by Richard Nickelson
© 2003 Richard G. Nickelson
This story deals
with a very select group of men who served in both UDT and
In 1962, for the
first time, the
comprised of thirty nations who compete yearly. The program includes events
taken from the Olympics as well as specialty events such as the Naval
Pentathlon. The CISM general council, at their annual meeting, determines which
country will host the event the following year. Athens, Greece hosted the 1962
event and Stockholm,
In early June
1963, West Coast athletes began training, under Coach EMC, Don Rose of UDT-11.
Chief Rose, SM3, Ron Gauthier, and AN, Frank Watton, all PhibPac Frogmen, had
Training for CISM was to be conducted in a limited timeframe and would therefore be very demanding. In less than six weeks the West Coast finalists would be required to participate in a pre-CISM trial, which would be conducted at Little Creek, Virginia in July. At this event, ten men from the East Coast would compete against ten men from the West Coast. However, three-quarters of these competitors would leave the event empty handed; the primary purpose of this dual meet was to select the five best athletes to represent the United States during “Sea Week” which was scheduled to begin August 27, in Stockholm Sweden.
On the West Coast, of the original twenty-seven men selected to engage in the competition, seventeen were Navy PhibPac Frogmen while the remaining ten came from the fleet. It didn’t take long before sixty percent of the original field had been eliminated leaving ten men, including Chief Rose, to make the trip to Little Creek. The final ten consisted of eight men from the Teams and two from the fleet.
Before I go much further, I should tell you that the Naval Pentathlon consists of five events. They include lifesaving, seamanship, a cross-country race, an obstacle course and a utility swim. Each man competes in all five events and his time, in each event, is compared to that of each of the other competitors. Doing well in the swimming events and poorly in the running events, or vice versa, would not send you home a winner; you had to show good and consistent times in all events. I think that you can now see why men from the Teams fared much better than those from the regular Navy. Because of their superb conditioning, proven ability in the water, daily swimming and running, familiarity with the obstacle course, and basic overall strength, the men from the Teams held a consistent edge over most other competitors.
Then, on July
22, 1963 the much anticipated Atlantic Coast versus Pacific Coast competition
began at Little Creek, Virginia. As with the West Coast, the ten East Coast
finalists came primarily from the ranks of the
Going into this
competition, the East Coast Team had the home court advantage, which provided a
sizeable edge over their West Coast counterparts. In addition, the West Coast
Team had been given only one day to practice on and become familiar with the
Little Creek course that had been the training ground for the East Coast Team.
Also, the humid weather in
take long to dispel any concerns surrounding the West Coast athletes and their
ability to participate. On the morning of July 22, the competition began with a
fury but by the end of the first day, the Pacific Team had won both the
obstacle course and lifesaving events. On the obstacle course, the Pacific Team
placed eight men in the top ten positions. First place went to BT2, Wayne
Fowler and second place to SN, Mike Dorfi, both from UDT-12. With regard to
lifesaving, LTJG George
remaining events would be held on consecutive days. On day three, Chief Don
Rose won the seamanship event. Then on Thursday, the forth day of competition,
the West Coast Team showed their superiority by taking the first four places of
the cross-country run. On Friday, the final day of the event, Jim Foley of
UDT-12 won the utility swim, which provided the West Coast with a clean sweep
of all events. George Worthington finished first and Mike Dorfi second in the
overall point standings. Yes, when all was said and done the West Coast Team
had soundly defeated the East Coast Team 198 – 329. The only thing that
remained was to identify the five men who would represent the
With all of the
times now computed, five finalists and two alternates had emerged from the
twenty competitors. EMC Don Rose, UDT-11: SN Mike Dorfi, UDT-12: SN Jim Foley,
UDT-12: LTJG George Worthington, CruDesFlot Seven: and Marine Second Lieutenant
L. Gordon Collet, Quantico,
In reality, it
takes many years of hard training before men can compete competitively in world
competition such as CISM. I didn’t include compete successfully in such
competition, that takes even longer. The United States would be going up
against Countries that had competed in CISM for years and therefore, the U.S.
was viewed as a Country that came to engage in the learning process, that time
consuming process all Countries are required to go through. The men from the
There is one
thing the competition had overlooked. They were dealing with a select group of
individuals, not ordinary men; most had completed Basic Underwater Demolition
Three of the individuals, from UDT-12, who participated in the 1963 Naval Pentathlon, were my close friends at that time and they remain my friends to this day. For their above-mentioned accomplishments they have left a lasting impression but I remember each of these men for other attributes as well.
– On the Obstacle Course
Jim Foley – Jim was a fantastic swimmer and all around natural athlete. We both graduated from the West Coast BUDS Class-28, in July 1962. We then went together to UDT-12. The thing that impressed me most about Jim wasn’t his athleticism but his ability to accept responsibility for his actions and his willingness to give one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time. What ever Jim did, he did to the best of his ability and no matter what Jim did, when he completed a task, even trivial tasks, he was proud of what he had accomplished.
Mike Dorfi – Mike is a man unto himself. While he was always the life of a party, he was also an exceptional Team Operative, a “Meat Eater”, and a person you wanted with you when things got tough. Mike is one of two people that I know capable of doing sit-ups with pound barbell weights behind his head. If you have a great stomach, have someone hold your feet and try doing sit-ups like that. Mike was also a natural athlete and the only man to repeat at the 1965 Naval Pentathlon. There had been no 1964 CISM because the majority of those countries, who normally participate, sent their athletes to the Summer Olympics. Mike was a friend of mine and a friend to many. I will always be proud to say that Mike is my friend.
In closing I can
only say that I have the deepest respect and admiration for all those men who