On May 18, 1967, Marcinko led his men in an assault on Ilo Ilo Hon (Ilo Ilo Island), where they killed a large number of Viet Cong and destroyed six of their sampans. This action would be called “the most successful SEAL operation in the Mekong Delta” by the U.S. Navy. For leading it, Marcinko was awarded the first of his four Bronze Stars, as well as a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star.
Marcinko returned to Vietnam with SEAL Team 2 after a few months stateside as Officer-in-Charge of Eighth Platoon. During the Tet Offensive, Marcinko ordered his platoon to assist U.S. Army Special Forces at Châu Đốc. What began as an urban street battle turned into a rescue mission of American nurses and a schoolteacher trapped in the city's church and hospital.
During the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Marcinko was one of two Navy representatives for a Joint Chiefs of Staff task force known as the TAT (Terrorist Action Team). The purpose of the TAT was to develop a plan to free the American hostages held in Iran which culminated in Operation Eagle Claw. In the wake of the debacle, the Navy saw the need for a full-time dedicated counter-terrorist team and tasked Marcinko with its design and development.
Marcinko was the first commanding officer of this new unit. At the time, the Navy had only two SEAL teams. Marcinko purportedly named the unit SEAL Team Six in order to confuse other nations, specifically the Soviet Union, into believing that the United States had at least three other SEAL teams that they were unaware of. He personally selected the unit's members from across the U.S. Navy's special operations community, including a special counter-terrorist tactics section of SEAL Team Two, codenamed MOB-6. SEAL Team Six would be the Navy's premier counter-terrorist unit, like its Army counterpart Delta Force. While typically a two-year command in the Navy at the time, Marcinko commanded SEAL Team Six for three years, from August 1980 to July 1983.
After relinquishing command of SEAL Team SIX, Marcinko was tasked by Vice Admiral James "Ace" Lyons, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, with the design of a unit to test the Navy's vulnerability to terrorism. This unit was the Naval Security Coordination Team OP-06D, unofficially named Red Cell. In 1984, Marcinko hand-picked twelve men from SEAL Team Six and one from Marine Force Recon.
This team tested the security of naval bases, nuclear submarines, ships, civilian airports, and an American embassy. Under Marcinko's leadership, the team was able to infiltrate seemingly impenetrable, highly secured bases, nuclear submarines, ships, and other purported "secure areas" such as Air Force One, and disappear without incident. These demonstrations showed that a vulnerable military resulted from the replacement of Marine and Naval Military Police by contracted private security agencies often staffed by retired military personnel.
Marcinko has claimed, among other things, that Red Cell successfully captured nuclear devices from United States Navy facilities, and proved the viability of plans to:
capture launch codes for nuclear weapons aboard the subs by using mild torture techniques on personnel in charge of launch codes.
Former members of Red Cell, notably Steve Hartmann and Dennis Chalker, maintain that these exercises were a cover to move SPECWAR operators around the world for covert missions against real-world terrorists.
Commander Marcinko retired from the Navy on February 1, 1989 with thirty years, three months and 17 days of enlisted and commissioned active duty service.
On March 9, 1990, Marcinko was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and fined $10,000 under charges of defrauding the government over the price of contractor acquisitions for hand grenades. Marcinko maintains that he was the subject of a witch-hunt for his work with Red Cell and that the fraud committed revealed the weaknesses of military security. Marcinko detailed his arrest and confinement in the last chapters of his autobiography.
He is currently CEO of Red Cell International and formerly of SOS Temps, Inc., a private security consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. He had a politically conservativetalk radio show America on Watch with Dick Marcinko which was broadcast live. He is a spokesman for the Zodiac boat company's Zodiac Maritime Training Academy, and served as a consultant on FOX's television series 24. He briefly collaborated with Strider Knives on a series of knife designs referred to as the "RW" signifying "Rogue Warrior" from 2008 to 2010.
Marcinko's fiction adventure novels depict himself as recounting the events of the story as they happen, in a timeline with his autobiography as the starting point. John Weisman co-wrote with him from Red Cell to Detachment Bravo in 2001. Jim deFelice became his writing partner from Vengeance to Blood Lies.
Red Cell (1994) - Three years after his conviction, Marcinko works as a security expert in Japan. A chance run-in with a nuclear smuggling operation at Narita Airport leads to him being brought back into the Navy to investigate. His team of SEALs uncover a plot by a former Secretary of Defense to help arm Japan with nuclear weapons.
Green Team (1995) - A British aircraft carrier is bombed at its decommissioning ceremonies, killing the head of the British Admiralty and the US Chief of Naval Operations. Marcinko's group, now called the Green Team, are sent to track clues that the bombing is part of a plan by a British noble of Arabic descent to incite a major Islamic fundamentalist campaign against the West.
Task Force Blue (1996) - A few months after the events of Green Team, Marcinko's group is assigned to go to Florida and rescue the Secretary of the Navy from a militia that hijacked their official plane. With covert backing from the current JCS Chairman, the team probes the militia's connections into a subsequent theft of weapons from National Guard armories. They discovers that the weapons are meant to arm militias across the country for an American Revolution-style war whose kickoff is timed with the anniversary of the Waco siege.
Designation Gold (1997) - When Marcinko discovers that one of his close friends (whose son Marcinko agreed to be a godfather for) is killed in Russia, he goes off on a mission to find out who did it. Further digging uncovers clues to a plan to arm Syria with weapons of mass destruction and use it on Israel.
SEAL Force Alpha (1998) - Marcinko's SEALs raid a Chinese freighter in the South China Sea and discover that it was shipping weapons to rebel movements across Southeast Asia plus carrying a number of advanced US-made electronic countermeasures systems. It is revealed that the devices were stolen in a bid to interfere with Taiwanese military communications that can coordinate Taiwan's defense against attack by China.
Option Delta (1999) - An entrapment operation in the Mediterranean uncovers evidence that leads into recent ultranationalist activity in Germany, their connections with a leading business magnate, and a planned coup d'état. With the help of a friend leading Germany's elite KSK special forces group, Marcinko's men attack a castle in the Black Forest where some stolen nuclear weapons are being stored.
Echo Platoon (2000) - Marcinko is contracted to train Azerbaijan's security forces after a successful rescue operation on an oil complex in the Caspian Sea. When further evidence points to an Iranian-Russian plan to corner the Caspian's oil deposits, it is up to the Rogue Warrior's team to turn the tide.
Detachment Bravo (2001) - Several top executives in the US and Britain are killed in high-profile attacks by the Green Defenders, an Irish Republican Army splinter group that wrecks the Good Friday Peace Accords. Now running a joint US-UK group of special operations soldiers with support from the FBI and NSA, Marcinko scrambles to stop the Green Defenders before they carry out another international terrorist attack - with the only problem being a lack of details on when and where the attack will take place and who's the target.
Violence of Action - Marcinko takes some time off for self-reflection. When a nuclear shipment is hijacked, Marcinko springs into action with his team of security experts to stop a former Army colonel threatening nuclear annihilation of Portland, Oregon.
Vengeance (2005) - Marcinko's private security team is contracted to run anti-terrorist security exercises at various US facilities to test their vulnerability (to the consternation of the Department of Homeland Security). However, someone is sending Marcinko certain messages of revenge directed at him - and he discovers a loved one of somebody he killed before is out for his head.
Holy Terror (2006) - Marcinko's private security company, Red Cell International, oversees a top NATO conference in the Vatican when he kills a waiter attempting to bomb the meeting. He later sees the attack as part of a major campaign against the Catholic Church.
Dictator's Ransom (2008) - Having read all of Marcinko's books, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il hires him to bring back an illegitimate son who's gone missing. Marcinko's subtly convinced by the CIA to take up the assignment (after initially resisting the temptation of Kim's $64-million reward), but things get muddled when the lover of one of his associates holds the missing child hostage in return for a North Korean nuclear weapon.
Seize the Day (2009) - When a casual observation of Marcinko leads one to believe that he can pass off for a slightly younger Fidel Castro, the CIA has him as the lead talent in a fake video of Castro's last will and testament and send it to Cuba for circulation, with some insights from one of the former dictator's barbers. However, a deathbed-ridden Castro his own game to play: using Cuban refugees to the US as viral carriers - and Marcinko's own illegitimate son is in the crossfire.
Domino Theory (2011) - Marcinko's security company is hired to oversee security preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India. An explosion at a nearby Indian Army base gets his attention, as the base was a nuclear-weapon storage site. It is discovered that a Pakistani group aims to hijack India's nukes.
Blood Lies (2012) - Marcinko is contracted to head down to Mexico and rescue a former SEAL's daughter kidnapped by Mexican drug cartels. Investigations of a real-estate subdivision south of the border that has scammed American senior citizens later point to the cartels sheltering Hezbollah militants and a plan to kill the US Secretary of State (alluded to as Hillary Clinton)
Rogue Warrior: Curse of the Infidel (2014) - a botched CIA sting operation targeting an al-Qaeda-backed terrorist cell deep in money laundering - with Marcinko's Red Cell International somehow included in the mix - leads to SEAL Team Six coming to the rescue. Little does everyone know that cell is connected to a plan to detonate a cruise liner right inside a US harbor. Marcinko's private security operatives join forces with SEAL Six to stop the threat - and this time, bring in some of Six's original SEALs into the battle.
Marcinko has partnered with Bethesda Softworks to publish Rogue Warrior for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Marcinko himself is the protagonist and is voiced by actor Mickey Rourke. In the game, Marcinko is sent on a classified mission into North Korea to disrupt an anti-ballistic missile program. Released in December 2009, the game was critically panned, with critics citing poor AI, excessive use of expletives, numerous bugs, poor graphics, a short single player mode and limited multiplayer mode. Since its release, Rogue Warrior has been listed as one of the worst video games of all time.