Highly Secret SEAL Mission in N. Vietnam Declassified After 36 Years

Operation Thunderhead was so highly classified it took 36 years to release the story of a SEAL mission on the North Vietnamese coast on June 3, 1972. Several 4-man SEAL teams were sent to facilitate the escape of American POWs from a prison in Hanoi. One team, led by Philip “Moki” Martin and Lt. Dry, two members of the SEAL’s Underwater Demolition Team, left the USS Grayback submarine in a 20-foot mini-sub, known as a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle, to rendezvous with the POWs. They encountered strong surface and tidal currents, ran out of battery, and could not reach the shore or their Grayback. The team swam the SDV out to sea to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Seven hours later, a Navy helicopter rescued them and sank the SDV. Martin and his team felt compelled to inform their fellow SEAL teams of the dangers. Finding one team in the waters out at sea, Lt. Dray jumped from the helicopter and was killed upon impact. Martin jumped and survived, but was severely injured. On the SDV, he found two of the men severely injured. Three decades later, Martin was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a combat “V” for valor honoring his part in the rescue of his two injured SEAL team members and for preserving the body of Lt. Dry until recovery.

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