I’ve been writing so much about SEALs lately (and have more in the works) I thought I’d do a series of blogs abut these incredibly brave men, leading up to my next SEAL book, PROTECTING AMY.
There were a number of specialized maritime commando units operating in World War II that were a precursor to the modern SEALs. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a predecessor of the CIA, had a maritime section, which was tasked with infiltrating clandestine agents and supplying resistance groups by sea, as well as conducting maritime sabotage.
Amphibious Scouts and Raiders teams were created to reconnoiter prospective landing beaches. They also led assaults to the correct beaches and had a pivotal role in North Africa and D-Day landings.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (May 29, 2019) Sailors assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 conduct military dive operations off the East Coast of the United States. U.S. Navy SEALs engage in a continuous training cycle to improve and further specialize skills needed during deployments across the globe. SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Forces and are trained to conduct missions from sea, air, and land. Naval Special Warfare (NSW) has more than 1,000 special operators and support personnel deployed to more than 35 countries, addressing security threats, assuring partners and strengthening alliances while supporting Joint and combined campaigns. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jayme Pastoric/Released)
World War II also saw two demolitions units created. The Naval Combat Demolitions Units (NCDUs) were trained in the demolition of submerged beach obstacles and were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their actions at Normandy.
In the Pacific Theater, coral reefs were found to be the largest obstacle to safe beach landings, and the Underwater Demolitions Teams (UDTs) were created to help amphibious landing craft land safely. These men saw action at every major amphibious landing in the Pacific, including Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
The UDTs went on to see action in the Korean War, and it was there they showed the versatility and adaptability that would become the hallmark of the modern Navy SEAL. New types of missions included coastal raids at night to destroy railroad tunnels and bridges. By the end of the conflict, the UDTs had expanded their mission capabilities, with intelligence gathering, clearing of ordnance and conducting raids added to their traditional reconnaissance and obstacle clearance duties.
In May 1961, President Kennedy announced that $100 million would be spent strengthening US Special Operations Forces. Some people have seen this as the official birth of the SEALs, but it was really formalizing an ongoing process. The concept of a naval guerrilla force with sea, air and land capability had been outlined in March of that year and the first two SEAL units were formally established in 1962.
Although the first SEAL missions were in communist Cuba, the first war they fought was Vietnam. Originally sent to train South Vietnamese troops in the same methods they used, SEAL teams quickly began to be used for covert operations. Their anti-guerrilla tactics were effective in bringing the war to the enemy and their camouflage paint saw them named “the men with green faces” by the Viet Cong. Although they mainly operated from boats, they also developed air assault operations from helicopters in Vietnam.
To be continued…