Matthew Axelson

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Matthew Axelson
Matthew Axelson.PNG
Axelson in Afghanistan 2005
Birth nameMatthew Gene Axelson
Born(1976-06-25)June 25, 1976[1]
Cupertino, California U.S.
DiedJune 28, 2005(2005-06-28) (aged 29)
Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Glen Oaks memorial park, Chico, California, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service2000–2005
RankFile:PO2 Collar Silver USN.png
UnitFile:United States Navy Special Warfare insignia.png
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan (2001–present)
  • Operation Red Wings 
  • File:Navy Cross ribbon.svg
Cindy Oji (m. 2003⁠–⁠2005)
RelationsDonna (Father),br>Cordell Axelson (Mother)

Matthew Gene "Axe" Axelson (June 25, 1980 – June 28, 2005) was a United States Navy SEAL officer who was awarded the U.S. Navy's highest decoration, the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart, for his actions during the War in Afghanistan.

Early life and education

Axelson was born on June 25, 1976 in Cupertino, California to parents Donna and Cordell Axelson. He graduated from Monta Vista High School and graduated from the California State University Chico with a degree in Political science.[2]


Axelson was attracted to the military (and the SEALs specifically) in light of the fact that he wanted a test for himself. Axelson enrolled in the United States Navy in December 2000, he completed basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes. Subsequent to finishing Sonar Technician Surface (STG) "A" School, he win Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training or BUD/S and graduated with Class 237 in Coronado, California. After BUD/S, Axelson went to the Army Airborne School, SEAL Qualification Training and SEAL Delivery Vehicle School. He reported to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 in December 2002 in Hawaii. He deployed to Afghanistan in April 2005.[3]

Operation Red Wings

File:US Navy 050628-N-0000X-005 Navy file photo of SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, from Patchogue, N.Y., and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif., taken in Afghanistan.jpg|thumb|upright|A picture of Axelson and Murphy in Afghanistan, 2005. Operation Red Wings was a counter-insurgency operation by the United States Armed Forces in 2005, to kill or capture Ahmad Shah (Taliban)|Ahmad Shah, (code name Ben Sharmak), a known terrorist and head of the militia, "Mountain Tigers". Axelson and Marcus Luttrell|Luttrell served the role of being the shooter and sniper in the operation. The mission was compromised after goat herders stumbled upon the United States Navy SEALs|SEALs and reported to the Taliban. An intense firefight ensued and Dietz was killed as a result of a gunshot wound to the head, he was the first casualty of the operation. Murphy had gone into an open clearing to get reception and call for support, he was killed moments later after being shot multiple times. It was this act that awarded Murphy with the Medal Of Honor, Axelson had taken multiple gunshots and died trying to escape.

A quick reaction force was dispatched as a request from Murphy, the team consisted of eight Navy SEALS and eight 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (United States)|160th SOAR night stalkers, However, all 16 special forces soldiers perished, after the CH-47 Chinook was hit by an RPG and crashed as the soldiers were about to offload the helicopter.[4] Among the dead aboard the helicopter were Lieutenant Commander Erik S. Kristensen, the highest-ranking officer to die in the operation and Shane E. Patton the youngest officer to die in the operation, at the age of 22. Luttrell was the only survivor of the operation.


Axelson was severely wounded after taking the brunt of the initial attack and the fall. After regrouping with the team, he began firing back and hours later he suffered a gunshot wound to the head, by this point of time he had been shot in several places including his chest and head. Luttrell the only survivor of the operation stated that he last saw Axelson hunching and firing his sidearm.

On July 10, 2005,[5] Axelson's body was found leaning against a tree now known as Axe's tree with empty magazines and bullet shells around him. He was discovered by a group of American pararescuemen during a search and rescue operation and returned to the United States. Axelson was buried with full military honors at Glen Oaks Memorial Park in Chico, California.

Personal life

File:US Navy 090326-N-5366K-199 Donna Axelson, mother of fallen Navy SEAL Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson, comforts her daughter-in-law, Maria.jpg|thumb|upright|A picture of Axelson's mother, comforting his wife at the honoring ceremony, 2009. Axelson has a brother Jeffery Axelson, who wrote a book about him.[2] Axelson married his wife, Cindy Oji in 2003, in Sacramento, California[3]

Awards and decorations

U.S. military decorations
Navy Cross
Purple Heart
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Navy Good Conduct Medal
U.S. badges, patches and tabs
File:United States Navy Special Warfare insignia.png|200px Special Warfare insignia|Naval Special Warfare insignia
File:United States Navy Parachutist Badge.png|200px Parachutist Badge (United States)|Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia

Navy Cross

On September 13, 2006, Axelson was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross by Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter.[6]


The ensuing firefight resulted in numerous enemy personnel killed, with several of the Navy members suffering casualties. Ignoring his injuries and demonstrating exceptional composure, Petty Officer Axelson advised the teammate closest to him to escape while he provided cover fire. With total disregard for his own life and thinking only of his teammate's survival, he continued to attack the enemy, eliminating additional militia fighters. A champion of freedom, Petty Officer Axelson will be remembered for his self-sacrificing actions in the continuing Global War on Terrorism. By his undaunted courage, fortitude under fire, and unwavering dedication to duty, Petty Officer Axelson reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


File:US Navy 071111-N-5549O-245 Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), the Honorable Donald C. Winter escorts Donna Axelson to view a memorial of her son during a Veterans Day dedication.jpg|thumb|upright|A picture of Axelson and Suh's statue unveiled in 2007 with his family viewing it. On November 11, 2007, the town of Cupertino, California erected a bronze lifesize statue of Axelson and Suh holding their rifles in a 'parade-rest' position on one knee. It contained the same statement on the Navy Cross citation.[7]

For the 2013 film Lone Survivor, which covered the events of Operation Red Wing, Axelson was played by actor Ben Foster.[8]


  1. "Matthew G. Axelson". United States Navy SEALs. 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Axelson's career". United States Navy SEALs. 2008. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, 29, Cupertino; Navy SEAL Killed in an Ambush in Afghanistan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  4. "LT MICHAEL P. MURPHY USN". United States Navy. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  5. "The American Fallen Soldiers Project". The American Fallen Soldiers Project. 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  6. Garamone, Jim (2006). "Two SEALs Receive Posthumous Navy Cross Awards". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved April 11, 2019 – via United States Navy.
  7. "Axelson's Memorial Sculpture". The Mercury News. 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  8. "Ben Foster: why I ate dirt for Lone Survivor". The Guardian. January 24, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2019.

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