ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
Russell Redding's Vietnam War Photos
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Lieutenant, Seal Team One, U.S. Navy
Russell Redding served with SEAL Team One in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. He remembers the recruitment process.
The SEALs were picked from the Navy’s underwater demolition teams. At that time, the SEALs was something I did not have any knowledge of, nor did anybody else. A Navy officer gave a presentation to our class of 400 about the Underwater Demolition Team and I thought it sounded good. It was parachuting, they had a base in St. Thomas to do their winter diving and you could live in a house on the beach. I thought, well this deal is pretty good so I’d better hurry up and get to the front of the line because they probably have a quota. So at the end I hustled up to the front and when I turned around I realized I was the only one in line. There were no other volunteers out of 400 people.
After a year with the Underwater Demolition Team, he was drafted into the SEAL Team as an Ensign. He arrived in Vietnam in 1967.
Our base was a Navy Base about 20 miles from Saigon, which is on the shipping channel. The Navy’s job was to keep that shipping channel clear of mines. It was very easy to sink a ship on the 50-mile long meandering river that flowed from the seacoast into Saigon.
Because they needed to stay silent, the SEALs had an advantage over regular army troops.
The swamp that we were put in was a mangrove tidal swamp. It was only suitable for small ops and that was our specialty at the time – to operate in six to twelve man groups. The army didn’t operate with anything much smaller than 100 to 120 troops.
We would go in that swamp, set up ambushes with our patrol supported by Navy patrol boats. We might patrol from point A to point B, set up an ambush for the night, maybe a night and a day. Most of our ops were one night, maybe the next day, and into the next night. The mud would prevent you from staying out much more than two days. You couldn’t communicate verbally because sound travels over water so you had all day with your thoughts, pretty much, and we would use hand signals within our group. So we maintained silence for a day and a half, and it was always fun to get back to base where you could talk to somebody.