A heavyweight for your coffee table: History of the SEALs

Courtesy NSW Publicatoins LLC

Photos courtesy NSW Publications LLC

There are picture books, you know, those stacked gracefully on coffee tables. And then there are those voluminous tomes, thickly bound with pages heavy with history and colorful photographs, that can stand on their own, with no need for a supporting cast. That’s what a reader will find in “United States Naval Special Warfare,” a new photo-anthology recently published by NSW Publications, LLC. The book is the brainchild of Greg E. Mathieson Sr., an Army veteran and longtime photographer with a reputable photo career that’s literally spanned the globe, from combat zones to palaces and the usually classified world of SEALs and SWCCs.

The 403-page book is no lightweight: It tips the scale at about 8 pounds. Its Facebook page already has amassed more than 36,000 “likes.” The book sells for $62.50, plus shipping, and only can be ordered through a website, www.sealsbook.com. Don’t look for it on Amazon.com or other online sellers, however, Mathieson said.

The anthology, a  project more than six years in the making, is different from SEAL-related books that have populated store shelves and online websites in recent years. It’s more akin to an encyclopedia, with hundreds of photos and rich details about naval special warfare, from current-day operations and back through its history and birth during World War II. It includes declassified documents, once marked “SECRET,” that showed how naval special warfare – and SEALs in particular – were created. It details technologies and equipment like power-driven canoes and underwater guns (and even underwater atomic bombs) that predated current systems. “We got access to a lot of stuff,” Mathieson said. The book underwent command reviews, he noted, and the authors made deletions and blurred or altered some faces to protect operators.

Photographer and Army vet Greg Mathieson, Sr.

“All the books that have ever been done before is about BUD/S,” Mathieson said, referring to the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course, the first in a pair of courses that sailors must complete before receiving the coveted Trident pin as special warfare operators. “We wanted something we can show people what we do, beside training.”

By “we,” Mathieson includes a seasoned SEAL veteran, retired Rear Adm. George Worthington, former commander of Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif., and retired Cmdr. Tom Harkins, another veteran SEAL. They wrote several chapters, each packed with photos by Mathieson and his coauthor, photographer Dave Gatley. The book also includes several photographs by our own Navy Times senior writer Mark Faram.

The book starts with the roots in naval combat demolition units, the Office of Strategic Services maritime unit and Underwater Demolition Teams, and it discusses today’s community of SEALs and special boat teams. Chapters delve into training, weapons and special equipment and research and development. “It’s fun writing stuff you know,” said Worthington, who added, “we wanted to do it right.”

They hope to debunk some myths or misconceptions about SEALs and naval special warfare, like “there were no father of the Navy SEALs,” Mathieson said. “Actually there was 20 officers and 70 enlisted people who got off the bus in California,” coming from various units.” The book includes a letter from former President George W. Bush and a chapter on the future of naval special warfare by former Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter. Mathieson penned a chapter on the sacrifices and combat heroics within the naval special warfare community.

The book includes declassified documents that provide new insights into the origins of naval special warfare, and shows modern-day training, on land and at sea, below.

There’s also a chapter on fleet support, “who never get any praise,” said Worthington, who felt strongly about including this critical and growing community of communicators, logisticians, supply personnel, armorers and other experts who support the teams at home and overseas. Mathieson equates the logistical support unit to James Bond’s Q (his quartermaster), noting “they are very inventive, and they are allowed to create things themselves.”

For the authors, now comes the difficult job of marketing the book and finding funding in a crowded and ever-changing publishing environment to help produce more copies beyond their initial limited run of 2,600 books.



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  1. Pingback: Just released: A coffee table history of the SEALs

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