The Element of Surprise: Navy SEALs in Vietnam

The Element of Surprise: Navy SEALs in Vietnam

by Darryl Young

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804105811
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/1990
Edition description: 1st ed
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 469,383
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.83(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Darryl Young is a former Navy SEAL and the author of The Element of Surprise: Navy SEALs in Vietnam and SEALs, UDT, Frogmen: Men Under Pressure.

Read an Excerpt


The Navy C-118 left the runway and circled to the north, then to the west, as we gained altitude leaving Guam behind. We were on the last leg of a four-leg flight from Coronado, California, to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. The sun was setting as I looked back out the starboard window, watching the shoreline disappear behind a large, reddish, cumulus cloud. Our plane weaved in and out of the large clouds until we gained enough altitude to level out. I couldn’t get my mind off our next stop, Vietnam.

The plane landed at Tan Son Nhut at 0230 hours, 29 June 1970. I was one of fourteen men assigned to SEAL Team One, detachment Golf, Juliett Platoon. Out of the two officers and twelve enlisted men, only five had completed one or more tours of duty in Vietnam. The other nine, including myself, would be “in-country” for the first time.

Lt J.G. Quincannon, “Mr. Q,” as we called him, was the officer-in-charge of Juliett Platoon. He had a slight eastern accent; dark, short curly hair; and was about five feet, ten inches tall. He had had a previous tour to Nam with SEAL Team One. He was easygoing, and the men of his platoon looked up to and respected him.

Ensign Walsh was second-in-command of Juliett Platoon. He had graduated with UDT/SEAL Training Class 54 and this would be his first tour to Nam. Mr. Walsh was six feet tall, medium build, dark hair, and even after he had just shaved, his dark beard would be exposed on his face. Mr. Walsh was very easy to get along with, but he was one gung-ho son of a bitch. He was quick-thinking, making wise decisions, and was in control of his men and surroundings at all times. He would never ask his men to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.

Signalman First Class Petty Officer LePage, the highest ranking enlisted man in our platoon, probably had more experience with SEAL teams in Vietnam than anyone else in our platoon. He was also the oldest man in our platoon. He had been shot in the ass twice and creased in the head by an AK-47 on a previous tour with SEALs. This was at least his third tour to Nam with SEALs, and maybe he even had another. LePage was five-ten, wore a crew cut, had brown hair, and came from New Orleans. He was fun to be around, on or off duty. He liked his whiskey and beer—it didn’t matter what kind, he drank them all. His nickname was Leaper, and for a good reason.

Radioman Second Class Petty Officer Bruce was six feet, two inches tall, brown eyes, brown curly hair, and a big mustache that looked like a set of Navy parachute wings. This was Bruce’s second tour to Nam with SEAL Team One. He was a good SEAL operator and a great asset to our platoon. Bruce was from California, and he wore hippie beads—or war beads, as we called them in Nam—around his neck.

Machinist Mate Second Class Petty Officer Sitter was another Seal with Nam experience. At five-ten, he was a stocky man with light-colored hair. Sitter also enjoyed his beer on his free time. Sitter was from Oklahoma.

Engineman Baylett went through UDT/SEAL Training Class 52. This was his first time to Nam. Baylett had light brown hair, a round face, big ears that stuck out, and always had a shit-eating grin on his face. He reminded me of Howdy Doody, except for his Pennsylvania drawl and no freckles. Though six feet tall and stocky, he acted like Howdy. Maybe it was his Pennsylvania background. He was a great morale booster for Juliett Platoon.

Aircraft Ordnance Petty Officer Panella was about five-ten, with curly brown hair. He was from California and owned a gold Corvette. While back in the States the gas pedal was always kept to the floor and he couldn’t go through the gears fast enough. Being in Nam for his first time, like the rest of us new guys in SEALs, he was in for a treat.

Seaman Weber graduated in my UDT/SEAL training class, Class 53. Being from Nebraska, he had never seen the ocean before. He was six feet tall, with dark hair, a medium build, and brown eyes. Weber was a very quiet person, and it really took a lot to piss this guy off. This was his first time in Nam also.

Seaman Reeves was six feet tall with blond hair and blue eyes. His home town was St. Louis. He had also never seen the ocean until he joined the Navy. Reeves graduated in UDT/SEAL Training Class 53 with Weber and me. The three of us had been training together for a long time, and we knew each other pretty well. We would get to know each other even more as our six-month tour to Nam went on day by day. Reeves was a slim man and seemed to be very independent. He was to be second squad’s rear security.

Torpedoman Grimes graduated from Class 54. He was six feet tall, with blond curly hair and a thick blond mustache, dark eyes and an intimidating stare. Grimes was from California, and this was his first Vietnam experience. His dad had been a boxer, and he boxed too. That’s where he earned his nickname, “The Dude.”

Radioman Seaman Shannon was the tallest man in Juliett Platoon, close to six-four with dark hair and brown eyes. This guy always had a smile on his face; a man couldn’t ask for a better friend. If Shannon said something, he meant it. Like Mr. Q, Shannon had a slight eastern accent. He came from UDT/SEAL Training Class 54, and grew up in Baltimore.

Ship Fitter Pipe Fireman Strausbaugh was also from Class 54. He was the shortest man in our platoon, but a stocky man. At five-nine, he had light brown hair with a thin blond mustache. He was a quiet guy, but absorbed everything around him. His job was point man for second squad.

Hospital Corpsman First Class Petty Officer Schrier was from Oregon. He was six feet tall, a slim man. He had dark hair with a curl in the front and a trimmed dark mustache. Like LePage, he loved his beer and had plenty of Vietnam experience with SEALs. The medals on his chest proved that. Like most corpsmen in the service, he received the nickname “Doc.” When Doc spoke, everyone listened. Maybe that’s why Doc carried the PRC-77 radio for our platoon. I never could understand why a cowboy would join the Navy. He was always in control of all situations that came up, and was quick-thinking, with sound advice and suggestions, even when he drank too much beer. Everyone in our platoon liked Doc, looked up to him and respected him.

Seaman Young, in Nam for my first time. Nobody made me come here but myself. Blond hair, blue eyes, six feet tall, medium build, thin blond mustache. I was nineteen years old, well-trained, and was ready to do my duties for my country with thirteen of the best men I have ever met in my life. I was to be first squad’s rear security.

As we disembarked the plane, Lieutenant Boyhan, the SEAL officer in charge of Charlie Platoon, was waiting to meet us. Charlie was the SEAL platoon we were to relieve. Mr. Boyhan informed our officers that five SEALs were killed the day before in a helo crash. A slick had picked up the five men at a place called Sea Float, down on the Ca Mau Peninsula, for a ride to Saigon. Apparently the helo had been shot up on an operation but had not shut down to check out the damage it sustained. So it fell from over a thousand feet into the jungle below. By the time the other SEALs in the platoon geared up and reached the crash site, all the bodies had been stripped of weapons and usable gear. One of the men on the helo was on his way to Saigon to help Mr. Boyhan orient our platoon and welcome us to Vietnam.

What a welcome. I hadn’t even seen the enemy and already I was mad. SEAL-team and underwater-demolition team members are close, no matter which team they are from. I was shocked at the bad news, and I wondered if I would make it through my six-month tour.

We rounded up some transportation and loaded our gear for the trip to the Victoria Hotel, downtown Saigon. This hotel was made of concrete, and the walls were old but still had the marks from the wooden forms used when they were poured. The Victoria was one of the SEALs’ favorite hangouts in Saigon. As we checked in, LePage, our leading (senior) petty officer, suggested we meet on the roof of the hotel after getting settled. Weber, Reeves, and I got a room together on the sixth floor. I was surprised at how cheap it was compared to a hotel in the States, the equivalent of six American dollars. After entering our room, we looked under our pillows and beds for booby traps. After a while we decided to see what was up on the roof. Topside we found a swimming pool along with a bar, food, and—of course—bar girls awaited us there. I’d have to be pretty drunk to swim in the green, slimy pool, but LePage had arrived first and the partying was well under way.

Although the drug of the day was alcohol, some of the people in my platoon smoked pot. They were always trying to pull me aside to smoke a little with them, but being in a combat zone for my first time, I wanted to stay straight. Besides, I had never tried it.

As the day wore on and our beer consumption increased, we got rowdier. The bar girls sitting opposite us would stick their legs under the table and massage us with their toes. Being a young kid of nineteen, I wasn’t used to that sort of thing. They weren’t the best-looking things I ever saw, but I didn’t ask them to stop.

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Element of Surprise 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read many books about the Vietnam War, but this book is definately one of my favorites. I find it to be better than the 'Diary of a Navy SEAL' series by Gary R. Smith. I think that because this book is about the Phoenix Program it is better than most others. This book is full of so much action. It includes great pictures that you can relate to after reading the book. This guy and his platoon, Juliett Platoon, went on the coolest missions. Darryl Young tells of these missions in great detail.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never actually enjoyed a book before ... until this book. The auther discribes encounters with so much detail that you feel like your in the book. I was asigned to read this book by the teacher of my high school vietnam class, and im glad, and although it sounds really corny I'm sure, it actually inspired me. To here about the he// these guys went through really gives you a new view on the war in vietnam... buy it, and if not buy it then at least rent it at a library ... its worth it, trust me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very well told book about the life of a Seal in Vietnam. Written very well and will keep you going till the end!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absouluty awsome. Never have I been on such an exciting adventure in Vietnam. They way that Darryl Young tells his story from a first person point of view is great. I have learned so much from this book. Not only does he tell you of his encounters with the VC, but he details the camp, equiptment, and life styles of him and the men he was with. This is a must read book for any Vietnam fan or just someone who is looking to learn more about the UDT/SEALs and life in Vietnam as a soldier.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many books on the Vietnam war and found this book to a great read. I was in the Marine Corps in vietnam in 1968. I spent nine month out of thirteen in the rice patty jungles and mountains in the northern part of south vietnam fighting the VC and the NVA. Yes the Seals are great well trained fighting men. I will give them their right to say that. But make no mistake they could not win a battle in the club ever night drinking beer and sleeping on a cot ever night. The Army Special Forces and the Marine Recon killed large numbers of VC and NVA on thear four to eight man patrols in the enemys on territory by calling in artilery and jet bombers and the B52 bombers. The Gladerators in Rome were well trained but they were not elete until they killed someone in the arina. The Seals have my respect for their training just as much as the other branchs of service that made the sacrifice. IN youngs book he stated on two ocassions that the keys were in the jeeps he was thinking of stealing. Daaaaaa the jeeps did not have keys in them to start the engines. Was he really there ?
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The best book on SEALs in Vietnam!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book and I thougth it rock!! This book is for any guy who loves action and gun fights. I got done reading this book just one week ago and I loved it and I know you will too. This book gives a indepth look at what the navy seals went though back in the veitnam war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of books but never one on the subject of war or Vietnam. My mom gave me this to read because my uncle was on the cover and a member of Juliet Platoon. (Sitter). I started reading and couldn't put it down! Author puts the reader in the action. Shopping for more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great insight into the start to finish of a navy seals career.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book because it gave great details of his hardships that he had to overcome.He explained everything thoughly like the equipment they used to what they ate and what they did on their free time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am half way through this book and I have learned how this SEAL team disrespected cementary sites by using them to fire weapons for fun, shoot and blow up wildlife for fun, treat the people of Vietnam dreadfully by stealing hats off their heads and laughing at them. They were a group of racist and potheads. Luckly they only had to go out on one night ops so far because after reading thirty books on Vietnam I am not sure that the bravery that has been shown by so many others soldiers were within this group. Read other books and learn how soldiers were bomb for 77 days straight. Learn how platoons and squads were almost wiped out due to such heavy incoming. The only other soldiers in books that I read that got high were artillary men who were dropping bombs on American soldiers whom were in their own company. Yes they were in a war.... but it doesn't absolve their behavior.