Last Surviving Member Of First Ever Navy SEAL Team Turns 94
Bill Dawson is the last surviving member of the first ever U.S. Navy SEAL team, was visited by reporters earlier this month in celebration of his 94th birthday. He may be in a wheelchair and on oxygen these days, but he vividly remembers his days as one of the inaugural members of arguably the most elite special operations team in the world.
Born and raised in Washington D.C., Bill was just 17 years-old when he signed up for the Navy, and he quickly found himself being sent on exciting but life-threatening missions.
At the time, Bill and his fellow SEALs were called “Frogmen.”
“There was no such thing as SEALs, so Frogmen seemed like an appropriate name,” he explained.
During the last two years of World War II, Bill served in the Pacific arena, and he was still there when the Japanese surrendered in 1945. While he no longer has any of his fellow SEALs around to talk to about old memories, he does have “the book,” which is a three-ring binder that is so stuffed with information that it’s about six inches thick. The binder includes the personal diary he kept during the war as well as incredible photos he took of Japan, Papua New Guinea, Borneo and other Pacific islands.
“Everything we did was top-secret,” Bill said. “You weren’t supposed to keep a log of any information. But I managed to keep my scrapbook. I’ve got some pretty good pictures. It tells a story.”
After he enlisted, he was chosen to be on a team of ten specializing in explosives.
“They couldn’t tell us a whole lot about it. Because everything was top-secret,” Bill said. “But one thing they did tell us, was that you learned to blow things up. Of course I was scared. Anybody tells you they wasn’t scared, I’ll call them a liar.”
After the war ended, members of Bill’s team remained close and would often travel across the country to visit one another. He still misses them all every day.
“You have to talk to somebody that was there. And I don’t have anybody that was there,” he said. “They’re all gone.”
Many of Bill’s friends had no idea about his past serving his country until his book “Before they were SEALs, they were Frogs,” which is full of his photos and diary entries, was published in 2015.
“I didn’t know about his past in the Pacific,” said one friend who worked with Bill as a firefighter after the war. “That’s the kind of guy Bill was – a very humble, well-liked guy.”
These days, Bill often can be found traveling to Navy reunions. Though they are not called Frogmen anymore, Bill is still proud of what the SEALs are doing today.
There’s nothing they can’t do,” he said. “No place they won’t go.”
Find out more about this American hero in the video below.