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As early as 1959, Naval Beach Group ONE and UDT 12 pushed up the Mekong River to deliver ten landing craft to the armed forces of Laos, which were fighting its communist foes and North Vietnaese forces. This operation took place prior to SEAL involvement in Vietnam.

SEAL Team ONE deployed Chief Petty Officers Robert Sullivan and Charles Raymond to take initial surveys and prepare for training indigenous South Vietnamese in maritime commando tactics, techniques, and procedures.

During this same period, the U.S. Government agreed to increase aid to South Vietnam in the fight against Viet Cong rebels. The agreement included paying for a larger Vietnamese army and more U.S. advisors in the field.

JAN 1962

1964 – The Vietnam Infiltration Study Group studies Mekong Delta region across Cambodia and Laos. The group concludes significant border problems and recommends extensive riverine operations capability to assist South Vietnamese and stop infiltration problems.

1966 – A SEAL Team ONE detachment arrives in the Rung Rung Sat Special Zone (south Saigon) to conduct direct action missions.

1964 - 1966

The Brown-Water Mobile Riverine Force was a joint venture between the Navy and the Army. There was limited transportation infrastructure in Vietnam, devoid of superhighways and sophisticated rail systems. The waterways served as the primary source of transport, therefore, control was crucial. The Navy patrolled the inland waterways of the Mekong River. It’s primary mission was to intercept and prohibit enemy supplies being smuggled from the North. Additionally, The Navy delivered and supported land forces (including Navy SEALs) and engaged North Vietnamese forces ashore with on-board weaponry.

1964 - 1966

By mid-1968, the SEAL Teams were fielding 12-man platoons, each comprising two squads of six men; most SEAL missions conducted in Vietnam were squad-sized operations. Generally, four or five platoons, at any given time, were deployed to South Vietnam. SEAL platoons were never assigned permanently to Vietnam; instead, they were deployed on temporary duty assignments, usually for a period of about 6 months, with many of the men making several tours.



Navy SEALs, supported by riverine patrol boats and swift boat operators, waged guerilla warfare against the enemy in the swamps and jungles of Vietnam. After about six years of heavy involvement in Vietnam, the relatively small group of SEALs accounted for 600 confirmed Viet Cong killed and 300 more almost certainly killed. Numerous others were captured or detained. Trained to rely on each other – their skills, determination in the face of adversity, and “failure is not an option” mantra, the character and reputation of the Navy’s maritime commandos were born.


Three U.S. Navy SEALs received the Medal of Honor from actions they took during Vietnam. They were LT Robert Kerrey, LT Thomas Norris, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Thornton.

14 MARCH 1969

LT Kerrey was seriously wounded and lost the lower part of his right leg in combat on Hon Tre Island near Nha Trang Bay. While suffering shrapnel wounds and loss of blood he organized his squad in a counterattack that killed or captured enemy Viet Cong.

10 -1 3 APRIL 1972

Thomas Norris received the Medal of Honor for his ground rescue with the assistance of Petty Officer Third Class Nguyen Van Kiet of two downed aircrew members in Quang Tri Province. Nguyen was awarded the Navy Cross.

1 OCT 1972

Thornton was awarded the Medal of Honor for the rescue and ex-filtration of Lt. Norris, under withering fire on the night of Oct. 31, 1972. There is no other recorded instance where two Medal of Honor recipients are known to have been involved in the same combat operation.

1969 - 1972

7 DEC 1972

The last SEAL platoon departed Vietnam.

DEC 1972

MARCH 1973

The last SEAL advisors left Vietnam.

Between 1965 and 1972, 46 SEALs were killed in Vietnam.

MAR 1973