The United States Navy‘s Sea, Air, Land Teams, commonly known as the Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy’s principal special operations force and a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command and United States Special Operations Command.[3] The SEALs duty is to conduct small-unit maritime military operations which originate from, and return to a river, ocean, swamp, delta or coastline. SEALs can negotiate shallow water areas such as the Persian Gulf coastline, where large ships and submarines are limited due to depth.[4]

“SEAL” is always capitalized in reference to members of the Naval Special Warfare community. The Navy SEALs are trained to operate in all environments (Sea, Air, and Land) for which they are named. SEALs are also prepared to operate in climate extremes of scorching desert, freezing Arctic, and humid jungle. The SEALs current pursuit of elusive, dangerous and high-priority terrorist targets has them operating in remote, mountainous regions of Afghanistan, and in cities torn by factional violence. Historically the SEALs have always had “one foot in the water.” The reality, however, today is that they initiate lethal direct action strikes equally well from air and land.[4]

All SEALs are male members of the United States Navy.[4][5][6][7] The CIA‘s highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits operators from the SEAL Teams.[8] Joint Navy SEALs and CIA operations go back to the famed MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War.[9]This cooperation still exists today and is seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[10][11] Due to their reputation as one of the world’s premier special operations forces, SEAL operators routinely serve in allied SOF’s including the British Special Air Service, Special Boat Service and Polish GROM.[12

Origins

The modern day U.S. Navy SEALs can trace their roots to World War II.[4] The United States Navy recognized the need for the covert reconnaissance of landing beaches and coastal defenses. As a result, the Amphibious Scout and Raider School was established in 1942 at Fort Pierce, Florida.[7] The Scouts and Raiders were formed in September of that year, just nine months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, from the Observer Group, a joint U.S. Army-Marine-Navy unit

Scouts & Raiders

Recognizing the need for a beach reconnaissance force, a select group of Army and Navy personnel assembled at Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek, on August 15, 1942 to begin Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (joint) training. The Scouts and Raiders mission was to identify and reconnoiter the objective beach, maintain a position on the designated beach prior to a landing, and guide the assault waves to the landing beach.[4]

The first group included Phil H. Bucklew, the “Father of Naval Special Warfare,” after whom the Naval Special Warfare Center building is named. Commissioned in October 1942, this group saw combat in November 1942 during Operation torch on the North African coast. Scouts and Raiders also supported landings in Sicily,Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and southern France.[15]

A second group of Scouts and Raiders, code-named Special Service Unit No. 1, was established on 7 July 1943, as a joint and combined operations force. The first mission, in September 1943, was at Finschafen on New Guinea. Later operations were at Gasmata, Arawe, Cape Gloucester, and the East and South coast of New Britain, all without any loss of personnel. Conflicts arose over operational matters, and all non-Navy personnel were reassigned. The unit, renamed 7th Amphibious Scouts, received a new mission, to go ashore with the assault boats, buoy channels, erect markers for the incoming craft, handle casualties, take offshore soundings, clear beach obstacles and maintain voice communications linking the troops ashore, incoming boats and nearby ships. The 7th Amphibious Scouts conducted operations in the Pacific for the duration of the conflict, participating in more than 40 landings.[4]

The third and final Scouts and Raiders organization operated in China. Scouts and Raiders were deployed to fight with the Sino-American Cooperative Organization, or SACO. To help bolster the work of SACO, Admiral Ernest J. King ordered that 120 officers and 900 men be trained for “Amphibious Raider” at the Scout and Raider school at Fort Pierce, Florida. They formed the core of what was envisioned as a “guerrilla amphibious organization of Americans and Chinese operating from coastal waters, lakes and rivers employing small steamboats and sampans.” While most Amphibious Raider forces remained at Camp Knox in Calcutta, three of the groups saw active service. They conducted a survey of the upper Yangtze River in the spring of 1945 and, disguised as coolies, conducted a detailed three-month survey of the Chinese coast from Shanghai to Kitchioh Wan, near Hong Kong.[4]

OSS Operational Swimmers

Some of the earliest World War II predecessors of the SEALs were the Operational Swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS.[11] Many current SEAL missions were first assigned to them. OSS specialized in special operations, dropping operatives behind enemy lines to engage in organized guerrilla warfare as well as to gather information on such things as enemy resources and troop movements.[16] British Combined Operations veteran LCDR Wooley, of the Royal Navy, was placed in charge of the OSS Maritime Unit in June 1943. Their training started in November 1943 at Camp Pendleton, California, moved to Santa Catalina Island, California in January 1944, and finally moved to the warmer waters of The Bahamas in March 1944. Within the U.S. military, they pioneered flexible swimfins anddiving masks, closed-circuit diving equipment (under the direction of Dr. Christian J. Lambertsen),[16][17] the use of Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (a type of submersible), and combat swimming and limpet mine attacks.[11] In May 1944, Colonel “Wild Bill” Donovan, the head of the OSS, divided the unit into groups. He loaned Group 1, under Lieutenant Choate, to Admiral Nimitz, as a way to introduce the OSS into the Pacific theater. They became part of UDT-10 in July 1944. Five OSS men participated in the very first UDT submarine operation with the USS Burrfish in the Caroline Islands in August 1944.

Underwater Demolition Teams

UDT members using the casting technique from a speeding boat

On 23 November 1943, the U.S. Marine landing on Tarawa Atoll emphasized the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to any amphibious landing. The islands in this area have unpredictable tide changes and shallow reefs preventing the naval transport vessels from progressing. The first wave crossed the reef in Amtracs, but the second in Higgins boats were not as successful. They got stuck on a reef due to low tide. The Marines were forced to unload and wade to shore. This proved to be a daunting task and many Marines were killed or drowned before reaching the beach. Without support from the second wave the Marines in Amtracs were slaughtered on the beach. This was a valuable lesson that the Navy did not want to be repeated. After the Tarawa landing, Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner directed the formation of nine Underwater Demolition Teams. Thirty officers and 150 enlisted men were moved to the WaimānaloAmphibious Training Base to form the nucleus of a demolition training program. This group became Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) ONE and TWO.[4]

The UDTs saw their first combat on 31 January 1944, during Operation Flintlock in the Marshall Islands. Flintlock became the real catalyst for the UDT training program in the Pacific Theater. In February 1944, the Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base was established at Kīhei, Maui, next to the Amphibious Base at Kamaole. Eventually, 34 UDT teams were established. Wearing swim suits, fins, and dive masks on combat operations, these “Naked Warriors” saw action across the Pacific in every major amphibious landing including: Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Ulithi, Peleliu, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Zambales, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Labuan, Brunei Bay, and on 4 July 1945 at Balikpapan on Borneo, which was the last UDT demolition operation of the war. The rapid demobilization at the conclusion of the war reduced the number of active duty UDTs to two on each coast with a complement of seven officers and 45 enlisted men each.[7]

Pearl Harbor: Home Of The Seal Delivery Vehicle

Home of the Navy’s only SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team. The command conducts underwater delivery and insertion of SEALs using flooded mini-submarines.

COMNAVSPECWARCOM

Coronado, CA
Quarterdeck: (619) 437-2848
Public Affairs Office: (619) 522-2825

Component Commands:

CNSWG-1
Coronado, CA – Quarterdeck: (619) 437-3557
Logistics & Support Unit
Coronado, CA – Quarterdeck: (619) 665-4577

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