The US Navy’s primary Special Operations force, the Navy SEALs, have conducted military operations going all the way back to the Vietnam War—and their roots go back even further in time. Here are 44 hardcore facts you may not have known about these modern-day warriors.
Navy SEALs Facts
44. Don’t Put Your Feet up
The official motto of the Navy SEALs is “The only easy day was yesterday.” This seems fitting, since their days are almost always filled with brutal tasks, harrowing adventures, and immense tests of endurance and loyalty.
43. Only Because Holodecks Don’t Exist Yet
The legendary SEAL Team 6 helped take down Osama bin Laden. To practice for the invasion mission, Team 6 recreated a full-size replica of his compound and practiced over and over again to make sure everything went right. The bin Laden operation was called “Operation Neptune Spear.”
42. Operation Don’t Screw This up
Navy SEALS have been involved in some of the American government’s most famous (and infamous) operations, including Operation Desert Storm and Operation Red Wings.
41. We’re Vomiting Just Thinking About It
The Navy SEAL physical screening is staggering. It requires a 500 yard swim in 12:30, 50 push-ups in 2 minutes, 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes, 10 consecutive pull-ups in 2 minutes, and a 1.5 mile run in 10:30. Only after being able to accomplish these things will a candidate be admitted into training to become a Navy SEAL where, somehow, everything gets harder.
40. Fear Itself
Navy SEALs undergo strict mental training, essentially rewiring their brains so that they can respond to fear without freaking out. You know, the way we normal humans do.
39. Carrey on
During filming of The Grinch, Jim Carrey consulted a Navy SEAL to teach him how to handle psychological and physical hardship in order to withstand his grueling makeup process in the film. Or that’s the official story—we think he just didn’t want to reveal any information about who stole Christmas.
38. You’re a Star
The highest-ranking Navy SEAL in history is Eric T. Olson, who is a four-star Admiral.
37. Wait for the Drop
Around 75% of SEAL trainees drop out before finishing the program. For us, just thinking about the 128 hours of training during Hell Week is enough to make us want to get back into bed. Or, more accurately, stay in bed.
36. In Their Element
With their specialized training, Navy SEALs are not restricted to just the sea, but are capable of fighting in desert, urban, and jungle conditions. The SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land.
35. Training Day
SEAL training isn’t particularly secretive, and San Diego tourists can visit local beaches and watch prospective SEALs haul logs, operate inflatable boats, and practice landings. If that bores you, you can always just watch the actual seals.
34. They’re Not Alone
The Navy SEALs have counterparts in other branches of the military. The Army has the Green Berets, Night Stalkers, Army Rangers, and Delta Force. The Marine Corps have RECON and MARSOC. These are soldiers who receive extra training beyond that of the other troops, and are thus considered Special Forces.
After the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden, the company Fleshlight rewarded members of SEAL Team 6 by sending them Fleshlight toys from their “stealth” collection.
32. Sea, Land, Air…Outer Space
Chris Cassidy, current SEAL and Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA, spent time on the International Space Station. While there, he participated in many space walks and took some awesome selfies.
31. Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
Rudy Boesch was one of the very first Navy SEALs, and participated in many combat missions—including raids, ambushes, rescues, and intelligence ops. He was also, not surprisingly, a contestant on the reality show Survivor. He didn’t win the show, but he won the heart of America.
30. Quite the Body of Work
One of the most famous former Navy men, Jesse “The Body” Ventura was a member of the Navy’s UDT during the Vietnam War (though these men were not technically Navy SEALS at the time). He went on to become a professional wrestler, then a television personality, and finally the Governor of Minnesota.
29. It’s Not Just Any Old Fork
The tridents that Navy SEALS wear on their uniforms are officially designated as the “Special Warfare Insignia.” Nonetheless, they are often called “Budweisers,” referring to the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course. Additionally, the tridents also bear a resemblance to the Anheuser-Busch logo, who are the makers of Budweiser.
28. Golden Tribute
During the funeral of Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor, who died in combat after jumping on a grenade to save his teammates, many Navy SEALs attended and pinned their golden tridents to his coffin.
27. Is It in You?
The runner-up in the first-ever Ironman race was Navy SEAL John Dunbar. He even had a good shot at winning the race—until his support team ran out of water and started feeding him cans of beer instead.
26. The Honda Civic of Guns
The Navy SEAL arsenal includes the Russian-made AK-47 due to its reliability in almost all situations.
25. The Things We Steal for Love
An aerospace engineer named Christopher Lee Tappen (who worked with the Navy SEALS) was arrested for funnelling $74,000 from military funds into a self-made plane. Why did he do it? To conveniently visit his wife on the West coast, of course. In 2013, he was sentenced to five months in prison.
24. G.I. Jane
Up until 2015, women were not allowed to join the Navy SEALs. After the ban was lifted, one woman tried her luck in training camp in 2017, but dropped out after one week. Someday!
23. A Hard Man
In 2017, Navy SEAL Joseph Schmidt III faced disciplinary action for apparently working as an adult film star, with titles such as “Apple Smashing Lap Dance” under his belt. The biggest issue, apparently, was that he wasn’t allowed to do other work while employed as a Navy SEAL.
22. Dogs of War
The Navy SEAL dog of choice is the Belgian Malinois. These dogs can identify concealed humans and explosives, are extremely fast runners, and can even operate a parachute, which is ridiculous. Good to know that we’d be even less useful than a dog.
21. American Sniper
Chris Kyle was a prominent US Navy SEAL sniper. Kyle had over 150 confirmed kills and many more unconfirmed, which earned him the nickname “The Devil” amongst the Iraqi. In 2012, Kyle released his autobiography American Sniper, and an award-winning film of the same name was released a few years later.
20. Life Is Better Where It Is Wetter
Navy SEALs are said to be most effective when striking from the water.
19. It Ain’t Easy Being Green
Nicknames for the Navy SEALs include “Frogmen,” “The Teams,” and “The Men With Green Faces.”
18. Face Time
The nickname “The Men With Green Faces” was given to the SEALS by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War because they would wear green camouflage paint to blend in.
17. Michael Phelps Would Have Been Great
Many current SEAL missions were first assigned to the Operational Swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), who worked during World War II. These operatives were often dropped behind enemy lines in order to gather information on their rivals.
16. Clearing the Way
After a disastrous landing on the Tarawa Atoll in 1943 where many Marines were lost due to obstacles such as reefs, the Navy formed Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), another SEAL precursor, which was tasked with destroying those obstacles to clear the way for a smoother landing.
15. Screw U
The UDT kept operating during the Korean War, and even destroyed tunnels on land. High command, however, had an issue with UDT swimmers operating on land, as it did not to fall within their specific umbrella of operations. Apparently, they took the U in UDT very seriously.
14. High Fidel-ity
Some of the first missions taken on by the Navy SEALs was doing secret reconnaissance on shore in Cuba in advance of a proposed amphibious invasion of the island. Of course, that never happened.
13. Solid Numbers
During the Vietnam War, Navy SEAL Teams 1 and 2 had a kill ratio of 200:1, and were one of the most highly decorated group of soldiers in the entire war.
12. Renaissance Killer
Navy SEAL Richard Marcinko was so hardcore that he got his own entire unit—and that unit was no less than SEAL Team 6.
11. Numbers Game
SEAL Team 6 was actually only one of three SEAL teams at the time, but was given the designation 6 to confuse Soviet Intelligence about exactly how many teams there actually were.
10. But They Didn’t Touch the Car
The Navy SEALs conducted extensive operations in Panama, where they blew up Manuel Noriega’s private jet.
9. Made You Look!
During the Iraq War, Navy SEALs fooled the Iraqi military into believing that an amphibious assault was coming. They did so by setting off explosions and putting marker buoys near the Kuwaiti coast.
8. Be Very Very Quiet….
After 9/11, Navy SEALs were sent to Afghanistan as task force with the primary objective of capturing or killing Al Qaeda senior leadership.
7. Lone Survivor
After 2005’s disastrous Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only surviving member of his team. There’s no doubt Luttrell went to the very darkest depths of humanity on his mission—but there was even more tragedy in store for him when he got home.
6. You Messed With The Wrong Guy
In 2009, four years after his return, two hooligans shot and killed Luttrell’s therapy dog (his therapy dog!). Luttrell chased them through three counties to catch them. During his call to 911, he told the operator, “You need to get somebody out here because if I catch them I’m going to kill them.” The perpetrators were charged with animal cruelty, which is way better than the death penalty that Luttrell would have given them had the police not gotten there first.
5. Navy SEALs and the Funky Bunch
Luttrell parlayed his combat experiences into a bestselling book called Lone Survivor, which later became a movie starring Mark “Good Vibrations” Wahlberg.
4. A Spoon Would Hurt More
During his interview with NASA, Bill Shepherd, a Navy SEAL who became an astronaut, was asked what he was best at. His answer: “Killing people with a knife.”
3. Low Employee Morale
As part of their training, Navy SEALs were waterboarded, but the practice was discontinued because so few SEALs could withstand it. This was leading to low morale.
2. An American Tragedy
Chris Kyle, AKA the “Devil” SEAL sniper with 150 confirmed kills, gained some fame after his 2012 autobiography American Sniper. But he would have precious little time to enjoy his success: in 2013, Eddie Ray Routh, a young, mentally unstable Marine veteran, shot and killed Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield. Kyle and Littlefield had driven Routh to a gun range, an activity they decided on as a way to help alleviate Routh’s PTSD.
1. Mea Culpa
When he was questioned about his motives for the cold-blooded killings, Routh’s response was utterly disturbing. Sitting in a jail cell four months after the murders, Routh confessed, “I was just riding in the back seat of the truck, and nobody would talk to me. They were just taking me to the range, so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn’t talk to me. I’m sure they’ve forgiven me.” In 2015, Routh was convicted for the tragedy and sentenced to life in prison.