Interview with Retired Lt. Cmdr. Mike Walsh -- A Navy SEAL in the Vietnam War

 In Vietnam's Mekong Delta, Navy SEALs were the military's 'eyes and ears,' providing vital intelligence on enemy operations.

As told by Lt. Cmdr. Michael J. Walsh, U.S. Navy (ret.)


SEAL!      The name conjures up images of evil-looking men with painted faces who lurk in the shadows just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on an unsuspecting enemy. That's only partially right. During the Vietnam War, the SEAL (an acronym for sea, air, land) team members performed a variety of commando-style missions. Operating in the fertile Mekong Delta region of South Vietnam, SEAL platoons were the military's eyes and ears, providing vital intelligence on the enemy's whereabouts and methods of operation and, most important, anticipating the enemy's next move. In addition, SEALs were attached to MACV - SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam - Studies and Observation Group) to conduct secret intelligence operations. The enemy called them "the men with green faces."

To become a SEAL was a hellish ordeal. A SEAL candidate must endure nearly six months of basic underwater demolition training before he can wear the coveted Naval Special Warfare breast insignia: an eagle clutching an anchor and a trident.

Retired Lt. Cmdr. Mike Walsh was in Naval Special Warfare for 26 years, including five tours in Vietnam, where he was an adviser in the highly controversial Phoenix Program. Describing himself as a "renegade and consummate survivalist," he was also the task unit commander during operations in Grenada and Lebanon. Walsh talked with Vietnam Magazine contributing editor Al Hemingway about his experiences in Vietnam.

Vietnam: Why did you want to become a SEAL?

Walsh: That was the reason I joined the Navy in September 1966. It was probably the challenge. I was trying to decide between Army Special Forces and being a SEAL. I thought that the water, being a little bit tougher environment to operate in, had the best of both worlds; it was coming from the sea.

Vietnam: You just wanted to be part of the elite?

Walsh: I did. I had something to prove at 18. Everyone's got something to prove at 18. Vietnam was going hot and heavy; I almost quit high school in my third year; I decided to enlist.

Vietnam: In your first book, SEAL!, you talk about the training you went through as a SEAL candidate. It took a long time to complete, if I remember correctly.

Walsh: Back then it was 18 weeks, three 6-week phases. Now it's 26 weeks. In those days you had UDT (underwater demolition training) and that lasted 18 weeks. When you left UDT you either went to an underwater demolition team or a SEAL team. If you went to a SEAL team you had an additional six weeks of training in the desert. It was what you would expect: advanced infantry training, small-unit tactics, etc. And more weapons than you ever saw in your life. It was good training. All the instructors were ex-soldiers, some former Special Forces members, who had left the Army and come into the Navy.

Vietnam: The first part of SEAL training is supposed to be pure hell. I've heard that in the first three or four weeks, what you mostly get is harassment.

Walsh: It's the physical breakdown. You're getting used to running on the sand, and there's lots of PT (physical training). You start learning knot tying and all the other little basic skills that go along with that. Working with the rubber boats, mastering surf passage, or how to take seven guys out in a rubber boat and get through that surf.

Vietnam: That's got to be hard.   go here for the rest o his sea story.