I asked if he knew the instructor and if the instructor had ever been a SEAL in Nam.
“I knew him. He was never in Nam as a SEAL that I heard of.”
I showed Dick a photo in Jesse’s chapter “Navy SEALs,” of men in wet suits about to drop through an opening in the floor of a helicopter. Jesse had captioned the photo: “SEAL operation. That’s me on the right…”
I asked Dick if this was a SEAL op.
“Nope. That’s a UDT swimmer cast through the hellhole of an H-46 Sea Knight.”
I asked Dick about the different necs for UDT and SEALs. He didn’t pause: “5321 for UDT, 5326 for SEALs. Anyone who’d only served in UDT before the Teams combined in 1983 couldn’t truthfully claim to have been a SEAL.”
I told Dick that Jesse had left active duty in 1974.
“Couldn’t have been a SEAL, then.”
I thanked Dick for his time and left.
Although Jesse will talk incessantly about everything else, he is curiously closed-mouth when it comes to his experience in Nam as either a SEAL or frog. He usually claims he took a vow when he returned from Southeast Asia never to speak of what he’d done. Sometimes he invokes his dead father’s memory to justify his silence. His father was a decorated WWII veteran, but Jesse says he never knew this until after his father had died.
During his controversial Playboy interview — littered with SEAL but not UDT references — Jesse flat stonewalls questions of his wartime experience:
Playboy: You’ve never talked about what you did as a Seal overseas. Did you do anything you’re ashamed of?
Playboy: Would you like to talk about it?
Playboy: Have you ever killed anyone?
Ventura: You don’t ask a question like that — it’s inappropriate.
Consider the obvious: Jesse may not talk about what he did as a SEAL in Nam because he doesn’t have anything to talk about. Why does the media let Jesse get away with this?
Sycophantic old SEALs and frogs have quite likely thrown the media off the scent. These Team guys attended his inaugural and have appeared on the platform with him at other public events. They speak of his duty as a SEAL, however cautiously, on TV.
I saw an example of how old SEALs cover for Jesse when I recently watched his biography on the Arts and Entertainment Network. One of my contemporaries, inaccurately identified as Jesse’s former commanding officer, was practicing the art of the conditional on Jesse’s behalf, talking about what Jesse would have done in Vietnam: “When he deployed with his platoon to Vietnam he would have gone out with the intent of doing grievous harm to the enemy…he would have gone to set ambushes, he would have gone to extract villagers for intelligence purposes, for interrogation.…”
As Jesse’s so-called commanding officer listed all the things Jesse would have done, film footage of SEALs in the bush rolled across the screen, contributing to the misleading impression Jesse had been a “SEAL warrior.”
As I watched and listened, I thought: that’s right, mate. If Jesse had been a SEAL he would have done those things. But he wasn’t a SEAL. He’s just a great pretender with the help of sycophants like you.
Time now to hear from Ed Gill, the UDT 12 officer who had his platoon shot out from under him within one week of reporting aboard for duty as a SEAL in Det Golf. Ed and the few remaining SEALs able to function after the VC ambushed their boat on the Vam Sat River cleared the kill zone and lived to fight another day. Ed and Chief Petty Officer Herb Ruth received Silver Stars for their heroism and Hearts for their wounds. As for the rest of the platoon, they had altogether too much time to bleed. Three of Ed’s 12 men died.
“I had no idea,” Ed said as we talked about the ambush and Jesse not long ago, “of what was going on. We were hardly off the airplane at Tan Son Nhut when an officer who’d been in-country several months told me to jock up for a patrol. I’d played football with the guy at the Academy and knew him then as very aggressive.
“He was in charge of the mike boat and the operation. We inserted about noon along the Vam Sat. On the way to the insertion point, I noticed the river was heavily bunkered, but we didn’t draw fire. If we had, we were pretty well armed: machine guns along each side of the boat, a Honeywell 40-millimeter grenade launcher on the coxswain’s station, a 60 mortar and a 57 recoilless rifle on the stern. Boat was really slow with all that armament. Could make maybe six knots max.
“We inserted and hadn’t patrolled more than 100 yards from the boat before the VC started sniping at us. Officer on the boat said to move forward. We did. Then someone got hit, not bad, and we retreated to the boat.
“We went out the same way we came in, and the VC really slammed it to us from those bunkers. We returned fire. The noise was like nothing I’ve ever heard before or since.
“We somehow managed to clear the ambush with only a few more wounded. Then my teammate from the Academy decided to go back in and duke it out. That’s when we got butchered. I was hit in the chin with shrapnel; the corpsman hauled me down behind the gunwale to stop the bleeding. Dan Mann, my assistant platoon leader, took my place and commenced firing. Next thing I know Dan tumbles down beside me dead. Shot through the ear, it looked like. I used to think he took the bullet meant for me. I don’t think about that so much anymore.
“A B-40 or maybe a round from our 60 exploded overhead. I looked up at Herb Ruth on the Honeywell. His face had been scorched raw by flame, but he kept on grinding out the 40 mikemikes.