A Brief History Of: The Navy SEALs

Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon / U.S. Navy

A team of SEALS emerges from the water during a May 2004 training exercise.

As darkness fell on April 12, Captain Richard Phillips was bound at gunpoint on a lifeboat bobbing in the Indian Ocean, held hostage by a band of Somali pirates who had attacked his container ship five days earlier. Saving Phillips' life meant taking out his three captors in as many shots--which the Navy SEAL snipers who rescued him managed to do from the swaying fantail of a destroyer 75 ft. (about 25 m) away. It was just "a day at the office" for the élite fighting force, as author and Vietnam-era SEAL Dick Couch said.

The Navy has deployed...

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