Billy Machen was born on December 20, 1938, in Gilmer, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on July 9, 1957, and completed basic training at NTC San Diego, California, in September 1957. After completing Radarman training at Naval Station Treasure Island, California, he served aboard the destroyer USS Frank Knox (DD-742) from April 1958 to August 1959, and then attended Submarine School at Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, from September to December 1959. Petty Officer Machen next served aboard the radar picket submarine USS Raton (SSR-270) from January to April 1960, followed by Underwater Demolition Team training with Class 024 (West Coast) at NAB Coronado, California, from April to August 1960. His next assignment was with UDT-12 at NAB Coronado from September 1960 until he received an honorable discharge from the Navy in July 1962. After leaving the Navy, Billy attended the University of Texas from 1962 to 1965 before returning to active duty in the Navy in February 1965. PO2 Machen then served with SEAL Team ONE at NAB Coronado from February 1965 to July 1966, and deployed with his Team to South Vietnam from July 1966 until he was killed in action on August 19, 1966. He was the first Navy SEAL killed in action on a combat mission. He was posthumously promoted to Petty Officer 1st Class, and was buried at the Willow Oak B.C. Cemetery in Gilmer, Texas.
As a side note, one of Billy's Teammates carried Billy's body during the extract from the site where he triggered the Viet Cong ambush in order to prevent his Teammates being caught in the VC kill zone. The man carrying his body declared that, dead or alive, he'd never leave a Teammate behind. It was that declaration which gave birth to the tradition in the Teams of NO MAN LEFT BEHIND, DEAD OR ALIVE... which has now become a general proclamation of the entire US armed forces.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action on 19 August 1966 while serving as point man for a SEAL fire team, SEAL Team ONE, Detachment GOLF, in the hostile area of the Rung Sat Special Zone, Republic of Vietnam. As point man, Petty Officer Machen led the team through Viet Cong territory in search of two camouflaged sampans reported by friendly elements. Coming upon a clearing in the dense jungle environment, he halted the patrol, proceeded into the clearing alone and, spotting an enemy ambush, chose to expose himself to hostile fire by firing his weapon on the enemy positions rather than retracing his steps and thereby compromising his team-members' positions. By this courageous action, he enabled his comrades to seek cover, form a hasty defensive perimeter, and escape unharmed after suppressing the enemy fire. Mortally wounded when struck by the initial enemy fusillade, Petty Officer Machen, by his valiant and selfless actions, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
The Sailor's Creed:
I am a United States Sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.
I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my country's Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment.
I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.