History of Naval Special Warfare

SEALS – THE U.S. NAVY’S NEW FROGMEN

  Phil Carrico

UDT 1 training
TRAINING – PICTURED ABOVE ARE MEMBERS OF UDT (FROGMEN) TRAINING OFF THE
SILVER STRAND IN CORONADO, CALIFORNIA JUST PRIOR TO THE OUTBREAK OF THE KOREAN WAR.

PREFACE;
I was flying out to San Diego in 2003 wearing a black cap with a big UDT patch on it. This young tough-looking guy with a bur haircut kept glancing at me. Finally he moved over beside me and said, “Hey Pop, you must have been in the Teams? – I’m a SEAL”.
Smiling at the young man I replied, “You called me right son – me and guys that served with me are your Daddy”…. And we had quite a conversation…

 

   Both NCDU (Naval Combat Demolition Units) and Scouts and Raiders preceded Naval Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and they operated primarily in the European Landings during WW 2. NCDU’s and Scouts and Raiders were the first units of NSW (Naval Special Warfare).
   Naval Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) are the men they began calling “Frogmen”. They were formed during 1943 for the invasion of Sicily but were involved primarily in the island hopping campaigns in the South Pacific. They, along with the NCDU’s were formed with the intent of having units trained to go in before an invasion and blast underwater obstacles out of the water. This permitted U.S. landing barges to reach the beach without having the bottom torn out and many servicemen drown in the surf. (These early Frogmen were also trained in blasting coral reefs – which were so prevalent in the Pacific Theater). These UDT units were trained primarily as swimmers in contrast to the NCDU’s and Scouts and Raiders who operated, primarily, from rubber boats. The UDT’s acquired the Frogman label from folks who watched them practically live with their fins on.
   The UDT Teams consisted of approximately 100 men each and were originally recruited from the old Naval Seabees or Construction Battalions. At the conclusion of WW 2 there were 32 UDT Teams in commission. By 1948 there were only 4 teams in commission – Teams 1 and 3 at Coronado, California and Teams 2 and 4 at Little Creek, Virginia. (All NCDU’s and Scouts and Raiders were decommissioned at the close of WW 2).
   The Teams saw action in all theaters during WW2 and suffered up to 90 percent causalities in several actions. In the early days the lung training was accomplished by using the old “Lambertsen” submarine escape lung. After seeing the state-of-the-art scuba gear that exists today – it’s clear that scuba technology has advanced beyond the dreams of those early Frogmen.
   In June of 1950, with the outbreak of the Korean War, things changed quite suddenly for Frogmen units. Since all units had been trained for clearing the surf lines up to the high water mark, it was quite a shock for the units to find themselves going inland to blow bridges and tunnels. It was also a shock to have hand weapons (other than shieve knives) issued when most of the men had no training with them.
   The first Frogmen units to operate in Korea went inland and started a whole new method of operation. The original units had no commando training what so ever but learned by doing. Their uniform of the day was such a mixture of Army and Marine fatigues that most did not recognize them as United States Sailors.
   UDT units disrupted communist supply lines to the point where their actions were a decided assist in the U.N. Force’s retaining a foothold on the Korean peninsula until McAuthor’s invasion at Inchon in September of 1950.
   Operations other than disrupting communist supply lines by the Teams included; buoying invasion channels, having swimmers stand by at invasion beaches to assist troops out of the water. They also destroyed Communist fishing industry (Nets), inserted Korean saboteurs into the north, did regular beach recon and cleared harbors of horn scully mines for invasion forces – even on occasion deployed inland to rescue downed UN flyers.
   The West Coast teams; Team 1 and 3 were ably assisted toward the end of hostilities in Korea when Team 5 was put into commission. The East Coast Teams, 2 and 4 did not participate.
   Most old Frogmen concur in the belief that the exploits of Frogmen in the Korean War were the first step in the evolution of today’s Seals.
   After Korea the Navy Department saw the light and began training the units accordingly. The new training included not only the regular scuba and demolition, but parachute or “jump training’ and all modern hand-weaponry. Plus, I’m sure, new technologies and methods undreamed of by early Frogmen.
   UDT Teams were active along with the SEALS in Vietnam. The first SEAL Teams had been commissioned in 1962 from UDT Veterans. However, the final UDT Teams were decommissioned in 1983 and all the men were merged into the SEALS.
   SEAL units have become the cutting edge of a commando force that is the best trained of any elite unit in the world today. Evidenced by the fact they were picked to spearhead the stab into Panama in December of ’89. The unit’s objective was to prevent Noriega’s escape by crippling his private jet and disabling his high-speed patrol boats. These stealthy missions were accomplished – at a bloody cost.
   When no “hot” war is pending, the units will fall back on dealing with terrorism, insurgencies, narco-terrorism and instability in third world countries.
   SEALS were active in Vietnam, Granada, Panama, Operation Desert Storm and other hot spots about the world. When we eventually find out what parts they are playing in the current “Live-Wars” – I’m sure it will be major.
   However they tag these cocky, devil-may-care units - UDT, SEALS or whatever – to old Team veterans of WW 2 and Korea they will always be U.S. Navy Frogmen…

Postscript:
I’m quite aware this report is far from perfect and unofficial - but after much research and conversing with many old Team Vet’s from three wars – it’s fairly close to how it all came down.

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