Lieutenant Philip L. “Moki” Martin was born in September 1942 in Paia, Hawaii, where he grew up swimming, free diving and surfing. Those watery pastimes led to his interest in joining the Navy, an interest he pursued in 1960 and for the next 23 years.
Martin enlisted right after graduating from Maui High School and went through boot camp in San Diego. He was assigned to run steam engines on USS Orleck (DD 886) for two years and got promoted to petty officer second class during that time. His dream was to go through UDT (Underwater Demolition Team Training), but the program was limited to 100 participants at the time, with almost no new entrants being added.
Martin used his shipboard time well. The slight young sailor who was once too small for school sports added 50 pounds to a now athletic frame. When the U.S. got involved in Vietnam, he was in prime condition to take advantage of the expanded special operations program. He was selected for UDT Training in late 1964 and started in September 1965. Only 36 graduated from Class 35’s original 130; Martin was one of them. Open water swimming was a great strength from his Hawaiian childhood, but running was a discipline he had to work hard at to complete the program. With help from his six-man boat crew, he fulfilled his childhood goal.