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Harry Beal (1930–2021), first Navy SEAL

by Linnea Crowther

Harry Beal was a U.S. Navy veteran who was the first to volunteer as a Navy SEAL.

Serving his country

Beal joined the U.S. Navy in 1948, first serving aboard the U.S.S. Shenandoah as a gunner’s mate. He joined the underwater demolition team, the precursor to the Navy SEALs, in 1955. When the first Navy SEALs team was established in 1962, Beal was the first to volunteer for the elite special operations force. Later, Beal was credited with pulling John Glenn (1921–2016) out of the water after his historic spaceflight. He became a SEAL instructor, serving until his retirement from the U.S. Navy in 1968. Beal later worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for 20 years until his retirement in 1990. In 2020, a bridge was named after Beal in his hometown of Meyersdale, Pennsylvania.

Beal on SEAL training

“They start with 100 candidates. After Hell Week, half of them would be gone. You would crawl in mud with a half-pound box of TNT. It was tough.” —from a 2015 interview with the Cumberland Times-News

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Tributes to Harry Beal

Full obituary: Erie Times-News

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