From UDT 12 cruise book, Ventura on far left. SEAL Team One, with roughly the same number of men as UDT 12, had 34 killed during the war. I knew many of them. UDT 12  lost but a single man. 34:1.
  • From UDT 12 cruise book, Ventura on far left. SEAL Team One, with roughly the same number of men as UDT 12, had 34 killed during the war. I knew many of them. UDT 12 lost but a single man. 34:1.
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Shortly after the 1998 gubernatorial elections, everywhere you looked on TV he seemed to loom from the screen: that great domed head anchored by a linebacker’s neck to a professional rassler’s torso. And you heard him rattle off one-liners such as, “Sure I can be a good governor for Minnesota! It’s not like I’ll have to transplant kidneys!”

From November 1999 Playboy. His controversial interview was littered with SEAL but not UDT references.

I first saw Jesse “the Body” Ventura before the election on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. A pert young woman was interviewing him at his horse farm near Minneapolis, asking what he thought, as a former Navy SEAL, about Demi Moore’s going through training in G.I. Jane.

“Demi Moore,” he replied in that now-famous buzz-saw voice, “has great breasts!”

I showed Dick I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed and asked what he knew of Jesse.

Well, I thought, Jesse certainly looks and sounds like many SEALs I’d known during my 16 years in the Teams. But I’d never known or even heard of him. Was Jesse for real or was he one of those politicians who sometimes fudge their military affiliation with elite units? I mean, maybe he’d only worked on a staff or been aboard a ship that once participated in an exercise with SEALs.

But Jesse made a comment during the interview that somewhat eased my doubts about his bona fides. “SEALs,” he said, “certainly are different. We don’t wear skivvies.”

"Mr. Clean and the boys," from UDT 12 cruise book. "Jesse in those days was known as Jim ‘the Dirty’ Janos and his brother was Jan ‘the Clean.’"

Only a Team guy — SEAL or UDT — and those with whom he closely associated would know this verifiable truth. Skivvies — Navy lingo for underwear — were for lesser mortals such as pencil-necked sandcrabs (civilians) or black shoes (ship drivers). Real men didn’t wear skivvies. But they did wear massive Rolex diving watches with Tudor movements, just as Jesse wore during his interview.

From I Ain't Got Time to Bleed; Ventura on the right. Jesse predictably dwells on the excruciating pain trainees must endure to prove themselves.

Jesse’s reference to skivvies also suggested he had pulled liberty in Olongapo, aka Po Town: the legendary city in the Philippines that had offered fleshly delights to generations of sailors who passed through the U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay until the base closed a few years ago. Frogmen from underwater demolition teams — but not SEALs — enjoyed six-month deployments to the PI during the Vietnam War and were so prized among the Po Town bargirls that the girls would sometimes “do it for love.” And the girls delighted in screaming “skivvie check!,” which meant every man jack and mate in the bar would have to drop his pants to verify if he was or was not of UDT. The girls would often follow their skivvie checks with cries of “big watch, little dick, bumfuck UDT!”

Bucklew was rescued from forced retirement when President Kennedy championed unconventional warfare to counter communist guerrilla “wars of national liberation.”

The bargirls had no similar slogan for SEALs, who were rarely seen in Olongapo during the war. SEALs from Team One on the Strand and Team Two in Little Creek, Virginia, deployed to detachments (dets) in Vietnam: SEAL Team Two Det Alfa in Binh Thuy (terrorizing the VC and luckless peasants in the delta); SEAL Det Bravo in various places (doing dirty deeds for the CIA); SEAL Team One Det Da Nang (running mercs up north in Nastys); and SEAL Team One Det Golf in Nha Be (helping keep the Long Tau shipping channel more or less open from the South China Sea to Saigon).

I had firsthand knowledge of all these dets, some of which would periodically shift locations, but I was especially familiar with SEAL Team One Det Golf, where I served as officer-in-charge of three SEAL platoons for much of 1967. I also knew a lot about Det Alfa from SEAL Team Two, because I was the executive officer of that Team in 1970. Both SEAL Teams were awarded coveted Presidential Unit Citations. UDTs received none.

Ed Gill, far left. “We inserted and hadn’t patrolled more than 100 yards from the boat before the VC started sniping at us."

I didn’t know much about UDTs 11 and 12 then, even though they were homeported on the Strand like SEAL Team One. The UDTs rotated their platoons through a headquarters in Subic Bay, where many of the frogmen relived high school glory days playing football on base and freeballing it through Po Town on liberty. The frogmen in Subic never once lost a sleepless second to the fear of mortar rounds in the perimeter or Charlie on the wire. So was Jesse a SEAL or merely a frogman, that is, a member of an underwater demolition team?

From I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: "I had four or five flapping blisters on each hand."

In search of an answer from the horse’s mouth, I read Jesse’s blockbuster autobiography, I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed. The chapter on his Navy career from 1970 until 1974 is entitled: “Navy SEALs.” References to SEALs saturate the 26-page chapter. Here’s a sampling:

“[M]y brother, Jan,…had joined the Navy SEALs a few years earlier.…” (p. 60)

Ripped text from I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: "When you become a SEAL..."

I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: "I don't talk about what I did over there."

I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: "I knew the SEALS would help me conquer that fear..."

“When [Navy recruiters] found out [I was] interested in joining the…SEALs, they zeroed in: ‘Don’t you want to be part of the most elite? The best of the best?’ ” (p. 62)

“One day [in boot camp] we attended a presentation by the Navy SEAL[s]…they showed us a film called The Men with Green Faces. In Vietnam, the SEALs were known as the Greenfaces, because they wore camouflage green and black.…” (p. 64)

Jesse took a screening test at boot camp to qualify for what is called Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S training conducted at the Amphib Base. Those who completed BUD/S when Jesse was in training, were sent to either a SEAL or an underwater demolition team. Graduation did not, however, authorize the trainee to call himself a SEAL or a UDT frogman. He had to first successfully complete a six-month probationary period in the Teams.

Dick Ray: "Anyone who’d only served in UDT before the Teams combined in 1983 couldn’t truthfully claim to have been a SEAL.”


What’s the difference between SEAL and UDTs? Here’s a mini-dump on the distinctive origins and missions of these organizations.

UDTs had their genesis following the U.S. Marine invasion of Tarawa. The invasion beaches were ringed with underwater coral formations hidden from the Marines. Landing craft slammed into the coral and took deadly fire from the Japanese. Many Marines drowned as they attempted to reach shore more than half a mile away.

Junkyard Dog. “Some don’t think he should be holding himself out as a SEAL, while others think it’s okay. Say it’s good publicity.”

After Tarawa, the Navy established UDTs to conduct pre-invasion, hydrographic reconnaissance from the 3 1/2-fathom curve to the high-water line. The UDTs located and destroyed man-made and natural obstacles that threatened a landing. You may have seen the romanticized version of UDTs at work in films such as The Frogmen, starring Richard Widmark. Jesse says this is one of his favorite movies.

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Comments

uncklebob April 10, 2011 @ 9:09 a.m.

After reading the article The San Diego Reader did on Jesse Ventura,I don't believe I'll ever watch his show again,let alone buy one of his books.I really thought that the show raised the conscious level of the ordinary man but with Jesse having the ability to Lie about who he is(Navy Seal),what else is there?We are who we are and he should of all people want to open the book on himself and I'm not saying he's hiding anything disgusting but if your going to uncover the truth,you need to start with the truth.I also watched Pierce tear him up in an interview.In my personal opinion Jesse is no better than Liars he tracks on his entertainment show.If he can make a buck he'll tell whatever story he needs and that really lets me down.I need to believe in someone as a person before I can take anything they have to say as the truth.Thank you San Diego Reader for opening my eyes on Jesse (or whoever he is)It really teaches you to watch who you listen to.We just want the truth,that's all.

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nbksi8a99 Jan. 8, 2017 @ 3:13 a.m.

I was 17 years old attending Columban College in "Po Town" (Subic Bay proper, Ulo ng Apo/Olongapo, 1982.) Did not know that it was referred to as Po Town, but it is nice to know. In any case, as young girl as we exit the school--nicely located right by the very polluted river (most Americans called it shi t river due to its still dark colored and smell resulting from sewer and debris) I remembered watching groups of military personnel walking along the sidewalks of Magsaysay Drive wearing khaki shorts and blue shirts with the phrase "PETER FOUR" on the front. My high school friends and I used to giggle and followed them until we had to turn to take the tri-cycles home. We were not allowed to talk to them for two reasons: a. per school regulations we can't be seen in our school uniforms publicly cavorting with military men for we may be mistaken for working girls; b. we were underage and our parents will kill us. Yes, they did not wear undergarments and they were proud of that fact. Thanks, CDR Bill Salisbury, USN-Ret, for that little bit of information, now I have something to Facebook to my old friends. I am now 51 and have been in country 31 years working as a CEO in Washington D.C. I also recall the whole Jesse Ventura's dabbling in politics. Sadly, I was one of the fans of him until later on when he was eventually proven to be all talk and no substance. Also glad, I got the historical background of UDT vs Seal. I was a military wife for 24 years and we are military family from my grandfather during WWII, to my son post 911. Thank you for your service say. Finally, I can say sir without being yelled at "don't call me sir I am not an officer --I work for a living."

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