First Seal


He's been shot at and attacked by man-eating sharks. He's dodged flamethrowers in Vietnam and political bombshells back home. He's been targeted for assassination and court-martial. His name is Roy Boehm, and he's the godfather of the U.S. Navy SEALS - the founder of the boldest, brightest, baddest bunch of commandos on the face of the planet. Now, for the first time, Roy Boehm tells the whole story: from the events that molded him as a warrior to the insights he acquired in combat. Mastering survival within ...
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He's been shot at and attacked by man-eating sharks. He's dodged flamethrowers in Vietnam and political bombshells back home. He's been targeted for assassination and court-martial. His name is Roy Boehm, and he's the godfather of the U.S. Navy SEALS - the founder of the boldest, brightest, baddest bunch of commandos on the face of the planet. Now, for the first time, Roy Boehm tells the whole story: from the events that molded him as a warrior to the insights he acquired in combat. Mastering survival within war's deadly arena, he combined his expertise with a deep and unwavering patriotism, and ultimately changed the course of twentieth-century warfare. As the Second World War came to a close and left in its wake an even greater threat to America's freedom - the Cold WarBoehm saw that unconventional times required the creation of an unconventional warrior. Drawing on his expertise as a diver and as a member of the Navy's Underwater Demolitions Teams, he set out to invent a disciplined, dedicated, and ruthless force capable of attack from sea, air, or land. It would be a unique unit - willing to disregard fear and walk through fire - a team that would descend into hell itself to conduct dirty war: infiltration, sabotage, ambush. Boehm's team would become the legendary special operations force known as the Navy SEALs.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Anyone who has wondered how the elite, Herculean U.S. Navy SEALs became so stalwart has only to read this autobiography of the group's founder, Boehm, writing with Sasser (The War Chaser, etc.). A grizzled hell-raiser of a Cold Warrior, Boehm was hand-picked to create a navy commando team in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. If the Boehm presented in this rollicking narrative is genuineand there is some material here that smacks of good-natured barroom bravadothen the SEALs have had much to live up to. Thrown into the drink when his ship was destroyed at sea and struggling to keep both himself and an injured comrade afloat, Boehm kept his cool as a group of sharks closed in, "[l]ooking us over as impersonally as a trout about to take a live grasshopper." When the sharks literally snatched the injured man out of Boehm's grasp, the future SEAL had the presence of mind to swim away and emerge unscathed. Similar hair-raisers abound, but the book's best portions involve Boehm's ongoing secret friendship with an enemy Vietcong commander, Minh, with whom Boehm shares a warrior spirit. A short chapter on marital strife, wherein Boehm vacuums his wife's parakeet and dismantles her budding SEAL wives' club, is positively hysterical. Unflinchingly patriotic, this memoir of a tough guy with heart will likely be spotted in the clutches of young men at navy recruiting centers. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
The high-adventure story of the legendary Boehm—founder and guiding spirit of the famed SEALs, a highly decorated veteran of three wars—and his tumultuous 30-year career in the US Navy.

Boehm, with journalist and former Green Beret Sasser, reviews his military memories: He entered the Navy as a teenage WW II recruit in the risky Underwater Demolition Unit; in the Battle of Cape Esperance, after his ship was sunk, he had a fight with a man- eating shark during which he lost his wounded buddy and Boehm himself made a narrow escape. Later he infiltrated Castro's Cuba on an intelligence-gathering mission. He blames JFK for losing his nerve in the Bay of Pigs disaster and calling off US air strikes, thereby exposing Cuban insurgents to death and capture. Boehm believes that the perception that America lacked the courage to resist aggression encouraged the Communists, resulting in the Berlin blockade, Communist infiltration of Latin America, and the Vietnam War. Boehm also believes that inter-service rivalry and bureaucratic inertia were the biggest obstacles to creating the new commando force he envisioned. He fought the system as hard as he fought US enemies, incurring five courts-martial (which were eventually canceled). Called into President Kennedy's office to explain his behavior, Boehm persuaded Kennedy to give him authority to create the most elite special force in the world—the SEALs. Fighting in Vietnam, the carefully selected, courageous, dedicated, adventurous SEALs outclassed the Viet Cong in merciless raids and ambushes. Boehm blames the politicians and high brass for losing the war. According to Boehm, his frank honesty and refusal to compromise where lives were at stake held back his career, and he left the Navy still a lieutenant.

Strong, exciting reading, laced with military profanity and humor.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671536268
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Publication date: 4/28/2003
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.76 (w) x 4.22 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 10
The plunge overboard drove me deep into dark warm waters. I fought to hold on to my senses. If I passed out, I would just keep sinking. I wore no kapok. I experienced an instant vision of the silt at the murky bottom of Chesapeake Bay.

I floundered to the surface, the shock of the water having cleared my head of some of the smoke and confusion. Flames from burning ships along with flares and gunfire lanterned the ocean for miles around. Flotsam littered the surface of the sea. Something banged against me. I grabbed it. A wooden spar the size of a telephone pole. From a Japanese ship, since American warships were built entirely of metal. Spluttering water, I bellied onto the spar.

A bedraggled figure clinging to the other end of the spar cried out in alarm and threat. I reached cautiously for my sheath knife as the Japanese sailor and I eyed each other through the haze of night and battle. I figured he'd come for me. He must have figured I'd go for him. We remained frozen with indecision for a long moment.

Then, I eased off the spar on my end; he eased off on his end. We swam away as fast as we could in opposite directions. Both of us had all the fight we wanted.

Looking back over my shoulder as I stroked, I half expected to see the Japanese chasing me. What I saw was even more horrifying. The Duncan was chasing me. Still steaming wild in a tight circle, blazing like a Viking's funeral pyre, she bore straight down upon me, growing larger as she approached, spewing fire and smoke from every opening.

I dug my strokes deep into the ocean. I wished I could run on water.

As luck would have it, I splashed into someone else floating faceup in a kapok jacket. Dubiel was raving, out of his mind with pain. "Look out! Look out! . . . God! God. I wanna go home . . . "

I almost resented his getting in my way. Duncan's blazing prow loomed above us. I grabbed the ranting sailor by the nape of his life jacket. Confusion swept over me about which way to flee. I started one way, then backstroked quickly.

The stricken destroyer's prow wake glistened white as the ship rushed by so near I thought I could reach out and grab her. I held on to Dubiel and his life jacket with a drowning man's grip as the wake caught us and drove us tumbling underwater. Once again I felt the queer sinking sensation of pending unconsciousness.

When we surfaced, after what seemed hours, the world had grown quiet and warm and peaceful. I thought I must have died. It wasn't so bad. Then I spotted the Duncan flaming away across the sea in the distance. I must have passed out for a minute or two.

The battle appeared to have abruptly ended. The oppressive weight of the tropical night seemed to have flattened the sea. The only vessel within view was the pinprick of match flame that marked Duncan's departure. I heard nothing. Were Dubiel and I the only survivors?

"Home . . . ," Dubiel pleaded. "Home . . ."

The presence of another human being in that vast, dark expanse of water, even though he was injured and only semiconscious, provided a great immediate comfort. His life jacket also kept us both afloat.

"Dubiel?" I said, hoping. "Dubiel, can you hear me?"

His head bobbed next to mine. "Who . . . ? Who . . . ?"

"Roy Boehm. How's the pain?"

"My legs . . . I can't feel them anymore. . . . Boehm, I want to go home. . . We're not going to make it, are we?"

As the swell of water lifted us, I glimpsed an ink blot far against the stars on the horizon. I lost sight of it in the shallow trough, but caught it again on the upswell. It had to be Savo Island.

"We'll make it, buddy," I said.

I began swimming toward the ink blot, towing Dubiel with one hand.

"Home . . . ," he said. "Mom . . . ? Mom, are you there?"

Dubiel drifted in and out of coma throughout the long night while I towed him. We made better time when he passed out and stopped babbling and struggling. The sun rose so fiercely directly above that at first, dazed and exhausted as I was, I thought it must be a fire or an explosion. I treaded water. Dubiel's scream shrieked into my guts.

"Look out! Look out!"

I was tempted to drown his ass just to make him shut up.

Salt water had swollen my face. My eyes felt like they were dipped in acid. My vision was blurred. My tongue felt like a dry sea cucumber stuffed down my throat. I feared it would block my windpipe. Periodically throughout the long night I had stopped swimming to change hands on Dubiel, retch out the seawater in my stomach, and rest, bobbing on the surface.

I calculated we had gone into the drink about midnight. Now it was daylight. I had been swimming for hours, towing Dubiel, gauging direction mainly by instinct. Hoping we were still on course toward Savo. I felt drained, verging on the point of total exhaustion. I'd start babbling like Dubiel if this kept on for many hours more.

I couldn't give up. I had to keep going. Keep going played itself over and over in my brain, like a stuck record. A needle wearing a groove directly through the center of my gray matter. Keep going.

Although I felt lost and alone with Dubiel on the vast sea, the truth was something entirely different. Wreckage, human dead, and surviving seamen filled the gateway between Savo and Guadalcanal. The 30-minute sea battle had ended with the sinking of four Japanese destroyers, one cruiser, and one transport. The American cruisers Boise and Salt Lake City and the destroyer Farenholt were badly damaged, but damage control parties managed to extinguish the fires and save them. Only Duncan was lost.

The Battle of Cape Esperance claimed the lives of 107 Americans. More than 200 seamen from Duncan took to the water to escape the floating inferno. While rescue attempts began immediately, many battle survivors remained in the ocean until late the following day. Commingled American and Japanese blood acted as bait chum in the water. Sharks sliced toward the battle site, intent on feasting upon helpless prey. I would later reflect upon the sharks and upon the terror caused by the approach of unseen enemies, but for the moment I had tunnel vision focused upon that most elemental of human wants and needs -- survival.

At some point I shed my shoes and dungaree shirt and knifed off the legs of my trousers to make swimming easier. My entire body felt numb. During moments of temporarily cleared vision, I thought I must be gaining on Savo Island, that it looked nearer than it had an hour or so before. Maybe I was merely hallucinating.

I heard my own breath rasping hollow deep inside my throat and lungs. I didn't care if Savo was occupied by friendly or enemy forces. It simply did not matter. Savo was the only hope for Dubiel and me.

As the sun inched upward into a hard blue sky, I somehow became aware that Dubiel and I were no longer alone in the bright sea. I felt other presence. I treaded water, blinking my eyes rapidly to clear them. I saw . . .

Fins. Cutting the surface like the blades of knives.

Until then, I thought I had passed the point of feeling anything. But I had never experienced such utter fear, such nearmindless horror, not even when the gun mount exploded last night. Merely sighting a shark was enough to strike panic into the bravest heart. But to be in the water with them!

Copyright © 1997 by Roy Boehm and Charles W. Sasser. Reprinted by permission Simon & Schuster.

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Table of Contents

Introductions 1
Prologue 7
Pt. I Combat at Sea: Sharks and Frogmen (1941-1945) 9
Pt. II UDT: Underwater Warriors (1945-1960) 77
Pt. III SEaAirLand: A Badass Outfit Is Tested (1960-1963) 125
Pt. IV Vietnam: Unconventional Warfare in the Delta (1963-1964) 205
Afterword: First SEAL: More Muddy Rivers (1964-1971) 295
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    Met this man as a customer in SW Florida, and he signed my copy of First Seal. The things this man has done, as put down on paper, is truly amazing. If we lived half an exciting life we would truly be blessed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2003

    Not the First

    This book is a concoction of psuedo history and macho fantasy masquerading as fact. Boehm is to be commended for what he actually DID during his naval career but that's it. He did not originate SEAL teams, nor was he "first SEAL." Those interested in the documented facts should consult the article "What A Tangled Web We Weave" by Captain David Del Giudice,USN Ret. (1st CO, SEAL Team 1)in the 2nd Qtr, 2002 issue of the BLAST, magazine of the UDT-SEAL Assn.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2000

    Better then any fiction!

    Do yourself the PLEASURE of reading this book! The life and times of Roy Boehm are better then any fiction. He shares victories and losses, GUT WRENCHING fear and the honest bravery of his exceptional life. By the end of his book, you'll understand the Honor of being a Team Member.

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