Here’s Why Phil H. Bucklew Is The Father Of Special Warfare
The face of Special Warfare would be very different today without the influence of Phil Bucklew. Widely known as the father of Special Forces/Operations – as we know them today – his influence greatly shaped the way soldiers train and prepare for overt missions.
Look how one man could have such an impact.
After college, Bucklew rose to prominence as a professional football player, founding and joining the Columbus Bullies in Columbus, Ohio in 1939. Before that, he played for the Cleveland Rams for two years.
However, in 1941 he quit professional football to serve in the war; he arrived at the recruiting station the day after Pearl Harbor. He joined the Navy as an officer, having previously served in the reserves while attending college. While overseas, Bucklew was assigned to one of the first special warfare units, through which he won two Navy Cross awards.
He served in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, then commanded a boat in Operation Husky, landing in Sicily. He also earned a Silver Star and a Bronze Star during World War II. He then participated in the Korean and Vietnam wars during his naval career.
He then took two years of active duty when he earned his Ed.D. at Columbia University. He joined the field, completing his 20 years, until he was forcibly retired, due to cuts in the military.
However, with the creation of the Navy SEALs, Bucklew was brought in to command the operation. He was handpicked by President John F. Kennedy himself to oversee the operation. This put Bucklew in charge of Naval Special Warfare Group One, or SEAL Team 1, and Underwater Demolition Teams 11 and 12.
During this role, he formed and laid the foundation for many future SEAL teams and operations. Interestingly enough, Bucklew never took SEAL training or qualified for BUD/S.
During the Vietnam War, Bucklew predicted that the Vietcong would use the waterways to ship their supplies. The idea was rejected at first, but later allowed training and budget increases for Navy SEAL units.
Bucklew retired in 1969 as a captain, when he began working as a shipbuilding consultant.
Today, the Phil Bucklew Naval Special Warfare Center in California bears his name. The location is currently used as a Navy Special Warfare Command training facility.
Bucklew died in 1992 after multiple strokes; he was being held in a hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. He was 78 years old. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery alongside his wife, Helen Nagel, who died in 2004.