10 Of The Most Famous Navy SEALs Ever

(NavySeal.com Admin Staff) The United States Navy has a long and storied history, dating back to the Revolutionary War. Over the years, it has produced some of the most courageous and celebrated warriors in American history.

Many of these military personnel are born from the special operation unit known as the famous Navy SEALs, revered as some of Earth's most highly-trained military members.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy established the Navy SEALs as a special forces unit using the existing Underwater Demolition Teams, which fought for the Navy during WWII and the Vietnam War. Since then, these elite soldiers have completed some of the most dangerous and secretive military missions.

Each SEAL is respected as a hero by their peers and the American people. From taking down Osama bin Laden to rescuing hostages, Navy SEALs have proven time and time again that they are the epitome of strength, courage, and determination.

These are famous or 'well-known' Navy SEALs and not necessarily the greatest since almost every SEAL is great to accomplish graduating BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training) and taking on tasks beyond extraordinary.

So, who are some of history's most famous Navy SEAL Frogmen? After exhaustive studying, I've decided on the ten men listed below. These men have accomplished amazing things and have become legends after graduating from BUD/S and serving on their respected UDT/SEAL teams.

1. Mike Day

Mike Day is a retired United States Navy SEAL who gained notable recognition for his extraordinary survival story. He served for over two decades in the U.S. military, during which he was deployed multiple times to combat zones as part of his duties within the elite special operations forces.

The most well-known incident involving Mike Day occurred in Iraq, where he remarkably survived after being shot 27 times during a gunfight with enemy insurgents. In April 2007, while conducting a raid on an al-Qaeda cell, Senior Chief Petty Officer Day encountered four enemy fighters and was hit by rifle rounds and grenade shrapnel but managed to kill all assailants despite his injuries.

Following this harrowing event, Mike Day spent years recovering from significant wounds that would have been fatal for many others. His resilience and determination have inspired many nationwide and beyond. After retiring from active duty, he dedicated himself to supporting fellow veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), contributing significantly to their rehabilitation processes through various initiatives.

His tale exemplifies the courage expected of Navy SEALs. It serves as a testament to human strength under extreme adversity — showcasing how one can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges through sheer willpower and fortitude.

2. Marcus Luttrell

Marcus Luttrell is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in June 2005 during Operation Red Wings. His book about the experience, Lone Survivor, was turned into a film starring Mark Wahlberg in 2013.

After high school, Luttrell enlisted in the U.S. Navy and began training to become a Navy SEAL in 1999. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2005 as part of Operation Red Wings.

The mission went awry when Taliban fighters discovered the SEALs, and Luttrell was the only one in his unit to survive. American forces rescued him after six days of fighting.

Luttrell was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2007 and has since become an advocate for veterans' causes. He has written a second book, Service: A Navy SEAL at War, and is a motivational speaker.

3. Rudy Boesch

Rudy Boesch was a United States Navy SEAL who enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and served for 45 years, including stints in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer in 1990.

In 2000, at age 72, Boesch appeared on the first season of Survivor. He quickly became a fan favorite due to his no-nonsense attitude and military experience. He was voted out in the final three and placed third overall.

Boesch continued to make occasional TV appearances after Survivor and was a consultant on the film Lone Survivor. He passed away in 2019 at the age of 91.

4. David Goggins

David Goggins is a former U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party member and retired U.S. Navy SEAL. He is the only U.S. Armed Forces Member who has completed SEAL training, U.S. Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He also completed two Hell Weeks.

Goggins enlisted in the Navy in 1999 and became a SEAL in 2001. He was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq before being honorably discharged in 2008.

After leaving the military, Goggins decided to focus on his fitness. He also wrote the New York Times best-seller, "You Can't Hurt Me."

Goggins has completed over 20 ultra-marathons, including the Badwater Ultramarathon, which he has completed three times. He has also set the world record for the most pull-ups completed in 24 hours, performing 4,030 repetitions in just 17 hours.

Goggins now uses his platform to motivate others to push themselves beyond their limits.

5. Jesse Ventura

Ventura enlisted in the Navy towards the end of the Vietnam War. He was a member of the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 12.

Navy SEAL historian Don Shipley states, "Jesse deployed to the Philippines with his UDT Platoon. While there, SEAL Team One asked for two UDT guys from that Platoon to take over their mission in Vietnam.  That mission was a thankless one of launching balloons with a single-channel propaganda radio attached to enemy territory. This freed up the SEALs to do more SEAL-like operations.  Jesse spent at least 30 days in Vietnam, earning a Vietnam service medal and doing a SEAL mission.

When Jesse left the Navy, he stayed in the reserves. Since there were no reserve UDT Teams, Jesse was assigned to a SEAL Team One reserve. While there, Jesse completed additional SEAL qualifications and trained as a SEAL."

In 1998, Ventura ran for Governor of Minnesota as a member of the Reform Party and was elected, becoming the first and only member of that party ever to be elected governor.

He served one term before choosing not to run for reelection in 2002. Ventura has since retired from politics and now works as a political commentator.

6. Chris Kyle

Chris Kyle was a U.S. Navy SEAL who served four tours of duty in Iraq and is considered the deadliest sniper in American military history. Kyle enlisted in the Navy in 1999 and became a SEAL in 2001.

He was deployed to Iraq four times between 2003 and 2009 and amassed over 150 confirmed kills during his time there. Then, in 2009, Kyle left the Navy and wrote a best-selling autobiography, American Sniper. The book was adapted into a film starring Bradley Cooper in 2014.

Kyle was tragically killed in 2013 by a fellow veteran suffering from PTSD. His death brought increased attention to veteran mental health. Chris received multiple medals, including the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, and three Gold Stars.

7. John Gretton Willink

John Gretton Willink is a retired United States Navy SEAL who served for 20 years, including stints in the Persian Gulf War and the War in Afghanistan.

He was honorably discharged as a Commander in 2011. Willink co-founded Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm, and wrote several books, including Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

The Navy SEALs who followed Willink included Medal of Honor recipients Michael Monsoor, Jonny Kim, and Chris Kyle.

Willink was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. He is also a New York Times bestselling author. Willink now uses his experience to teach others about leadership and teamwork.

8. Michael Thornton

Michael Thornton is a retired United States Navy SEAL awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during a mission in 1972. Thornton enlisted in the Navy in 1965 and became a SEAL in 1968.

Thornton and his team came under fire from the North Vietnamese during the mission. Thornton selflessly ran into the line of fire to rescue a wounded teammate, Tom Norris, earning him the Medal of Honor. He retired from the Navy in 1976 as a Lieutenant and now works as a motivational speaker.

Thornton and Norris have coauthored a best-seller, By Honor Bound, which can be purchased at Amazon.  As written in the Amazon book description:  This is the true story of two living American legends who entered military service and the Navy SEAL teams for vastly different reasons―and were thrown together for a single combat mission that would define their lives.  

9. Adam Brown

Adam Brown was a U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. He enlisted in the Navy in 2001 and became a SEAL in 2006. During his time in the military, Brown saw action in some of the most dangerous areas of both countries.

In 2010, Brown was killed by an IED while on a mission in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart, and the Silver Star. His wife and two young children survive Brown. He is remembered as a hero who sacrificed for his country.

10 (Tied). Scott Helvenston

Scott Helvenston was a United States Navy SEAL who served during the 1980s. He enlisted in the Navy in 1982 and became a SEAL in 1984. Scott was the youngest person ever to complete SEAL training at the age of 17.

He served in the military for four years before leaving for a television career. Helvenston saw action in Lebanon and Libya before leaving the military in 1987.

After leaving the Navy, Helvenston was a personal trainer for celebrities like Demi Moore (G.I. Jane). He also appeared on the TV shows Man vs. Beast and Combat Missions. Helvenston was tragically killed in 2004 while working as a private security contractor in Fallujah, Iraq.

10 (Tied). Michael Monsoor

Michael Monsoor was a United States Navy SEAL who served in Iraq. He enlisted in the Navy in 2001 and became a SEAL in 2006. During his time in Iraq, Monsoor saved the lives of several of his fellow sailors by throwing himself on top of a live grenade.

Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. His parents and two sisters survive him. Monsoor is remembered as a hero who sacrificed his life to save others.

What Famous Navy SEALs Have in Common

These famous Navy SEALs underwent intense training and conditioning to be considered for the special ops group. Out of hundreds of men who try out, only a handful make it through to the end.

Every Navy SEAL deserves an honorable mention. And to all service members, thank you for your bravery and patriotism. You are the reason America is the greatest country in the world. Hooyah!

Contact us today if you'd like to get in touch with questions.

21 Responses

  1. Written By: John Pierdomenico

    From Class 93 class slogan. “Working on a Night Move”. Class 92 was “The only easy day was yesterday”. And class 91 was “second to none”. How do I know that? I graduated in class 93 in Aug 1977, met William McCraven from Class 95. So much has changed since I turned 64. Looking for a colleague from Class 94 John Pryor. And my class Perry Dobstaff. Any leads would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Written By: larryf

      Hey John, will post. Hope all’s well and thanks for your service. BTW, BUD/S Class 89 was the ‘Only Easy Day Was Yesterday’ class. (Note the BUD/S Class 89 plague still hangs in the BUD/S compound.) Larry (BUD/S Class 89)

    • Written By: Robert Thomas

      Senior chief Perry Dobstaff came to my high school career day in 1996 my dream was to become a navy seal after my dad he served in Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Iran hostage barracks bombing ..I joined the Navy in 95 under the delayed entry program I left a year later after graduating high school.. i was a PR cause it was fastest way to BUD/s Senior Chief Dobstaff was a BUD/s Instructor when i invited him to my school career day haven’t seen him since that day…

      Robert Thomas
      PO2 SO NSW Seal Team 3

  2. Written By: Bernard

    Your information about Michael Thornton is incorrect. He won his Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War not in Iraq. Maybe you should check your sources or research. Makes me question this sites validity.

    • Written By: larryf

      Bernard, first, THANK YOU for taking the time to alert me of our error. You’re absolutely correct, Thorton came under fire from the North Vietnamese. As you can see, I’ve corrected our mistake. To be totally honest, I’m double embarrassed since Thornton was one of my BUD/S instructors. I hope you enjoy your day! Best, Larry F.

      • Written By: Harlen Jones, RM1, USN RET

        Michael Thornton was still on active at least until 1986. He was stationed aboard the USS Edenton at Little Creek NAB. I think he was the Diving Officer. I was on the sistership USS Hoist.

  3. Written By: Daddy

    The story says something about Jesse Ventura being a member of team six, and being honorably discharged in 1975. I could be wrong, but I thought Captain Marcinko started team six in the early 80s, after Desert One. 🤔

    • Written By: larryf

      You are correct. Thank you for the correction. We have no documentation Ventura served on Team 6 (only UDT 12). To confirm, Marckinko was the first commanding officer of Team 6.

    • Written By: Mikel King

      MY GREAT Granddaddy was on one of those special ops teams in WW11…his name was O’Neal King…he came home from the war, and I know he won a medal or two but I was so little when he died I wish I knew more about his military service!! I’m obsessed just a little too much with spec ops but Navy Seals especially, and so Thankful to all of you for yours fearless service and all you team guys sacrifice to keep us safe and in the dark!!! True patriots!!

  4. Written By: Al Thompson

    I worked for a former Navy Seal William (Dusty Rhoades) in 1975 on the Mark One Deep Dive System. He has since retired and passed. just wanted to remember him. Did not make it to his funneral. He died in Panama City,Florida. Dusty was a Master Diver in the rank of Chief

    • Written By: larryf

      Thank you, AL.

  5. Written By: Dea7731

    For those who haven’t read fearless the Adam Brown story I suggest very strongly is an awesome read I won’t spoil anything for you for those who haven’t read the book but believe me you will be surprised at him with a great man

    • Written By: Catherine Isgrigg

      I am reading lone survivor and I am so amazed and proud of the navy seals and the amazing training you have to do. What wonderful blessed human beings you are, this beautiful USA is so lucky that we have you for our protection. You all will be in my daily prayers. So glad I’m reading this book to learn the importance of what it takes to do this job, thanks to all

      • Written By: larryf

        Thank you for your kind words, Catherine. And yes, we’re powerfully blessed!

      • Written By: Name*

        You might want to check some facts on Luttrell’s story. The movie is so over the top. The Navy did damage control and wrote that book to cover up what happened. Luttrell admits that he literally covered his ears and left his teammates. The man who found him said he had 11 full magazines. There are only a few people that know what really happened. I can’t say but as the years wear on, it appears that they were only fighting a few up to 8-10 taliban confirmed by the Battalion officer of the Marines this man was supposedly killing.

        They made some mission changing errors on that op. Procedure is to zip tie the person who compromises you. They will eventually get out of those but you will be gone by then. Listen to the anti hero podcast. Another is Rob Oneill. He didn’t kill Bin Laden. He was already twitching and dead from the point man who remains unidentified. Oneill came in and ‘Canoed’ his head. The Team was pissed at him because they needed his head and face for identificatiaon. He had been shot twice in the chest fatally. There was no need to sully up what would for sure identify him. Alot of SEAL’s ‘killed’ Bin Laden with ‘seccurity shots to the body’.

        RED the pointman, killed Khalid and Bin Laden. He still refuses to speak publicly. It is an example of a true quiet professional…

  6. Written By: ROBERT PETERS

    I WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OF OUR MILITARY HEROS WHO HAVE FOUGHT AND DIED FOR OUR GREAT COUNTRY MAY GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES WHO HAVE ALSO SACRIFICED EVERYTHING WHILE THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS WERE AWAY FIGHTING FOR OUR COUNTRY. THANKS AGAIN TO THE GREATEST GROUP OF MILITARY TO EVER WEAR A UNIFORM TO PROTECT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE FREEDOMS AROUND THE WORLD.

  7. Written By: Frank J. Shaughnessy

    You missed Commander Richard Marcinko. He formed Seal Team 6 and was a plank holder in Seal Team One. I met Dick at a Seal Muster years ago. Still have the photo of us together. He autographed his Rogue Warrior book for me. “Be a warrior in all you do. Kick ass daily”. One nice guy.

    • Written By: 5thMan

      Good point about Richard Marcinko. He is definitely a very famous and a huge contributor to NSW.

  8. Written By: Richard Ayers

    Please check the real story of Bat-21 on the man whom Michael Thornton rescued. Tom Norris and His Medal of Honor. April 13th, 1972, Vietnam.

  9. Written By: Marty

    You have to add Mike Day to the list. In fact you need to put him on top. I knew two of the guys on your list and Mike Day was tougher than both of them.

    • Written By: larryf

      Thank you, Marty. Agree and this posting has been updated to reflect same. Enjoy your day! Larry

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