieri encircled the aircraft on Italian-controlled soil. Negotiations ensued between U.S., Egyptian, and Italian authorities. Ultimately, the four hijackers were peacefully handed over to Italian custody without any further escalation of conflict.
Panama Invasion 1989
During the Panama invasion, officially known as Operation Just Cause, in December 1989, SEAL Team Six, also referred to as the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), played a vital but secretive role in the overall operation. The invasion aimed to overthrow Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, who was accused of drug trafficking and suppressing democracy. SEAL Team Six was part of a broader U.S. military force deployed to Panama to restore order, protect American citizens, and apprehend Noriega.
While specific details of SEAL Team Six’s involvement in the Panama invasion are classified, it is believed that the unit was instrumental in conducting reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and securing strategic objectives in coordination with other U.S. special operations forces. Their expertise in counter-terrorism and special operations likely contributed to the success of the mission, which ultimately led to the capture of Noriega, who surrendered to U.S. forces in January 1990. The operation showcased the importance of elite special operations units, like SEAL Team Six, in supporting U.S. military objectives during complex and high-stakes missions.
Iraq war Jessica Lynch Rescue 2003
During the early stages of the Iraq War in 2003, SEAL Team Six, known officially as the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), played a vital role in a high-profile rescue mission in Iraq. The mission aimed to extract Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a U.S. Army soldier who was captured after her unit was ambushed during the initial stages of the conflict. Lynch, who sustained severe injuries, was held captive by Iraqi forces in a hospital in Nasiriyah.
While specific details of the mission remain classified, SEAL Team Six executed a daring nighttime operation known as “Operation Red Dawn.” The unit successfully infiltrated the hospital, neutralized opposition, and evacuated Lynch, who was then airlifted to safety. The rescue of Jessica Lynch became a symbol of American heroism and garnered significant media attention, portraying the bravery and effectiveness of U.S. special operations forces, including SEAL Team Six, in conducting high-stakes and daring missions behind enemy lines.
During Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia, DEVGRU (Naval Special Warfare Development Group) was a crucial component of Task Force Ranger, a multi-force unit comprising personnel from Delta Force, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and SEALs from DEVGRU. Among the five SEALs who engaged in the intense 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, the final mission of Operation Gothic Serpent aimed at capturing the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, were Eric T. Olson, John Gay, Howard Wasdin, Homer Nearpass, and Richard Kaiser.
Notably, Eric T. Olson was later honored with the Silver Star for his extraordinary actions, recognized for “…demonstrating remarkable courage and selflessness amidst intense combat situations in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. Captain Olson exhibited an unwavering commitment to the mission, displaying exceptional bravery despite relentless enemy fire in support of UNOSOM II operations.” Following this heroic endeavor, Olson assumed command of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) a year later.
Operation Uphold Democracy
NATO intervention in Bosnia, 1993–99
War in Afghanistan
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa
War in North-West Pakistan
Al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen
Operation Juniper Shield 2023
Captain Phillips Rescue 2009
One notable incident involved the successful rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2009.
The Maersk Alabama incident drew global attention when Captain Phillips was taken hostage by the pirates in the Indian Ocean. In a dramatic operation authorized by then-President Barack Obama, SEAL Team Six operatives carried out a precision rescue mission, liberating Captain Phillips from the pirates’ captivity.
Over the years, the unit has undergone significant expansion, enhancement of capabilities, and integration of advanced technologies to conduct its specialized operations.
SEAL Team Six operates under the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and works closely with other U.S. special operations forces, such as Delta Force and the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division, among others. The unit is composed of highly trained and skilled SEAL operators who undergo rigorous and specialized training in various combat and tactical skills.
While specific details of SEAL Team Six’s operations and military engagements are generally classified, the unit gained international attention for its involvement in high-profile operations. Notably, SEAL Team Six became widely known for its pivotal role in Operation Neptune Spear in 2011, where they conducted a clandestine raid resulting in the killing of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
However, beyond this and other publicly acknowledged operations, much of SEAL Team Six’s activities remain classified due to their sensitive nature and the need to maintain operational security.
The unit continues to evolve and adapt to changing global security threats, continuously undergoing training and development to maintain its status as one of the world’s most elite special operations units.
As the details of SEAL Team Six’s military engagements are largely classified and protected information, specific missions, operational details, and a comprehensive list of engagements are not publicly disclosed due to security reasons.