Teammates: SEALs At War
17 October 2005
Back when BTL first began, about the only books about Navy SEALs around was Darryl Young's The Element of Surprise. Since then, books about the SEALs have been coming out on what seems like a weekly schedule.
Most of them have been completely bogus, and three or four of them (all by the same former SEAL officer and his ghost writer) have been fantastically comic exercises in egomania. This book is definitely one of the good ones – maybe even the best of the lot.
What makes Teammates: SEALs at War
such a good book is that it is the memoirs of retired Chief Gunners Mate Barry Enoch, a man who seems to be almost universally revered among Navy Special Warefare veterans. It also features a foreward by the first Navy frogman to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Senator Bob Kerrey. In his foreward, Senator Kerrey says this about Barry Enoch: “If he says it happened, it did. If he says someone deserves all the glory, he probably deserves at least half. He is a man who always did more than his share and always asked for less than he was owed.” Senator Kerrey also says that he doesn't he really deserved the MOH – or any medal that wasn't also awarded to the other men in his detachment, and was only persuaded to accept it when Barry Enoch told him to take it on behalf of all those who didn't get the recognition they deserved. Between those two former SEALs there is enough good old-fashioned American modesty to almost make up for the thundering braggadocio of the Dick Marcinko's of the world.
Fans and friends of Dick Marcinko are going to have to forgive me if I briefly compare his books to this one. The contrast is just so vivid and startling, I can't resist. Where “Demo” Dick sets himself up as the “Wrathful God of Combat,” and delights in calling everyone except himself and some of those who served under him, fictional and otherwise, a bunch of “low-load pussnuts” and other such endearments, Barry Enoch doesn't seem to have anything bad to sat about anyone, and never brags or boasts about himself. Reading Marcinko, it's easy to come to the false conclusion that the SEALs are an obnoxious crew of blowhards. Reading Barry Enoch's memoirs – like reading those of Darryl Young – you get a far more favourable and far more accurate picture of the men on the SEAL and UDT teams.
The title of this book is Teammates
, and that is who the book is about. Sure, Enoch takes the reader along on his missions, and there is no escaping the obvious fact that Enoch saw some heavy action and did some brave things. But Enoch's focus is not really on himself. It is on his teammates – men like Scott Lyon; Billy Machen; the Vietnamese LDNN SEAL, Tich; the three SEAL MOH recipients, Kerrey, Norris
: and a couple of dozen other teammates, all of whom Enoch remembers with love and admiration.
There is plenty of action in this book. There are also some great photos. One is of Enoch being awarded the Navy Cross, and if you'll look closely, you'll notice that he is already wearing a Silver Star with a “V” cluster, and a Bronze Star with a “V” and a couple of clusters. Nowhere in the book does Enoch mention himself being awarded any medals, except to complain about a Vietnamese award that he feels should have gone to someone else.
Enoch was a participant in most, but not all, of the action in this book. The actions he tells about but didn't take part in are included because they are an important part of the story he wants to tell – the story of his teammates.
There are of course, a few nits I found to pick. The Vietnamese word for Phoenix, as in the Phoenix program, is misspelled in a chapter title. The Army Ranger company with which Enoch's platoon worked briefly is identified as the “143rd Ranger Company,” when it was really E / 75th. These are minor nits (except to E / 75th veterans), but I do have a major complaint about this book.
On the inside front cover of this book by a holder of the Navy Cross and two Silver Stars is a touching memorial to Enoch's friend and teammate, Billy Machen, but the back inside cover features a big picture of Greg Walker, listing all of his decorations. Now, it isn't Walker's fault that his medals can't even compare to the basic load an average GI wore back from Vietnam, much less Barry Enoch's genuinely impressive array of decorations. Greg's war was in Elsalvador, and the government is still trying to pretend no Americans were intimately involved in that war, so the awards given tend to be rather dull and peaceable. I know and like Greg Walker. I admire his work, and I'm sure he didn't intend to embarrass himself in this fashion. The fault is undoubtedly the publisher's, and you shouldn't let this display of bad taste keep you from spending the seven bucks for Teammates: SEALs at War
. It's money well spent.
Buy Teammates: SEALs at War
This article was originally published in Behind The Lines magazine. VietnamGear.com has reproduced this article with the kind permission of Gary Linderer.
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