12 Declassified Navy SEAL Missions From Military History That Were Top Secret

Created in 1962, the Navy SEALs are one of the most prominent go-to special forces organizations in the United States military. They’ve seen action in almost every major conflict the US has been involved in since their inception, and their covert actions and reconnaissance skills have been invaluable in saving American lives across many engagements over the years.

Of course, the most famous and well-respected unit in the SEALs is SEAL Team Six. Their successor unit, DEVGRU, has been responsible for some of the most courageous and dangerous covert operations attempted by the United States. They’ve participated in countless rescues, captures, and even the assassination of Osama bin Laden - and those aren't the only prominent things Navy SEALs have done. Check out the list below for more declassified Navy SEAL missions from history.

  • Operation Neptune Spear Targeted Osama bin Laden

    Widely known as the operation that brought about the end of Osama bin Laden, technically Neptune Spear was a CIA operation which happened to feature DEVGRU. To practice for the raid, a full-size replica of the compound was reportedly constructed in North Carolina, which the team used extensively.

    DEVGRU, along with members of the US Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, were inserted by helicopter in Bilal, Pakistan. After a brief firefight, Osama bin Laden and several other occupants of the compound were killed. Overall, the entire operation lasted around 40 minutes. 

  • The Battle Of Mogadishu Was Pure Chaos For Our Armed Forces

    The Battle Of Mogadishu Was Pure Chaos For Our Armed Forces
    Photo: U.S. Army

    If you’ve seen Black Hawk Down, you'll be familiar with the basic story behind this operation. Originally, US forces were in Somalia to suppress forces loyal to Mohamed Farrah Aidid, a Somali faction leader in the Somali Civil War during the early 1990s. The task force was led by Army Rangers and consisted of many infantry units, including DEVGRU. But during an operation in Mogadishu called “Gothic Serpent” that aimed to capture Aidid’s leaders, a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down with RPGs.

    The subsequent rescue mission became a fight for survival as the troops were overrun. By the time the fighting ended and the troops reached safety, 18 Rangers were killed and 84 were wounded. 500 Somalis were killed, and 700 more were wounded. 

  • In Operation Urgent Fury, Everything Went Wrong, But The SEALs Were Still Victorious

    In Operation Urgent Fury, Everything Went Wrong, But The SEALs Were Still Victorious
    Photo: Drkreative / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    In 1983, the United States invaded Grenada to protect the US citizens within its borders. At first, the SEAL team assigned to the action did recon for a force of Marines coming ashore but were later reassigned to two missions: the extraction of Grenada’s Governor-General and the capture of the country’s only radio tower. A lack of intelligence and an insertion during a storm severely hindered the SEALs, resulting in four SEALs being lost off the island’s coast.

    The remaining SEALs split off into two teams, one to extract the Governor-General and the other to capture the radio tower. The first team made it to the Governor-General’s mansion but realized they forgot their communication equipment on the helicopter. When they were surrounded by hostile forces, they used the mansion’s phone to call in an AC-130 airstrike to cover their successful escape. The second team was pinned down at the radio station and ended up destroying it. They swam out to open sea and were picked up hours later. 

  • Three Snipers Rescued An American Ship Captain During The Hijacking Of The Maersk Alabama

    Three Snipers Rescued An American Ship Captain During The Hijacking Of The Maersk Alabama
    Photo: Laura A. Moore / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    A cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, was captured by Somali pirates in 2009. The pirates eventually fled the ship in a lifeboat with Captain Richard Phillips as a hostage. Naval ships arrived on the scene, and a stand-off started between the pirates and a group of warships led by the USS Bainbridge. DEVGRU operators were flown in and parachuted into the water before being picked up by the Bainbridge.

    After a five-day stand-off, the DEVGRU operators killed three of the pirates with sniper shots. Captain Phillips was rescued, and the story inspired a movie starring Tom Hanks.

  • Octave Fusion Was A Textbook Rescue Mission

    Octave Fusion Was A Textbook Rescue Mission
    Photo: Vladimir Lysenko / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    When Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted were kidnapped by Somali bandits in 2012, DEVGRU was called in to rescue them. Originally, the American woman and Danish man were in Somalia on an aid mission to remove landmines, but they were taken hostage. The rescue operation had been in planning for weeks, but when Buchanan’s health started to decline, they accelerated their plans.

    DEVGRU parachuted in at night two miles away from the hostile encampment and proceeded the rest of the way on foot. While DEVGRU tried to capture the kidnappers, the engagement ended with all the hostiles dead. The hostages were extracted with no injuries. 

  • SEALs Stopped The Mukatayin Dam From Exploding

    SEALs Stopped The Mukatayin Dam From Exploding
    Photo: United States Navy SEALs / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    During the invasion of Iraq, Coalition forces became worried that the retreating Iraqi forces would destroy a hydroelectric dam to slow the advance of US troops. The worst-case scenario was that the dam would be taken out, which would not only cut off the surrounding area from badly needed power but also cause massive flooding that would lead to countless deaths.

    So, a joint mission between the SEALs and GROM (Polish Special Forces) was greenlit to take the dam. After a helicopter insertion, the strike force secured the dam with no casualties.