William Goines; America’s first black navy seal

Image: Virginia Pilot

William Goines became America’s first black Navy Seal in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy created the first two SEAL teams – team one on the West Coast and two on the East Coast.

Born in 1936 in Dayton, Goines was one of the 40 men chosen to join SEAL Team Two and was also the only Africa-American on either team.

Goines’ pioneering feat began after seeing a film that depicted Navy frogmen, performing underwater demolition operations during World War II while he was a junior at Lockland Wayne High School. 

“My fate was sealed right there. That’s exactly what I wanted to do,” Goines said, the Cincinnati.com reported.

Goines would enlist into the Navy in 1955 after receiving his diploma to begin training as a frogman. He was with five Army Rangers, two foreign Naval officers, four U.S. Navy officers, and 85 other Navy enlisted men. 

According to Cincinnati.com, all the Rangers and one of the foreign officers dropped out three weeks after and when the time for graduation came in 1957, he was one of the 13 men left standing.

And then five years later in 1962, President Kennedy established the first two SEAL teams and Goines was selected after several interviews for the unit, famously known for the 2011 raid in Pakistan on the compound housing former Al-Qaeda leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

“I was one of 40 selected to become the nucleus of future Navy SEALs,” Goines told NBC News. “I remember asking this lieutenant, ‘what was our mission gonna be? And he said, ‘It’s too secret to talk about.’”

In his over 30-year career, Goines jumped out of moving planes on stealth missions that soared as high as 30,000 feet and flew as fast as 300 mph. “We jumped out of everything,” he told the Cincinnati.com. “We even jumped out of balloons in France and Belgium, just experimenting.”

He swam for miles unassisted and survived the trenches of Vietnam after exposure to Agent Orange.

“I had a fungus on one of my fingers and they thought they were going to have to take one of my fingers off during my first trip to Vietnam,” he said. “I was blessed and got back safely from all of those.”

Goines retired from the Navy as a Master Chief Petty Officer in 1987 after 32 years, saying: “I could have stayed longer, but I couldn’t really keep up with everybody else.” “They didn’t really expect me to keep up since I was Master Chief, but peer pressure will make you hurt yourself.”

After spending 14 years as the Chief of Police for the school system of Portsmouth, Virginia following his retirement in the Navy, 83-year-old Goines is on a mission to bring about racial parity in recruiting members to the Seal.

According to data from the U.S. Navy, of the more than 3,000 active duty SEALs today, just 1.3 percent are African-American and 8.8 percent are Hispanic. 

Goines’ list of achievements while serving the US for 32 years includes the Bronze Star, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon and the Presidential Unit Citation.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: April 13, 2020


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