Authors: Alan Maki
The three slicks came in very low, missing the rice paddies by only a foot or two. The guys and myself were standing on our helo’s landing skids, grasping the sides of the doors and totally psyched to assault the enemy hootches. As the helo started flaring, we jumped out from about six feet, screaming, “Yaaaaaaoooooooohhhhhhhh!” As soon as our boots plunged into the flooded rice paddy, we began our assault with all weapons a-blazin’. Suddenly it seemed that bullets and rockets were whizzing, ricocheting, and popping all around us.
The rest of 1st Squad took the left hootch and promptly killed two VC. Trung Uy, myself, and 2nd Squad took the right hootch and bunker, hoping to shed a little blood ourselves.…
By Gary R. Smith
Published by The Random House Ballantine Publishing Group
MASTER CHIEF: Diary of a Navy SEAL
With Alan Maki
DEATH IN THE JUNGLE: Diary of a Navy SEAL
DEATH IN THE DELTA: Diary of a Navy SEAL
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A Presidio Press Book
Published by The Random House Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1996 by Gary R. Smith
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Presidio Press is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 96-94326
This book is dedicated to my family and to Alan Maki, my friend and mentor whose previous instructions enabled me to write
. Moreover, this book is dedicated to my UDT/SEAL/EOD teammates of the past, present, and future.
The author wishes to thank his family for their support and encouragement, Captain Robert Gormly, Lt. Comdr. Jerry Fletcher, and Comdr. Loren Decker for their introductions; Colonel Joseph Ostrowidzki for his family history in Poland and Siberia before and during World War II; Owen Lock, Editor-at-Large, Ballantine Books; Ethan Ellenberg, literary agent; Dennis Cummings’s corrections and comments; Al Betters for the Golf Platoon roster; Mike Rush for various SEAL Team 1 platoon rosters and pictures; Hayes Otaupalik of Missoula, Montana; and Weaver Photography of Mineral Wells, Texas. A special thanks to my old November Platoon mates Jerry Fletcher, Layton Bassett, and Roger Hayden, who filled in a few details that I had failed to record in my diary and letters to Mom and Dad; Captain Jon Wright, for the names of the Oscar platoon personnel; BMC Joe Thrift, my UDT-12 Fourth Platoon LPO. Last but not least, a special thanks to Senior Chief Petty Officer Willie Williams of the EOD Detachment, NAS, Whidbey Island, Washington, for checking the last three chapters of this book for technical accuracy.
The “Warrior’s Words” quotations at the beginning of each chapter and elsewhere were taken from
Warrior’s Words a Quotation Book
(Arms and Armour Press), by Peter G. Tsouras.
Special thanks to all of Gary Smith’s EOD/UDT/SEAL teammates, those still alive and those who have passed over the bar—lest we forget.
I count it a great honor to be asked to say a few words regarding Gary Smith’s treatise about his career in the Navy SEAL team. I have many, many fond memories of the men of SEAL Team 1, November Platoon—and I hold none in higher regard than Gary R. Smith. Smitty’s professionalism in every realm set the standard to which others should aspire.
There is probably no bond greater than that of men who have endured the horrors of combat together for extended periods of time, because it soon becomes evident that the reason you remain alive is the actions of your teammates. The ultimate in faith is willingly to place your life in the hands of another. I did this time and again with Smitty.
It is difficult to put these thoughts into words without it sounding like so much bullshit. But the men who have been there understand—and the others, well, they’re the others.
There are many elite military organizations in the world dealing in an arena classified as “special operations.” For them, violence and violent death often become a daily experience. It takes a special person to survive in
such an environment, much less to excel. In the world of Special Warfare, Smitty was the warrior’s warrior.
Jerry J. Fletcher
Lt. Comdr. USN
1 May 1994
From 1979 to 1981 I had the pleasure of being professionally associated with Gary Smith. He was a highly respected leader who could do it all, and for that reason he became the Master Chief of the Command, a position reserved for only the best. It is especially significant that he has chosen to write about his life as a Navy SEAL. His experiences and insights should be heeded by all young SEALs, but more important, as society seems to be unwilling to demand personal responsibility for one’s own actions, anyone can derive guidance from his words. For me personally, reading
evoked fond memories of the most enjoyable time of my Navy career—when I was a SEAL platoon commander in Vietnam during 1967 and 1968.
is the chronicle of the life of a Navy SEAL. I am really impressed with the degree of detail Gary brings to his story. The journal he kept throughout his career allows him to attain a level of detail not always found in the recent works by other former SEALs. His account of off-duty SEAL platoon escapades was especially entertaining. There’s a saying among SEALs that if you don’t get caught, you’re doing a good job. Gary always did a good job.
Of particular interest to me is his account of the successes, the frustrations, and the eventual boredom of one
of the last SEAL combat platoons in Vietnam trying to “wind down” operations in accordance with the policy of the Nixon administration. He shows quite well the inability of “higher authority” to understand how SEALs should be employed. From the beginning of SEAL combat platoon involvement in Vietnam in 1966 to the bitter end, there was no strategy for the SEALs’ employment. In more than five years of dangerous and successful SEAL operations, each platoon commander determined the quantity and quality of his platoon’s efforts. Gary brings this out loud and clear.
He also describes well the relationship that normally exists between SEALs and staffs. SEALs tend to fall into two categories: operators or “ticket punchers”—the latter are disliked, disrespected, and distrusted. During the Vietnam era the operators sought combat and the “ticket punchers” sought other jobs. This is not to say that operators don’t ever find themselves on staffs, but when they do, they are usually good staff officers who abide by the notion that they ought to be influencing higher authority and supporting subordinate units. Gary shows this was the case when he describes the personalities of the fledgling Naval Special Warfare Unit Vietnam staff.
SEALs made their mark in Vietnam, but after the war there was a feeling among some senior officers in the Navy that SEALs ought to be put back in their cages until the next war. Frankly, these officers didn’t see what SEALs could do for the Navy, and for a time we didn’t do a very good job explaining it. So from 1972 to the beginning of the Reagan presidency we scrambled for recognition and money. Most of the post-Vietnam training evolutions described in
were done on what the Navy called “No Cost Orders.” Technically, the men had to volunteer for such orders, because it was against Navy policy to order someone anywhere without
paying travel and per diem expenses. During much of the 1970s there was not enough money in the SEAL teams to pay for all the required training. SEALs accepted the fact that to keep themselves qualified they would often have to pay their own way. As highly motivated as the men were, self-financed training was a poor substitute for combat, particularly for the combat veterans. Some sought challenge elsewhere.