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Old 02-04-2021, 10:59 AM
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Unhappy One of the first members of the modern-day Navy SEAL teams has died

One of the first members of the modern-day Navy SEAL teams has died
By: Jeff Schogol - Task & Purpose News - 02-04-21

Photo link:

Harry Beal, one of the first sailors to volunteer for a modern-era Navy SEAL team, died late last month at the age of 90, according to his online obituary posted at

Originally from Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, Beal joined the Navy in 1948 and served as a SEAL from 1962 until 1968, according to the Associated Press.

During his career as a special operator, he was part of a team that retrieved astronaut John Glenn after his space capsule touched down in the ocean following the Mercury-Atlas 6 space mission in February 1962.

His son Mack Beal recalled that the early astronauts would work with SEAL teams to learn how to use breathing apparatuses, but his father never asked to have his picture taken with any of the famous people he met. To Harry Beal, that was all part of the job.

“He actually said: “When [John] Glenn and the other guys came to us, we didn’t think the program was going to work,’” Mack Beal told Task & Purpose. “He said, ‘We figured they’d get into that rocket; they’d light it off, and that would be the end of the program because it would blow up.’”

His parents later calculated that Beal was deployed for more than seven years of his 20-year Navy career, said Mack Beal, who lives in his about two miles from his late father’s home in Meyersdale.

As a SEAL, the elder Beal went to Vietnam, where he recruited and trained South Vietnamese special operations forces, Mack Beal said, adding that his father given the simulated rank of lieutenant because the South Vietnamese officers he was working with refused to listen to enlisted U.S. troops.

His father never spoke much about his wartime missions, which included working with the CIA, Mack Beal said.

“He said, ‘I signed an oath, and I’m true to my oath. I won’t say anything about it,’” Mack Beal said.

2nd photo onsite only:
U.S. Naval Institute
Jan 28
Harry M. Beal, the first U.S. Navy SEAL, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 90. Beal began his Navy career as a gunner's mate in 1948 before joining the Underwater Demolition Teams in 1955. He was the first person to volunteer when the SEALs were established in 1962. #RIP

A picture of Beal tweeted by the U.S. Naval Institute shows him holding a dead shark by the tail with one hand and a spear gun in the other.

Mack Beal explained that his father served with an Underwater Demolition Team, he was required to kill a shark as an initiation.

“He used to always tell everybody. He said, ‘The shark was as afraid of me as I was of him; it probably wouldn’t have hurt anybody;’ but he said, ‘I got my shark,’” Mack Beal said.

In February 2020, Pennsylvania state officials honored Beal by naming a bridge in his native Meyersdale after him.

While Beal was one of the first members of the formal Navy SEAL Teams that were formed on Jan. 1, 1962, the history of U.S. Navy SEAL operations of the modern era’ dates back to World War II, said Erick Simmel, a historian expert on the Office of Strategic Services’ Maritime Unit Operational Swimmers.

During the war, the Office of Strategic Services — the CIA’s predecessor — was led by Army Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, a Medal of Honor recipient who would later be promoted to major general, Simmel told Task & Purpose.

In the late 1930’s Donovan had been introduced to a unique group of American watermen from Santa Monica, California, who would go on to make up the Navy’s first Underwater Demolition Teams.

These men and others whom Donovan helped to select were trained by Marine Raiders to become frogmen, fighting in every theater during World War II, he said. These combat swimmers were the first American commandos who could carry out both direct action and unconventional warfare missions from the land, air, or sea.

Navy Reserve Lt. Jack Hedrick Taylor, who whom Donovan met before the war, was instrumental in creating the OSS Maritime Unit Operational Swimmers, Simmel said. Taylor is widely considered to be the first sailor tasked with sea, air, and land commando missions.

Featured image: Former Navy SEAL Harry Beal meets Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in January 2020. (Commonwealth Media Services and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.)

About this writer: Jeff Schogol is the senior Pentagon reporter for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 15 years.


Personal note: From one sailor to another: Rest-In-Peace Harry you will now meet up with many of your Bud's and swap the bullshit about your days served and also kick around some of your on the job stories. We all thank you for your service to our Country. Our respects go out to your Family and Friends!

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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