Rudy Boesch, legendary Navy SEAL and fan favorite of first 'Survivor', dies at 91

The Stoner Machinegun: A Navy SEAL Remembers

Rudy Boesch, the retired Navy SEAL who was one of the first contestants to appear on the reality television show Survivor, has died at 91.

Born Jan. 20, 1928 in Rochester, New York, Boesch passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, according to People Magazine. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Most Americans first learned of Boesch from his appearance on the first season of Survivor, where he ended up in third place on the top-rated show now in its 38th season. Appearing on the show at the age of 72, Boesch was the oldest competitor, and his gruff manner, along with politically-incorrect "Rudyisms" made him a fan favorite.

His third place finish wasn't all that disappointing to the accomplished SEAL, Boesch told Newsmax.

"Doing it wasn't nothing," Boesch said. "For about half those people it was the biggest thing they ever did in their life. They hadn't done anything. But I did that stuff all the time. The toughest thing was putting up with some of the people."

He later appeared on Survivor: All Stars when he was 75.

Boesch joined the Navy in April 1945 when he was 17 but was still in training when World War II ended. He volunteered for a unit that was a precursor to the SEALs and later served on a destroyer ported in China. In 1951, Boesch completed Underwater Demolition Team training and was assigned to UDT-2 and UDT-21, according to

In 1962, Boesch was among a handful of sailors selected to stand up SEAL Team 2, and served on two combat deployments to Vietnam, where he earned the Bronze Star Medal for valor. He went on to serve for 45 years in the Navy and rose to the rank of master chief petty officer, retiring as the top enlisted advisor at U.S. Special Operations Command in 1990. While on active-duty, he was revered as a "Bullfrog" — a term for the longest-continually serving SEAL.

"Being a SEAL is one of the best things in the Navy," Boesch said in an interview with the Navy's All Hands Magazine in 1987. "I obviously like what I'm doing or I wouldn't have stayed in so long. If I got out I couldn't duplicate what I've got now. It's an exciting life. When you get up in the morning, you don't know whether you'll soon be finding yourself 30 feet underwater or 10,000 feet in the air. That's what I like about it. There's something different every day."

Boesch ended up on Survivor after answering a casting ad in the local newspaper, Newsmax reported. Though he lost, he developed an alliance with fellow contestant (and Army veteran) Richard Hatch, who on Saturday praised him as a friend on Twitter: "Ours was an interesting bond, Dear Rudy! You and I helped open minds and undermine prejudices. While your time here has passed, you will remain loved and iconic, dear friend!"

On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.

As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.

Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.

"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."

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In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

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