CDR Franklin W. Anderson,

USN, retired

(reprinted from The Pagoso Springs SUN Newspaper - Thurs. Nov. 12, 1998)

by John M. Motter

A Pagosa Country native, Franklin Anderson selected the first men trained for a U.S. Navy SEAL unit. Franklin W. Anderson, Commander, U.S. Navy, Retired, was born in April of 1934, the son of legendary government trapper, Lloyd Anderson. Today, Franklin lives near Tiffany, a small ex-community in the Allison area.

Franklin and Martie

Franklin and Martie Anderson at home - 1999

What is a Navy SEAL unit? The following article published March 31, 1967, in the "Ocean Science News" explains.

"Is it a fish, is it a bird, is it a man - No, it's a SEAL, which the Navy has finally admitted do exist to the number of 400-plus; the Navy version of the Green Berets or Commandos, except more so. SEALS - for sea, air, and land - are the Navy's elite intelligence and sabotage troops who operate along coasts, deltas and off shore, but sometimes far inland as well. Both jump and demolition experts, they are also trained as frogmen, and something new for which no name has been made up yet but it consists largely of the necessity of standing or lying in hiding in leach-filled swamps and shallows for up to 15 hours while holding weapons free of water to keep them dry. SEALS serve six months of active duty and then return to school for six months of updating, so rapidly is their form of operations escalating. Although they are given what is probably the toughest training of any service unit of any nation, the vicissitudes of their operations have opened up a whole new field of marine medicine, researching treatment of immersion fatigue, 'waterlogging,' skin rashes, infection from leaches and marine worries and semi-poisonous marine plants, and other debilitating factors."

In the eyes of the enemy, the SEALS were "Green Faces," silent assassins who popped up unexpectedly, delivered an immensely destructive ration of firepower, then vanished, leaving death and destruction as the only reminder that they had been present.

Franklin's father, Lloyd, traversed the switchbacks and hidden canyons of the San Juan Mountain range for 39 years as a government trapper. The young boy Franklin shadowed his father, learning to ride horseback and "read sign" in the mountains almost as soon as he learned to walk or read books. Not that Franklin's book learning was ignored.

He graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in 1952 and from Fort Lewis College in 1954 with in A.A. degree. After transferring to Colorado State University, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences in 1956.

In October of 1956, Franklin enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was selected to attend Officers Candidate School. After graduating from OCS in February of 1957 and earning a commission as an ensign, Franklin journeyed to the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, Calif., to undergo underwater and demolition training. Franklin graduated from that course in July of 1957, then was assigned to Underwater Demolition Team II. While in UDT-11, he held nearly every position in the Team and made many deployments as platoon commander and officer in charge of Western Pacific detachments of underwater demolition experts. The most exciting assignments were installing an underwater submarine detection system throughout the Pacific. He was known as the cable (portions of the detection devices looked like cable) officer, having worked at Wake Island; Kwajalein Atoll; Christmas Islands; Johnson Island; Ferndale, Calif.; Coos Bay, Ore.; and Pacific Beach, Wash.

Franklin Anderson

Franklin Anderson with two sharks

In August of 1961, he was named executive officer of UDT-I1. In January of 1962, he personally selected two officers and 21 men from UDT-II to help form the nucleus of soon-to-he SEAL Team ONE, an organization classified as secret.

In June of 1964, Franklin volunteered for duty in Vietnam. His job was to establish a UDT/SEAL Team for the Vietnamese Navy. Called the Lien Doi Nguoi Nhai, this team had been struggling unsuccessfully for a year to get off the ground. It's problem was, as soon as the men of the Team were trained, another military organization absorbed them.

Franklin trained a new group from scratch. They were very successful. Most noteworthy was the battle of Vung Ro Bay. In this operation, Anderson's men went ashore under heavy enemy fire and secured a position enabling them to dive on a sunken enemy trawler. Under sporadic sniper fire, they recovered intelligence data that proved that the North Vietnamese Navy was infiltrating supplies for the Viet Cong directly from Hai Phong along the coast into South Vietnam.

For his part in the battle, Franklin was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V", along with the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with the Silver Star. Once again, an attempt was made to steal the trained LDNN, but, with Franklin's prodding, Gen. Westmoreland thwarted the attempt, thereby insuring the LDNN's availability to support U.S. SEALS years later.

Franklin completed this tour of duty and in June of 1965 was reassigned to Operations and Plans with Naval Operations Support Group, Pacific. During this time, Franklin was instrumental in rewriting policy and getting the first SEALS deployed as a unit to Vietnam under the operational control of CTF-116. Additionally, while on the Naval Operations Support Group staff, he helped coordinate and complete through staffing, the request for getting the 1130 Special Warfare Designator for career UDT/SEAL officers.

In July of 1966, and now a Lieutenant Commander, Franklin was appointed commanding officer of SEAL Team ONE. He immediately made significant changes in the way the SEALS were being used. First, a training indoctrination course was started at Niland, Calif. The camp was named Camp Machen. Franklin worked to change the way SEALS were employed, urging that they be used to collect intelligence and in psychological operations. In addition, working with indigenous personnel and special units, he helped develop several specially trained attack forces.

Franklin started with 50-plus men and in two years the manpower authorization was for 500 men. Due to training limitations, only about 350 men were on board. Under his command, SEAL Team ONE proved highly successful in dealing severe damage to the enemy.

The public was mostly unaware of the SEAL Team's existence until late 1966 when Franklin held a press conference to officially unveil them. Franklin received the Legion of Merit with a Combat "V" and the Presidential Unit Citation - presented personally by President Lyndon B. Johnson - while commanding SEAL Team One.

Franklin Anderson

Presidential Unit Citation - presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson

In July of 1968, Franklin was detached from his former command and assigned to Post Graduate School in defense intelligence, graduating in July of1969. He then reported to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) as the Naval Special Warfare Officer for Plans. During this period, he was selected to serve on a Special Target Analysis Group charged with writing special plans for the conduct of operations in Southeast Asia, including POW recoveries. After three years, he was promoted to commander, received the Meritorious Service Medal, and was transferred to the Pentagon on the Naval Operations staff as the numerical relief for Capt. Norman Olson.

At the Pentagon he was assigned to the Research, Development, and Testing section, working, on the development of new weapons and equipment for SEAL Teams, specifically boats. Next, he was assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Group. Atlantic, as Plans Officer. After reorganization of Naval Special Warfare Group, Franklin became chief staff officer for Naval Special Warfare Group, Atlantic where he served until July of1976 when he was named director of Basic Unit Seal Training. He retired in May of 1977, finishing he career where it started - at BUDS.

When he retired, Franklin had more time as a commissioned officer in special warfare than any other officer in the U. S. Navy.

Franklin has been married to the former Martha Kuhnel of San Diego, Calif. for 36 years. They have four grown children: Gisela, Linda Susan, Warren, and Wayne. Since retiring to his Tiffany ranch, Franklin has been commended by the Colorado House of Representatives for activities in agriculture, community affairs and politics. In 1996, he was selected as the La Plata County Agriculturist of the year. He serves on many boards and commissions, as well as raising sheep, cattle, and registered Arabian and Quarter Horses on his ranch.

Franklin Anderson

Franklin Anderson on his ranch in southwestern Colorado

Meanwhile, the Navy has not forgotten Commander Anderson. On Sept. 30 of this year, he addressed graduates at the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training Class 218 Commencement Ceremony. A note of thanks from J. Maguire, commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Center said, in part:

"As a graduate of Class 18, your words of experience were right on target. And particularly meaningful to the men graduating 200 classes later."

During his Navy career, of how much benefit was Franklin's wilderness training under his father?

"Those early years helped me a great deal in Vietnam," Franklin said. "With my father, I was learning to read sign by the age of four. Reading sign is interpreting the physical evidence that something has been in an area, footprints, for example, or broken branches or crushed grass. Reading sign concerning people is not much different than reading sign for animals. The behavior of both is predictable."

Another benefit of those earlier days in the wilderness took place when Franklin attended a winter wilderness survival school in Canada. He was one of two Americans and 300 Canadians in the class. The challenge was to keep from freezing or starving to death. Franklin must have captured the most snowshoe rabbits, because he finished at the head of the class, Number One.

Today, despite his busy schedule, he continues to hunt, fish and trap at every opportunity. Apparently, you can't take the hunter out of the man.

You can e-mail CDR Franklin Anderson at <>

Read CDR Anderson's tribute to UDT/SEAL Frank E. Goerlich, BM1