SIG Sauer Academy

SCUBAPRO Sunday – SEALs Birthday

On 25 May 1961, President John F. Kennedy, addressing a joint session of Congress, delivered a speech that most people remember as his challenge to the country to put an American on the moon before the end of the decade. The most important part of that speech you seldom hear about. But, it mandated that the military broaden its numbers and the use of Special Operation in all branches of service: “I am directing the secretary of defense to expand rapidly and substantially … the orientation of existing forces for the conduct of … unconventional wars. … In addition, our special forces and unconventional warfare units will be increased and reoriented. …”


The East Coast and West coast teams have always joked about what team is older, Team One, or Team Two. Team Two says they are because of the 3-hour time difference, and the west coast says they are because they supposal received their message to commission first.  But this isn’t really about that. The SEAL Teams use 01 Jan 1962, the day the teams were commissioned as their birthday. But if you look through old messages, you can find about different dates that you could say should or could be the birthday of SEAL Teams. Before Kennedy gave his speech, the Navy and all the other branches had already started to plan for a new kind of warfare and a new group to fight it. The U.S. has just ended significant involvement in Korea and sent advisers to Vietnam around 1955, so we had an idea of what the next generation of warfare might look like.

“To augment present naval capabilities in restricted waters and rivers with particular reference to the conduct and support of paramilitary operations, it is desirable to establish Special Operations teams as a separate component within Underwater Demolition Units One and Two. An appropriate cover name for such units is “SEAL” being a contraction of SEA, AIR, LAND.”

– Vice Adm. Wallace M. Beakley,
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, 05 Jun 1961

I love that the name “SEAL” started as a cover name, I am sure they never thought of what that name would come to mean. I say that in a good way and also a little wrong. I miss the days of being quiet professionals.

The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Arleigh Burke, in a memo dated 11 Jul 1960, tasked Vice Adm Beakley with studying how the Navy could contribute to unconventional warfare. Beakley responded to that tasking in a memo dated 12 Aug 1960, saying, “Navy Underwater Demolition Teams and Marine reconnaissance units were the logical organizations for an expanded naval capability in unconventional warfare.” Beakley further recommended that a working group be formed to study how the Navy could “assist or participate” in covert operations. Then, on 13 Sept 1960, an Unconventional Activities Working Group was formed. Like the military now, the progress was slow, and on 10 Mar 1961, when the Navy’s Unconventional Activities Committee presented a mission statement for the new special operations unit and officially used for the first time the acronym “SEAL.” 

Beakley sent another memo saying, “If you agree in the foregoing proposals, I will take action to establish a Special Operations Team on each coast.” Burke wasted no time in giving the green light. On 05 Jun 1961, the CNO issued a letter notifying the commanders in chief U.S. Atlantic, U.S. Pacific, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe about the Navy’s intentions regarding SEAL units. So, if you look at all the about dates, you can choose 25 May, 05 Jun, 13 Sept, 10 Mar or 01 Jan.  I do not really care about what date that it happened on; I am just glad that it did, and I think it is good to look back at the process that went from idea to a finished product.

Oh, and Team Two is the Oldest Team.

7 Responses to “SCUBAPRO Sunday – SEALs Birthday”

  1. sjl777 says:

    Was the black beret the original proposed headgear for the then new SEAL teams? It would coincide with SF being authorized the green beret around the same time. Most photos of SEALs with black berets seem to be from this time frame.

  2. Will says:

    I also miss the days that our politicians would support our special operations and wouldn’t disclose to the media about their activities.

    No reason for our nation’s greatest to remain silent any longer, if anything it makes a country that is overrun with anti-americanism and a media that is out of control be countered with stories of legit hero’s. Why the hell should they let their story’s die with time?

    I also think it happens to give our nation’s enemies pause when they think of going to war with us.

    I could go on but I think my point was made.

    • ED says:

      I agree about the politicians. But the more we talk about what we do and where we are from makes our family’s and home towns targets. There is something lost when you have to beat your chest and write a book about who you are. The books, movies and video games are great…But, the profits of few, equate to a self-indulgent risk to the security of the people still doing the job, and their Families.

    • AbnMedOps says:

      “SEAL” was pretty damn quiet until about 1989, when IIRC, an aritcle in “Jane’s Defense” was published outlining the US Navy Special Warfare and SEAL program. The article specifically stated that Big Navy had discovered that they possessed an extremely interesting (from a Public Affairs, Recruiting, and political/$ angle) in the SEALS, and that it was time to bring them out of near-secrecy and milk them for all the publicity to be had.

  3. Chris Jarhead says:

    Happy Birthday SEa Air Land commandos! Thank you so much for everything you have done, are doing, and I’m sure, will do for this country!