Chief Petty Officer Robert Sullivan


I am honored to share with you my salute to one of the first SEALs from SEAL Team One. He, and the rest of his Team, created the foundation for what we know as the SEAL program today.I am awed by both his integrity and honor to both his country and fellow SEALs.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Sullivan, known as Sully, was raised in Omaha, Nebraska.  He joined the Navy in July 1948 and attended Boot Camp at NTC San Diego CA.  CPO Sullivan was a plank owner (original member) of SEAL Team One. January 1 1962 He is the recipient of the SOG Presidential Unit Citation The Nations 2nd highest award, and the Navy Commendation Medal / w Combat Distinguishing Device the highest award allowed when the United States is not a belligerent in the host country, Vietnam ( Prior to 1963 )

My first ship was the USS Begor APD 127, and our first cruise was to Alaska in Nov -Dec-1948. Then a Western Pacific (Westpac) cruise in Mar-Nov -1949. Where we rescued American personnel (Clergy and Medical staff) from Amoy China as the Chinese Communist Army was destroying it with Artillery Shells.

Then station ship for the American Embassy in Hong Kong China during the summer of 1949. We returned to San Diego, where on 6/27/1950 the Begor left for Westpac and the Korean War.

The Begor was involved in a collision enroute to San Francisco, and was delayed for repairs at Hunters Point Ship Yard in San Francisco. In Nov 1950 we resumed the trip to Japan on our way to Korea.

We were under way to war where the Begor’s 1st claim to fame was the December 1950 demolition of Hungnam Korea with a detachment of UDT-3 and volunteers of members of the ships company. (Author included) This was the climax of the famed evacuation of the Chosen Reservoir. The extensive use of the Begor by UDT-3 in the 1950-51 Korean War, led to her name The” Galloping Grey Ghost of the Korean Coast”.

The 10 month tour during the Korean War, led to my close friendships with several of the frogs from UDT -3. These guys were instrumental in my requesting a transfer to UDT Training. As to what was normal, for the Navy my request chits were delayed over and over, since I had advanced to Petty Officer 1st class and ships try to hold on to their senior Petty Officers.

I was accepted for UDTRA, and started training in Coronado with class 11 in 1954. The 8th week of training my knee went out; I was held back for class 12. In those days you started over from the beginning, Hell week and all. None of this stuff of picking up where you left off as done in today’s training. The week after my 2nd Hell week, my knee was twice its normal size. This time it needed surgery, and a long rehab. I was sent back to the Fleet, and to the USS Calvert APA 32. I didn’t get back to training until class 20 in 1958, where I went through Hell week for a 3rd time, (maybe a record?) I Graduated with Class 20 on 29 July 1958 as a Petty Officer 1st class.

My first assignment was to UDT 12, where I assumed the leading P.O. job of 1st platoon in Nov 58 as we deployed to Westpac for six months. I was then assigned to the installation of cables for the Pacific Missile Range on Midway in May- Aug 1960. This involved extensive diving and use of explosives. We perfected the “Bubble Charge”, a method of cutting channels in coral reefs so the cables coming from the PMR Range could be protected crossing the reef.

Promoted to Chief Petty Officer Jan 1961, and assigned as the lead Diving  Supervisor for UDT-12  I attended the 1st class for mixed gas use of SCUBA (Mark V semi-closed circuit rig) in Key West FL in May-July 1961. Instructed team members in the use of Semi Closed Circuit (mixed-gas) diving on return to Team -12.

Sept 1961 assigned as CPO of 1st platoon, and deployed to Westpac.

Nov-Dec 1961 the 1st platoon is assigned to the Army 1st Special Forces Group Okinawa, for Parachute Training. On Dec 20th 1961, I received orders to return CONUS to help put SEAL Team One in commission at NAB Coronado, CA on Jan 1, 1962

March 1st of 1962 I was a CPO plank owner in SEAL Team 1 and along with P.O. 1st class  Don Raymond was the 1st to be deployed to Vietnam. We worked for The CIA in MAAG-SOG -OP 34A. This was SEAL Team’s first mission in Vietnam, and a choice detachment for enlisted men. We were on independent duty, with full per-diem. $16.00 a day (big in those days) we used commercial air in civilian clothes only. We joined civilian agents that worked out of a CIA compound in DaNang Vietnam.

Our job was to get Vietnamese agents into North Vietnam to do espionage. We used Fishing Junks, the 1st Swift Boat in Vietnam service, a C54 (R5D Air Craft), and a C47 (DC3 Air Craft) with crews from Taiwan. (For the air drop insertions)

Our operation “Vulcan” sank one Swatow Gunboat and damaged another taking it out of commission. We had 2 KIA, and 2 wounded UDT’s, plus 10 captured boat crew members. At their trial, Raymond and I were exposed to the press and radio as Mr. Bob and Mr. Don  our cover names with a 10,000 piaster reward put on us.

Remember this was 1962, and the Tonkin Gulf incident was in late 1964. North and South Vietnams were still in the shouting stages at this time. After being relieved by a 12 man Det, we returned to CONUS in Sept 1962.

Deployed for the Cuban Crisis in Oct 62 as CPO of an 8 man detachment on board the Submarine Sea Lion out of Key West FL. Made recons of Cuba to confirm there were no Missiles hidden in caves that went unseen by Air recons. ( none were found) We returned to San Diego in Dec 1962.

Attended HALO Parachute training (High Altitude Low Opening) at Yuma Test Station AZ in Jan-Mar 1963 Qualified for free fall and static line Jumpmaster. At that time an independent Air Dept for SEAL One was established on the NavPhib Base Coronado, CA, and started a training program for Seals that included HALO, and equipment jumps into water.

I made a 2nd tour of Vietnam with SOG-OP34A, in 1964-65 training Chinese Nungs and Viet’s refugees from North Vietnam, to return them back into North Vietnam as Commandoes. We made numerous sorties across the 17th parallel using Swift Boats instead of the slow moving Junks that we used previously.

Seal Team One had a 15 man Det at what became China Beach near DaNang. We operated with US made Swift boats, and Norwegian built “Nastys”, (a high speed gun boat)

1965 we recovered Two Chinese Nationalist Pilots from Hainan Island, China while operating from the USS Blue Gill SS-242. This is still a classified operation because of the ongoing hostilities between Communist China and Taiwan China.

I helped establish a training area in Niland, Ca by the Salton Sea, to train SEALs in ambush tactics using the canal system in the farming area of the Imperial Valley. The site was named “Camp Billy Machen” for the first SEAL killed in Vietnam.

March 1966, I was assigned as the Diving supervisor with the Deep Submersion Project Pacific at Ballast Point San Diego, and San Clemente Island. This was the support group for The Bathyscaph Trieste ll . This was to be my twilight cruise. (Last before retiring from active duty)

Sept 18 1967 I was released to the Fleet Reserve after 20 years active duty. My full retirement was on October 1 1977.




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