SEAL Team 1 Pays Tribute To Its First Commanding Officer
by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paolo Bayas
October 9, 2021
The crashing waves, sandy beach, and fresh ocean breeze set the stage to reflect on the legacy and historic career of the late Capt. David “Dave” Del Giudice, SEAL Team 1’s first-ever commanding officer.
Members of SEAL Team 1 welcomed Del Giudice’s wife, sons, and roommate-in-training and close friend, retired Lt. Cmdr. Timothy “Tad” A. Devine (UDT), U.S. Navy Reserve. They walked the grounds of old and new training areas and shared solemn memories of a man they knew as a husband, father and teammate.
“I was Dave’s roommate during the time we endured and survived [Underwater Demolition Team] Replacement (UDT/R) Class 20 in 1958,” said Devine. “Capt. David Del Giudice was the ‘plank owning,’ first commanding officer of the newly commissioned [SEAL Team 1] on January 1, 1962.”
The following morning, SEAL Team 1 led a memorial service to celebrate his contributions to the community. As the chaplain prayed, four members of SEAL Team 1 swam off the coast of San Clemente Island to spread his ashes; a maneuver known in the teams as a “final pick-up line”.
September 16, 2021 - A Navy SEAL prepares to present a ceremonial flag after spreading the ashes of retired Capt. David Del Giudice. Capt. Del Giudice was selected as the first commanding officer of SEAL Team 1, assuming command on Jan. 1, 1962. He passed away at 88 years old on May 20, 2021. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paolo Bayas.)
“Now that he has moved out to his final pick-up line for extract, we can say with confidence that his work on Earth is done; he’s run his race well, and his mission is complete,” said Navy chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Griffin.
The swimmers, in return, emerged back on shore presenting a customarily-folded United States flag to Del Giudice’s wife with a SEAL Trident and SEAL Team 1 command coin tucked inside.
“We were soulmates, best friends and an anchor for each other,” said Del Giudice’s wife. “Dave may be gone in body, but his spirit is in my heart and is in my soul, and it will forever be there. And it brings me love, happiness, peace and security. I love him with all my heart.”
Del Giudice entered the Navy in 1954 and completed Underwater Demolition Replacement Training with Class 20 in 1958. He was subsequently assigned to Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 12 where he served as a platoon commander, officer in charge, and eventually executive officer.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke officially authorized establishment of the SEAL Teams in a letter dated Dec. 11, 1961. Del Giudice, assumed command of SEAL Team 1 on Jan. 1, 1962. Ten days after taking the helm of SEAL Team 1, Del Giudice was sent to Vietnam to assess how the capabilities of SEALs could be employed.
During his second deployment with UDT 12, Del Giudice and 10 other UDT members became the nucleus of the Mekong River Flotilla, where he served as Assistant Flotilla Commander. This little-known mission was to deliver urgently needed landing craft to the Laotian government to bolster its river patrol capability against attacks from communist forces.
Upon his return to Vietnam in 1962, Del Giudice helped train Vietnamese Coastal Force personnel in reconnaissance, guerilla warfare and prepared them to instruct succeeding classes of the Biet Hai [Special Sea Force] Commandos. He also became a member of the Vietnam Delta Infiltration Study Group which helped produce the “Bucklew Report” that warned of the ineffectiveness in halting Vietcong coastal and riverine supplies.
Del Giudice subsequent assignments included Naval Operation Support Group Pacific (forerunner to Naval Special Warfare Group 1) as its first operations officer and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations where he was the budget sponsor for Naval Inshore Warfare (NIW) Commands. Driving budgetary actions, Del Giudice is credited with strengthening the NSW community by working to permanently establish NSW as a part of the overall U. S. Navy structure, paving the way for the eventual selection of a Naval Special Warfare Flag Officer.
Del Giudice concluded his naval career as the Commanding Officer of Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. He retired from active duty after 24 years of service in July of 1978 and was selected by U.S. Special Operations Command as one of its Commando Hall of Honor awardees in 2010.
“The Naval Special Warfare community lost a treasured teammate and one of SEAL Team’s consummate professionals with the passing of Dave Del Giudice,” said Rear Adm. H. W. Howard, commander, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. “He will be remembered as a quiet professional, one who shaped our history, upholding the tenants of our Ethos and serving as an inspiration to those he led.”
Dave Del Giudice passed away May 20, 2021. He was 88 years old.
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