Cmdr. Michael J. Walsh
completed orders without torture.
people think of the Navy or of its elite SEAL units, they
conjure up images of wind-tossed surf or dangerous ports.
However, for retired Lt. Cmdr. Michael J. Walsh, SEAL duty
in Vietnam was with the "brownwater Navy," part
of what was known as the "riverine forces." On this
day in 1966, U.S. forces, including Navy SEALs, moved into
the Mekong Delta for the first time.
Walsh went into the rigorous SEAL program when he was just
18. Despite his small physique (he weighed 120 pounds), he
succeeded in completing an 18-week (now 26-week) program that
leaves many larger and stronger men in the dust. During the
training, Walsh discovered within himself the "iron will"
that it took to become a SEAL.
went in-country, where there were never more than 350 SEALs
at one time. The tight-knit community had many members going
into the CIA-sponsored Phoenix Program designed to identify
and capture or kill Viet Cong members. At age 22, he was "assigned
to the CIA in charge of a band of 105 mercenaries." Their
goal was to get as much information as possible from their
quarry. "But one of my rules was no torture...I never
saw or participated in any of that, and I would never allow
it... [I learned] you use your brains, your intellect, thats
how you break them down," Walsh said.
rules prevented SEALs from remaining in-country for more than
180 days at a time. Walsh, unbeknownst to his commanding officer,
kept putting his name up on the board -- and eventually served
five tours. Now a veteran of 26 years in operations from Vietnam
to Lebanon to Central America, Walsh remains the "outspoken
renegade and consummate survivalist" whose SEAL-trained
determination taught him to break the will of others without