LCDR Roy Boehm: The very first Navy SEAL

Author: Eric Sof

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The personal history of LCDR Roy Boehm, if made into a movie, John Wayne would have to be resurrected to play the lead. There is no other actor that could come close to portraying Roy.

Meeting Roy Boehm

I have had the pleasure of meeting many forthright, truthful, and truly honorable men in my life, but I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Roy at the Norfolk reunion. For those of you that were unable to attend the Virginia Beach reunion.

One of the first things that Roy told me was, “I never lie; that way, I don’t have to remember what I have said.” He also told me “that he tried not to know any of you guys personally, do my job correctly, or well enough, possibly a lot of you would not come back” (he had been there four times).

He is, without a doubt, one of the most down-to-earth individuals that I have ever met. In the typical Roy Boehm manner, he gave the credit of the success of NIOTC to the fact that he was getting weekly and sometimes daily reports back from the guys in the country on “Charlie’s” tactics and was able to devise a solution to counter the VC tactics within hours.

Roy Boehm: ST-2 members extracting with VietCong prisoner
Roy Boehm: ST-2 members extracting with VietCong prisoner (Photo: XY)

Of course, he gave this credit to the sailors on the rivers and canals. He also told me that the main thing he tried to get across to us was “react within the first two seconds of a firefight, get all guns blazing, and you would probably make it through it.” Roy’s story goes like this:

LCDR Roy H. Boehm was born on 9 April 1924 in Brooklyn, NY. He entered the naval service as an enlisted man in April 1941 and saw action in World War II. He fought in the Pacific theater of operations from February 1942 until the conclusion of the war in 1945.

He is a survivor of one of the most extensive “all surface” sea engagements, The Battle of Cape Esperance at Guadalcanal. While serving onboard the destroyer Duncan (DD 485), the ship received 58, 8″ and 6″ shell hits at point-blank range before going down. He also participated in the following campaigns and engagements: The Battle of Coral Sea, Bougainvillea, Turk, Green Island, Emery, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. He also supplied ammunition to the guerrillas in the Philippines and saw action in Kerama Reto and Okinawa.

Roy Boehm also saw action in the Korean conflict. In Vietnam, where he served four tours, he helped develop and implement many of the war’s most successful counterinsurgency tactics.

The first officer in charge of SEAL Team Two

In the early 1960s, working under a Presidential Two priority received from President John F. Kennedy, Boehm developed, designed, implemented, and led the US Navy’s Commando organization known as SEALs. He was the first Officer in Charge (OIC) of SEAL Team Two.

He assisted in the design and implementation of the Navy’s first counterinsurgency course, for which he received the Navy Achievement Medal. Following this, he was made the head of the Navy’s River Patrol Craft Division. He developed tactical procedures and organized and trained River Patrol Boat sailors for Operation Gamewarden in Vietnam.


Boehm held the following qualifications: Unlimited deep-sea diving, deep submergence rescue chamber operator for submarine rescue, experimental diving, and salvage diving. He was a qualified Underwater Demolition Expert and was a test pilot for underwater swimmer propulsion units. He is also a graduate of Airborne and Ranger training. LCDR Boehm is authorized to wear 24 medals and awards. Roy Boehm and Chuck Sasser are writing Roy’s autobiography, tentatively titled the “First SEAL.” Pocket Books will publish the book.

I want to conclude this article by saying, Roy, thank you for all you did for the “Brown Water Navy” and the United States of America. Most “Gamewardens” would not be here without you. Good luck with your book and God bless.

* Reprinted with permission from The Brown Water Log granted by Roy Boehm

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