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Ex-SEAL, Masters Swimmer Dies in Coronado in Rough-water Event>

From San Diego Union-Tribune By Jen Brown - 5 July 2002

Retired Navy SEAL Bill Earley was no stranger to the Coronado Rough WaterSwim. The masters swimmer had competed in the Fourth of July event many times, but yesterday's was his last.

A Coronado Beach lifeguard pulled Earley's body from the water at the three-quarter-mile mark at 10:34 a.m. A team of lifeguards, firefighters and paramedics treated Earley for 28 minutes before he was taken to Sharp Coronado Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:28 a.m. He was 65. "We are treating this right now as a possible drowning," said investigator Michael Ellano of the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office. "During the autopsy, if they don't find anything in his lungs, then it will probably be a cardiac event."

Longtime friend Don Baker said, "There's no way Bill Earley drowned." Baker said he swam past Earley at the quarter-mile buoy of the one-mile event and saw him struggling. "He was swimming backstroke, which is unusual because he's a good swimmer," Baker said. "His face was red and he said he was feeling really terrible." But Earley refused to let Baker go for help and insisted he swim on, Baker said. Earley was an established member of the masters swimming community, and at the time of his death he was vice president of the Coronado Masters Swimming Association.

His swimming roots go back to his participation on the Yale University swim team, for which he specialized in backstroke events. After graduating with  degree in architecture from the Navy ROTC program at Yale in 1958, Earley continued his passion for swimming at the masters level. He has held atleast three masters age-group world records in the men's 200-meter freestyle relay and the mixed 200-meter freestyle and 200-meter medley relays.

In 1973, Earley helped found the Coronado Masters Swimming Association and served as its first president. He also served as chairman of the legislative committee of the U.S. Masters national convention and was a delegate for 20 years. "There's going to be a huge hole in the San Diego swimming community," Baker said. "He was very loyal, very generous, very warm, very patriotic."

Earley served three tours of duty in Vietnam as a Navy SEAL and retired as a commander after 27 years of service, his friends said. He continued to be active in organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Order of World Wars and the Navy League. He was the head week at the ARCO Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista as a tour guide.  "He was very proud to be a part of that operation," friend David Lamott said. "He never missed a Tuesday afternoon. It was like a religion for him." Lamott was shaken by his friend's death but took comfort in the fact that Earley died doing something he loved. "Swimming was his life," Lamott said. "There's no other way for him to go than . . . the way he went." Earley is survived by a son, Morgan, of Escondido.


Bill is the first Commanding Officer of SEAL Team TWO to pass away. He was the sponsor for BUD/S Class 224, and Lifetime member of the Association.   A memorial service is scheduled for 10:00 AM, Friday, 12 July 2002 at CISM   Field, NAB Coronado, California. The family invites all who attend to the reception in Club Coronado immediately following the service.

Because of the current security condition, access to NAB Coronado is restricted. Vehicles with DOD decals (stickers) are admitted easily, and there is parking for them in the lot next to CISM Field. Car-pooling in decaled vehicles is strongly recommended. There are a few parking spots at Gate 4 (the gate farthest south) for cars without stickers. Persons who park there will need to walk to the Main Gate, whence they will be bussed to CISM Field. In lieu of flowers, Bill's son Morgan has asks donations in remembrance of Bill be made to the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, P.O. Box 5365, Virginia Beach, VA 23471.  Condolence may be sent to Morgan Earley, 712 Harding Street, Escondido, CA 92028.

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Upon my reporting to SEAL Team TWO at USNAB Little Creek    Capt.Bill Early was my first CO.

 He is the Officer that had faith in me to become a U.S. Navy SEAL  Operating Hospital Corpsman.

 I felt it was only a matter of time until I would have my turn to go to  Vietnam.   Since I was a Fleet Marine Corpsman, also felt that I would  be going to Vietnam with the U.S. Marines.   I had enough of he Marines during the Korean War.   I was stationed with a U.S.  Navy SEAL by the name of Sol Atkinson.   He had already one tour the Nam with SEAL Team ONEt.  Sol encouraged me to call  teams and ask to be taken into one of them. (49578 bytes)

 Capt. Bill Early approved my  request to allow me to be attached to SEAL Team TWO.   I saw him last at the ST-2's 40th Anniversary  Party at Little Creek.  Prior to that at the 2001 in Coronado CA,    Capt Early did not recognize me and I acted as if I did not know  who he was.  To my question, "who are you sir?"  He answered,   without any hesitation, "I am the son-of-a-bitch" that sent you to Vietnam!"  I am your old CO, Bill Early.        "Black Jack" Macione was the XO when I arrived at the Team.



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