The unit goes by the name MTT 10-62 because its mission is so secret. This is the first Sea, Air and Land team-later known as the SEALs-and it's gearing up to train a group of volunteers from the Vietnamese Junk Force in counterinsurgency and maritime warfare.
Told mostly through the perspective of Chris "Doc" David-a first class hospital corpsman, first class diver, and diving medical technician-and Lt. Bill Evans, SEAL Doc shows how the first SEALs work in conjunction with Army Special Forces and others to stop the spread of communism.
While the SEALs are outstanding fighters and tacticians, they get little material support to accomplish their mission. The team arrives in Da Nang with nothing but stateside uniforms, and their vehicles and gasoline must be "liberated" from Vietnamese motor pools.
Meanwhile, the daily challenges the SEALs face are preparing them for a final explosive mission and setting the stage for the future development of Navy SEALs in SEAL Doc, a historical novel based on the true story of the SEALs.
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SEAL DocThe Story of the First US Navy SEAL Team in Vietnam
By D.R. Davis
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Donald Davis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneApril 1962
The Military Air Transport Service (MATS) flight had left Travis Air Force Base outside San Francisco three days earlier and now was on the ground at Tan Son Nhat airport outside Saigon. Crew changes and rest stops at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii and the Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines were required, causing delay of the flight.
Lieutenant (junior grade) Bill Evans, USNR, gathered his gear and headed for the forward exit of the C 133. The C 133 was easily converted to cargo or passenger transport as the mission required. It had no windows. The primitive canvas and metal frame seats, in tight rows, facing aft, make an irregular seat arrangement. Bill hoped that the rest of the men in his new unit would be able to make better flight arrangements.
The "transfer immediately" wording in his orders left him little choice but to take the first available flight from San Diego, the nearest commercial airport to his home base at the Naval Amphibious Base (NAB), Coronado, California. Bill was an Ivy League graduate and the product of the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program. He completed his degree in math under the navy's scholarship program. Of slim but muscular build with dark hair and blue eyes, his first assignment after graduation from college had been at the Naval Submarine Base in New London, Connecticut. This first tour of duty was uneventful and, after a few months, Bill found himself wanting more action and activity. He volunteered for UDT training at NAB Coronado, CA.
Although physically demanding, he completed the basic phases of the program and when it was available, requested additional training that would qualify him for duty with the soon to be formed SEAL Teams. Early deployment scheduling placed him as the Commanding Officer (CO) of MTT 10-62, the first SEAL unit assigned to Vietnam.
The ramp leading from the aircraft door was wet from a heavy rain and, as Bill stepped out of the plane, the press of heat, humidity, and stench in the air hit him like a brick wall. This climate will take some getting use to, he thought, as he walked to the terminal for check-in and transportation to Military Advisory Command Vietnam (MACV) headquarters in Saigon. A disinterested US Air Force airman, after stamping his orders, directed him to a blue bus in front of the terminal. Bill took a seat directly behind the US Air Force driver as he threw his gear under the seat. A heavy metal grid covered all the windows in the bus making it resemble a bus for transporting prisoners; it made him uncomfortable. He leaned forward and asked the driver the purpose of the window coverings.
"Bombs," was his response. "The locals throw grenades and home-made bombs into busses on a regular basis. Last week, a kid on a bike rode up alongside a cab and threw a loaf of bread into it; the bread had a hot grenade inside. The two army personnel in the cab are in the morgue. The driver bailed out before the kid threw the bread ... knew it was coming."
In a few minutes the last passenger boarded the bus. On the way out of the terminal area, Bill noticed several commercial aircraft and a few military transports. Considering the hour, 1500, the airport was relatively quiet. Passing through a chain link gate, the bus emerged onto what appeared to be a city street jammed with cycle cabs, small automobile taxis, and pedestrians. A throng of activity the likes of which Bill had not experienced. The street the bus traveled was narrow and the driver was constantly blowing the horn to avoid running down bicycles and foot traffic. Small sidewalk front shops crowded one another like chickens lined up at a feeding trough ... people were everywhere. The heat in the bus was oppressive, in spite of the pounding rain, there wasn't a breath of fresh air. It appeared to Bill that everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere but the rain did not seem to play a part in the haste. Hundreds of young women moved along the sidewalk dressed in long white sarong type attire with blue and green shirtwaists on top. They were the only group who carried umbrellas and most carried an armful of books.
Near the center of Saigon, the bus passed the presidential palace that showed severe structural damage to the wing furthest from the street. Bill had read in a newspaper in Hawaii that a renegade South Vietnamese Air Force pilot, with strong ties to the North Vietnamese cause, had dropped a bomb on the palace the preceding week in an attempt to assassinate the president. The president wasn't home that day!
As the bus entered the heart of Saigon, Bill was surprised to see the array of large modern buildings, a sharp contrast to the structures in the less urban portion of the city. After several turns, the bus approached a large walled enclosure covering several blocks. Atop the wall were rings of barbed wire and a steel entry gate guarded by an armed U.S. Marine. On the wall next to the gate was a primitive painted sign identifying the enclosure as Military Advisory Command and in block letters below that sign appeared the abbreviation "MACV". The marine waved the bus through the gate, the bus proceeded to the center of the compound, stopping by a central flagpole.
The driver turned to Bill telling him the Navy section was to the right at the first corridor. The interior of the compound looked like the inside of a fort. The only thing missing was a cannon. At a door marked Navy Personnel Office, Bill saw a large counter with a Chief Petty Officer seated behind it.
The chief got to his feet as he entered and asked, "checking in, Sir?"
Bill responded by laying his bundle of paperwork on the counter.
"Lieutenant Evans, yes, Sir, we've been expecting you. Go down the hall three doors, to check in with the commanding officer's office, in the mean time I'll get your paper work in order and assign you billeting in a nearby hotel. Come back here after you check in with him."
Bill followed the chief's directions and found the office of the commanding officer of the Navy section. A navy Wave, the CO's secretary, informed him that the CO was in a meeting and would meet with him at 0900 the following morning. Bill returned to the personnel office as requested. The chief gave him directions to a nearby hotel and the MACV Armory for a weapon issue.
The only weapons available were old Smith and Wesson revolvers in caliber .38 Special, not the weapon of choice. He received six rounds of ammunition in addition to the revolver. The Sergeant at the armory told him to keep track of each round fired so he could account for its use when he turned in the weapon.
"That's a ridiculous rule, Sergeant. If I shoot someone, I'm going to run back to my quarters and record their name, rank, and service number in my diary along with how many of your stupid .38s it took to do the job?"
"I don't make the rules, Lieutenant. You might want to take it up with the Commanding Officer of MACV. However, the General is in Washington at the moment but I'm sure he would be glad to hear from you when he returns."
Bill picked up the weapon and cartridges and headed for the door saying under his breath, "horse shit system."
After checking in at the hotel front desk, it was time for a long nap. It had been over twenty hours since he had slept.
* * *
Bill awoke to another day of monsoon rains and after a small breakfast of eggs and rice cakes headed for the MACV compound. He arrived at the office of the commanding officer a little early and found the CO, Captain Joe Witt, at his desk with a cup of coffee. Captain Witt invited Bill to help himself to coffee and take a seat. After informal introductions, Captain Witt asked Bill what he knew of his assignment. Bill related the details of the briefing he had received at Coronado and asked what the Captain could add. Captain Witt told him that the location of his training group would be DaNang, about 300 miles to the north. He went on to tell him that at present there were about twenty-five air force personnel in the DaNang area and one Army Special Forces team of about twelve men. They were working for a group in Okinawa. He explained that he did not know the identity of the Okinawa group. Captain Witt expanded on his knowledge of Bill's primary mission, which was to train a group of volunteers from the Vietnamese Junk Force in counterinsurgency tactics, demolition, and jungle warfare. He also told him he was aware that Bill's unit was the first contingent of a new navy Special Warfare Unit. He understood the secret classification of the term SEAL, its meaning, and its mission. Captain Witt told Bill he should use the Naval Intelligence Officer there at MACV as his primary point of contact for future interaction and assistance. Bill assumed that meant there would be no further contact with the CO.
"I have scheduled a meeting for you tomorrow at 1300 with Commander Rudd, the Head of Navy Intelligence here at MACV. He will be able to fill in the details on what questions you may have about your operation. I realize you also have a command reporting responsibility to Coronado, please info me on those communications. I think that about covers it for now, good luck with your assignment. If you need anything beyond routine please let me know."
Bill got to his feet and thanked the Captain who responded that the officers' mess in the compound had a good menu for lunch. As Bill left the office he decided to take a walk around the compound to familiarize himself. He might end up spending time here. His first stop was at the Chief Master at Arms office where he thought he could get a briefing on the compound. As he entered, a First Class Gunners Mate (GM1) wearing a sidearm got up from behind the desk and came forward. Bill introduced himself and asked about background information on the compound.
The GM1, whose nametag read "Donald", told Bill the compound was built as a French garrison position back in the early fifties when they occupied the country. This explained the fortified nature of the base and the high wall with barbed wire. After chatting for a few minutes, he thanked Donald and left the office.
* * *
Bill found Commander Rudd in his office the next afternoon and introduced himself. The Commander was a red-faced man in his early forties with a medium and somewhat overweight build based on what had most likely once been a very muscular body.
"I don't have a lot to tell you about your operation, Mr. Evans, except that you will be playing it by ear. The men you will be training have been selected from the Junk Force rank and file and probably aren't much. It will be your initial task to screen out those that have potential for this training and get rid of the rest, send them back to their units."
"I was told we would have a Corpsman on our team. We'll need one to conduct the physical evaluations. What kind of support can I count on in terms of training materials, weapons, billeting?" Bill questioned with concern.
"Most, if not all, will have to come from your ingenuity. We have no funds or support for your operations." The Commander added that he had been in contact with the group that supported the Army Special Forces team near DaNang and asked if they could help with logistic support, they had responded positively.
"The army team up there is supported by direct air from Okinawa so some support could come by that avenue if you coordinate with the army team CO."
Bill asked about the identity of the Okinawa group.
Commander Rudd hesitated for a moment. "They call themselves Combined Studies. They are the same group that operates Air America and you know the driving force behind that operation, right?"
Bill nodded his head. He knew it was the CIA.
"Your operations in DaNang will have to be strictly covert, the government in power doesn't want to acknowledge our presence that far in-country, it tends to color our mission as advisory. You and your team will have to surrender all forms of identification that could reveal your identity as US military personnel or as US citizens. We don't anticipate any great difficulty. However, if a situation should develop, we officially don't know you ... understand?"
"I do, but I don't like it." Bill was barely able to conceal his resentment.
"Your contact person with the Vietnamese Junk Force is a guy by the name of Vinh. He is a pompous asshole who came down from the North after the French got their ass kicked out of the country in the fifties. Through political ties, he managed to gain a commission in the South Vietnamese navy at the rank of Commander and ended up as the senior coordinator between the Junk Force and us. I don't trust the son of a bitch and I would advise you not to! His allegiance is questionable. He is planning a raid at Hai Phong, the major port in North Vietnam. I would like you to go along as an observer. Let me know how he handles himself but stay out of it."
After questioning the coordination of his role in this operation, Bill learned that notification would be by message to the air force unit in DaNang as to when and where. He sensed the meeting was nearing its end and rose to leave.
Commander Rudd took hold of his arm saying, "teach those guys up there how to beat the Viet Cong (VC) at their own game, Bill, that's the only way we'll ever win this thing."
When Bill returned to his hotel, he found a familiar face waiting for him in the lobby. Chief Volkert, the best demolition expert in UDT and now SEAL Team One, saluted Bill and shook his hand.
"When did you get in, Chief?"
The Chief responded with a list of delays and frustrations, which surrounded his trip to Saigon. The plane had made five stops between Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii and Saigon. The Chief then asked about their assignment, its location and duration. Bill filled him in on the details over a beer in the hotel lounge. He also informed him that they could catch a flight to DaNang the next day and asked the Chief to meet him at the airport the following morning at 0700.
As they waited in the terminal the next morning, the two men discussed the training plan that they would launch in the following weeks and outlined the material and logistic needs as best they could. They had arrived with nothing in the way of supplies for such a training mission, not the least of which was weapons.
The Chief asked, "what about a Corpsman, Skipper?"
"They are in short supply, Chief. The requirements for them far outstrip the number who volunteer for the training and, of those who do volunteer, a very small percentage make it through. I sent a message to Coronado when I arrived stating an urgent need for one. I hesitate pushing the training too far until we have some medical support. I'm told the nearest military M.D., to Da Nang, is over a hundred miles."
The morning dragged on, Bill checked frequently with the flight operations desk on departing DaNang flights. The time of the next departure was unclear. They would page him when they had more information.
Finally, at 1100 they were approached by an Air Force Captain in a greasy flight suit. "You guys looking for a ride to DaNang?"
The Chief responded with a vehement, "hell yes ... Sir." Chief Volkert was over six feet tall with a slender but muscular build, blond hair, and a deeply tanned complexion.
The pilot looked at him for a moment and prepared to respond, thought better of the idea, and told them that the plane was in front of the terminal to the left and would leave in about ten minutes. As they exited the terminal, they noticed that the rain had stopped but steam rose from the concrete apron in front of the terminal and the humidity was severe. Bill could feel the sweat running down his back. He noticed the Chief's shirt was wet through to the waist. As they walked across the apron, they both looked at the plane that would carry them north.
"Wow, we are going first class today, Skipper."
Bill looked at him with a smile. The plane they were looking at was old, bedraggled, and probably not in the best condition. They boarded through the forward hatch and moved aft into the cavernous fuselage. The plane was an old Fairchild C-119, which had seen better days. The seats were made of steel frames covered with canvas, temporarily bolted to the floor of the aircraft and aligned along the outer bulkhead facing inward.
After several aborted attempts, the pilot managed to get the engines running accompanied by many backfires and clouds of white smoke. The plane taxied to the end of the runway and applied full take off power. It sat motionless for what seemed like several seconds and with a jolt started down the runway. The vibration and noise within the plane were deafening but finally it began to rise making a sharp left bank and headed north.
The Chief leaned close to Bill shouting over the roar of the engines, "I am not happy about giving up my I.D. to those people in Saigon and the weaponry they issued me is sad to say the least."
Excerpted from SEAL Doc by D.R. Davis Copyright © 2010 by Donald Davis. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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