John O. Watts – U.S. Navy SEAL, Vietnam Combat Vet, Redacted Records, Blog of Shame


04/02/2023 by militaryphonies


John Oscar Watts comes to us from Orlando, Ohio. Watts is 75 years old at the time of this writing – March 2023.

John O. Watts

Both the author of a book and the subject of a recent newscast, Watts claims he was a US Navy SEAL in Vietnam. A Philadelphia news station aired a segment on Watts, highlighting his book “Shadow S.E.A.L. – The True Story of One of the First Black Navy SEALs” which highlighted Watts’ time as a Navy SEAL and the challenges he faced with racism as one of the first black Navy SEALs.

The newscast caption above claims that Watts is US Navy (Ret) but we didn’t see where he made that claim.

Here is the cover and back cover of his book, claiming service with SEAL TEAM ONE in Vietnam from 1968-1970…

In Watts’ book, he paints a picture of himself struggling to prove himself and find his place in a US Navy SEAL world that appears – in his view – to be racist and unforgiving.  The SEAL community called him “Shadow” to avoid using a stronger racial slur – according to Watts.
His book does not mention a BUD/S class, but it does mention his two best friends while in BUD/S that became his swim buddies. Their names were Manuel Ortega and Frances Gardner.  Watts suggests that Ortega and he were drawn together based on mutual persecution due to their ethnicities.

Excerpt from the book “Shadow S.E.A.L.”

Watts claimed that he served with SEAL Team One…

Photo from the book “Shadow S.E.A.L.”

Photo from the book “Shadow S.E.A.L.”

Watts wrote that when he had trouble getting care at the VA, he tried to prove he served in Vietnam as a SEAL with boots on the ground.  He said that they redacted all the references to SEAL from his military records due to the secrecy surrounding the SEAL units.  Also, he claimed that his records had burned up in a records fire – probably referencing the famous 1973 fire at the National Archives.

Excerpt from the book “Shadow S.E.A.L.”

There is also a claim of Navy SEAL and two tours in Vietnam on his LinkedIn profile.

Since the newscast aired in November 2022, several Navy SEALs started asking questions since they didn’t recognize Watts’ name.

. . . . .


After contacting the UDT/SEAL archives and checking the UDT/SEAL database we found that there is NO record of “John Oscar Watts” or any other variation of his name ever completing BUD/S Training or being assigned to any SEAL teams.

John Watts’ military records were ordered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Due to his age and claim of service dates, we filed with the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) which would maintain records from the Vietnam era.

. . . . .



FOIA Results – NPRC – John Watts – DD-214

FOIA Results – NPRC – John Watts – DD-215


Watts was discovered as a senior in the Gratz High School (Philadelphia, PA) yearbook in 1965.

Watts was discovered in the USS Oglethorpe (AKA-100) in 1966.

Then, there is a photo of Watts in the USS Okinawa i(LPH-3) n 1967.

Combined with a few files from Watts’ military records, it appears that he was a striker for small boats, and attended the assault boats school as a coxswain.

FOIA Results – John Watts

FOIA Results – John Watts

. . . . .



There is no record of John Watts graduating BUD/S-SEAL training.


There were no claims of rank to confirm.


Watts claimed that he served from 1965-1969. His military service record is consistent with that claim.


Watts’ record does support his claim of serving in Vietnam. Both with Vietnam Service and Campaign medals and a Combat Action Ribbon.


Records are not redacted for SEALs. Missions are secret but individuals that have served are not.  There was a fire in 1973 at the National Archives, but it was only Army and Air Force records that were affected – not Navy records.


If John Watts has used any of these claims to gain anything of value, he could be in violation of the Stolen Valor Act.

. . . . .


. . . . .






This Ain’t Hell:

7 thoughts on “John O. Watts – U.S. Navy SEAL, Vietnam Combat Vet, Redacted Records, Blog of Shame

  1. KoB says:

    Watts up with you taking a steaming dump on the Honorable Service that you had there, Dippy? Your claims have cast a dark shadow over any thing you have done now. Welcome to your Google Fame. The inherwebz are forever. The troops of TAH will “love” you!

  2. J.B. says:

    The man had a good record, several decorations and good service in Vietnam. Why make up a bunch of crap, lie about it and then write a book…KNOWING that you’re gonna get vetted? Stupid is as stupid does, I guess.

  3. Marc Mulkey says:

    It’s a real shame for a Veteran who served, no matter what their job was, to have to sully his own reputation. Not by just telling people lies about his service, but then to step it up by writing a book full of lies! You were searching for accolades, but now you’ve been found out and all you’ll get is condemnation.

  4. Heck, why not just be proud of doing your haul? Honorable discharge, did a small piece near Vietnam.
    it isnt that hard

  5. Albert says:

    NPRC fire should have been a big red flag as No Navy or Marine Corps records were affected.

  6. Walle, A. says:

    At the VA, real SEALS low-crawl to check in–that way no one will know.

  7. Ron McCauley says:

    I wonder if he can swim!

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