Frank Flynn

Special Warfare – Special Man
by Toni Flynn



Photo on left - Frank Flynn in wetsuit

Photo above - l to r, Captain Norman Olson, Frank Flynn,
and Rudy Boesch circa 1996 – taken at the retirement
ceremony for Rear Admiral Irve C. LeMoyne




Franklin Delano Flynn DNC, USN, Ret. Was a legend in the Teams, a UDT-SEAL pioneer whose career spanned a broad scope of what the Teams are all about today. He was a zealous man with the tenacity to get the job done and with the best results. His smile and the leprechaun twinkle in his eye made a lasting impression. No matter what needed to be fixed, experimented on, located, saved, freed, captured or fought for he was first in line to volunteer and give total commitment to his teammates and the Teams.

After an honorable discharge fro the National Guard (because he was underage) Frank joined the Navy as soon as he was old enough. After boot camp he served first on the USS Essex, then on the Bexar (APA 237). After attending 2nd class divers school he became intrigued with UDT and submitted chit after chit but to no avail. Apparently his division chief, not wanting to lose his leading seaman, was tearing them up.

At a change of command ceremony a Captain asked Frank if he was happy aboard the Bexar. He replied, “No sir, I’ve put in several chits for UDT training and have had no response.” The Captain looked him in the eye and said, “Son, put one more in tomorrow morning,” and walked away. Frank did not know he had just talked to Captain (later Admiral) Draper Kauffman, known as the father of UDT.

Two weeks later Frank, along with three shipmates, received his orders to UDT training. They entered Class 19 in Coronado, arguably one of the best classes ever convened. It had one of the lowest dropout rates and produced some outstanding future operators. Upon graduation Frank reported to UDT 11.

During the first nine years of his career Frank was involved with research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) and the swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) program. Many of his hardware designs are still in use in today’s fleet equipment. Approximately eight different SDV’s were developed in an effort to improve the methods of transporting assault swimmers.

At the 1996 ceremony for today’s Gator class SDV Frank would look back with awe and pride. He had helped to make the program from the free-flooding Seahorse to today’s Gator class.

Frank was also involved in the Sea Lab II project, making one of the first 220-foot free dives using mixed gas. He was involved in the RDT&E of experimental SCUBA diving gear, including the Pirelli, Draeger, Emerson, Mark V, Mark VI and Mark VI HE02.

In 1965 Frank reported to SEAL Team One and in subsequent deployments to Vietnam served as advisor to a Provincial Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) and senior advisor to the Kit Carson Scouts. The PRU’s proved to be one of the most successful operations in Vietnam. With an American advisor and leader, native fighters targeted VC infrastructure and high-ranking VC leaders. In some provinces they completely eliminated the Viet Cong.

Frank fought for equipment and medical treatment for his PRU’s. As on PRU rep wrote “Mr. Flynn’s contributions and advice caused the unit to become a family working together and built it to the top of the list of the whole Four Corps.” Loved and respected by his PRU’s, they completed an unbelievable number of successful operations.

The Kit Carson Scouts were former Viet Cong who turned against the VC and now operated with American advisors against the VC. When Steve Frisk joined Frank as a co-advisor of the Kit Carson Scouts Captain Dave Schaible commented, “First I sent the bear, then the tiger.”

In a letter to Frank after he had returned to the United States, one scout wrote, “I hate we miss you so much. Everyone want you come back right away. The men say you number one, but I think too low. I think you number twenty.”

Frank completed his tour of duty with the Teams as chief liaison officer between the Navy and NASA on the Skylab mission. He, along with nine other SEALs, helped to train astronauts in neutral buoyancy for the Skylab mission.

One of his last operations at Huntsville was the recovery of the body of a drowning victim. Frank, along with Roger Gant, located and recovered the body to the relief of the grief-stricken parents. Others had not been able to complete the dive into the underwater caves of a flooded river.

Frank would fight the greatest challenge of his life beginning in June 1995 when he was diagnosed with larynx cancer. He died on December 16, 1996. A true family man he leaves Toni, his wife of forty years, children and grandchildren.

Remembering Frank Flynn, Barry Enoch wrote, “How do we remember our teammate today/” Can you see Frank Flynn with only a grin that could come from his face? Can you see him answer his last order as he rolls over the main tube into the dark waters for the last time? Can you see him? Now he has crossed the bar and stands on the beach on the other side. Frank Flynn is in good hands as he joins the ranks of Frogs and SEALs who have gone before him. There they stand in gallant ranks. Can you see them now? Can you see Frank?

Frank was a true pioneer within the Special Warfare Community. Few have equaled his contributions to the Teams and our country. He is buried close to Admiral Irve C. LeMoyne, Frank’s super SEAL, his hero, in Fort Rosencrans Military Cemetery, Point Loma, California. They are overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, and the Frogs’ favorite diving hole called “the pipeline” where they dove for lobster and abalone many times.


Who Was Frank Flynn?
by CDR Franklin W. Anderson, 1997

To many people he represented many things; a loving father, husband, and dependable TEAMMATE.

Frank wasn’t an ordinary man; he was extra-ordinary in every way. I first met Frank a few months shy of 40 years ago. He was in UDTRA Class 19, and later was assigned to UDT-11. Class 19 was a vintage Class with some outstanding members that served UDT for extended periods and contributed immensely to the long range benefit of the Navy and the Teams. --- A. J. D’errico, Lepage, Petty, Goodman, Roy Adams, Sanasac, Red Fisher, Cathcart, Nelson, Callahan, Orrick, Willets, Smith, Couture, and numerous others.

Shortly after coming to UDT-11 Frank and Red Fisher volunteered for a Static Display in San Diego. They arrived on the scene accompanied by Toni and Joyce, who helped out. They worked together and played together. Wives in the Teams play a very important role as it’s not easy with the frequent and long deployments. Tony and Sue Rausch were the backbone and sounding board for many wives and helped save many marriages.

Shortly after returning from a WESTPAC deployment, a practice sneak attack using Pirellies was scheduled off Yellow 1, in early 1959. A chaotic night with numerous incidents occurred. First Bill Berry had an attack of oxygen poisoning from swimming too deep and we had just recovered him when another flare went off and Chief Massey had Frank on the surface. Frank had a CO2 buildup and we rushed him to the beach. Calvin Lockard was the coxswain of the LCPR, and when we hit the first sand bar, CPO Massey dropped the ramp and jumped off – just then a big wave hit the stern of the boat and pushed it forward striking CPO Massey just below the knees, breaking both legs with compound fractures. We had the ambulance take Massey to Balboa, and we put Frank on 4x4 to take to the chamber and sickbay. LTJG Willets was the Duty officer and had everything ready when we hit the beach. Dr. Beall cut off Frank’s wetsuit – he was unconscious for about 15 minutes. When he came to the first words he uttered were “what SOB ruined my wet suit?”– always thinking more about his equipment than his own personal safety or how serious his accident had been.

Frank’s attitude was always positive and a morale builder for his teammates. He always gave that extra effort on any job. In 1960 on a WESTPAC deployment (DET LIMA) we were directed to survey 21 miles of beaches on TAIWAN for operation “BLUE STAR”. One beach, PANG LIAO, was 9-1/2 miles itself. Frank was the team Cartographer and he worked day and night on the way back to Okinawa, and a week at Camp Schwab, getting the charts ready for the PHIBGRU. Frank drew praise from the Commodore (ADM TREBLE) for his work in such a short time frame.

Later, Frank was on a detachment aboard the STATEN ISLAND (1961) in the Arctic diving under 6 foot of ice when his regulator diaphragm ruptured. He and Pete Willits were pulled back by a seaman line tender and Frank was out for about 10 minutes this time. A doctor and corpsman worked on him on the ice in below zero weather – Once again Frank had a very close encounter with death.

These incidents never deterred Frank from his motivation toward his duties.

Frank came to SEAL TEAM ONE and made several deployments in combat and also with the PRU’s, LDNN’s and the KIT CARSON SCOUTS. He was also an instructor at the Niland and Cuyamaca with the Training Cadre. Again, Toni was with him and also assisted in setting up Steve Frisk for an abduction for a training exercise.

The SDV program under Ken Specht was getting into full swing and a nucleus of outstanding people being assembled for the project – such as Lonnie Price, Frank Goerlich, Gator Parks, Rusty Campbell, and Frank Flynn. Yes, Frank Flynn. Later Frank volunteered for a critical and hazardous mission against North Vietnam (Operation Night Boat). Maynard Weyers and Frank were to sink a submarine in the channel at Haiphong Harbor. Frank was to be the SDV driver. This operation was an excellent concept that would have been detrimental to the VC efforts if the President had approved it. Not many people even today know of Frank’s involvement and it has just been recently that we can talk about some of the exploits of SEAL TEAM members.

To summarize – Frank Flynn was not an ordinary man – so SEAL is ordinary, but Frank was at the top. We all trusted him and cherished him for his dedication. We are proud to call him and Tony friends and Teammates. GOD BLESS YOU AND FAREWELL, FRIEND – HAVE FAIR WINDS AND A FOLLOWING SEA.

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