“Beach Jumpers”: SEAL Predecessors Hold Annual Reunion

November 13, 2008 at 3:31 am

Naval Special Operations

Naval Special Operations

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Beach jumper veterans from around the United States gathered at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado Nov. 7 for the 5th Annual Beach Jumpers Reunion.

Beach jumpers were U.S. Navy special warfare units in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, specializing in deception and psychological warfare, according to a former radioman who was part of the group.

“We were changed because we grew up with the experience of war,” said former Beach Jumpers Unit 1 member, Capt. Carl Kilhoffer.

It’s important to recognize beach jumpers, who quietly contributed to the security of our country, added Kilhoffer. “We knew the reality of severe injury and even death was a possibility for us. A possibility because we saw shipmates leave us forever.”

During the reunion, two wreaths were laid to honor beach jumper veterans who died serving their country in Vietnam.

“It hurts sometimes,” said James Franklin, former first class operations specialist and beach jumper, gazing at names engraved into the granite memorial. “It brings back a lot of memories. I know a lot of them on these plaques. It’s something that you won’t forget.”

“We were the unmentionables,” said Franklin. “We were in country (Vietnam) from ’64 to ’68 and it wasn’t supposed to be known. I had to prove to the [Veterans Administration] that I was overseas because the military has no record of our activity.”

Back then the beach jumpers were even more secretive than the U.S. Navy SEALs, added Franklin.

“We don’t get credit for what we did because we can’t talk about it,” he said. “But that was part of the game. We’re finding out now… we can talk about some of it, but we don’t know how much we can talk about so some of us are still tight-lipped.

“My kids didn’t even know what I was doing. My wife, before she died, would tell you that all she knew is that I wore camouflage makeup and stuff. She didn’t know what I did. She just knew I went overseas. It was hard for me.”

But they could get out anytime they wanted to, he said.

“It was strictly volunteer. You could say tomorrow I want out and…within 24-48 hours you were transferred out.”

“I think they deserve a lot more credit for what they did,” said Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 2nd Class Frank Mcanally, currently assigned to Navy Information Operations Command, San Diego, who served as an escort during the reunion. “The things that they did were great, and I applaud them for their actions.”

During the event, attendees viewed static photo displays, had lunch at Naval Air Station North Island and received a tour of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 41.

“I haven’t seen some of these guys in 40 years,” said Homer Ramsey, a former third class radioman and beach jumper. “It’s just great to reunite with them after all these years.”

Jason Zuidema (NNS)

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Entry filed under: American Military History, Military Units, Modern Military History, Naval History. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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