Military Wiki
Matthew G. Axelson
Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Gene Axelson
Nickname "Axe"
Born (1976-06-25)June 25, 1976
Died June 28, 2005(2005-06-28) (aged 29)
Place of birth Cupertino, California
Place of death Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 2000-2005
Rank PO2 NOGC.png Sonar Technician 2nd Class
Unit US Navy SEALs insignia.png SEALs
Battles/wars Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Red Wings
Awards 30px Navy Cross
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart

Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Gene Axelson (June 25, 1976 – June 28, 2005) was a United States Navy SEAL. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during Operation Red Wings.

Early life

Axelson was born on June 25, 1976 in Cupertino, California to Donna and Cordell Axelson. He graduated from Monta Vista High School in 1994 and attended California State University, Chico, where he earned a degree in political science. He and his wife Cindy were married in December, 2003.[1]

Military career

Axelson enlisted in the United States Navy in December 2000, entering basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes. After completing Sonar Technician Surface (STG) "A" School, he was selected to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and graduated with Class 237 in Coronado, California. After BUD/S, Axelson attended Army Airborne jump school, SEAL Qualification Training and SEAL Delivery Vehicle School. He reported to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 in December 2002 in Hawaii.[2] He was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2005.[1]

Operation Red Wings

STG2 Axelson (right) with Lt. Michael Murphy.

On June 28, 2005, SEAL Team 10 was assigned to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a high ranking Taliban leader in the Hindu Kush mountains.[3] The SEAL team was composed of Michael P. Murphy, Marcus Luttrell, Danny Dietz and Axelson.[4]

Their position given away by locals supportive of the Taliban, the SEALs engaged in a fire fight against a force of about 80-250,[citation needed] or in official accounts 20-50 Taliban fighters.[4][5] During the fire fight, Axelson was shot in the chest and head but continued to fight alongside Luttrell until a blast from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) separated them. Along with injuries sustained from the blast, Axelson died of bullet wounds to the chest and head.[6] When U.S. Navy personnel arrived to retrieve his body for burial, they found that it was a few hundred yards away from the RPG blast location. Axelson was reported by Luttrell to have had three magazines remaining when the blast took place, however, when his body was found, he had only one magazine remaining, which indicated that either Axelson continued to fight even after the blast or the ammo reserves were picked by insurgents.

Along with Axelson, Murphy and Dietz also died during the fight. Luttrell managed to survive his injuries and acute hardships with help from local Pashtun villagers. For their heroism in combat Axelson and Dietz were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy's second highest award for valor.[3][7] Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor.[4] Luttrell, the single survivor of the operation, was also awarded the Navy Cross.[8]

Awards and decorations

For his service Axelson was awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, 29, Cupertino; Navy SEAL Killed in an Ambush in Afghanistan - Los Angeles Times". July 24, 2005. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  2. SEAL of Honor: Operation Red Wings and the Life of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, USN by Gary Williams (pg. 134)
  3. 3.0 3.1 "News Article: Two SEALs Receive Posthumous Navy Cross Awards". Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Summary of Action". 2005-06-28. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  5. "Navy News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq". Navy Times. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  6. Dorell, Oren (2006-11-22). "SEALs met with disaster in Afghanistan". Usatoday.Com. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  7. Lum, Curtis (September 14, 2006). "Two Navy SEALs honored in D.C.". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  8. Rich, Motoko (August 9, 2007). "He Lived to Tell the Tale (and Write a Best Seller)". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  9. "Matthew G. Axelson Biography". Retrieved 2012-07-23. 
  • Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson (2007) Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-06759-1

External links

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