Aug 19

Remembering Radarman Second Class Billy W. Machen, USN

Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:01 AM


On 19 August 1966, SEAL Team One suffered its first combat fatality in Vietnam. While on a reconnaissance mission, a patrol had discovered a series of bunkers and weapons positions along the Dinh Ba River, thirteen miles south-east of Nha Be. They were extracted and reinserted further up river to pinpoint two reported camouflaged sampans that had been spotted by a helicopter. Fresh tracks were discovered, and the sampans were then sighted five hundred meters from the SEAL’s position.

Radarman Second Class Billy W. Machen, a 28 year old sailor from Dallas, Texas, was acting as point man. Coming to a clearing in the jungle growth, RD2 Machen halted the unit and moved ahead into the opening to reconnoiter. As he paused and searched the surrounding area, he suddenly spotted several Viet Cong (VC) guerillas. Rather than retreating and seeking cover, Machen initiated fire and attacked the enemy unit, forcing them to trigger their ambush prematurely. The resulting hail of fire from both banks of the river alerted his fellow SEALs to the danger and allowed them to take cover, return fire, and engage to suppress the VC attack. Machen, however, was killed in the initial fusillade.

For sacrificing his own life for those of his shipmates, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest medal for valor. More recently, the SEALs named its Desert Warfare Training Facility in California, Camp Billy Machen.

  • PAUL



  • Cody Seago, 2nd Cousin to Billy Machen

    Thank you Bill for serving and being a great family member. Please visit our Facebook Memorial Site to help honor him and other Navy SEALS that have been killed in action.

  • Billy was my high school classmate in his hometown of Gilmer, TX. He was a senior and I was a freshman and we had wood working shop class together. His family were pioneers in this East Texas community but they’ve all either moved away or died out now. I purchased the Machen home place west of town on Machen Lane from his older brother…the only remaining survivor….and Im honored to help keep the memory alive..both at the museum and at the family home place.
    I am also thrilled to hear the report of the Seal Team taking down OBL.

    We honor Billy in our museum

  • Carl Swepston

    I served as a point man in a Seal platoon in Vietnam. I honor you for being a point man and giving your life for your fellow Seals. Roger Moscone, the man who carried your body out under fire lived a wonderful life as a result of your sacrifice. He has now joined you in Frogsville heaven.

  • Yotasog

    today while exploring a very remote section of the California desert, I came over a rise to find myself at the front Gate of Camp Billy Machen
    My GPS told me the road I was on did not exist and neither did the buildings or firing range I could see.
    I knew who the camp was for only by the distinctive symbol, an eagle clutching a trident a pistol and an anchor.
    No higher privilege than to be at such a crucible of honor

  • Suggahr

    Knew Bill when he was in Dallas, Texas between hops. Funny thing was that this guy never liked the water although our apartment had a big pool. I’m happy to know that Camp Billy Machen is located in the desert–hot and dry. Bill would like that.

  • Frank and Annette Breazeale

    Bill was our best friend and we are privileged and honored to know his son, Sammy, born after Bill left for Viet Nam. We have great memories of our high school, Navy and University of Texas times together. It is a blessing to know Bill’s son, Sam, his wife and the three grandchildren. Bill is the stuff that heroes are made of….and we a proud to have been a part of his life.

  • Alexander Bevil

    The original Camp Billy Machen SEALs training camp was located in what is now Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. See: San Diego Union, April 9, 1968, B3.

  • Conrad Coppedge

    Bill left many broken hearts behind , both in the Seal community and with his friends and family in Texas . After 46 years, thoughts of him are often and many ! I am thankful of his friendship during his short tenure . His family was close and I am thankful for their friendship as well .

  • Charles Scott

    Though I never knew RD2 Billy Machen, I remember hearing that name in the late ’60s; my own Air Force service ending in late ’64. I regret that he received only the Silver Star for this sacrifice to save other men. I would like to see it advanced to the Navy Cross.